Be More Welcoming


There has been lots of attention paid to the recent census numbers of New York’s Jewish population regarding the shrinking middle, i.e., Jews that are identified as belonging to the Conservative and Reform movements (“Sweeping Changes To Jewry Seen In N.Y. Population Survey,” June 15). Let us not just bemoan the situation.

Let us take action, seek out, welcome and entice the uncommitted of all ages, the intermarried, all those who have not shared in a meaningful Jewish experience or do not as yet identify in a positive way with being Jewish.

If an interfaith couple comes to a Reform rabbi and wants to be married in the synagogue with the rabbi officiating, do you really want to turn them down — make them feel like second-class citizens, begrudgingly permit the cantor to marry them or tell them to go to another Temple? Rather than see how the couple falls short, one might acknowledge that this couple has come to the synagogue, wants to be married there, is willing to engage in a dialogue with the rabbi, wants to continue in the Jewish fold. And when that interfaith couple who actually has sent their children to religious school and prepares them to become a bar or bat mitzvah, do we really want to make the non-Jewish spouse feel unwelcome on the bima when his or her own child celebrates that rite of passage into Jewish adulthood?

The welcome mat needs to be laid at the threshold of Conservative synagogues, too. Adjust the halacha as you see fit, but be welcoming and embracing — embrace empathy — and the Golden Rule, to treat others as you would want to be treated.  

All Jewish organizations need to work together to achieve this righteous goal. Shabbat rituals are awesome for everyone. Share the beauty of our religion. Let’s not hide within our doors, seek out the uncommitted and the intermarried and welcome them into a newly responsive and welcoming middle.