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To meet April Baskin is to see the change in American Jewry personified. A tall, confident, 32-year-old with an impressive mane of curly hair and a wide smile, the self-described “multiracial Jewish woman of color” is the newest executive in the Reform Jewry movement.
Her offbeat job title - vice president for audacious hospitality - incorporates the catchphrase that the Union for Reform Judaism has embraced as its central mission. It is meant both to include aggressively welcoming newcomers into its institutions, along with widening its tent by inviting groups that have traditionally felt marginalized from mainstream Jewish institutional life - this includes interfaith couples and families, as well as adults who grew up in interfaith homes, LGBT Jews, Jews with disabilities, unaffiliated Jews and multiracial Jews like herself. “The Jewish community has been by and large marginalizing these groups and put them on the back burner if they have even been on the stove at all,” she says.
Her job is to put these groups front and center. Baskin sums up the philosophy with which she is approaching her admittedly “enormous portfolio”: “It is the belief that we will be a stronger Jewish community when we welcome and incorporate the diversity that is the reality and future of Jewish life.” Since unaffiliated Generation X and millennials are another important target for her outreach work, her young age is an advantage, rather than an obstacle.