Building a “Big Tent”: A Case Study

Two years ago Seymour Krellboin, a Jewish activist and entrepreneur in Highland Park, Illinois, decided to do his part to extend what he called a “warm and welcoming welcome” to Jews of all backgrounds. On the grounds of his home he erected an enormous canvas tent that holds over a thousand people. “I believe in big-tent Judaism,” he explained at the time. “And I believe in putting my money where my mouth is.”

What happened? “We’re thrilled and excited by our success,” enthused Krellboin. “We’ve attracted Jews of all backgrounds and ages, different learning levels, and different kinds of experiences. It was inspiring.” In a recorded interview with the Jewish Phonographic Agency (JPA) he was asked how many people that represented. “Altogether I think it was 14 or 15,” he replied.

An expert on Jewish communal life conducted a longitudinal study of the “Big Tent” project and issued his report last week. Dr. Shoom Mekhker, Professor of Pithy Quotes at the University of Hebrew Americans, said, “A big tent holds a lot of people. You don’t need a big tent just because you’ve got people from different backgrounds. Krellboin is doing ‘Friendly, Small-Tent Judaism.’”

Krellboin responded, “I’m open to a name change. The most important thing is to revitalize this project to make a place for the Jews of the twenty-first century.”

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