An Important Jewish Journey

One of the most generous and forward-thinking philanthropists in the Jewish world today is Edgar Bronfman. It would be difficult for many Jewish organizations—including JOI—to imagine their work without his participation, vision and leadership. And yet, it turns out that Judaism “was not always central” to his life.

Like so many of us, Edgar Bronfman’s Jewish identity evolved. Too often in the Jewish world, the assumption is made that a fluid Jewish identity only goes in one direction—out and away from the Jewish community toward assimilation-beyond-return—without the recognition that in so many other cases Jewish identity moves toward greater engagement and participation, especially when triggered by important lifecycle events, or powerful experiences or relationships.

On the newly-redesigned website for his foundation, Edgar Bronfman writes in his President’s Letter that the journey began for him when he got involved with the movement to free Soviet Jewry in the 1970s:

Even then, my interest had more to do with human rights than with Judaism per se. But it was on those trips to Russia that my curiosity was piqued. What is it about Judaism, I asked myself, that has kept it alive through so much adversity while so many other traditions have disappeared? Curiosity soon turned into something more, and that “something more” has since turned into a lifelong passion.

He goes on to point out that everyone’s journey is different, but that we all have the opportunity to be part of a rich tradition no matter what path we take. That is a message many of us in the Jewish community can get behind and it is what motivates our work here at the Jewish Outreach Institute.


  1. Thanks for this important message. My “Jewish journey” began when I started dating a Jewish man who I’m now married to. My understanding and connection to Judaism continues to evolve. I went from zero knowledge of Judaism, to a little knowledge, to a little more knowledge, and I will continue to learn and perhaps one day even convert. Growing up, I never thought this would be the “path” I’d take, but now that it is, I appreciate messages like this one from leaders in the Jewish community, and from organizations that tell me I’m welcomed to join.

    Comment by Yurika — October 12, 2006 @ 10:40 am

  2. everyone has a different Jewish journey. we must recognize that not every Jew is the same and respect everyone’s individual journey even if we don’t necessarily agree with their relationship choice or observance level. it’s unfortunate that the Jewish community only seems to take notice of those who exit Judaism as opposed to those who return to it after a lengthy absence or are introduced to it for the first time in their lives. in every journey, there is an entrance and an exit. let’s make the entrance to Judaism more common, no matter what path we opt to take to arrive there.

    Comment by heather — October 16, 2006 @ 12:25 pm

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