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Moving Traditions
October 29, 2009

I'm part of a Rosh Hodesh: It's a Girl Thing group in Denver, and mostly I am having a blast! Sometimes the activities are a little overrated, and I wish we could talk and express differently, without dancing around the 'issue' or topic of the month before we dive deep into it. But mostly I think it's great. Kudos to Rosh Hodesh: It's a Girl Thing!!!

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

I can doodle and cuddle and eat with my jewish galpals and have a fun time.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Bring some meditation into it... not to be weird or anything but some of the girls really could use some calming down before smashing into pouring out their heart. Especially if the girl is having a hard time.

More feedback

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

Get more art supplies!

Ways to make it better...

I know the teachers are only human, but sometimes the teacher singles me out because I'm a rabbi's daughter. Not anymore so much because I've had to show her I'm in the group as a kid!

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

Every girl is different!!!!!! It's hard to reach us...especially in middle school

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every month

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

MY ROLE:
Client Served & We do a lot of things and activities!!.

Judaism Your Way
October 29, 2009

I am an active member of two synagogues in the Denver area and support both with my volunteer time and financially. I've been lucky enough to have attended several JYW events every year for the past four years and each time, I find it a deeply nourishing, Jewishly grounded experience. JYW is one of my Jewish homes. I have come to depend on JYWs perspective, I learn things there that I don't experience elsewhere, and I continue to remain just as active in my other Jewish commitments. I consider myself Jewishly well-educated and very comfortable and relaxed in my Jewish identity. I wish I could say I'm personally more comfortable with intermarriage, but I struggle with this reality.  I can really understand the Jewish leaders who throw up their hands in despair about intermarriage because, as liberal and "welcoming" as I am and try to be, on the inside I have often felt much grief that the Jewish people can seem like it is melting away. So I deeply understand the instinct to say "no" and close the door.   But I resent the fear-mongering that goes on in our community as it whips up a lot of feelings but doesn't get us closer to a flexible set of responses that deal with the reality of changing Jewish lives. Many of us, even if we are Jews in committed relationships with Jews like I am, have multiple affiliations and have more complex identities than did our parents. I want a Jewish community that knows how to journey with me, not just to wave good bye if I or my relatives or friends have lives that happen to resemble a braided candle.  Like many of the understandably scared Jewish leaders, I was raised to feel that non-Jews could never be allies to me or my community's vitality, that they represented the end of things, never the beginnings, that their eagerness to learn about Judaism, or to support me was somehow suspect or hollow.  Our outreach programs to interfaith families have also been on the hollow side. There still remains a huge chasm, a persistent sense of a "we" and a "they" - in and out of synagogue life.  I think some outreach programs have been effective but many have lacked a deeper, more confident infrastructure such as what Rabbi Field provides.  Rabbi Field has developed an extremely well thought-out framework for reminding people like me that Judaism has always taken in and used "outside" influences to grow and to refine our culture's responses to the divine, to the larger community, to each other.  What a thought to consider - that perhaps we are not chronically faced with dilution (annihilation) all the time but have opportunities to expand and grow while standing firmly on Jewish ground.  Rabbi Field is demonstrating how Judaism can be the "host," that we can reckon with the inevitable demographic changes - trends which are bigger than all of us - through deep engagement. He's showing that closing the door just won't work for the short or long-term health and vitality of our community. I watch Rabbi Field assume that many non-Jews with great integrity want to know how to stand with and stand up for their family members and our community as it morphs into the next form. As foreign as it is to my upbringing, I have begun to understand Rabbi Field's belief that many people want to be allies to our community and can be counted on to be effective, to be aware of the complexities and richness of the Jewish journey. They can be enlisted to support their spouses, friends and children who hunger for Jewish connections and knowledge even if they have no idea how or where to get it.  25 years ago a wonderful rabbi shut the door -- "nicely" -- in my brother's and his non-Jewish fiancee's face, and my brother hardly ever showed up in any form of Jewish life again. The fallout from this all-too-common experience continues - his two twenty-something children are smart, alive people but on the Jewish front they are confused - I can see that they have all the Jewish worries without any of the goodies.  Had this family been supported by a JYW I believe these young people would have a much more clear understanding of their legacy and be able to feel entitled to belong -that they have a claim on Judaism, that we need them - even if they did not have two Jewish parents but only one. If they saw their father as a legitimate, fully supported member of the community, whose Jewish contributions were sought and valued even if his life partner wasn't Jewish, how different their identity journey might have been.  Instead I think they see their father as having been pushed out for making a choice (when he was only 25!) that sealed his and their fates as forever "questionable" Jews.  I can deeply understand rabbis seeing themselves as the ones who must set boundaries, the ones who must ask people to make tough choices, etc. I believe that Rabbi Field's way of doing this same work - of maintaining the Jewish people's health -- is to say yes and to say it from a position of strength. He is not guarding the goodies for the "committed-enough" (by whose definition?), so much as inviting people to understand the goodies, to partake, to share them with others.  I think Rabbi Field certainly understands the more guarded worldview, but he does not want it to prevail, or to substitute for differently responsive leadership.  Rabbi Field positions Judaism as a strong host for a changing Jewish community while at the same time deepening and expanding Jewish expression in exciting ways. Some examples that come to mind include (1) JYW’s new Open Tent Bnai Mitzvah program which supports four different ways for young people to Jewishly celebrate their coming of age, (2) their embrace of cutting edge expressions of Jewish spirituality such as Storahtelling, and (3) their Tu b’Av Jewish Festival of Love - where my partner and I got to explore relationship dynamics from a Jewish spiritual perspective, hear Jewish love stories for grown-ups, and watch couple after couple renew their vows under the huppah. I wish Rabbi Field and JYW continued recognition for the important contribution they are making to Denver's Jewish community. Denver can be proud to be the incubator for a program and an approach which many of us feel should be getting national attention. 

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

noticing how my "hopeless" feelings about intermarriage are being transformed into hope, excitement and curiosity

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

get more staff so they can do more, even be in two or more places at the same time.

More feedback

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

the enormous Jewish spiritual and cultural creativity that this small organization is able to generate and support.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

uniformly warm, gracious, helpful, thoughtful and insightful.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

have a more immediately powerful impact on Jewish fears about assimilation

Ways to make it better...

I got to meet and hear from more board members at the events.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

staff size and budgetary limitations.

One thing I'd also say is that...

JYW is doing transformative and essential work on behalf of the Jewish people. Jewish communities around the country can learn from them. I hope they get the opportunity to share their work.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every month

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

MY ROLE:
General Member of the Public & I attended multiple events.