How can we be even warmer and more welcoming?
At the February meeting of the Board of Trustees, the members considered and approved a proposal that B’nai Sholom join the Audacious Hospitality initiative. This is a significant step for us as a congregation, and it will engage many of our committees and programs. Moreover, we will need your help to be successful!
In recent years, the Union for Reform Judaism launched its “Audacious Hospitality” initiative to encourage and assist congregations in becoming more diverse and inclusive of Jews from a wide variety of backgrounds. One reason for the initiative is a recognition of current demographic trends:
- At least 12-15% of Jews in the U.S. identify as Jews of Color of African, Latinx, Asian or mixed-race descent, and about 10% of U.S. Jews are of Mizrahi or Sephardic heritage.
- Approximately 10% of North American Jewry identifies as part of the LGBTQAI community. For those ages 18-29, that figure is close to 20%. These are likely undercounts in that some people do not openly identify.
- Jews with disabilities account for 20% of North American Jewry.
- A very large proportion of North American Jews have an interfaith family. Since 2000, 71% of non-Orthodox Jewish marriages in the U.S. have been interfaith.
Jews in these groups and their non-Jewish family members often endure “micro-aggressions” from well-meaning congregants or due to longstanding congregational practices that do not sufficiently take account of appropriate ways to treat all members of our community like they belong. Such belonging must begin the moment a person first enters the door or otherwise first encounters the congregation and extend to worship, life-cycle events, education, communication, governance, and general community kindness, caring and friendship.
Much of this work is already underway at B’nai Sholom, so this should not be regarded or described as a “new” initiative. Given our size, the demographics of Albany and of our current membership, our resources and the current state of our diversity and inclusion work, the Audacious Hospitality initiative conducted at B’nai Sholom will be broadened into an effort to make all people feel welcome.
The URJ’s Audacious Hospitality initiative proposes a set of steps to help a congregation improve its diversity and inclusiveness:
- The work is led by a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Working Group facilitator and a co-facilitator who are responsible for the project’s implementation.
- A DEI Working Group is formed, with an attempt to draw its members from a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, differing abilities and Jewish backgrounds and heritage.
- The Working Group conducts an evaluation of the congregation’s current level of hospitality. URJ has provided a Community Assessment Workbook that includes a lengthy set of questions that can be used for this purpose, although the Working Group can also tailor its inquiry to B’nai Sholom’s specific circumstances.
- The Working Group uses the assessment process and discussions at meetings to develop recommended goals.
- The Working Group presents its goals initially to the Board for input and approval. Implementation of the goals may then be carried out by staff, clergy, board members and committees. The board may choose to adopt recommendations that call for hiring outside resources, e.g., to provide training for congregants, to improve accessibility of our website or to make physical changes to our building.
If you’d like more information about joining the Working Group, please contact Julie Novkov or Rabbi Weisbrot.