JOI is involved in a big project, sponsored by the Russell Berrie Foundation and in collaboration with the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey. Over the next months we will be developing a variety of big ideas for the Jewish community that can be applied locally, with national implications for replication. They are all about reaching those on the periphery of the Jewish community, and we will be sure to blog about it more in the coming weeks.
But there is one idea that may fall outside of those discussions and that is why I wanted to write about it on JOI’s blog. It has to do with an active program of conversion. Gary Tobin, director of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research has long been writing about it. So has Saul Singer recently, the editorial page editor of The Jerusalem Post in various columns (here and here).
Both contend, although arguing from different perspectives, that the Jewish community should pursue an active program of conversion. Both believe that it is a strategy for growing the Jewish community. And I am intrigued. But the lingering part of the issue that still needs to be articulated is, why should those outside of the Jewish community want to cast their lot with the Jewish community? Those who are inside may have a gut reason as to why but be unable to articulate it. And maybe people have to experience a welcoming Jewish community before they can even begin to understand its values and traditions. And we at JOI would add that barriers to conversion need to be lowered if this is to be an effective strategy (without lowering standards). So what do you think? Should we add it to our community agenda?