Calling All Small Jewish Communities!

By Rabbi Rebecca W. Sirbu
and Zahara Zahav

As the High Holidays approach this year, countless American Jews are preparing for this peak moment alone. No, they aren’t post-denominational meditators getting ready for retreat (well, they might be); these Jews are members of what we at CLAL’s Rabbis Without Borders call the “Small but Proud” communities, the often uncounted faction of US Jewry, spread across the country and almost entirely unserved by Jewish institutions.

Rabbis Without Borders is a network of over 150 rabbis representing all of the denominations in Judaism. We are united in our values of pluralism, innovation and service to all. In line with our commitment to using Jewish wisdom and practice to serve anyone anywhere, we are launching this High Holiday season our newly formed RWB Service Corps, which will respond to the expressed needs of “Small but Proud” Jewish communities. We ask that if you belong to a Jewish community that is not currently being served by a rabbi and wants that to change, free of charge, please take five minutes to fill out a “Request for Service,” found here: as soon as possible, but no later than October 14, 2015.

We hope to identify the needs of these communities and then match 7-10 with our talented Rabbis Without Borders. We hope to double that number the following year and to expand as needed beyond then.

Our top-tier rabbis will dedicate several days a year to in-person service in targeted communities and will be also available from a distance to do what is needed for these Jews. Each of the 150 rabbis in our Network has pledged to donate a portion of their time, expertise, and pastoral presence to serve as part of Clal’s RWB Service Corps.

As a part of this project, we are aiming to create and share a clearer picture of these unique communities, who they are and what they need, the shape of which is largely unknown since the recent economic downturn that led to cuts in major programs that previously served this demographic. A notable exception is, of course, the Institute of Southern Jewish Life, which currently serves Southern Jews.

Founded in 1974, Clal-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership is a think tank, leadership training institute, and resource center. Bringing Jewish insights to a wide American audience, Clal makes Jewish wisdom an accessible public resource. A leader in religious pluralism, Clal builds bridges across communities to encourage diversity and openness. Linking Jewish texts and tradition with innovative scholarship, Clal promotes Jewish participation in American civic and spiritual life, reinvigorating communities and enhancing leadership development.

Tweet at us @rwbclal and use the hashtag #SmallButProud to join the voices of Jews across the country, sharing stories from your home town. If you aren’t currently living in one of these communities but know someone who is, please share our Request for Service form.

Rabbi Rebecca W. Sirbu is the Director of Clal’s Rabbis Without Borders and Zahara Zahav is the RWB Service Corps Manager.