The “Communal Welcome Mat”

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Adam Bronfman, managing director of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation (one of our funders), has written an important essay for The Forward titled “Let’s Put Out a Communal Welcome Mat.”

Adam, grandson of Samuel, founder of the Seagram’s liquor conglomerate, considers himself both an “insider” and an “outsider” in the Jewish world:

My Jewish education was limited as a child. I did not participate in communal or institutional Jewish life. The concept that I would need to marry-in to be accepted was never discussed.

I married the non-Jewish woman I fell in love with as a teenager, and we have raised four wonderful children. We have enjoyed an exclusively Jewish home for the better part of the last 18 years.

If not for my status as a “Bronfman,” my connection to the Jewish world would be much more tenuous. Where do I fit in? What is my place in the Jewish world and in my Jewish community?


Of course, as a member of a family that has given many millions to Jewish causes, his place in the Jewish world is secure. But there are hundreds of thousands like him, without his family’s money, who are not feted wherever they go. In some synagogues and Jewish organizations, they are readily embraced; in others, they are met with suspicion. As Adam points out:

Many of the institutions that feel the warmest to those already on the inside are the chilliest to newcomers, without the insiders ever realizing. Yet each of those insiders has friends and relatives that are not connecting to the Jewish community.

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