We often say that the best way to find and engage unaffiliated members of the Jewish community is to find them where they are – grocery stores, malls, bookstores, coffee shops, etc… But what if the public space is also a Jewish space? That’s the thinking behind a new project in Philadelphia, according to an article in the Jewish Exponent.
Jon Erlbaum is the executive director of Chevra, a “local group aimed at helping young people in their 20s and 30s forge a connection to Jewish life.” He wants to buy out a bakery and turn it into a Jewish hub, a place where “all sorts of young people can commune and engage with Judaism at whatever level they’re comfortable with.”
It’s an interesting mix of ideas. It’s not a Jewish institution so there are no membership fees and people walking in won’t feel as intimidated as walking into a synagogue. But it is a Jewish space, so the people coming in will most likely have to have some prior knowledge. And finally, since it’s also a cafe, there will probably be unaffiliated Jewish individuals or families who simply stumble upon it.
Erlbaum is certainly covering all the bases, and it sounds like a low barrier inclusive environment. We’ll be interested to see if opening up this kind of public/Jewish space will indeed lead to an increased participation in Jewish life.