Before trampling on a discarded neighborhood paper as I walked down my Brooklyn street last weekend, I took a quick glance down. Glancing back at me in big bold letters were the words, “Yes to Judaism.” My curiosity piqued, I picked it up, and to my utter surprise and delight, it was an advertisement encouraging people to celebrate Judaism—to give to tzedakah (charity), to light the Sabbath candles, to eat a Shabbat meal with family and friends—and underneath the message, as clear as a clear day, were the names and logos of the four major Jewish denominations: Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist (and other Jewish organizations as well, including the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York), all co-sponsors of the ad.
Wow. I wondered what occasion inspired us all to come together in this rare gesture of solidarity. I learned that the ad was created by a group called Jews for Judaism, in response to the Jews for Jesus summer campaign in New York City. For those that don’t know, Jews for Jesus is a messianic group that is criticized for misrepresenting both Judaism and Christianity in its attempt to bring Jews into their fold. They specifically target Jews, especially interfaith families, Israelis, Russians, and Ultra-Orthodox. In a column in the New York Daily News, Lenore Skenazy explains that “The pamphleteers’ insidiousness dismays not only Jews like me, but the leaders of other faiths as well—Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, you name it.”
Their New York campaign and the Jewish community’s response has garnered quite a bit of attention in the press, including recent articles in the New York Times and The Jewish Week. They have even provoked offense in the New York transit authority for using subway logos in their ad campaign, according to an article from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
What I keep thinking about is this: why don’t we come together all the time (and not only as a reactive measure) to help people become more involved in Jewish life? The message that the Jews for Judaism campaign sends is that despite disagreements between the different Jewish denominations, we recognize that we are all part of one diverse Jewish community capable of uniting to promote a diversity of Jewish expression.