In our work with communities across North America, one thing we constantly teach is that in order to reach those on the periphery of the Jewish community, we have to go where they are rather than wait for them to come to us. It’s what we call Public Space Judaism, and it’s one of the cornerstones of our work and philosophy. The best time of year to do this is around holidays, particularly Hanukkah and Passover since those are the two most observed holidays by both affiliated and unaffiliated Jewish families.
There is another benefit of putting Judaism on public display, as we learn from an article in the Press Democrat of Santa Rosa. Yes, it helps us reach those on the periphery, but it can also help remind Jews of all backgrounds that despite our difference of opinions, we all stand together under Judaism’s Big Tent.
Under the headline “Jewish Community Embraces Oneness, Unity,” the Press Democrat highlighted how congregations and Jews across denominational lines all came together to share in the lighting of a public menorah on the second night of Hanukkah. From Reconstructionist to Orthodox, from religious to secular, the scene described by the paper was one in which difference or backgrounds didn’t matter – all were there for the purpose of celebrating their shared heritage. The ceremony demonstrated that our voice is louder and more powerful when we focus on what binds us together, not what keeps us apart.
Having worked with the Jewish community in Santa Rosa and the entire Five Valleys, we were excited to see some of our ideas on full display. Collaboration among institutions, congregations and leaders is a key to the growth and sustainability of the Jewish community, especially as we expand in our cultural and religious diversity. Hopefully as more come to recognize the value in working together, we’ll see these kinds of public events emerge from even more holidays on the Jewish calendar.