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“WOW” what a conference!

As one attendee of JOI’s just-concluded conference wrote on her evaluation form: “Wow.” Another told me that he’d been attending Jewish conferences for over 20 years and that Sunday’s program was the single-best day of any conference he’d ever been to.

After almost ten months of preparation, and weeks of non-stop work leading up to these past three days in Washington DC, the JOI staff is extremely gratified at the positive feedback we’ve received and thankful to the hundreds of Jewish communal professionals and lay leaders who traveled from as far as Australia to join us. And we’re ready to recommit ourselves to the promise we made to them: this is just the beginning.

Sue Fishkoff writes in her JTA article about the conference, “Outreach advocates unveil coalition at confab, set to launch new initiatives“:

Rabbi Kerry Olitzky has been urging the Jewish community to be more welcoming to intermarried and unaffiliated families for the past 20 years. Now the executive director of the Jewish Outreach Institute and his New York-based organization seem poised for a major breakthrough….

The institute has made a big push in the past two years to get outreach on top of the Jewish agenda….

These projects require funders who believe in outreach, Olitzky noted, as well as communal organizations willing to give up their private fiefdoms and work together. More and more Jewish communities have bought into the outreach agenda.

Have we reached the “tipping point”? Still too early to tell, but as the article mentions, a highlight of the conference was the launch of BigTentJudaism.org, which we hope to build as the venue for communal professionals and lay leaders to come together around welcoming newcomers, as well as linking up newcomers to the organizations that will be welcoming to them. It’s just a skeleton site right now, but with the conference over we will be able to dedicate more of our time and resources to make that vision a reality.

Here are some photos from the conference…


Conference registration table and some of the JOI staff.


Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky, executive director of the Jewish Outreach Institute, opens the third annual JOI conference.


Rabbi Olitzky with some of the conference attendees.


Panel discussion about The Mothers Circle program, for women of other religious backgrounds who are raising Jewish children.


Conference participants.


The amazing Congregation Temple Beth’El Choir, which I blogged about way back in February 2005 after seeing them for the first time. I knew we simply had to get them to one of our conferences, and they blew the roof off!


Rabbi Kerry Olitzky dances with Rabbi Debra Bowen, spiritual leader of Congregation Temple Beth’El of Philadelphia, whose choir helped launch JOI’s “Big Tent Judaism” Coalition.


Adam Bronfman, co-chair of the conference, delivers the keynote address.


Adam Bronfman spoke warmly and personably of how being welcomed into the Jewish community helped encourage he and his wife (who was not born Jewish) to raise their children Jewish and create a Jewish home—and how we must ensure that all intermarried families have that same opportunity, even those without famous last names.


Participants discuss what it means to create an inclusive Jewish community.


A panel discussion with representatives from Jewish federations in LA, Louisville, and Washington DC discuss how they are making outreach more of a priority in their communities.


The Innovative Program Fair at the JOI conference, held under tents in keeping with our conference theme of “Opening the Tent” of the Jewish community.


Several Jewish programs and organization that reach traditionally under-affiliated populations were invited to exhibit during the fair, like Keshet, which reaches out to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) Jews.


Jewish crafts as an entryway into the community.


JOI staff demonstrate our “Hanukkah Olive Oil Tasting” program, with a facade of an olive oil store in the background.



2 Comments

  1. Thats a great looking olive oil booth. Would you like to be invited to The International Olive Oil Festival?

    Comment by J. Iaco Shapiro — February 25, 2008 @ 5:12 pm

  2. Interesting idea, thanks! Probably not in our current budget but something we’ll keep in mind for the future. Good to know about your company. Thanks again for your interest in JOI.

    Comment by Paul Golin — February 25, 2008 @ 6:04 pm

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