JOI’s blog tends to focus primarily on current events, but an article from the Spring 2005 edition of the “Reconstructionism Today” newsletter just came to our attention and rings as true today as two years ago. The article, “Jews and Fellow Travelers: Appreciating the Gifts of Non-Jewish Partners” by Rabbi Maurice Harris, discusses a 2004 Jewish Reconstructionist Federation convention workshop that focused on the gifts that non-Jewish Partners—or “Fellow Travelers” as the workshop called them—can provide to Jewish life.
Rabbi Harris maintains that it can be greatly beneficial for Jewish communities to welcome and further engage Fellow Travelers. He gives examples that he himself witnessed, including when his synagogue board needed assistance thinking outside of the box about membership issues and a Fellow Traveler provided valuable “outside” perspectives from a different religious community. A few other benefits that Fellow Travelers can bring to Jewish life, as mentioned in the piece, include:
- Fellow Travelers are sometimes able to see and appreciate things about Jewish life that born Jews take for granted or don’t notice;
- Children growing up in intermarried households often learn that cultural sensitivity and tolerance of difference are wholesome family values;
- Sometimes Fellow Travelers are valuable bridges between Jewish and other religious or cultural communities in North America.
We agree with Rabbi Harris that Fellow Travelers can greatly contribute to Jewish institutions and Jewish life if given the chance to do so, and we encourage the Jewish community to welcome intermarried families and Fellow Travelers. By looking beyond the “costs” of intermarriage to embrace the gifts that these Fellow Travelers provide, we can strengthen Jewish life and further enriched our community.