What motivates the work of JOI? What are the moral imperatives that drive us day after day to reach out and welcome in?
JOI Executive Director Rabbi Kerry Olitzky answered those questions during our recent conference in Philadelphia. But we wanted to bring his words to an audience outside of the conference, so we have posted Kerry’s speech to YouTube (available in two parts).
Our hope is that people who see the video will not only gain a deeper understanding of why we do what we do, but also discover why outreach is so important to the future of the North American Jewish community. “The facts of history are clear,” Kerry said during his speech. “The ethic of welcoming the stranger is a touchstone of ethical Jewish behavior.”
We can look to all the examples throughout Jewish texts to find examples of welcoming the stranger. Kerry, though, points to one passage from Psalms that succinctly captures the essence of our work: “The stone the builders rejected has become our cornerstone.”
We believe this to mean that by welcoming in and engaging all those who find themselves on the periphery of the community – including intermarried/interpartnered families, LGBT Jews, and children of intermarriage – we will guarantee the strength of our Jewish future.