The Jewish community has spent a lot of time creating binary oppositions as a way to categorize and organize the Jewish people. Someone is an insider or an outsider, affiliated or unaffiliated, Jew or non-Jew. But how legitimate are these oppositions, and are they still relevant in a world in which there are so many different ways of identifying with the Jewish community?
Writing in the Forward, Rabbi Susan P. Fendrick, a senior research associate at the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis University, believes we need to move beyond “yes or no” distinctions in Judaism. “We need language that is both precise and expansive, naming and reflecting the multiple ways that people are and aren’t Jewish,” she writes. “Not only to avoid hurt and alienation, but to name and see our Jewish world, and the people in it, as they are.”