The InterfaithFamily/Your Community Initiative
Updated December, 2012
Providing What Is Needed To Engage Interfaith Families Jewishly
The 2011 New York Jewish Community Study highlighted continuing high rates of intermarriage and the relative disengagement of interfaith families in Jewish life. But the Study also found that interfaith families that do engage Jewishly are comparable in attitudes and behaviors to in-married families. The key question, then, is how to engage interfaith families Jewishly?
There has been growing agreement that engaging interfaith families Jewishly requires three elements:
- a world class web platform,
- inclusivity training of Jewish professionals and lay leaders, and
- a range of programs and services for interfaith families in local communities.
That was the conclusion of a consortium of national funders in 2008 and of a Task Force of the UJA-Federation of New York in 2011.
Building on the ten-year growth record of InterfaithFamily (IFF), the InterfaithFamily/Your Community initiative provides exactly what is required:
- IFF is the central web address for people in interfaith relationships interested in Jewish life, with over 640,000 annual unique visitors, growing at 35% a year, accessing both extensive helpful content and connections through our officiation referral service and our IFF Network listings and social networking functionality.
- Since 2010, IFF has provided trainings for clergy, synagogue staff, and religious school and preschool directors and teachers.
- The InterfaithFamily/Your Community initiative now places staff in local communities to coordinate and provide a comprehensive range of programs and services for their interfaith families.
The InterfaithFamily/Your Community Model
The five-part InterfaithFamily/Your Community model includes the following objectives and activities:
- People in interfaith relationships will connect with local Jewish community resources as well as with others like them, through a local Community Page and robust listings of organizations, professionals and events on the IFF Network, and through active discussion boards, social media and traditional PR.
- Interfaith couples will have a positive experience finding Jewish clergy to officiate at their weddings and officiating clergy will stay connected with the couples for whom they officiate; couples will stay connected to Jewish life and community, through increased visibility of IFF’s officiation referral service, personalized responses to requests, and follow-up resources and mechanism for officiating clergy.
- Jewish professionals and organizations will learn to attract, welcome, and engage people in interfaith relationships, through inclusivity and sensitivity trainings and ongoing affinity groups on the IFF Network.
- New interfaith couples will learn how to talk about and have religious traditions in their lives together, through our hybrid online/in-person Love and Religion workshop (originated by Marion Usher, Ph.D.).
- People in interfaith relationships will learn how — and why — to live Jewishly, through our hybrid online/in-person classes — currently Raising a Child with Judaism in Your Interfaith Family and Preparing for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah in Your Interfaith Family.
Each objective has specific numeric goals for each community in terms of numbers of listings, participants in trainings, workshops and classes, etc. Click here for a more detailed description of the model.
The InterfaithFamily/Your Community model responds directly to what attracts interfaith families to Jewish organizations: explicit expressions of welcome, inclusive policies on participation by interfaith families, invitations to learn vs. invitations to convert, the presence of other interfaith families, programs and groups for interfaith families, and officiation for interfaith couples. Click here for a report on our surveys, a report on interfaith families' program preferences, our op-eds in the New York Jewish Week and the Huffington Post.
The InterfaithFamily/Chicago Pilot
Launched in July 2011, the first pilot of the initiative, InterfaithFamily/Chicago, had a very successful first year and is on track to meet all objectives.
- Virtually all participants in trainings report that they better understand the needs of interfaith families and learned new ways to be welcoming.
- 88% of responding workshop participants report they gained understanding of how Judaism can fit into their interfaith families.
- 92% of responding class participants said they felt more knowledgeable about Judaism, with 77% saying their practices changed to include such things as signing up for PJ Library, having a Shabbat dinner, and visiting synagogues.
The pilot was supported by funding from the Crown Family Philanthropies, the Marcus Foundation, the Jack and Goldie Wolfe Miller Fund, and a private gift. Click here for a detailed report on the first year of InterfaithFamily/Chicago. Click here for press coverage in the JUF News.
Expanding InterfaithFamily/Your Community
The InterfaithFamily/Your Community initiative is growing:
- Building on the success of the InterfaithFamily/Chicago pilot, the InterfaithFamily Board of Directors has approved a new Strategic Plan that calls for bringing the InterfaithFamily/Your Community model to nine communities in four years.
- With increased funding from our foundation supporters, in September 2012 we hired for a new position, National Director of InterfaithFamily/Your Community, to mange our expansion to additional communities.
- In October 2012 we launched InterfaithFamily/San Francisco, with a grant from, and a major fundraising effort lead by, the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, and Sonoma Counties.
- In October 2012 we also launched InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia, by merging a local organization, InterFaithways, into InterfaithFamily. The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia supported the merger with a grant and fundraising assistance. Click here for press coverage of the merger with InterFaithways.
We intend to create a national network of local community programs, leveraging our content, Network platform, officiation referral service, and trainings, programs, workshops and classes.
The InterfaithFamily/Your Community initiative is the single best opportunity the Jewish community has to engage more interfaith families in Jewish life and community. We welcome inquiries from interested local communities. Please contact Edmund Case, CEO, at email@example.com.