Rabbi Avi Weiss on preferring the term “encounter” to “outreach”

Weiss has a true sense of the Jewish people as a family and feels a sense of responsibility toward and love for all members of that family, however they might choose to practice.  His motive for reaching out is not about making people like him; in fact, he objected to the term “outreach”, since it implies that the person reaching out has the answer and the person being brought in has little to offer.  “The word I prefer is ‘encounter’.  It’s a two-way street.  No matter the level of learning or observance of the individual, that person has much to bring to the table, and we have much to learn from each other.  I’m not out for people to replicate my lifestyle.”  While he admitted “an honest bias – I think, for example, that people should keep the Sabbath,” he says that his goal as Orthodox rabbis is not to make people Orthodox, but to “kindle the spark” that will help people to find their own paths.


Edgar M. Bronfman and Beth Zasloff, Hope, Not Fear: A Path to Jewish Renaissance (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2008), 56-57.