Every two years, the Reform movement gathers at it Biennial Convention to accomplish three goals:
A delegation of 13 B’nai Jehudah members and staff just returned from San Diego and the latest URJ Biennial. One of the highlights of these gatherings is the biennial “sermon” by our URJ President. As has been customary, his task is to paint that road map for our movement, to challenge us in our journey.
This year, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, offered his first keynote, having assumed the presidency at the last biennial. As part of that road map, he challenged us to adopt “audacious hospitality” in his keynote address. (To read/watch the entire keynote, CLICK HERE.)
Audacious hospitality. What a wonderful concept…that we are so welcoming, so open that it is seen as “bold, daring, fearless, intrepid, brave, courageous, valiant, heroic, or even plucky!” (Dictionary definition).
What does it take to have audacious hospitality?
In truth, not much more that what B’nai Jehudah currently does. As proof, permit me to share a true story. Several months ago, a member of the congregation was dying. I had the privilege of sitting by his side those last few days. In one of our conversations, he told me that a few years earlier, as he entered the building for Shabbat services, a young woman – a teen – approached and offered to help him. Not, he assured me, as a young person helping an old man, but rather as one human being helping another.
Through her smile, her warmth, and her gentle manner, he felt dignified and respected by her behavior. When he asked her where she learned how to treat others, her response? “Here, of course.”
We do audacious hospitality well. First in our list of core values is open hearts…being open and welcoming to all people. Yet, as Rabbi Jacobs challenged us, “Audacious hospitality isn’t just a temporary act of kindness so that people don’t feel left out; it’s an ongoing invitation to be part of a community where we can become all that God wants us to be – and a way to transform ourselves in the process.”
So, each time we walk in the doors of our building – and each time we act through our Jewish souls – let us practice audacious hospitality. And may we leave those we welcome – and ourselves – breathless and transformed.