Opening Our Gates
Just before Shavuot, The New York Jewish Week published a piece from Editor Gary Rosenblatt about “the dangerous fissures in Jewish life today,” namely conversations about who is and is not a Jew. In “Ruth’s Conversion Would Be Rejected Today,” Rosenblatt writes,
I can’t help but think that if Ruth lived under the current Chief Rabbinate of Israel, with its increasingly rigid and restrictive interpretation of the laws of conversion, she would not be accepted as a daughter of Israel, and the trajectory of Jewish history would be altogether different.
Of course it is a great responsibility to define who is and who isn’t Jewish, especially in our modern age of pluralism. The laws are complex, and the stakes are high. But what is most troubling about the views coming out of Jerusalem in recent years is that they are motivated by an effort to keep the gates closed, to prevent sincere seekers from joining our people rather than to welcome them.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, incoming president of the URJ, responded to Rosenblatt’s op-ed with a letter to the editor reiterating the Reform Movement’s commitment to reaching out not only to the affiliated but also to the unaffiliated, the intermarried, Jews-by-choice, and other important groups within the Jewish community. He writes, in part:
I was pleased to read Gary Rosenblatt’s spot-on column, “Ruth’s Conversion Would Be Rejected Today,” (May 25). He is absolutely correct in his assessment that in the spirit of Jewish unity and the Festival of Shavuot, “our impulse should be to embrace rather than reject those who are sincere in their intentions to echo Ruth’s words: ‘Your God shall be my God.’”
Indeed, the institutions of Reform Judaism — the Union for Reform Judaism, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, together with affiliates and partner organizations — have long welcomed into our synagogues, our homes and our lives all those who have sought to cast their lot with the Jewish people.
Read the rest of Rabbi Jacobs’ letter to the editor here.