Tuesday, November 13, 2018 -
Print Edition

JYW’s big tent

Rabbi Brian Field leading Rosh Hashanah services 'under the tent'.


While some synagogues struggle to maintain members, Judaism Your Way’s successful outreach model is attracting unaffiliated and interfaith families by the thousands.

JYW does not have a permanent building, a sanctuary, Shabbat services or religious school. It has a mailing list but is not membership-based. There is no standing minyan or 24/7 rabbi — standard features in typical Jewish denominational settings.

What it offers is an “I meet you where you are, for who you are” embrace to Jews regardless of their distance from Judaism, attitude toward G-d, relationship status or sexual orientation.

Predicated upon an evolutionary concept of community, it takes the term of “big tent Judaism” seriously and literally.

JYW’s office is located in the Coldwell Banker building on 6th and Grant. High Holiday services take place at the Denver Botanic Gardens. The Open Tent B’nai Mitzvah program travels to the Denver and South Denver JCC, the HEA’s Goldberger Youth Center and the Boulder JCC.

The Sturm Family Foundation provides the financial foundation for JYW, which recently launched an endowment campaign.

Reconstructionist Rabbi Brian Field was hired to direct JYW, founded in 2004. While Field remains the focal point, he’s no longer the sole dispenser of learning, counseling and compassion.

Dr. Caryn Aviv, who began leading services half time in 2011 and went full time in 2013, adds style and substance.

Denver native Amanda Schwartz, now in her last year of rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary, leads family services and co-leads other major services.

Wendy Aronson has joined the group as executive director.

“We’ve got great folks, great people, doing this work,” Field tells the IJN. “Before I was the only one. Now it’s a team. It’s far from just me.”

High Holiday services are the primary stimulus for newcomers, he says. Initially held in Hudson Gardens until attendance outgrew the big tent, JYW moved to the Denver Botanic Gardens four years ago.

“DBG’s large tent can accommodate about 1,000 people,” Field says. “We figured at the rate we were growing, we would enjoy many years here. That first year, we jumped from 500 to 900 at the major High Holiday service.

“We realized it wouldn’t be long until we maxed out at the Denver Botanic Gardens. In 2014, having filled the tent, we rented DBG’s Mitchell Hall, which seats about 300.”

The full interview with Rabbi Brian Field is available in the December 4 Chanukah IJN print and digital edition only. Contact Carol to order your copy at carol@ijn.com or subscribe to our online e-Edition.

Andrea Jacobs

IJN Senior Writer | andrea@ijn.com

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