Declines in the American Jewish population, intermarriage and religious indifference have Jewish leaders across the nation searching for ways to increase interest in their heritage and culture.
This statement, from an article in the St. Petersburg Times of Florida, basically sums up the challenge facing most Jewish communities in North America. The Tampa Jewish Community Center is taking a unique approach to help encourage Jewish engagement among the unaffiliated population. They have opened the Jewish Discovery Museum.
The museum, “an interactive children’s center that promoted Judaism through art and play,” is one of a handful of Jewish discovery centers in the nation. Visitors learn biblical stories, Jewish customs, and songs. But the real motivation, beyond education, is “to connect with unaffiliated Jews, a term reserved for Jews who are not members of a synagogue or Jewish community group.”
Lowering the barriers to participation is one of the methods we believe will lead to greater involvement in the community, and that’s just what this museum is attempting to do. According to Emilie Kuperman, the Jewish Federation and community center director:
“We’re trying to really create an open tent in a way that a family would want to be involved with the Jewish community on their terms,” Kuperman said. “This is another way to give families an opportunity to connect.”
This is a great first step. Opening day at the museum brought Jews from all denominations, and everyone spoke highly of the resources. But to truly make the museum accessible, they should take it out of the Jewish Community Center and bring it to a secular location – that way they don’t have to wait for people to come to them, especially the unaffiliated who aren’t involved in the Jewish community. That suggestion aside, we’re excited to see communities embrace new and creative ways to make our Big Tent even bigger.