Ohel Petuach – An Open Tent

The Reform Movement in the US is currently investing in a programme it calls Audacious Hospitality: "Audacious Hospitality is the focused effort to embrace our diversity and reach out to those currently not engaged in Jewish life [...] Jewish populations such as Jews by choice and those exploring Judaism, Jews of color, Jews who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer, Jews who live with physical, mental, or intellectual disabilities, multiracial families, millennials, the aging Jewish population, Jews who are unaffiliated and uninspired by Jewish communal offerings, and of course, the evolving needs of interfaith and intermarried couples and families..."1 And why is this hospitality audacious? Because it sets out to shine the spotlight on the groups we tend to forget.

On Shabbat Pekudei IJC extended audacious hospitality to the last group in the list, to a group of people often present on the sidelines of our community but nevertheless important for our existence and continued growth. We sent out a special and very warm invitation to IJC's non-Jewish family members to come and share Shabbat with us.

It wasn't easy to make the connection between parashah Pekudei, which details the construction of the Mishkan, and IJC's non-Jewish family members. The Mishkan is a tent of sorts, but one full of barriers between the sacred and the profane, between the holy and the very holy, between insiders and outsiders. It has its parallel in Solomon's Temple, the construction of which is detailed in the Haftarah. Mishkan and Temple represent the focal locations of God's encounter with God's people, with Israel. Not exactly the best parashah to read on a day when we want to celebrate the contribution of those who the Mishkan and Temple would seem to exclude. But the rabbis saw a connection between the Mishkan, the Temple and Creation. Moses completed his work on the Mishkan, just as Hiram completed his work on Solomon's Temple, just as God completed God's work of creation on the seventh day with the creation of rest. This key word 'completed' is repeated at the conclusion of each of these narratives of construction. And the connection to creation opens the doors wide, to include all people, all creation, a universe.

The IJC's goal is to be an open tent, an Ohel Petuach, offering audacious hospitality to a universe created by God.

Brian Doyle
IJC Rabbinical Intern