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Cutting Edge Judaism

Inclusion and Welcoming

Inclusion and Welcoming

Reconstructionist communities have led the way in expanding the boundaries of inclusion. We're pleased to present two contributors who share their work on the cutting edge of welcoming others into Jewish community. We invite you to read, listen, and share your thoughts below. 

Judaism in Three Dimensions
Photo of Jodi Bromberg
Jodi Bromberg, CEO, InterfaithFamily

As a child, I loved Jeff Brown’s popular children’s book, Flat Stanley. In the book, poor Stanley Lambchop is flattened like a board when the bulletin board in his bedroom falls on top of him. The book tells of the many adventures he has – sliding under doors, being mailed in an envelope, being flown like a kite – in his altered state. At first, Stanley loves being flat, and all the fun, silly things it allows him to do. But the longer he remains flat, the more frustrated he becomes at his one-dimensional status. His younger brother finally saves the day by using a tire pump to blow Stanley back into a three-dimensional little boy.

Too often, we in the Jewish community view others as one-dimensional flat Stanleys, instead of as multi-faceted three-dimensional selves: as interfaith, or a person of color, or a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, or a member of a same-sex couple. I see the cutting edge of Judaism in North America in the ways that intersecting identities enhance and broaden our concepts of Judaism. Not either/or, but both/and: we are more than the sum of our parts.

You can be from an interfaith family or in an interfaith relationship, and a person of color, and in a same-sex relationship, and a person with disabilities, and a millennial, and a parent, and a college graduate, and…  and… and…. We want to honor and support all of each person’s identities, in all of their complexity and beauty. In the past – and in many places, still – people who carry multiple salient identities were asked to check some of those identities at the door. After all, it’s hard to deal with complexity – and not being able to easily characterize where people belong is challenging.

Here at InterfaithFamily, I think the work that we are doing is cutting edge specifically because of our understanding of the complexity of identity. We are willing to honor and engage the whole self, the whole family – to acknowledge and embrace the diversity of Interfaith families and the complexity of their lives. Interfaith families are not monolithic, or even static, in their identity, their sense of spirituality, their practice of Judaism. We are not just in Jewish-Christian relationships, but also Jewish-Hindu, Jewish-Buddhist, Jewish-Sikh, and many others, all of which have their own stories, triumphs and challenges.

We hope to challenge the assumptions of what “interfaith” looks like.  Earlier this year, we launched the #ChooseLove campaign. It’s a visibility-raising, partnership-building effort meant to engage other organizations and interfaith families in showing the diversity and complexity of their lives. Because being Flat Stanley isn’t ever fun for long. 


Jodi Bromberg has been the president of InterfaithFamily since October 1, 2013 — the day that the Pew Report on Jewish Americans came out. Prior to joining InterfaithFamily, she most recently practiced corporate law, predominantly with non-profit organizations and small businesses.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University Beasley School of Law, Jodi is excited to now advocate and work on behalf of interfaith families interested in exploring Jewish life, and in the past year, has written for eJewish Philanthropy, the Jewish Journal, the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent and the Jewish Daily Forward. She has also been speaking and advocating on behalf of the inclusion of interfaith families in Jewish life at synagogues and conferences around the country, most recently at Temple Emanuel in Newton, Mass. and the International Lion of Judah Conference. She serves on the Advisory Boards of Honeymoon Israel and Seder2015. After growing up in northern New Jersey, and living in the Philadelphia area for the past 20 years, Jodi, her spouse and preschooler twin boys now live outside of Boston—but remain diehard New York Yankees fans!

New Jewish Spaces: A Podcast Interview with Rabbi Shira Stutman
Rabbi Shira Stutman
Rabbi Shira Stutman, Director of Jewish Programming, Sixth & I

In this interview, Rabbi Shira Stutman reflects on the promise and potential of an open, welcoming and pluralistic synagogue and community space. 

Note: Click Read More for show notes, subscription info, and a link to a written transcript.

Transcript

A transcript of this podcast is available here. 

Show Notes

Rabbi Shira Stutman serves as Director of Jewish Programming at Sixth & I in Washington, DC. Her focus is to make Jewish meaning and build Jewish community for young professionals. When not at Sixth & I, she serves as the scholar-in-residence for the National Women’s Philanthropy program at the Jewish Federations of North America. She is a member of the board of directors of Jews United for Justice and on the J Street rabbinic cabinet. She graduated from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2007, where she was a Wexner Graduate Fellow. 

The interview for this podcast was conducted by Hila Ratzabi, Editorial Associate for Ritualwell.org. Audio editing and production by Rabbi Michael Fessler, Editor of Jewishrecon.org.

Subscription Info

The Dialogue podcast is now available for subscription in iTunes and other podcast clients  –  details available here.