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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...
Amidst the heat and humidity, itâs hard to believe in some parts of the country that summer is winding down. In the Jewish communal world, this means that many are fully focused on the upcoming High Holiday season. Whether putting the finishing touches on programs or services, or still brainstorming creative and engaging approaches, this is prime time to connect with the unaffiliated in our midst. To help professionals and lay leaders maximize the outreach potential and welcoming nature of this yearâs High Holiday services and events, JOI is offering a free training conference call!
This training opportunity is for synagogues and organizations that are part of our Big Tent Judaism Coalition, having made the commitment to reach out and serve all Jewish individuals and households. If you havenât already, we invite you to register your organization to be a part of the Big Tent Judaism Coalition and join us for the call. Here is the info:
MAKING THE MOST OF THE HIGH HOLIDAYS
As we approach the annual peak in communal participation, how can we successfully engage those on the periphery (and our own members) beyond two or three days a year? How can we change what we are doing NOW to maximize the impact of our services and programs in the future? Join us to learn techniques that can bring the principles of Big Tent Judaism to life in our synagogues and organizations this year, learn best practices and share your own successes and challenges. We will also discuss last minute tips for marketing, and ways to make our interactions as welcoming as possible. This is an opportunity to hear from coalition members across the continent!
All representatives of Big Tent Judaism organizations are welcome to join us on Wednesday, September 2nd at 2:00 pm (EDT) for this free training and networking opportunity! If you are a Big Tent member, communal professional or lay leader, or you have been to a synagogue or organization that you think would appreciate this call, please spread the word!
To RSVP, please contact JOI Director of Training Eva Stern at email@example.com by Monday, Aug 31st with your **name, **position, **organization, **address **telephone number, **email address, and any questions, challenges, or successful experiences you would like to share.
We look forward to your participation!
Earlier this summer, a court in the United Kingdom found it unlawful that the Jewish Free School, the oldest Jewish high school in Britain, denied admittance to the child of a woman who had converted in a Conservative ceremony. The court declared that âeligibility must depend on faith, however defined, and not ethnicity.â
The Jewish Free School, which receives government funding, now has a new test in place to determine the religious observance of an applicant. If their observance is sufficient, they will be enrolled. The ruling and the new test still miss the point, said British lawyer Michael Arnheim in the Jerusalem Post, because Judaism is a communal religion, based on membership in a community.
Arnheim explains how in ancient times a âJewâs religious identity was part and parcel of his or her communal identity.â Thatâs why the biblical character Ruth was able to convert by declaring: âYour people shall be my people, and your God my God.â It should be the same today. Instead of letting the office of the British chief rabbi, whose view, he says, is narrow to begin with, decide who is Jewish, there is a better solution. He writes:
The real question to ask, which neither the old nor the new test does, is very simple: Is this applicant for admission to a Jewish school a member of the Jewish community? If the child or his previously non-Jewish mother - or father, or both - has identified with the Jewish community to the extent of going to the trouble to convert, then it would make no sense to exclude that child.
There is only one Jewish community, embracing all those who regard themselves as Jewish. Anything less would amount to self-destructive arrogance.
We agree, and we have long argued that we need to act more as one community, and not a hierarchy. Our tent is big enough for everyone to practice Judaism on whatever level of observance they find most meaningful. Itâs not up to one segment of the community to validate another. As Anheim states, âthe only sensible position is that a person is Jewish either for all purposes or for none.â
In the âpost-intermarriage landscape,â as the (New York) Jewish Week calls it, the Jewish community has a great opportunity to reach an ever widening number of people now connected to the Jewish community. Citing the American Religious Identification Survey, which will be presented at the 15th World Congress of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, the article explains that the âpotential size of the âextendedâ Jewish community, members of intermarried families, is growing.â
But the same study, parts of which were reported last March, also found that âthe number of Jews, mostly in intermarriages, who affiliate with another religion, is increasing.â
The studyâs authors claim intermarriage is a major factor in decreased affiliation, but they donât get into why. We believe intermarried Jews may affiliate with another religion because we are not doing enough to provide a warm and welcoming community that offers meaning and substance. Doing so would shine a positive light on the community for all the non-Jewish spouses, and possibly inspire the unaffiliated to bring Judaism into their lives.
We know what we have to do, but how do we do it? For starters, we should never negate someoneâs life decisions. If a person intermarries, we have to let them know there is a place for them, their spouse and their children in the Jewish community. Energy spent denouncing intermarriage should instead be spent on promoting the values of Judaism â none more so than the value of welcoming the stranger. If we counted the âextended Jewish populationâ â those with familial ties â our numbers âmight be as large as 20 million,â said Barry Kosmin, the surveyâs co-director.
Thatâs important for a number of reasons to the future of the Jewish community. Particularly for the lasting impression it will leave on children of intermarriage. Intermarried families that enjoy a welcoming Jewish community are more likely to participate in Jewish life, which means so will their children. The same is true for unaffiliated, multiracial, LGBT, and all others who find themselves on the periphery. The more we do to better identify and meet their needs, the better chance we have of reaching these populations and strengthening their connections to the Jewish community.