How Welcoming is “Welcoming”?

On Monday, the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs (of the Conservative/Masorti Movement) posted a video to YouTube explaining the importance of having a welcoming website. Aimed at synagogues, the video was publicized by an email sent out by the FJMC.

What’s interesting about the video (and email) is that it never explicitly states something like, “synagogue websites should say, ‘Our synagogue is welcoming of all families, including interfaith families and families of diverse backgrounds.’”

Instead, it suggests:

Your congregation’s website is your most important tool to attracting today’s Jewish family. Your website’s ‘welcome’ must be obvious. It needs to greet the visitor in a meaningful and sincere way. For example, if you’re welcoming interfaith families, children and adults with different ethnic backgrounds, or gay and lesbian families, words like ‘welcome,’ ‘open,’ and ‘diverse’ need to be prominent and obvious.

Buzz words aren’t enough. If you’re welcoming of “interfaith families, children and adults with different ethnic backgrounds, or gay and lesbian families,” say so! Use those descriptive words! The video shows interfaith families (a family standing in front of a Christmas tree and a menorah!) and shows that we should be welcoming to interfaith families (the word “interfaith” on a doormat!), but doesn’t say to use the words on the websites.

It seems like the Conservative Movement wants to be welcoming of interfaith families, but doesn’t think it can outright say so. But it can. And should.

This is a great start. I appreciate that the FJMC is making this effort, and we all know that making changes in synagogues can be a slow and arduous process, but… Let’s just take it a step further.

What do you think? Watch the video and leave a comment:

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2 thoughts on “How Welcoming is “Welcoming”?

  1. You should also check out the [url=http://jewschool.com/2011/03/02/25637/how-welcoming-is-welcoming/]comments on Jewschool[/url], where I cross-posted this blog post.

  2. This video is a sad example of why the Conservative movement’s numbers are continuing to fall. Every decisionmaking figure in the video appears to be a white male. The rabbi is male. No people of color. One gay couple, with less than 2 seconds screen time. The interfaith family is a Jewish man married to a Christian woman — even though many Jewish women are intermarried. Etc.

    Putting words like “all are welcome” or “diverse” on a shul website are not enough. The question arises: how “welcoming”? how “diverse”?

    But the Conservative movement is not the only Jewish movement with a ‘welcoming’ problem, though theirs is one of the most obvious.

    I have spoken to many, many shuls from every movement, urging them to put the words “we welcome interfaith couples and adult children of intermarriage” on their websites and have almost always been met with evasions or refusals.

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