We wanted to know: What do Coloradans believe?
Brian Field, rabbi, Judaism Your Way, judaismyourway.org
For the past eight years in an unassuming storefront in Cherry Creek, a different style of Judaism has been flourishing under the tutelage of Rabbi Brian Field. With a mission to keep Judaism resilient and relevant, Judaism Your Way (JYW) has been experimenting with methods to increase the engagement of local Jews.
What was the impetus for Judaism Your Way?
There appeared to be an increasing disconnect between the lifestyles, life choices, questions, and spiritual vocabulary of Jews and what organized Judaism in the Denver-Boulder area was offering. People were being invited to do Judaism a denomination’s way, an organization’s way, or a rabbi’s way; we wanted to send a signal that instead of trying to bring people to Judaism, we were trying to bring Judaism to people.
So what does that look like?
Our thesis is that somewhere along the way, the Jews who are disengaged have heard some kind of a “no.” So we wanted to expand Judaism. That means finding Jewish ways to officiate a wedding between a Jew and a non-Jew; that means finding Jewish ways to create a naming ceremony for a baby born to a mixed-faith couple; that means finding a way to Jewishly solemnize a ceremony for a same-sex couple. We are here to find as many Jewish ways of saying “yes” as possible to as many Jews as possible.
Can people be involved with JYW regularly?
We have large-scale events throughout the year for High Holy Days, Hanukkah, Passover, and Tu b’Av, which is the Jewish evening of love. We do Jewish things in non-Jewish settings, such as holding High Holy Days at the Hudson Gardens or Passover at the Wellshire Event Center. We also do classes like introduction to Jewish spirituality and support groups for interfaith couples. We help with life-cycle events like weddings and baby namings, and we have a bar mitzvah program. And we are here for people to talk about their spiritual paths.
What do you mean by finding a “Jewish way”?
To participate in the rituals of Judaism, you need to be Jewish. But we see that 50 percent of weddings involving a Jew in Colorado are marriages that involve someone who’s not Jewish. Do we say Judaism can’t be part of your wedding, or do we find Jewish ways of being there for them? Our mission is to do it the second way.
One of my favorite biblical stories is the story of Moses. He led the people out of slavery. He received the Ten Commandments. But he was married to the daughter of a Midianite priest. After Moses knew he was to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, God met him and his family along their way and threatened to kill Moses. His wife took out a sharp stone and circumcised their son—and God left them alone. Moses hadn’t circumcised his son; he hadn’t brought his son into the covenant. His non-Jewish wife did. Why is this powerful? It shows a non-Jew can take charge of the ritual of Jewish covenantal continuity. When Jews were just marrying other Jews, that story wasn’t needed. Now, most of us are marrying outside, and the question is: Can Judaism follow them to this new place? The answer is yes, and we have a story in the Torah to explain why.