Redefining ‘Inclusion’
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Redefining ‘Inclusion’

What makes the 2016 36 Under 36 cohort unique?

Hannah Dreyfus is a staff writer at the New York Jewish Week. She covers trends among youth and millennials, progress and pushback in the Orthodox world, women's issues, the Jewish LGBTQ community and Reform and Conservative Jewish life. She also heads the Investigative Journalism Fund, a special project of the Jewish Week to fill a gap in investigative and enterprise reporting, and 36 Under 36, an annual special issue profiling 36 exceptional young leaders. Reach her at hannah@jewishweek.org

Abraham’s tent is swelling…

In the past year, our community has pushed to expand its definition of “inclusion.” At the Union for Reform Judaism’s biennial in November, a historic resolution affirming and advancing the movement’s commitment to full equality and inclusion for transgender Jews was hailed with celebration and praise. (And in the spirit of welcoming, don’t forget that the movement also gave us the audaciously named department of Audacious Hospitality; you’ll find its first director in the pages that follow.) In Jewish day schools, there has been an increasing effort to integrate children with special needs into all elements of the curriculum, and earlier this month, the largest-ever gathering of Jews of Color in New York City celebrated progress, marked setbacks and discussed next steps.

The stretching seams of our community are reflected in this year’s 36 Under 36 cohort. The young social entrepreneurs, activists, educators and artists profiled here in the ninth installment of our “36” section attest to our community’s rapidly growing tent. We honor not one, but three individuals with special needs who are leading the way to a more inclusive, empathetic community. We celebrate our first-ever 36er of transgender experience — a thinker, blogger and activist. We recognize a young woman making space for those struggling with infertility in a community so focused on continuity. We laud the young leaders who are opening the door to those who previously felt marginalized in Jewish spaces, whether in the synagogue or the local community center.

This year, our cadre also includes a particularly high ratio of Jewish artists. There’s a New York Times best-selling author, a neo-chasidic rock star, and an award-winning filmmaker (who’s just barely legal). Through dance, song, theater, art and the written word, these creative types explore the Jewish experience through fresh eyes, asking audiences to journey with them.

In a generation where conventional religion is an increasingly hard sell, these young people are blazing a path. In their wake, we find a Jewish community that is more accepting, innovative and colorful than ever before.

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