Rabbi Rick Jacobs

What Is Audacious Hospitality?

The Jewish people is here today because those who came before us were audacious. By that I mean courageous, fearless, and bold.

Genesis teaches us to practice audacious hospitality. On a blisteringly hot day, Abraham runs after three desert wanderers, insisting they come inside for nourishment. What makes his act so memorable is not waiting for the wanderers to knock on his door; instead, he goes out to meet them where they are and invites them in.

Some months ago, I arrived early at one of our URJ congregations to speak on a Friday night. In the lobby, a woman wearing a nametag looked at me and barked, “What do you want?” I answered, “I want to be in a congregation filled with warmth and welcome.” She looked at me, her expression communicating, “Boy, do you have the wrong place!” Then she looked over her shoulder at the easel in the entryway, which held a picture of a guy who looked a lot like me. “Are you him?” she asked. I nodded “yes.” With suddenly discovered warmth, she said, “Well, why didn’t you say so?”

That’s not audacious hospitality.

To be sure, many of our congregations do an outstanding job of welcoming, but many do not. Here’s a simple thing you can do: Take every member of your board, every staff and team member, everyone who might come early one Friday night, and give them a run-through on the power of being Abraham and Sarah.

That’s just the beginning. Audacious hospitality isn’t just a temporary act of kindness so people don’t feel excluded. It’s an ongoing invitation to be part of community—and a way to spiritually transform ourselves in the process. Audacious hospitality is a two-way street where synagogue and stranger need each other, where we not only teach newcomers, but they teach us.

The paradigm for this audacity arose decades ago, when then UAHC President Rabbi Alexander Schindler overturned all previous Jewish communal assumptions about interfaith families by insisting that we draw them close in all aspects of Jewish life. Nowadays, as a result, thousands of interfaith families are enriching our congregational lives, and thousands of children are being raised with meaningful Jewish commitments.

In today’s Jewish world, where many more Jews are outside than inside, we must practice such audacious hospitality with the LGBTQ community, multi-racial Jews, Jews with disabilities, and Gen X and the millennials—including all those who do not identify as part of the religious community. All of them have much to teach us.

Only by being inclusive can we be strong. Only by being open can we be whole.

Originally printed in Reform Judaism magazine

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email
Rabbi Rick Jacobs

About Rabbi Rick Jacobs

Rabbi Rick Jacobs is the president of the URJ. See his full bio and other writings on the URJ website.

6 Responses to “What Is Audacious Hospitality?”

  1. avatar

    gostaria de manter contato com o rabbi rick jacobs sera que seria posivel aceitem o meu humilde e sincero abraço jose pinto da silva paulista pernambuco brasil.


  1. Because of NFTY, I Learned… | RJ Blog - December 16, 2014

    […] Because of NFTY, I learned how to welcome the stranger. For most teens, strangeness is usually not welcome. But in NFTY, we learned about overcoming strangeness: welcoming others into our homes and being welcomed into other’s homes. So many times, I was the recipient of kindness that helped me feel comfortable in new settings, with new customs, and with new experiences. These were all necessary components of successful NFTY programs, and they instilled my lifelong commitment to “audacious hospitality.” […]

  2. Be Our Guest at NFTY Convention: The Power of Audacious Southern Hospitality | RJ Blog - February 13, 2015

    […] Movement has introduced audacious hospitality: an ongoing invitation to be part of our community. Audacious hospitality means extending a warm welcome to all individuals who seek a home within our movement—no […]

  3. Show Us Your Audacious Hospitality: Apply for a Belin Outreach and Membership Award | RJ Blog - March 19, 2015

    […] not always easy to offer the sort of “audacious hospitality” Rabbi Jacobs encourages, but many Reform congregations are rising to the challenge. These […]

  4. Make a Big Mess and Play with Everything and Other Educational Models | The Mikveh Lady Has Left The Building - March 25, 2015

    […] cabinets, all for signs of Mayyim Hayyim’s Mission and its Seven Principles.  Embracing the audacious hospitality of our educator hosts, the students roamed while they discussed their discoveries: diapers in one […]

  5. Home Sweet Home — JCC Association - September 30, 2015

    […] recently affirmed by our friends at the Union for Reform Judaism, we are inspired by the “audacious hospitality” of Abraham and Sarah— fittingly the first mythic guests or ushpizin in the Sukkot […]

Leave a Reply