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As a member of the Jewish Outreach Institute’s Big Tent Judaism, we recently received JOI’s newest outreach tool, a business-card sized glossary to common Jewish terms. This little pamphlet, called “Cracking the Code,” defines words familiar to insiders–like Shabbat, minyan, Reform Judaism, Hillel–but often bewildering to outsiders.
It’s a great little resource; I gave one to a non-Jewish woman who has been working for a Jewish organization for more than a year. “This is fantastic,” she practically squealed. She’s had to pick up the terminology as she’s gone, but never knew what Kabbalah was (“Something to do with Madonna?”) and had no clear idea about the differences between the major movements. She plans to put it up in her cubicle.
We had the same idea with our automated glossary, which defines the first reference of commonly used Jewish terms in all our articles. (See yesterday’s article for an example.)
It takes a concerted effort of mental displacement to try to see the Jewish community as a newcomer would see it. Whenever we put together resource guides to holidays and life cycles, we comb over it for any references or terms that would be unfamiliar to the Jewish newbie (Jewbie?). It’s amazing how intimidating jargon can be, and how much you can make people feel welcome by speaking in a common language.
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