Opening Our Gates


I was pleased to read Gary Rosenblatt’s spot-on column, “Ruth’s Conversion Would Be Rejected Today,” (May 25). He is absolutely correct in his assessment that in the spirit of Jewish unity and the Festival of Shavuot, “our impulse should be to embrace rather than reject those who are sincere in their intentions to echo Ruth’s words: ‘Your God shall be my God.’”

Indeed, the institutions of Reform Judaism — the Union for Reform Judaism, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, together with affiliates and partner organizations — have long welcomed into our synagogues, our homes and our lives all those who have sought to cast their lot with the Jewish people.

Nearly 35 years ago, Rabbi Alexander Schindler, the then-president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now the Union for Reform Judaism) boldly called upon the Reform Movement to reach out to the non-Jewish spouses who increasingly were within our families and congregations. He believed, in the spirit of the Book of Ruth, that many souls would find meaning, purpose and connection in the Jewish community and that it was our responsibility — individually and collectively — to welcome the “unchurched” openly and lovingly to the richness of Jewish living, learning and celebration. In the intervening years, outreach to the affiliated, the unaffiliated, the intermarried and Jews-by-choice has become a central pillar of Reform Jewish life. Rabbi Schindler’s charge prompted us to invite potential converts into our community, bringing hundreds of thousands of seekers to our ranks and contributing to our midst countless generations who, by their very presence, ensure an ever brighter and more diverse Jewish future.

Recently, echoing Ruth’s appeal to Naomi and Rabbi Schindler’s appeal to our movement, I called upon synagogues to reach out once again, this time to the “uninspired,” challenging the whole of the Jewish community to think boldly and beyond our walls to meet people where they are. This past weekend we celebrated the giving and receiving of Torah and the unity of our mixed multitude atop Mount Sinai, a time to remember, as our tradition demands, to open our gates widely to all. To do otherwise is a detriment to all of us and to those who seek our God.

President, Union for Reform Judaism

is the President of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish movement in North America.