When I make presentations on Public Space Judaism, I often talk about three calendars that govern our lives: the Jewish calendar, the civil calendar, and the cultural calendar. The Jewish community typically focuses its attention and its programming on the Jewish calendar. Sometimes these programs are scheduled for holidays that are observed by many (like Hanukkah and Passover), and sometimes they are scheduled for holidays that are less frequently observed (Shavuot and Tisha B’av). In either case, these programs usually take place inside Jewish communal institutions, are advertised in what we call “insider publications” and are directed to already-affiliated members of the community.
We suggest that there are many program opportunities in the other two calendars. The civil calendar includes Fourth of July and Thanksgiving, for example, while the cultural calendar might include the “Back to School” and “End of School” time periods.
Tragically, another date has entered the civil calendar: this year marks the fifth anniversary of 9/11. As many people remember, especially those in and around New York, people flocked to religious houses of worship shortly after it happened. Yet few institutions furthered the connection that people were seeking. Instead, we went back to business as usual—or as usual as is possible after suffering such a trauma.
What can the Jewish community do this year to use 9/11 as an outreach vehicle without undermining the serious impact it has had on the American psyche? Are there some dates on the calendar that are off-limits to outreach programming? Outreach is not just about holidays and family fun. It is also about making profound spiritual and religious connections with people. For some, it might be through Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. For others, it might be on 9/11. What will you be doing in your community this year?
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