Opening the Gates:How Proactive Conversion Can Revitalize the Jewish Community
By Gary A. Tobin
"The Jewish community is hysterical about Jews marrying non-Jews. With the exception of Israel, no other issue captures as much attention, discussion, and debate in Jewish life. Organizations are scrambling to solve this 'crisis' but they are doomed to fail because there is no intermarriage crisis in the United States today . But we do have a problem: we have not yet formulated a set of beliefs, behaviors, and institutional structures that define what it means to be a Jew in a pluralistic society. Our challenge is to envision a community within the context of America where ethnic and religious walls are permeable. Judaism must become attractive both to those who are born Jews, or they who choose to leave, and to those who were not born Jews, so that they will choose to join."
In Opening the Gates , Gary Tobin challenges his fellow American Jews to avoid the process of entropy that could take a devastating toll in the Jewish community. "This should be our primary task," he passionately argues. Tobin confronts his community with the eye-opening reality that "in order to rebuild and revitalize Judaism in this country, we must rethink our religion as something both born Jews and converts must actively choose and stop blaming intermarriage for Judaism's decline." He implores the Jewish community to shift its focus from preventing intermarriage to embracing an open, positive, accessible, and joyful process of encouraging non-Jews to become Jews. As Tobin bluntly puts it, "We must abandon the paradigm that our children and grandchildren may become Gentiles and promote the thought that America is filled with millions of potential Jews."
Opening the Gates examines the role conversion should play in the Jewish future. It looks at the way the Jewish community currently handles issues of intermarriage and conversion and recommends strategies to incorporate conversion into a larger vision of building the next Jewish civilization. Tobin suggests what Judaism might look like if it were to promote itself as a positive choice for both Jews and non-Jews in the marketplace of religious affiliation-and tells us what the community needs to do to mold this future. Tobin's controversial plan is sure to spark productive dialogue throughout the Jewish community.
"This bold and impassioned book offers a clear-headed and unfailingly perceptive analysis of the relationship between welcoming converts and a healthy Jewish future. Opening the Gates should be required reading for all concerned about the future."
- Lawrence J. Epstein, president, Conversion to Judaism Resource Center
"As Tobin promises at the outset of this provocative and stimulating book, his is a controversial thesis. But it comes from one of the most articulate thinkers on this subject, and as such, anyone seriously interested in the future of American Jewish life simply must factor this well-written work into their own thinking."
- Dr. Daniel Gordis, dean, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies
"A revolutionary challenge to the American Jewish community . Solid thinking about achieving and maintaining religious identity in the midst of a pluralistic culture and what 'conversion' means in such a culture. Any leader of an American congregation of any faith will find provocative ideas here."
- The Rev. Loren B. Mead, founding president, The Alban Institute, Inc.
"Gary Tobin has written the most important and challenging book in American Jewish public policy in years. People may agree or disagree, but no one interested in contemporary Jewish life will be able to ignore this work."
- Steven L. Spiegel, professor of political science, UCLA
"Gary Tobin, a leading light in Jewish communal research, embraces a provocative solution for American Jewry's continuity problem - a proactive conversion policy."
- Barry A. Kosmin, director of research, Institute for Jewish Policy Research