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Open Door Inclusion & Diversity Project

The Open Door Project (ODP) was created by the Bnai Israel Congregation (BIC) Board of Directors to serve as a resource for all of our BIC families AND those who are thinking of joining us–families with members who are of a different faith, Jewish LGBTQ+ folks, and Jews of all colors and disabilities, and all ages.  

BIC serves 21st-century families and individuals in the Conservative tradition. We are committed to enhancing and expanding the welcoming culture that has been a hallmark of this congregation.

Contact the office for more information.


“Hospitality is temporary.  Inclusion is permanent.”
--Rabbi Steve Wernick, Former USCJ CEO

We are Bnai Israel: A Diverse Community

The BIC Open Doors Diversity Committee works to celebrate our inclusive and diverse Bnai Israel Jewish community that reflects our contemporary Jewish experience.  

Our latest effort is a video called “We Are Bnai Israel: A Diverse Community” featuring five BIC families who represent some of the diverse faces that make up our synagogue community, talking about their experiences as members of our synagogue family.

Click on the link to watch the full video


How is Bnai Israel Inclusive?

The Open Door Project at Bnai Israel continues to work to enhance and support the inclusiveness of our congregation and ensure that everyone knows that there is a seat at our table, no matter your background or needs. You can see one of our newest efforts as we have begun including a series of logos at the bottom of the BIC website homepage and newsletters. The logos below will let everyone know that BIC provides a comfortable and welcoming home for all individuals. They illustrate the services we provide and the principles that we stand for.

The Open Door Project is seeking feedback on what kinds of inclusion/diversity programming and projects might be of interest to our members in the coming year. Please call the Bnai Israel office to get in touch with one of our committee members.

  • Jews of all abilities, backgrounds and ethnicities are welcome to participate in our community and religious life, including interfaith couples and families


  • Inclusion in programs from Tots to Senior Groups
  • Full participation in all ritual activities and synagogue membership
  • Annual Pride Shabbat

  • Wheelchair and walker accessible seats
  • Ramp to Synagogue & Bimah
  • Service animals welcome
  • Internet access to programs, Friday night and Saturday services for those with travel or other limitations

  • Hearing amplification devices available during services

  • Large print Siddurim (prayerbooks), Chumashim (Bibles) in English and Hebrew
  • Large print Machzorim (High Holiday prayerbooks)


Shabbat Service Guides

The Open Door Committee has just released brochures outlining our Friday Night and Saturday Morning services to help newcomers and visitors understand our traditions and religious ceremonies. You can find the brochures in the book holders at your seat.  This is another way to make guests feel welcome and comfortable during our worship services.


Open Door Project News & Events


Anti-Semitism Awareness

Since October 7th, and even before, antisemitism has been increasing at alarming levels.  For many of us, especially here in the United States, it's an old threat that has become all too active recently.  While the BIC Open Door/Diversity Committee (ODP) promotes diversity and inclusion, we recognize the changes that have happened.

We support efforts to fight hate in our communities but it is becoming a fatal, daily constant. It appears in many faces – right-wing extremism, fascism, extreme nationalism, xenophobia, racism, islamophobia, antisemitism – but it always brings the same violent consequences for communities and society at large. For all these "isms" it is absolutely necessary to know the facts and the history in order to stand against the spread of hate. The ODP has decided to promote the spread of information and facts and we are starting with antisemitism. On an ongoing bases, we will post articles and information about antisemitism and other movements.  The following is a 101 essay on the history of antisemitism. 

If you would like to continue learning, please check back to the Open Door/Diversity Committee webpage which you access from the BIC home page.  Also, if you have any comments or requests for material on a particular topic, please contact Rena Goldwasser at  







Trans Day of Remembrance

World Transgender Remembrance Day is celebrated each year on November 20.  It is a time set aside to remember and memorialize those trans people who have lost their lives to hatred and violence.  As diversity and inclusion in Judaism continues to grow, here are some sites that can offer information and support from a Jewish perspective.

