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The Big Tent Judaism Blogcontaining up-to-the-minute news about the efforts of the Big Tent Judaism Coalition and other programs and events within the Jewish community that open our tent...
At the Jewish Outreach Institute, we are always seeking new ways to welcome newcomers and lower barriers for those on the periphery of Jewish life. As a new Jewish year begins tonight at sundown, we take this time to reflect on our work.
This past year, JOI expanded the tent by…
- Helping over 200 communal professionals and volunteer leaders focus on who we’ll need to serve in the future at our Judaism2030 Conference in New York City;
- Assisting over 30 communities in meeting hundreds of people âin the aislesâ of supermarkets before Passover with our âPassover in the Matzah Aisleâ program;
- Helping over 300 grandparents connect with their adult intermarried children and interfaith grandchildren through Jewish cultural experiences with the help of our Grandparents Circle program and listserve;
- Distributing fun Hanukkah âVisual Guidesâ to over 8,000 households through 84 Big Tent Judaism Coalition members;
- Training synagogue front-line staff and volunteers from nearly 100 organizations in welcoming newcomers during the High Holidays, through a webinar and in-person seminar;
- Continuing to launch new Mothers Circles across the country, adding an additional 20 communities;
- And traveling all across North America, from New York to Canada to California, to meet with members of local Jewish Federations, JCCs, synagogues, grassroots and start-up Jewish organizations, and many others to continue the conversation on including the intermarried, engaging the unengaged and welcoming all newcomers.
We look forward to another year of continued efforts to include all who would be part of the Jewish community and hope everyone has a very Sweet New Year!
Our friend and anonymous Jewschool.com blogger âKung Fu Jewâ wrote a raw and emotional piece a few weeks ago exploring an important tension in the Jewish communal profession, and in the Jewish community in general: are we only for ourselves, or are we serving all people? He concisely identified several different points where these tensions converge, from supporting Israel to intermarriage, and tried to explain how his work as a Jewish communal professional is actually in service to the entire world through a Jewish lens, and not in a parochial interest to perpetuate the Jewish bloodline. In doing so, he gives a powerful voice to sentiments shared by many young Jews:
There are plenty Jews in my world of the predominantly young and unaffiliated who are tired of the drumming of âJew Jew Jewâ and recoil from its incessant self-centered, self-referential, self-ish concerns. Every synagogue is just a ghetto to lock out the goyyim, they feel, every Jewish social event serves the agenda of the claustrophobic âmarry a Jew!â crowd. Tied to a community that is lacking in fulfillment yet insists on their loyalty, they canât stand to be around it. I feel the same. Yet here I am, working in the Jewish world. A young career-nik.
But I do it for the Other, not myself. For those outside my tribe, not ourselves, though beneficial to us it is. I fulfill the admonishment of Rabbi Hillel âfor myselfâ and âfor othersâ simultaneously. Just as the encounter with the ânot meâ defines âmeâ more than I could by myself alone, my work for others through us defines our qualityâŚ. What I abhor about the fight âagainstâ intermarriage is the drive to identify and then root out non-Jewishness to protect us against its invasion. Jewish identity is an idea, not a bloodline; Jewish values and ideas are a legacy of appropriated Gentile ideals, not an ideology straight from Mount Sinai.
This Sunday, flash mobs will âspontaneouslyâ descend upon several global Jewish hubs (New York, Jerusalem, Budapest, etc.) to sound the shofar, a daily practice during the Hebrew month of Elul in anticipation of the incipient arrival of the High Holidays. With shofarot (pl. shofar, an animalâs horn, usually that of a ram) in tow, participants of the Shofar Flash Mob will be blasting the horns for two minutes as a call for teshuvah (repentance). This action, a tradition in the month leading up to the High Holidays, serves to remind us of our obligation to engage in a period of self-reflection prior to the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. While we usually hear the shofar in the synagogue, these flash mobs will bring the sound of the shofar to the streets, introducing (or reintroducing) the tradition and its purpose to thousands of passers-by.
The goal of JOIâs Big Tent Judaism Coalition is to reach and serve all Jewish individuals and householdsâincluding the majority at any given time that is not participating in Jewish communal life. The image of Abraham and Sarahâs tent, open on all four sides to welcome in all who approach, is a strong representation of JOIâs belief that we must reach out to the unengaged and unaffiliated of the Jewish community, and welcome them into âthe tent.â Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham of Congregation Sons of Israel (CSI) in Upper Nyack, NY has created such a tentâmetaphorically speaking, of course.
Rabbi Abraham recently spoke to the Jewish Federation of Rockland County (story quoted below) about his decision to join JOIâs Big Tent Judaism Coalition, one of his first decisions as rabbi of this Conservative, egalitarian synagogue.
The High Holidays mean different things to different people. For some, attending services is a social gathering â a way to catch up with friends you may only see at High Holiday services. For others, it is simply an obligation â the one âJewishâ thing they may do all year. And for others still, it may have deeper meaning â starting a new year with a clean slate on a deeply spiritual level. Across the country, this last group is often the smallest, causing synagogue professionals and volunteers to scratch their heads and wonder how to create a deeper and more lasting relationship with more of their community. They seek to make coming to synagogue a more frequent and meaningful experience, and to find ways to take âthree-day-a-yearâ Jews, and help them become âall-yearâ Jews.
Last night, SYNERGY: UJA-Federation and Synagogues Together, hosted JOI executive director Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, associate executive director Paul Golin, and senior director of training Eva Stern for a seminar entitled âHigh Holidays: How to Move Three-Day-a-Year Jews from âSee You Next Yearâ to âSee You All Year.ââ Dozens of Jewish communal professionals and lay leaders from the Greater New York area attended in person or via web conference. The eveningâs focus was centered on how to not only welcome newcomers during the High Holidays, but also to further engage current membersâthose who are affiliated, but are not activeâand demonstrate the genuine meaning and value that engagement in their communities can provide.
With Labor Day upon us, those of us in the Jewish communal world are heavily focused on the fast approaching High Holiday season! We recognize that this time of year marks the annual peak in Jewish communal participation, and we are here to help synagogues maximize the impact of their High Holiday encounters! At the Jewish Outreach Institute, we believe that âthe front-line is the bottom line,â and that each encounter a potential newcomer to Jewish life has with our institution can help shape his or her future Jewish connections. As such, it is critical that each moment is maximized to promote future engagement and positive connections!
The Jewish Outreach Institute is thrilled to offer an interactive webinar to help Jewish communal professionals and volunteer leaders prepare your synagogue front lines for effective outreach during the High Holidays. Together we will identify opportunities to welcome in newcomers, as well as engage occasional synagogue-goers, and involve active members in reaching out to those on the periphery. We will discussâŚ
â˘ How to engage newcomers and members beyond two or three days a year
â˘ Making every interaction relevant and welcoming
â˘ Empowering volunteers to act as ambassadors for your community
â˘ Last minute tips for marketing
âŚ And much more!
So spread the word! Encourage your front-line staff and volunteers to take this webinar! We welcome all those involved in High Holiday programming and planning, including volunteer leaders, ushers, ticket-collectors, and other volunteer positions - along with the professionals or volunteers who coordinate and/or oversee them. Share your challenges and successes around outreach during the High Holidays, so we can make the most of the High Holiday season!
Making the Most of the High Holidays -
A webinar for High Holiday volunteers and synagogue front-line staff
TO REGISTER: Click here
COST: $10 per person
TO VIEW THE FULL INVITATION: Click here