Edgar Bronfman’s Tent

Letter to the Editor

Published December 29, 2010, issue of January 07, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Edgar Bronfman’s December 17 opinion article, “Opening Our Tent,” perfectly reframes the issue of intermarriage.

Jewish survivalists continually preach from a defensive and guilt-ridden posture that unless our Jewish children marry other Jews, Jewish identity is headed toward extinction. But Jewish outreach can no longer follow the old model because younger Jews are no longer listening. Instead, they are marrying those with whom they fall in love.

The way to reframe outreach efforts is to engage Jews and non-Jews of all backgrounds and trust that Judaism can stand on its own. From a place of inclusiveness and trust, Judaism can engage, inspire and renew.

Akira Ohiso
Liberty, N.Y.

Edgar Bronfman’s call for a new openness to the intermarried is hardly different from the decades-old and ineffective strategy of “open tent Judaism.”

His description of Abraham and Sarah as the prototype of a welcoming community tells only half the story. Abraham and Sarah did more than simply welcome people into their tent and accept them. Our tradition, as understood by some of our greatest sages, tells us that they also taught their guests about God, and that they even made converts.

Obsessing about the open tent will never be successful because being welcoming is a prerequisite, not the end game. Far more important than the tent’s door is what is inside, and that we know why the tent is important in the first place. If the inside touches people’s hearts and souls, they will beat down the door to get in.

I know this firsthand, as someone who has traveled from the margins of Jewish life to become a federation executive director, and whose wife went from being a Christian and church professional to become an observant Jew. There are thousands who have made similar journeys. We were not drawn to the “I’m okay, you’re okay” Judaism of the tent door, but to the transformative Jewish life we found across the threshold.

Harold Berman
Efrat, Israel

The writer is a former executive director of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.