I just returned from Costa Rica, an exciting country, known especially for its monkeys. Of course, it is also known for its coffee, pineapple, beaches, rain forests, and zip line adventure parks, among other things. Perhaps it is my sensitivity to the notion of “welcoming,” but no one mentioned that particular aspect of the country and its inhabitants before we prepared for our trip. Yet the “ministry of welcoming” as it is sometimes called in other contexts was apparent everywhere we went. Perhaps it is because a country of 4.5 million citizens understands that it is dependent on a tourist trade that welcomes 6 million people each year.
So I thought to myself, why doesn’t the organized American Jewish community of 2 million understand its dependency (perhaps its future) on the 4 million American Jews (and the many more people who are not Jewish but who live in Jewish households) who are not part of the organized Jewish community? Perhaps if we could extend the Costa Rican culture of welcoming into the culture of the American Jewish community, we might extend our “tourist trade,” as well. The difference, however, is that we must not just welcome people to visit, but to stay.