Big Tent Judaism means a lot of things here at JOI. Most of all, it means that we are working toward creating a more inclusive Jewish community, irrespective of what your subgroup might be. This is particularly important in an era where the great divide in the Jewish community is increasingly between the so-called inside and so-called outside of the organized Jewish community (and that includes all of its institutions). It is true that the landscape is shifting rapidly, especially with the growing number of start-ups in the Jewish community. Nevertheless, patterns of engagement—and affiliation—are being redefined and certainly realigned. That is why we were pleased to be informed that the Jewish Organization Equality Index (2012), sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, has named JOI as an inclusive organization. While we don’t boast often about the accolades we have received, we are proud to be affirmed in our work to be inclusive of the LGBTQ members of the Jewish community, as well as all those in the community’s orbit.
While I am not a typical follower of celebrity gossip, I do tend to follow stories in the world of Jewish celebrities. So I was excited to read in Jewcy Magazine that Yitz Jordan, the rapper known as Y-Love, has recently “come out”. In this article, he talks about his experiences as a Jew of color, an Orthodox Jew, and a Jew by choice, and how these other variables have influenced his decision to come out.
I was particularly struck by his description of an experience at a Jews of color round-table, where one producer’s comment about the “impossibility” of finding an LGBTQ Jew of color for the panel struck a nerve. He talks about how Jews like him have “been in existence forever,” and how hurtful it is when others in the Jewish community do not recognize that there are others in their midst very much like him.
It is important to remember from this article that a single individual or family may differ from the stereotypical Jew in many different ways. Just as Yitz is a Jew of color, a Jew by choice, and gay, so there are multiracial intermarried families, and same-sex couples where one partner has a disability, and interfaith blended families. As a new paradigm emerges in which the Jewish community becomes more aware and inviting of interfaith marriages, there is still much work to be done around accepting Jews of color, financially-challenged Jews, Jews with disabilities, LGBTQ Jews, and many other groups.
As Jewish professionals, it is our duty to keep all of these variables in mind as we seek to create a more inviting and inclusive Jewish community. As an organization seeks to become more welcoming and inclusive of LGBTQ Jews, for example, it is important for them to think about their intermarriage policies, as LGBTQ Jews partner with non-Jews at higher rates than straight Jews. As the community seeks to include interfaith families, it is important to create policies that will explicitly welcome people of color, whether Jewish or not. As we seek to widen the tent, it is important to think about all of the variables that may serve as barriers to true welcoming. We at JOI are happy to hear stories like Jordan’s, and congratulate him on his decision to officially come out. We hope his story will inspire others like him, and look forward to sharing their stories as well.