Last Shabbat, I was honored with the privilege of giving a devar Torah (sermon) during the shabbaton (day long study and prayer experience on Shabbat) of the New Jersey West Hudson Valley Region of the Union for Reform Judaism. Basically, that is the Reform movement in New Jersey and Rockland County, New York. The portion was Yitro. It was rich with the Sinai experience. As a result, the vort (Yiddish for “word,” as my bubbe used to call it) was straight spirituality. No explicit advocacy for an inclusive Jewish community. No how-to program suggestions. Just straight talk about the journey of the spirit and the sacred path for the individual to walk upon in order to reach God.
While lots of folks in attendance had much to say about the presentation, what was really noteworthy was the number of people who took the opportunity to tell me how much they appreciate the work of the Jewish Outreach Institute. Given that I am often in situations in which the work we do is challenged, it was nice to be in such a warm and supportive environment. And I had said nothing about our organization. The attendees appreciated my words, and one by one I was approached by people wanting suggestions for their home congregations—what can they do to better reach out and welcome in those on the periphery of the Jewish community.
It is clear to me that our message of inclusion is making its way into communities and into congregations. And people want to hear it, because it affirms what they know to be a basic value of Judaism: welcoming the stranger. So maybe it was contained in my presentation, after all. Where else but in the revelation of Sinai could such a lesson be learned?
No comments yet.