Who defines Jewish Community?


The Bay Area Interfaithfamily Facebook group shared the photo above and this quote from a discussion panel taking place at the Boston conference they are sponsoring on interfaith topics:

Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie of Lab/Shul: “Judaism can be experienced as living in forts (walled off, closed off, frightened) or in ports (open, porous). (Quoting Rabbi Louis Jacobs). We can make Judaism more like a port – a place of openness and fluidity – so it is accessible and meaningful to all members of all backgrounds of a Jewish family. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

It’s interesting to read this while sitting on the opposite coast in California. I am reminded of how very different Jewish communities in America are. Here in the San Francisco bay area there really aren’t any “forts or walled off” Jewish communities. Given our stereotypical views of Jews, one would expect such a community to consist of Orthodox Jews. But the bay area Orthodox synagogues are as embracing as their Conservative, Reform and Renewal neighbors.

Pondering Rabbi Lau-Lavie’s statement made me think about my own concept of Jewish community.

Here’s how I see Judaism Writ Large:

Judaism is a living organism – constantly changing. Think of it like a living cell. In order to survive it must have a porous membrane. Stuff needs to come in and go out in order for it to live. But it must also have a membrane; without a boundary, a definition, an in and an out, the cell will die.

In fact, Judaism is multiple cells, different communities with different boundaries. Like a body it needs all of its different kinds of cells in order to thrive. We can’t expect heart cells to do what lung cells do. But we can be happy that we have both kinds (many kinds!) of cells and Jews. In the bay area our Jewish community is made up of Jews, many kinds of Jews. AND also the people who love Jews, and people who just want to hang out with the Jews.

Want to be more engaged? Just contact me and I’ll brainstorm with you about finding the right place for you.