The goal of JOI’s Big Tent Judaism Coalition is to reach and serve all Jewish individuals and households—including the majority at any given time that is not participating in Jewish communal life. The image of Abraham and Sarah’s tent, open on all four sides to welcome in all who approach, is a strong representation of JOI’s belief that we must reach out to the unengaged and unaffiliated of the Jewish community, and welcome them into “the tent.” Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham of Congregation Sons of Israel (CSI) in Upper Nyack, NY has created such a tent—metaphorically speaking, of course.
Rabbi Abraham recently spoke to the Jewish Federation of Rockland County (story quoted below) about his decision to join JOI’s Big Tent Judaism Coalition, one of his first decisions as rabbi of this Conservative, egalitarian synagogue.
“Everything was basically set in motion, it was a matter of joining the coalition that strives to create an inclusive, welcoming Jewish community for all through partnership, communication and advocacy,” [Rabbi Abraham] said.
The example being set at Congregation Sons of Israel is one that we at JOI hope many others will follow. From the sign on the front door reading “All are Welcome” to the new design of Rabbi Abraham’s office, CSI is applying the Ten Principles of Big Tent Judaism from start to finish.
He’s added a love seat and glass table in his office, replacing the large conference table that once stood in the middle of the room. “It was one of my requests when I came to CSI,” said Rabbi Abraham. “I feel that when people are coming in for a meeting with the rabbi, they are not coming to have a conference. They are looking to have a comfortable conversation and I want everyone to feel comfortable and welcome.”
Creating an inclusive community, as Rabbi Abraham demonstrates, can start with small actions—a sign on the door, the removal of a table—yet can lead to tremendous positive change. By “opening the tent” to everyone, CSI will be reaching a new population in Rockland County, and will surely serve as a model for other synagogues in the area to join the Coalition and begin engaging Jewish families on the periphery. In this vein, Rabbi Abraham participated in JOI’s recent webinar: “Making the Most of the High Holidays,” designed to help synagogue front-line staff and High Holiday volunteers welcome and engage newcomers during the High Holidays.
“Being part of the Big Tent Judaism Coalition has brought a new energy to our congregation. We are thrilled about this partnership and are hopeful to be able to welcome in many more into our community that may have not felt welcomed in the past.”
We thank Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham for his efforts, and look forward to working with him and Congregation Sons of Israel to promote a more inclusive Jewish community.
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