As the High Holidays approach, we see our grocery lists lengthen with accoutrements needed to prepare the perfect Rosh Hashanah meal. The masses in the grocery aisles provide an excellent opportunity to hold a Public Space Judaism event. While shoppers picked out organic apples at a Whole Foods in Seattle, Rabbi Dov Gartenberg, with whom JOI has worked over the past several years, seized the opportunity to speak to shoppers about hospitality within the Jewish community and about Panim Hadashot, “New Faces,” The Jewish learning community that he leads. He writes in his blog:
The Whole Foods booth has taught me how much Jewish demographics have changed. Jews have fully integrated in Seattle. Many are intermarried, they do not socialize exclusively with Jews, and their identities are complex in which Judaism is only a part of who they are. It has also taught me the value of educating non-Jews about the beautiful traditions of Shabbat, festivals, and home traditions.
Rabbi Gartenberg clearly recognizes the importance of finding Jews where they are, which is exactly how we define outreach at JOI. “By making hospitality our primary value and goal we reverse a very negative view of Judaism held by many Jews,” Gartenberg comments.
What can we do this Rosh Hashana to find Jews and their families where they are? What other sorts of Public Space Judaism events can we hold? And how can we ensure, through name collection and follow-up, that these events represent the beginning of further Jewish engagement? Whether it is an apple and honey tasting or a Color-Me Calendar for the Jewish New Year, use this time of year to get out in to your community and welcome newcomers in!
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