Home at Last

"Wandering and wondering" Jews and non-Jews make connections at Jewish Gateways.

Working as a community organizer, Bridget Wynne felt fiercely
committed to social justice. At one point, “I realized that it was not
any one cause that I believed in most deeply … but that I was
motivated by an overall sense of needing to make the world better.”
This heal-the-world urge, a concept known in Judaism as tikkun
olam
, “felt like my vocation,” says Wynne, whose mother was Jewish
and whose dad was Catholic. Becoming a rabbi seemed like the natural
next step. But “my decision surprised me, since … I had never even
seen a woman rabbi before, plus I had a stereotype of the things I
thought I ‘should’ believe in order to be a rabbi.”

Today she’s the executive director of Jewish Gateways (409
Liberty St., El Cerrito), a nonprofit that brings together what Wynne
calls “wandering and wondering Jews and non-Jews” who might feel
marginalized in other venues — including LGTB, interfaith, and
multiracial couples, families, and individuals. On Saturday, June 20,
Good Morning, Good Night: Making Bedtime & Morning Time Special
with Jewish Songs & Stories
will feature Jewish-themed songs,
stories, and routines for adults and kids age five and younger. All are
welcome, Jewish or not — with no religious training or Hebrew
knowledge required.

“Many Jews feel as though they ‘should’ know Hebrew, Jewish
traditions, how to participate in synagogue services, and so on,” Wynne
asserts. Others worry because “they do not have the beliefs
— in God, in Jewish tradition, etcetera — that they
think they should have.”

She creates all-inclusive events based on the premise that “Jewish
tradition is full of rich teachings and culture that can help us
explore spirituality, live more meaningful lives, enrich our families,
find guidance on ethical issues, reflect on deep philosophical
questions, improve our relationships, find community,” Wynne says. “And
people can participate and learn no matter what they do or do not
know.”

She remembers a man of Salvadoran heritage who found his way to
Jewish Gateways: “His ancestors had been Conversos, meaning
Spanish Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism. His discovery
led him to study Judaism, and he found that he felt much more at home
in Jewish tradition than he had as a Christian. He learned a lot about
Judaism, including studying Hebrew, and began to practice on his own at
home with his wife and children. He wanted to find a community, but was
afraid he’d be rejected since he is Hispanic and was not officially
Jewish.” Her staff helped his family find a synagogue and Jewish day
school they liked.

“Most people who come to us do not have this many barriers to
overcome. This family did, and they overcame them, and now are beloved
members of their Jewish community.” 10:30 a.m., free for first-time
participants, $5 per family for return participants. RSVP at
510-559-8140 or [email protected].
JewishGateways.org

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