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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...
The Big Tent Judaism Coalition, which launched a little over a year ago, has already grown to include 250 organizations that span North America and the world. They represent the increasing number of individuals and institutions that are committed to creating a more inclusive and welcoming Jewish community for interfaith families and everyone else choosing to cast their lot with the Jewish people.
To help bring this network of organizations together, we have created a monthly newsletter called the â€śVoices of Big Tent Judaism.â€ť This will provide a place for all those interested in building this movement for welcoming to receive resources from JOI, share best practices and successful programs, and learn from peers working across the country.
This monthâ€™s newsletter features: best practices for Celebrating Diversity (in honor of Black History Month), tips on LGBT Inclusion from Jewish Mosaic Executive Director Gregg Drinkwater, and highlights of one synagogueâ€™s attempt to break a little known Guiness World Record. Get the full scoop on everything here!
Not a member of Big Tent Judaism? I invite you to click here to learn more and join the coalition.
This upcoming Sunday, JOI associate executive director Paul Golin will join scholars, rabbis, and Jewish communal leaders at the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan to speak at a summit hosted by Jewish Mosaic, an organization devoted to creating a welcoming Jewish community for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Jews and their families
Titled The Welcoming Synagogues Project: Diversity and Inclusion in the Jewish World, the event is described by Jewish Mosaic as a way to look at â€śhow synagogues across all Jewish movements respond to diversity issues including intermarriage, Jews by choice and Jews of Color, and particularly around LGBT people.â€ť Paul will sit on a panel discussion on Sunday evening, and on Monday morning there will be a presentation of new research findings on diversity and inclusion in synagogues. Both events are open to the public.
At JOI, we believe one of the best ways to grow Judaismâ€™s Big Tent is for congregations to leave behind assumptions about what Jews â€ślook likeâ€ť or how families are configured. Instead, we should focus on how to find and engage all those who feel like they are on the periphery of the community. We are excited to be involved with a cross-denominational event that will look for the best practices to welcome in an even greater number of individuals into our institutions.
We invite you to join us for both events. The panel discussion will take place Sunday evening, Feb. 22 from 6:30 â€“ 8:45 pm. The research findings will take place Monday morning, Feb. 23 from 8:15 â€“ 9:45 am. The JCC of Manhattan is located at 334 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY.
The month of February marks many things; Black History Month, Presidentâ€™s Day and a certain love-filled holiday made highly profitable by Hallmark and Godiva.
This year, many in the American Jewish community also recognize February as Jewish Disability Awareness Month. While over 30 Washington D.C. area synagogues have observed this event for the past 8 years, 2009 marks the first time itâ€™s being recognized on a national level. This movement is a great step towards inclusion and welcoming for those with special needs inside ofâ€”or excluded fromâ€”our communities.
Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month, a collaborative effort of many national and local Jewish organizations, works to raise awareness about the physical and perceptual barriers erected for those with disabilities within our organizations. In addition to advocacy, many resources are available to those hoping to tear down these barriers to Jewish engagement for those with special needs.
JOI applauds these efforts to welcome all who cast their lot with the Jewish people. To find out more about this initiative and to download a Disability Awareness Month Resource packet, check out the Partnership for Jewish Life and Learningâ€™s website.
After the month of February, if you want to learn more about how to make your organization inclusive of those with special needs, join us at JOIâ€™s North American conference in Philadelphia from June 7-9, 2009. Limor Hartmann, who runs the D.C. areaâ€™s Shalom BBYO program for teens with special needs, will share about Shalom BBYO and best practices for all!
The marking of every bar/bat mitzvah is special for the student, family members and congregation. However, Ahavas Shalom in Newark, NJ recently had a particularly momentous Bat Mitzvah; a young woman, Mei Ming, a Jew-by-Choice, became the first person of Chinese descent to become Bar or Bat Mitzvah at the synagogue.
A decade after her adoption in Wuhan, China, Mei Ming decided that she â€śwanted somewhere to belongâ€ť and found such a warm and welcoming community at Ahavas Shalom. At this Conservative synagogue, â€śeverybody knows your name. It is a place where people from different races and cultures can come together and celebrate one thing.â€ť Eighteen months later, after intensive studies and training, Mei Ming stood on the bimah, chanting her Torah portion.
All of us at JOI congratulate Mei Ming, her family and Ahavas Shalom on what we are sure was a beautiful Bat Mitzvah celebration and a historic day for the synagogue. The â€śpatchwork heritageâ€ť (to borrow a phrase from President Obama) of the North American Jewish community continues to grow and it is an inspiration to all of us when Jewish institutions embrace diversity with loving and open arms. In a few short years, I too will celebrate this diversity and witness my cousin of Asian background stand before her family and congregation in southern New Jersey chant her Torah portion.
There are many examples of Jewish communal institutions that are shedding assumptions of what Jews â€ślook likeâ€ť and how families are configured. They all add to the collective memory of the Jewish people as it marches forward. Jewish continuity is found in diversity. What story of diversity is your family or community/institution adding to the on-going saga of the Jewish people?
There was an interesting interview in the Forward recently with Yavilah McCoy, a friend of JOI and an advocate for increased awareness of Jewish multiculturalism. She is Jewish, but because she’s also African-American, â€śher religious authenticity was sometimes called into question.â€ť Those experiences are what propelled Yavilah to dedicate her life to creating a more inclusive Jewish community.
In 2000 she started The Ayecha Resource Organization, a non-profit that educates â€śrabbis, Jewish educators and others about racial diversity within Judaism.â€ť She is also regional director of The Curriculum Initiaitive (TCI), where she works with unaffiliated Jewish college students to foster a sense of Jewish identity (TCIâ€™s executive director, Adam Gaynor, will be a featured speaker at JOIâ€™s upcoming conference in June). In the interview, Yavilah explains how Obamaâ€™s campaign offers lessons to the Jewish community on how to better reach out to Jews across the board. The key, she said, is finding out how to translate whatâ€™s core about the values of the Jewish community:
â€śBut when you look at the power of millions of people who came together when Barack Obama spoke about what was core about American society, it makes me hopeful that thereâ€™s going to be a day when we can speak to the core of the Jewish religion so that it allows us to stand with each other across our differences.â€ť
We hope so, too. Often its the differences between Jews that hinder any sort of meaningful progress towards uniting us as a whole. Maybe if we can figure out what it is we are all striving for, if we can distill Judaism down to its principles, we can then start to build ourselves back up as a stronger and more vibrant Jewish community.