Big Tent Judaism

The idea of “Big Tent Judaism” is one which is central to the beliefs of humanistic jews as it engenders the ideas of inclusiveness and pluralism which are key for a flourishing Jewish community and people into the future.

There is actually an organisation in the United States called the Jewish Outreach Institute (JOI) which runs a Big Tent Judaism website and organisation at www.joi.org/big tent and whose mission statement is: to engage, support and advocate for all those who would cast their lot with the Jewish people

The organisation has many laudable principles which it requires its member organisations to folllow:

1. Welcome All Newcomers

Welcome everyone interested in finding Jewish meaning and community, including those from intermarried households, the unaffiliated, and other underserved populations;

2. Celebrate Diversity

Celebrate the diversity of today’s Jewish individuals and households; Leave behind assumptions about what Jews “look like” or how families are configured;

3. Offer “Free Samples”

Recognize that outreach is not a membership drive but rather the providing of free and open access to a portion of Jewish communal activities; Increase the number of freely available Jewish activities, with no strings attached;

4. Deepen Jewish Engagement

Deepen the Jewish engagement and identity of all Jewish individuals and households, regardless of their institutional affiliation (or lack thereof), by meeting them on an individual level; learning where they are in their “Jewish journey”; and offering them enticing relevant choices from the entire gamut of Jewish life;

5. Provide Quality “Customer Service”

Acknowledge that Jewish communal professionals at all levels not only build community but also provide services, and therefore work in a “service industry”; As such, provide the same high quality of “customer service” that people expect from all other venues in which they spend their time and money;

6. Lower Barriers to Participation

Identify and lower the “barriers to participation” in Jewish communal life that may be keeping away the less engaged, including but not limited to: cost, language, and expectation of Jewish literacy;

7. Increase Points of Access

Increase access to our community not just by being available when people approach us, but also by going out to where people already are rather than waiting for them to come to us; Hold programs in secular venues, place advertisements in secular media, and partner with secular organizations;

8. Create Partnerships

Collaborate with other Jewish organizations across institutional and denominational lines, because individual organizations cannot be all things to all people; Outreach works best as a community-wide endeavor;

9. Enlist Active Members for Outreach

Energize the “inside” for the mission of outreach by training and sensitizing our most active members to create a warmer and friendlier community for those on the “outside”; Bridge the growing divide between engaged and unengaged Jewish individuals and households;

10. Better Best Practices

Develop, share, and implement outreach best practices to help our communal professionals and volunteer leaders achieve these goals.

Whilst the JOI is primarily a US organisation, its guiding principles can equally be adopted by many UK Jewish organisations and most definately apply to Humanistic Judaism Uk now and into the future.

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