The central character of Shavuot is a heroine named Ruth.
Surprisingly, this heroine is not Jewish - at least at
the beginning of the story. Ruth's tale is one of the special
readings recited in all synagogues throughout the world
in celebration of Shavuot.
We at JOI draw special inspiration from the poignant
words of Ruth as she pleads with her mother-in-law,
Naomi, to take her back to her ancestral homeland, Israel.
Ruth, born a Moabitess, says: "Your people
will be my people, your God will be my God, where you
reside there shall I reside, and where you will die there
shall I be laid to rest as well." There is surely
not a more complete statement of unity between two people
in any other language or tradition. Ruth's simple words
of affection and loyalty symbolize all that we strive
for here at JOI: to enable interfaith families to find
their place in the Jewish community through the love
The image of Ruth as a harvester of wheat and barley
captures as well the central message of inclusion: that
to "welcome the stranger" is not merely a matter of politeness
and good etiquette. It is also a matter of enabling
them to share fully in all the bounties of life
together as one people. Ruth's participation in the ancient
rites of the harvest, together with all the other maidens
working the fields of Boaz, reminds us that to be welcomed fully means not only to be embraced
into the bosom of the family but also to be accepted
among one's neighbors, friends and co-workers amidst
the routine tasks of everyday life.
Only a Torah, a tradition, and a people that create
such a welcoming family and community can beworthy of the
deep faith of a heroine such as Ruth.