CLAL – the National Jewish Center for Jewish Learning and Leadership – has created an interesting new program, said a recent article in the New Jersey Jewish News. Called Rabbis Without Borders, the new project will “train religious leaders to speak in settings outside of familiar Jewish institutions, including mass media and places where transdenominational and interfaith audiences gather.”
Much like JOI’s Public Space Judaism, one of the goals of the project is to “reach Jews outside of traditional Jewish settings.” But the project also recognizes that there are a growing number of spouses of other religious backgrounds who are inside of traditional Jewish settings, and the rabbis involved will also learn how to speak to them. The project’s head, Rebecca Sibru, former director of JCC MetroWest’s Jewish Health and Healing Center, said:
On any given Shabbat morning when a rabbi comes on the bima, it could be that 40 percent of the people in the pews could be people who are not Jewish, whether due to the high rate of intermarriage, or a celebrant’s friends and family. If I know not everyone is Jewish, how I, as a rabbi, show the meaningfulness of a given ritual could affect how the whole rest of the service goes.”
We applaud any efforts to try and connect with Jews who are not affiliated with the mainstream Jewish community. Today’s generation is not as inclined to participate in a traditional manner – the rise in independent prayer groups speaks to that – so we have to come up with innovative methods of outreach. Reaching these folks has proven to be a challenge, so whether it’s through traditional or non-traditional means, we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to encourage their participation in Jewish life.