Welcoming the Stranger

Welcoming the Stranger

Arrangement of hand weights, an orange, and a small chalkboard to record 2019 goals

Here are four ways we can start on the right track to make our communities healthier in 2019 when it comes to audacious hospitality.

April Baskin
keyboard with wrench and screwdriver images on the enter key

A toolkit containing cutting-edge resource materials to be piloted next month will help Reform Jewish leaders see their world through a lens focused on Audacious Hospitality.

April Baskin
Shabbat service in a synagogue sanctuary

When we love something, we want to share it – so why not be inspired to bring our Jewish friends into the kehilla kedosha (holy community), embracing them within a wonderful, sacred congregation?

Alan Zeichick

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, announced today that April Baskin will join the URJ's executive leadership team as Vice President of Audacious Hospitality. Baskin's role is crucial to the ongoing implementation of the URJ's strategic 2020 Vision plan, and the final staffing decision within a realignment of executive roles that is structured around the 2020 Vision's core priorities of strengthening congregations, audacious hospitality, and tikkun olam (social justice).

Audacious hospitality is the URJ's focused effort to engage seekers - Jews who are unaffiliated, under-engaged, and, in some cases, uninspired - in the sacred work of creating a world of wholeness, compassion, and justice. Congregations and other Reform institutions can play an indispensable role in attracting and serving those looking for ways to connect with their Jewish identity.

As URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs put it recently, "No more than 50% of American Jews are members of synagogues at any one time. Unless we change our approach, there is little chance that Jews in their twenties and thirties will even enter the revolving door of synagogue affiliation. Hoping is not a strategy; the Jewish world needs new approaches for engaging the future. Together we will shape the strategies that will broaden and deepen our movement."

June is here, and in honor of LGBT Pride Month, we're sharing suggestions for welcoming LGBTQ members into your congregation and community. Do you have ideas to add to this list? Leave them in the comments below!

  1. Celebrate Gay Pride Month (June) with a special Shabbat service. Invite LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning/Queer) members to participate and include readings that speak to the experience of being both Jewish and LGBTQ. Consider having a guest speaker deliver a sermon or have a panel of congregants at the oneg to discuss how LGBTQ issues affect their congregational and personal lives.
  1. Phrase your congregational publicity in a way that is inviting to all people. In your congregational advertising, make sure that the LGBTQ population is specifically welcomed at all congregational events.
  1. Review your temple website to make sure that it is welcoming to LGBTQ Jews. Rather than using terms such as “alternative lifestyles” or “non-traditional families,” use language such as, “We proudly welcome members of the LGBTQ community,” or “We welcome LGBTQ Jews and their families.”

Membership specialists and committee chairs will tell you the three tenets of congregational membership are recruitment, integration/engagement, and retention.