Trans-Generations: Supporting Grandparents of Trans and Gender-Expansive Youth

Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Individuals Archives - Keshet

Made in God's Image: Gender Diversity and Our Communal Role - Keshet

Torah Queeries Archives - Keshet

Allyship As Teshuvah - Keshet

Counting My Genders: A Neo-kabbalistic view of the Omer (Counting the Omer) - Keshet


Gender in Jewish Law and Thought - Keshet

How to Get Someone's New Name and/or Pronouns Right, Every Time, Sooner than you Think - Keshet



October is Blindness Awareness Month

October is Blindness Awareness Month. The observance is designated to raise awareness and provide resources for those with vision impairments. The Jewish Braille Institute has been a leader in this area for over 70 years. 

Click here to learn more about the Jewish Braille Institute



June marks the start of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, a celebration of those who identify as Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer. Pride Month is celebrated in June because that was the month of the Stonewall Uprising in New York in 1969.

Click here for more information on local events in and around Wilmington

Click here for more information on how you can get involved, support and take action.

May is American Jewish Heritage Month!

Declared in 2006 by George W. Bush, the purpose of Jewish American Heritage Month is to celebrate the important contributions of Jewish Americans and communities to the fabric of American life.
Click here to read about the White House Celebration held on May 16.

April is Diversity Month

Did you know April is Diversity Month? Established in 2004, it's designated as a time to help diverse people gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other.  Take time this month to gain a greater appreciation for the diversity that surrounds you.  Our planet is filled with a rainbow of races, spectrum, religions and orientations. It doesn't matter if you don't understand them all or even know they exist.  We are all in this together, and our ignorance of other's beliefs is no excuse for intolerance in any form. As we enter April, take the time to INVOLVE yourself and others in learning about cultures, language and peoples that are not part of your daily life so that we all gain a better understanding of our global family.  There are endless possibilities of how you can do this, but here are a few suggestions: 

  • Invite friends and family over for a potluck meal where participants bring in dishes that represent their ethnicity or their favorite ethnics foods.
  • Create a craft with your children that represents difference cultures.
  • Embark on learning a new language.
  • Explore different cultures through art forms, poetry, music, crafts, traditional costumes, language, etc.
  • Rent movies that deal with diverse topics and people's experiences. 


Open Door Project Holds First Educational Awareness Event (March 23, 2023)

The Open Door/Diversity Committee held a get-to-know you luncheon on 3/26/23 with a video presentation of Rabbi Lauren Tuchman delivering a talk entitled "We Were All At Sinai: The Power of Inclusive Torah". Rabbi Tuchman is the only blind, ordained Conservative Rabbi in the United States.

She shared her interpretation of how Jews are mandated by Torah to be inclusive of others, with or without disabilities, as all Jews received Torah at Mt. Sinai, regardless of their physical situation. It was a powerful message about the "othering" we may do to people who are different from us and a reminder to see them as part of the "us" in our BIC community. There was a lively discussion of Rabbi Tuchman's message and how this applies to our congregation.

The Committee thanks all who attended and showed their generous support of our efforts. We hope to be able to hold more programming that brings members together to learn and talk about the issues of diversity and inclusion to ensure that we continue to grow our community and contribute to ensuring a strong Conservative Judaism movement for the future.


March is our Month Ladies

Women’s History Month (March 1-31, 2023) is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society and has been observed annually in the month of March in the United States since 1987. Here are links to articles on two Jewish women who have made history. Read about them and "kvell"!
Judith Heumann, founder of Disability Rights Movement
Lily Brasch, Modern Orthodox Jew & Model, with Muscular Dystrophy


Black History Month: Black Jews You Should Know

February is Black History Month. The Jewish community has had a long history of interactions with Black Americans and important contributions to the advancement of civil rights in America. This month, let's focus on Jewish members of the Black community in this country who have made significant contributions to that history. Check them out at Black Jews You Should Know.


