Admittedly, I am on the road a lot. I travel for many reasons. But most of all, I travel to bring the message of an inclusive Jewish community—what I call Big Tent Judaism—to communities and institutions throughout North America. Last week, I was in Houston, meeting with a variety of community leaders and making presentations to the Community Leadership Council (representatives of every institution and organization in the Houston Jewish community), along with several committees and subcommittees of the Jewish Federation, all concerned about the Jewish future.
At one point, there was silence in the room. There were no more comments, no more questions. This is sometimes a difficult moment for a speaker/trainer.
The Federation president broke the silence. He said, “I have never seen this committee quiet before—and out of questions. But I think that I can explain the silence. We are stunned.” Then the various members of the group shook their heads in agreement. They had not heard such frank notions about the future of the Jewish community—the future of their Jewish community—articulated before. Perhaps they had thought about it. Perhaps they thought that small tweaks in the way they did business would be sufficient. But I was arguing—am arguing—for an overhaul in the way communities look at themselves and share this vision with the population they are trying to reach and inspire.
Here is what impressed me about Houston. Community leadership understands that the challenges are huge. They are not afraid of tough talk. And they are willing to make the significant changes that are necessary to meet the demands and needs of the generation that is in front of us. If only other communities were willing to do so, as well.
Is your community up for the challenge? If you are interested in having Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky speak to your community, organization, or committee about Big Tent Judaism (or a variety of other topics relating to outreach in the Jewish community), please contact Ivana at IBradanovic@JOI.org
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