Last week, JOI officially launched our Big Tent Judaism Ambassadors Program, marking an exciting moment in our mission to prompt change and transform the North American Jewish community. Through the program, JOI will work to empower lay leaders and help them to identify the challenges related to inclusion in Jewish life, and offer them the tools with which they can address these challenges at a local level. JOI staff will hold ongoing conversations, as well as offer training and support. As such, Big Tent Judaism Ambassadors will be serving as our partners on the ground, working to create more actively welcoming environments in their Jewish communal institutions and broader Jewish communities.
As Big Tent Judaism Ambassadors, these lay leaders will take on new roles in their communities, promoting change using the strengths, skills, and connections readily at their disposal. Some will lead community-wide conversations; others may spearhead outreach projects; and still others may write op-eds advocating a change in policy. Regardless of the outreach path they choose, each Big Tent Judaism Ambassador will act with this purpose: helping their communities commit to the welcoming principles that they espouse.
Our first group of Big Tent Judaism Ambassadors gathered last week and began by “crowd-sourcing” the challenges we encounter in our communities regarding inclusion. Why are so many who identify as part of the American Jewish community not at all engaged with the organized American Jewish community? What can our Jewish communities do to make newcomers feel welcomed? Topics included: low representation of the diverse populations of American Jewry (e.g. LGBTQ, Jews of Color, Jews-by-choice, adult children of intermarriage, partners of other religious backgrounds raising Jewish children) among the engaged Jewish populations and leadership; the inability to reach the less-engaged because of stigmas that are attached to involvement; a sense of entitlement among Jews regarding Jewish authenticity, affecting both attitudes and policies toward non-Jews and adult children of intermarriage alike; and more.
While the challenges are broad, the future of American Jewry depends upon how we face them. Yes, there is no quick fix. However, our Big Tent Judaism Ambassadors are invested and ready to take the first steps needed to bring our communities on board for change. Our next Big Tent Judaism Ambassadors conversation will help us hone in on the small actions we can all pursue to ensure the strength of the Jewish tent. Interested in learning more? If so, we’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to be in touch with Hannah Morris at 212-760-1440 or HMorris@JOI.org.
No comments yet.