February is Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance & Inclusion Month (JDAIM)

Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month (JDAIM) is a unified effort among Jewish organizations and communities worldwide to raise awareness and foster inclusion of people with disabilities and those who love them. JDAIM is a call to action to each one of us in accordance with our Jewish values, honoring the gifts and strengths that we each possess. Established in 2009 by the Jewish Special Education International Consortium, JDAIM is observed each February. For more info check out


The December Dilemma: Hanukkah and Christmas

Thanksgiving is the gateway to another time for celebration... the December Holiday Season! The Open Door Project knows that for interfaith families this can be a difficult time to navigate and so we are suggesting three live webinar events in December that might be helpful. They are sponsored by 18Doors.Org and feature speakers and a chance to talk with other Jewish and non Jewish folks to hear about their experiences and gain some helpful advice. Each live Q&A event is moderated and targeted to a particular group: Grandparents, Parents and Couples. Dates are December 6, 7 and 8; attendance is free but registration is required. Check it out at

The holidays are coming and for interfaith/multicultural families this can be an exciting and troublesome time all at once. The Open Door Project at Bnai Israel wants everyone to know that there are resources available to help you learn about and understand the Hanukkah religious, cultural and food traditions, that explain the history and meaning of the holiday, and that provide good advice and suggestions to help your unique family celebrate the season with good will -- and good food food too! Check out the links below.
Guide to Hanukkah
The Guide: Hanukkah, Christmas and your Interfaith Family
Hanukkah & Christmas

What to do in December: The Grandparents Edition


Grandparents Network   Monday, November 28 2022  8:00 PM

The Open Doors Project at Bnai Israel is all about encouraging inclusion and diversity and supporting our community members. One such area concerns those grandparents among us who are faced with some unique situations when interacting with their grandchildren who are being raised in families where one parent is not Jewish, especially at holiday times. is an organization that works to provide information, resources and support for interfaith couples, families and relatives about the many unique situations that can exist when dealing with different faith and cultural backgrounds in a family setting. The group has created a dedicated Grandparents Network section with its own email sign up page and schedules regular events where grandparents of interfaith families can exchange stories and experiences (go to and find the Grandparents section). Right now they are featuring Hanukkah/Christmas suggestions on baking and cooking with kids during the holiday, as well as information on other holiday focused activities. There is also an upcoming Virtual Meetup scheduled for Monday, 11/28 at 8pm, where you'll get to meet grandparents of interfaith families, hear stories from others and have the opportunity to share your own experiences. The event is free but you must register at


Trans Awareness Week  November 13 - 20, 2022

Trans Awareness Week (11/13 thru 11/20) is a time to honor those transgender people who have lost their lives to acts of transgender violence during the past year and to advocate for a world in which trans people are no longer targets for hate. Trans Awareness Week leads into Trans Day of Remembrance which was initially founded by Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor Rita Hester, a trans woman that was murdered in 1998. Trans Day of Remembrance this year was marked on Sunday 11/20. It has become a world wide observance with vigils held in many countries and cities throughout the United States.
The Human Rights Campaign, a non profit advocacy group, estimates that there are more than 2 million transgender people across the United States, representing a diverse community of all racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds. A 2021 Gallup Poll reported that as many as 50% of Americans under the age of 30 say they know someone who is trans, either in their community or family. As more and more transgender folks disclose their identities publicly, the pace of anti transgender violence, misinformation and legal challenges has increased.
It is important for people to become educated and aware of the facts surrounding the transgender community. Resources from such sources as Keshet, an organization founded for LGBTQ equality in Jewish life, can provide this information, especially for families and individuals who may be dealing with this issue in real time in their lives.

Another source of information and resources can be found at which is sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign. This site provides information on misconceptions and facts about transgender people, who they are and who they are not, to help combat the discrimination and violence that is directed at this community.
Transgender people are a part of the diverse community in which we all live and they deserve the respect that we should show to all people, no matter their background.


The Jewish High Holidays

Need a little help understanding why we do what we do during the Jewish High Holy Days?

