||Keruv – Reaching Out Together As a Movement
by Joanne Palmer
August 2009 – How do we as a movement reach out to intermarried families?
It’s one of the most controversial and potentially divisive questions in the Jewish world
just now, and also one of the most unavoidable. Demographics show that large numbers of
Jews marry non-Jews; very few of us come from extended families with no non-Jewish
members, a fact we shouldn’t, can’t, and won’t ignore.
People of goodwill have been arguing with each other for decades about how best to reach
out. In the Conservative world, until now each organization, congregation, community, and
school has ventured out on its own, putting together the programs and using the language that
suited its own needs best. There has been a shared bedrock belief in the importance of
welcoming non-Jews, with the hope that they will feel comfortable in our communities and at
the least raise their children as Jews, but not necessarily shared vocabulary or resources.
Now, though, things are different. Working together, the 16 organizations that make up the
Leadership Council of Conservative Judaism have compiled a statement of six principles; they
are available in a brochure ( http://www.uscj.org/images/lccjbrochure.pdf) written by a
six-member LCCJ subcommittee and accompanied by a users’ manual
( http://www.uscj.org/cultureofkeruv.html) that lists a number of successful keruv programs
and includes advice for transferring them to other communities.
“This work was done by a group of people from various parts of the movement who
took seriously the responsibility of coming up with a consensus opportunity for the whole
movement,” Rabbi Paul Drazen said. Rabbi Drazen, United Synagogue’s chief program
development officer, was USCJ representative on the committee. “What’s new is that we
are showing on a movement level what has been true for our congregations for a long time –
that we welcome people of diverse backgrounds and interests. Part of the goal was to make
sure that people know that as a movement we’re really opening the door and welcoming you.
And it provides two things. First, it’s a brochure that each shul can brand, put on its website,
or print out and leave in a stack by the door at all times. People could see it as a sign both of
welcome and of unity – congregations across the continent all are using the same thing.
“Second, it gives an idea of programs that are working in different congregations. Every
congregation is different, and each is in a different place in terms of experience and practice.
We wanted to give each one an idea of the hands-on working programs in other places.”
How best to reach out to the intermarried, to welcome the non-Jews who live with us and
love us, is a huge and constantly changing goal, but the new initiatives from the LCCJ and its
subcommittee are a large step in the right direction.
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Last Updated:Nov. 30, 2009.