Being Jewish brings meaning and purpose to my life. It infuses me with values and ethics that form my world view. As Jews, we are directed to work toward making our world one of equity, justice and love. We need an inclusive community, one that values all Jews. Only then can we be most effective in our fight for justice. No doubt our world today needs every faith community and those not connected to a faith to help repair the world. Since my parents, Phyllis and Ed Gabovitch, created me in the Jewish community, this has been my place.
There are seven areas where I believe we need to be inclusive to allow all Jews to connect to our community, five of which I think we are on the right path and two where we have much more work to do. Here are those areas:
First, interfaith. All Jews, and their families, regardless of the different faiths in those families, need to feel a part of their Jewish community. We live in a world of many different configurations of faiths and the absence of faiths. We must be fully welcoming to those families and individuals without judgment. InterfaithFamily is a thought leader and great resource for us here.
Second, LGBTQ+. We must be affirmatively open and inviting to all of our brothers, sisters, non-binary individuals and any other relevant descriptions of our community members who want to work toward justice within the Jewish community. This is not nice to have, or a must have; it is a truth. It is being more than open to differences, it is working to let all know they are us and we are they in our shared community. We have our own national leader in this work, Keshet, to help us at every step.
Third, denominations. Jews are Jews are Jews are Jews. No one denomination owns Judaism, not the least observant of Jewish ritual nor the most. This is also true of families that choose Jewish day school and those of us, the vast majority, who don’t. All of us can be equally committed to a Jewish future and to justice. Our community needs to support, and not judge, those choices.
Fourth, Jews with disabilities and challenges. Many of our community members experience visible and, to others, invisible, disabilities or challenges. We need to be cognizant of how everyone experiences life and their world and make the right accommodations to ensure that participation is available to all. Gateways and The Ruderman Family Foundation are the best resources I know of for our community to learn about how we can be more inclusive of our fellow Jews with disabilities and challenges.
Fifth, socio-economic. We need to see the Jewish community with the financial diversity that is there. We must eliminate financial obstacles to any person’s ability to be fully active Jews. We also need to equally value large and small donors to our organizations. Those that are able to contribute to Jewish organizations feel more committed to the community overall, regardless of the size of their donation. We can’t only work to obtain large donations and pay minimal attention to those who aren’t as fortunate to be in that position. All donors contributing together make it possible for this community to support what it does. Let’s not forget that. I believe CJP is committed to this goal.
There are two areas that we need to do much, much more to make sure they feel a part of our community. It is on us to expand the tent.
First, we need to recognize that our community is made up of an increasing portion of Jews of color. I have had my eyes opened to this through my involvement with JOIN for Justice. Again, we need to be affirmatively welcoming and accepting of all Jews. We need to look at our language, our assumptions and our unconscious bias toward white, Ashkenazic Jews. We need these members so that together we are as strong as possible, with a greater diversity of experiences when, as a community, we fight for justice.
Finally, we need to include all who love Israel and are working to make it a light unto the nations as a Jewish democratic state. The tent needs to be wide and more accepting. We risk losing many strong supporters of Israel if we don’t open our hearts and our tables to different approaches to our common goal.
So, we have done a lot, especially in Boston. To me, it all comes down to being as inclusive as possible so we are strong and broad as we work together to bring equity, justice and love to the world. The world needs a strong Jewish community not just as a moral voice but as an army of those committed to and working to repair this broken world. Let’s make our community as broad as possible. Please join me.
This is adapted from my remarks accepting the Barry Shrage Community Builder Award from the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston on Sept. 13, 2018.