The Bnai Israel Open Door/Diversity Committee wants you to be prepared with information about this time of Awe and Remembrance. This is such an important part of Jewish yearly religious life and many of us can be a little short on facts or unaware of why we do what we do. For those with family members of different faith backgrounds, this can also be a confusing time, trying to explain centuries old religious and cultural activities and events to folks without Jewish backgrounds. The Open Door Committee is offering you the following websites to check out, to give you information and ideas on how to celebrate the High Holidays in addition to our beautiful synagogue services at Bnai Israel!

The Meaning of Rosh Hashana

Yom Kippur Cheat Sheet

For grandparents and parents, check out Unlocking High Holy Days with Kids Cheat Sheet

L'Shana Tova from all of us to all of you.


B'rukhim Haba'm: Stories of Welcome Exhibit

Open Door Project: An exhibit on the power of a "welcome" BIC's Open Door Project is dedicated to supporting the welcoming traditions of our synagogue and wants you to know about a new multi media exhibit at The City of Raleigh Museum entitled B'rukhim Haba'm: Stories of Welcome. The phrase is Hebrew fro blessed are those who come, or simply welcome. It features the "stories" of 20 local Raleigh Jews, ages 65 and up, who talk about how they felt welcomed or welcomed someone else. The story tellers include local natives and immigrants from as far away as Russia. The exhibit runs through August 31. For more information, go to and click on events.


"Defending LGBTQ+ Rights"

Wednesday, June 29, 2022   Zoom Meeting

Zoom Meeting Click here to register

The Open Doors Project wants to give a shout out "yasher koach!!" to everyone who participated in the WONDERFUL Pride Shabbat BIC shared with Temple Of Israel on June 17th. Folks from both congregations gathered at the Reibman Center for a moving service co-officiated by both Rabbis. June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month to honor the contributions of LGBTQ+ folks and highlight efforts to support equal justice and opportunity. The ODP committee was formed to support diversity and inclusion in our BIC community and the beautiful service was just one of the ways our congregation supports these goals., which supports LGBTQ+ equality in Jewish life, is sponsoring a zoom meeting on June 29 "Defending LGBTQ+ Rights" to discuss legislation being passed in the US, the importance of a Jewish response, and how to take action in response. Check it out on  Defending LGBTQ+ Rights across the Country - Keshet (


Juneteenth 5782 & Racial Justice through a Jewish Lens

Juneteenth, the new Federal holiday, commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. The holiday celebrates June 19, 1865 when Union soldiers brought word of slavery’s end to Galveston, Texas, freeing the last enslaved people after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. The new Racial Justice Specialist at United Synagogues of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), Gulienne Rollins-Rishon, has written a very interesting article on Juneteenth and racial justice through a Conservative Jewish lens which is featured on the Exploring Judaism website.

Rollins-Rishon is a biracial Ashkenazi and Black American speaker, facilitator and writer. As the granddaughter of German Holocaust survivors and Southern Black Americans, Gulienne uses her own identity to encourage others to explore their relationship with race, religion and culture. In addition to her duties at USCJ, Rollins-Rishon is also Social Justice Project Manager at Rabbinical Assembly and the founder of her own consulting firm specializing in fostering racial dialogue at diverse organizations.

Click here to check out the information about the new Racial Justice Specialist and the resources offered.


You Want To Do WHAT At My Funeral?

Tuesday, May 24, 2022   12:30PM  ET

Join My Jewish Learning for a unique Zoom presentation on Tuesday, May 24 at 12:30PM ET.   "You Want to Do WHAT at my Funeral?" presents Jewish perspectives on end of life planning for families of all faiths. The discussion is aimed at helping families navigate the tricky waters of funeral planning when not everyone is Jewish. Whether you're helping someone through end of life decisions, or you are curious about how families handles these issues, the panel of experts across Jewish denominations will provide you with information that can help.

Go to to find out more and register for the May 24th event.



Mon, December 4 2023 21 Kislev 5784