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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...
My teacher, Jacob Rader Marcus, of blessed memory, published his first book in 1934. It was called “The Rise and Destiny of the German Jew” in which he predicted the further flowering and expansion of the German Jewish community. There was no reason to think otherwise. Then Hitler came to power.
Following that failed venture into futurism, Dr. Marcus restricted his work to the past and mostly to the American Jewish community which he felt was filled with promise and an unprecedented breath of optimism and hope for the Jewish future. As a matter of fact, most scholars credit him with the creation of the field of American Jewish history and affectionately referred to him as its longtime â€śdean.â€ť (But we used to call him â€śthe chief.â€ť)
While I hesitate to prognosticate about the future, having learned my teacherâ€™s lesson well, I feel that there are many things that have to be said about it nonetheless, especially if we are going to have a hand in shaping it. (That is one of the reasons why the Jewish Outreach Institute is calling its next conference Judaism2030.) And so I have some questions to ask, even if I donâ€™t have all the answers. It is clear that the Jewish community in which many of us were raised, and spent large parts of our professional careers, and in which we raised our children, will look little like the Jewish community in which our grandchildren will be raised. Some of the extant organizations and institutions will remain. Many others will cease to exist, merge with other organizations, be absorbed. As the landscape changes for these institutions, so will it change for the Jewish communal professionals who are being trained to lead them and work in them.
As Passoverâ€™s midpoint approaches, the holidayâ€™s signature crunchy side, main, and everything-else dish may already be wearing out its welcome at some of our tables. So I invite those of us who might be counting the days until matzah reclaims its place in gastronomic memory to focus on the transformative potential of matzah and other Passover foods. Here at JOI, we use Passover as a time to help Jewish communities throughout North America provide a portal of entry to Jewish life for those who are not connected to their local Jewish community. Specifically, JOI does this through its Passover in the Matzah Aisle program which trains Jewish communal professionals and volunteers to bring a taste of local Jewish life to local grocery stores to meet people where they are. In this setting, a literal taste of traditional Passover foods becomes the first step towards Jewish connection. The following story on the transformative potential of the traditional Passover foods (the macaroon in this case) comes from Isabel Balotin. As the Jewish Federation of Jacksonville’s Shalom Jacksonville Coordinator, Isabel brings JOIâ€™s Public Space Judaism model to her programming throughout the year.
“Ella Nussbaum* never misses an opportunity to help someone. As one of Shalom Jacksonville volunteers for our Passover in the Matzah Aisle SM program at Winn-Dixie, Ella struck up a conversation with a young man as he approached our table to sample a macaroon. In a most friendly way, she asked him if he had a place to go for seder. He responded that he was Jewish but his wife wasnâ€™t Jewish and they would be in Paris during the holiday. (more…)
Itâ€™s that wonderful time of year again. Spring is in the air (or getting there!). Many of us feel blessed to have family and friends to gather around the Passover Seder table. But what about those who might also benefit from being around the table? What can we do to make sure they have the opportunity to participate in the Passover experience?
The Big Tent Judaism Coalition has created a special reading (as a downloadable PDF) to recite during the Seder ritual when the door is open for Elijah:
We open our door to receive the herald of a new age. But we don’t just open the door for Elijah. We open it so that all who are hungry may come and eat, all who seek connection to a meaningful heritage may come and learn, and all our friends and family may find welcoming hearts and open arms in our holiday celebration.
The Big Tent Judaism Coalition is a movement of over 450 Jewish communal organizations across institutional and denominational lines who seek a more inclusive and welcoming Jewish community. Learn more here.
In keeping with that theme, Birthright Israel NEXT invited selected Jewish organizations to offer a â€śfifth questionâ€ť to add to the Seder â€“ one that will inspire us to make Passover meaningful for todayâ€™s Jewish world. JOIâ€™s fifth question is:
On this night we celebrate proud Jewish traditions with friends and family, but who else in our lives might find meaning and value in our Passover Seder that we havenâ€™t yet invited to join us?
Click here to read more about why we feel that question is worth asking.
As we celebrate this year, be mindful of the inclusive nature of the Passover experience. Welcome the stranger and rejoice together in the beauty of the holiday. Best wishes for a meaningful Passover!
There has been discussion in the community with regard to the burial of a non-Jewish spouse in the context of a Jewish interfaith marriage. We have blogged about it here. And there has been discussion about the raising of Jewish children following a divorce among an intermarried couple, particularly when the divorce is acrimonious and the children are used as religio-political pawns in the battle for control. But there has been little said about what happens to the non-Jewish spouse in a Jewish community when the Jewish spouse dies. This is particularly challenging for someone who has raised Jewish children, made the Jewish community his or her home and then finds him/herself alone as someone who is not Jewish, as someone who may not be entitled to membership in a particular organization (especially a synagogue) as a single (with grown children). What should be done as a community to reach out and welcome in this individual who has already been in our midst for a long time, who has raised Jewish children, who has demonstrably contributed to the Jewish future but for reasons of his/her own, has chosen not to convert to Judaism?
Just as the issues that have arisen concerning burial have accelerated as the population of interfaith couples growsâ€”and grows olderâ€”it is time that we address this issue. For us at JOI, the issue is quite simple. Letâ€™s just open our tents wide enough to make sure that these folks who have been part of our community all along are not pushed out or pushed away. Letâ€™s make the changes in membership policy now to include them.