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(Photo from Flash90)
(Photo from Flash90)

Headline misrepresents intention of innovative groups
This letter is in response to “Don’t call them ‘fringe’: Innovative groups seek respect from the mainstream” (online, Feb. 19, 2021).

While the article itself did a wonderful job lifting up the work of Sid Schwarz and Kenissa, it seems to me that the headline of this article is not only inaccurate, it also undermines the article itself. The article primarily focuses on Kenissa, demonstrating that its network of 400-plus “fringe” organizations is having a significant impact on many parts of the Jewish community across the country.

As a member of the Kenissa network, I can attest that there are some on the fringe who are working toward strengthening relationships, or collaborations, with legacy institutions. However, there are also plenty who recognize that being on the fringe sometimes requires a willingness to lead without the respect or validation from those in the seat of power. In fact, some would even say that until the legacy institutions are willing to forgo the paternalism that holds old structures in place, it’s almost guaranteed that any tight association will suffocate any effort of fringe organizations to be innovative.

The recent announcement of the Jewish Community Response and Impact grant fund invites innovative ideas which can transform the future of Judaism — it explicitly invites proposals to support new and innovative projects. At the same time, legacy institution leaders are asking those of us on the fringe for insights and ideas of what might be next.

Nowhere in the article do I see organizations on the fringe seeking the respect of the mainstream; to the contrary, I see an argument for why legacy institutions might look to innovative groups and individuals for inspiration and vision. The headline as written inverts the intention of the movement and plays into old power structures that are precisely what many fringe groups have been founded in response to. A more apt headline would have been “Don’t call them ‘fringe’: The mainstream seeks inspiration from innovative groups.”

Kohenet Keshira haLev Fife
Kesher Pittsburgh

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