As someone who voted in support of the policy that allows non-Jews to be full members of Congregation Shirat Hayam as well as allows any member to serve on the synagogue Board of Directors, I find Mr. Larkin’s letter to the editor (Jewish Journal, June 27) akin to Don Quixote swatting at windmills in that there is no holding back the changes to the world we once knew. While Mr. Larkin seems well meaning and sincere in his comparison to the WWII era, I believe he is sadly misguided and unnecessarily provocative.
We live in an increasingly secular country, where nearly all religious denominations have seen decreased rates of affiliation. It continues to be challenging to engage volunteers in support of organized Jewish life. Reports of elevated levels of isolation and alienation, driven in large part by social media and evidenced by a spike in documented cases of depression and suicide, have made the need for live human interaction and community more urgent than ever. I think that younger generations still yearn for spiritual sustenance and a life of purpose that we, members of the Jewish Community, strive to provide, albeit with some modern-day operational policies that may be unrecognizable to older generations. As Bob Dylan famously wrote, “For the times they are a-changin’.”
In consideration of this new reality, along with documented high rates of intermarriage, the willingness of non-Jewish partners to actively participate in organized Jewish life is something that should be celebrated rather than discouraged. I say let’s practice the core Jewish value of welcoming the “stranger” into our congregations, and God willing, our genuine embrace, our meaningful Jewish values and wisdom, and our non-judgmental approach will succeed so that all those wishing to engage with our people will ultimately feel as if they have found a home.
Marty Schneer, Salem