Downton Abbey Portrays Reality of Interfaith RelationshipsBy Gerri Miller
Go inside Season 5 Episode 9 where the story line of Atticus and Rose's interfaith relationship comes to a head.Go To Pop Culture
Updated October, 2013
InterfaithFamily is the premiere resource supporting interfaith couples exploring Jewish life and inclusive Jewish communities. We offer educational content; connections to welcoming organizations, professionals, and programs; resources and trainings for organizations, clergy, and other program providers; and our InterfaithFamily/Your Community initiative, providing coordinated comprehensive offerings in local communities.
Please visit Mission & Activities to learn about InterfaithFamily's mission, vision, history, and activities.
For policy questions, background on intermarriage, history of organization, information on communal response to intermarriage:
For much of American Jewish history, intermarriage was a minor issue. Intermarriage was relatively rare, and was disapproved of by most Jews. Many Jews know the story of a relative who was disowned (in some cases, mourned as if they had died) when they married a non-Jew.
The incidence of intermarriage started to increase in the 1970s (from 13 to 28 percent). In response, the Reform movement took two controversial steps: it created an outreach department to reach out to and welcome intermarried couples, and decided to recognize the children of Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers as Jews (under traditional Jewish law, only children of Jewish mothers are considered Jews).
But when the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey revealed that close to half of all new marriages involving Jews in the previous five years were to non-Jews, intermarriage shot to the top of the Jewish community's agenda.
Because Judaism doesn't encourage proselytizing and Jews are such a small minority (about 2 percent of the U.S. population and less than 1 percent of the world population), some Jews consider the ongoing high rate of intermarriage a threat to the continued existence of the Jewish people. Major Jewish figures have been harshly critical of intermarriage and view outreach to the intermarried as a waste of limited communal resources. Many Jewish organizations see promoting Jewish in-marriage as one of their explicit or implicit fundamental goals.
In recent years there has been a growing awareness that writing off intermarried families may mean writing off a Jewish future. Intermarriage can be an opportunity to sustain and even grow the Jewish population both quantitatively and qualitatively. But intermarried couples will only make Jewish choices and raise their children as Jews if the Jewish community genuinely welcomes them. InterfaithFamily is a leading advocate for building such an inclusive Jewish community.
We recommend that families choose one religious identity for their children, while honoring the traditions of the non-Jewish parent (for example, participating in Christmas and Easter celebrations). We recommend against blending religions or raising children as "both." Conversion is a wonderful personal choice but our goal is to increase the number of children raised as Jews in interfaith families, not to increase the number of converts to Judaism. We support all Jewish clergy and program providers who work with people in interfaith relationships. We believe it is important for interfaith couples to have a positive experience when seeking a rabbi or cantor to officiate at their wedding; we offer a free officiation referral service and resources and workshops for rabbis toward that end. We are in favor of increasing the opportunities for non-Jewish parents raising Jewish children to participate in synagogue ritual and leadership and all aspects of Jewish life. And we are in favor of a major investment of resources to expand programs that seek to engage interfaith families in Jewish life and community.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, InterfaithFamily depends on tax-deductible charitable contributions and grants for its funding to make our work possible. We have enjoyed the support of an involved Board of Directors, an Advisory Board, and other generous individuals, as well as institutional Funders including the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston, the Crown Family Philanthropies, the Marcus Foundation, the Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds, the Jack Miller Family Foundation, the Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation, and the Natan Fund.
Our mission is to reach as many people in interfaith relationships as we can. People don't visit .org websites as much as .com websites; that's the reason our URL is a .com. Many other non-profits have .com URL's; there is no requirement that non-profits have .org URL's.
InterfaithFamily works closely with other Jewish organizations, including many Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal, and Humanist synagogues and havurahs; the Jewish Federations of North America and many local federations; the Jewish Community Centers Association and many local JCCs; the Association of Jewish Family & Children's Agencies and many local Jewish family service agencies; and many other organizations including the Society for Classical Reform Judaism, the Jewish Outreach Institute, BBYO, Hillel, Birthright Israel Next, Moishe House, G-dcast, and more.