JOI Statement on the “Conversion Debate” in Today’s Forward

JOI’s executive director Rabbi Kerry Olitzky co-wrote an op-ed with Dr. David Ellenson, president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, appearing in today’s Forward Jewish newspaper entitled “Conversion Is Not An Outreach Strategy.”

In the piece, they write:

We are all for conversion and welcome anyone who wants to join us. But…. conversion is not an outreach strategy. If outreach is indeed about going to where people are, then to ask people to convert before they have developed a sense of belonging in the community…is just not the right approach. Nor can it be the covert goal of programming to reach people on the periphery. Once people have been given the opportunity to imbibe the waters of Torah, let them be motivated to join us on their own….

To focus on conversion alone as a panacea to the challenge of interfaith marriage and Jewish continuity is mistaken. Our real task is to create a community of meaning worth joining.

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