2013 was an amazing year for InterfaithFamily! Continued vibrant learning, connections and advocacy activities; growth in our Your Community model; demonstrated impact from our User Survey; a staff of 18 with a new marketing director about to be hired; a new President and a new Chair of an increasingly-national Board; and significantly increased funding to fuel ongoing growth.
We continued to make great progress with InterfaithFamily/Your Community. InterfaithFamily/Boston just launched in October 2013, with Joshua Troderman as Director. Some highlights from our longer-running communities:
InterfaithFamily/Chicago completed two and one half years of operation in 2013 and is a strong and vibrant presence in Chicagoland, spearheaded by its Director Rabbi Ari Moffic, a leader in the field whose work was highlighted in Ron Wolfson’s new book, Relational Judaism. IFF/Chicago trained more than 250 Jewish professionals and responded to over 140 officiation referral requests, in addition to offering numerous workshops, classes and consultations.
InterfaithFamily/San Francisco Bay Area had a successful first year, training almost 90 professionals and responding to 99 officiation referral requests. IFF/Bay Area is poised for growth as Rabbi Mychal Copeland, most recently Rabbi and Senior Jewish Educator at Stanford Hillel, becomes its new director in March 2014.
InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia, run by Director Rabbi Robyn Frisch, is a robust and expanding presence, with more than 1,800 email newletter subscribers, more than 800 Facebook Group members, over 4,200 views of its Community Page, trainings for 127 professionals, responses to 130 officiation referral requests, and numerous workshops and classes.
Your Community directors meet every two weeks in a growing community of practice with evolving programs. In November we took Interfaith Family Shabbat, pioneered in Philadelphia, national – 54 synagogues and organizations in Philadelphia, 23 in Chicago and 32 in San Francisco joined in the opportunity to publicize their interest in building inclusive Jewish communities.
We’ve made good progress in becoming the central resource in our local communities for people in interfaith relationships and the Jewish leaders who work with them. High percentages of survey respondents agree that their local IFF/Your Community is an important resource and feel comfortable contacting their staff about interfaith family issues. High percentages of trainings participant survey respondents agree that they learned new ways to be welcoming to interfaith families; high percentages of new couples workshop survey respondents agree that they learn how Judaism can fit into their lives; and high percentages of class survey respondents agree that they became more knowledgeable about Jewish practices, with many saying they adopt specific ones like saying the bedtime Shema, or the Motzi, or having a Shabbat dinner.
In our Your Communities we are always collaborating – among others, in Chicago with the JCC, the JUF and PJ Library, BirthrightNEXT, and local JOI and URJ staff, in San Francisco around a joint training with Jewish Learning Works, Keshet and Be’chol Lashon, in Philadelphia with Jewish Learning Ventures’ jkidphilly – and expanding partnerships on a national level will be a focus going forward.
IFF’s top 2014 priorities include codifying the Your Community model, adding to our national IFF/YC staff to support expansion into new communities, and adding at least one new Your Community.
We believe that InterfaithFamily/Your Community is the best available opportunity to engage interfaith families in Jewish life and community. The Pew Report confirms the critical importance of those efforts. We are talking with a number of prospective communities and are on the cusp of having serious major impact on a critically important issue, and we are deeply grateful to all of our generous major donors who have enabled us to get to this exciting time of opportunity.
Some highlights of our core activities helping people in interfaith relationships learn about and connect with Jewish Life and community, and advocating on their behalf:
Thanks to our continuing diverse and relevant content, and active social media, traffic to our website’s friendly, accessible information about Jewish life and community grew 1% to over 662,600 unique visitors in 2013, with over 125,000 repeat visitors. Facebook fans grew by 30% to over 20,500 and Twitter followers by 36% to over 2,900. Our bi-weekly email newsletter, which got a visual update in June and is delivered nationally and in customized versions to the four IFF/Your Communities, increased subscribers by 20% to more than 14,600.
Our resources for Jewish holidays and life cycle events, all easily accessible through our Resource Pages, including our “cheat sheets,” and our re-designed Booklets all free and available to download and print, remain our most popular content. In addition, in the past six months:
- We introduced new High Holiday, Hanukkah, Christmas and yes, Thanksgivukkah, content. We published a new article about unplugging during Yom Kippur, as well as Why We Celebrate Water on Sukkot, a popular guide to Thanksgivukkah with interfaith guests, a children’s book column for the High Holidays as well as a personal essay about a woman’s last time eating Christmas dinner with her family’s neighbors. New Tu Bishvat content this year included an explanation of the “Tree Holiday,” and books for kids.
- In July, we introduced a new celebrity writer, Gerri Miller, whose bi-weekly column “Hollywood Now” provides entertainment news involving interfaith relationships and occasionally interviews. In August, Kathy Bloomfield began writing her column, “Kids’ Books that Matter” framing books for kids in interfaith families that relate to Jewish values, and occasionally Jewish holidays. Some of our other most popular articles have been personal essays about relationships, like How a Fight Brought Us Closer Together and The Three Questions that Alienate Interfaith Couples. Zach Cohen’s essay Don’t Call Me Half-Jewish got tremendous response, and Rabbi Helbraun’s Decision to Officiate at Interfaith Marriages was also very popular.
- Our Parenting blog was reinvigorated with new bloggers, Jane Larkin from Dallas, TX, and Jessie Boatright from the Boston area. The Wedding blog was also renewed with Matt Rice, who converted to Judaism and married a woman who is not Jewish, blogging over the summer and fall. Currently, Dana and Chris are blogging together about their upcoming nuptials and Anne Keefe, the partner who is not Jewish, is blogging about her experiences.
- Our Your Community staff continue to contribute frequently and thoughtfully to our Network blog about their experiences in the field, including issues related to parenting, officiation, synagogue engagement, and responses to the Jewish news.
Our Network grew 8% to list 1,127 organizations and 26% to list 1,090 professionals that welcome interfaith families, as well as by 40% to 5,389 people in interfaith relationships. The Network and our content management system are now integrated with Facebook.
In 2013 we responded to 2,194 requests from all over North America to our Jewish Clergy Officiation Referral Service – 1,734 for weddings and 460, or 21%, for other life cycle celebrations, including 146 for baby naming, 93 for conversion, and 79 for bar and bat mitzvah.
IFF played a leadership role in 2013 advocating in favor of engaging interfaith families Jewishly. We conducted our annual Passover/Easter and December holidays surveys; had two Board members contribute to an issue of Sh’ma on leadership and conversion; published Are Interfaith Families Included in Inclusive Jewish Philanthropy? in eJewishPhilanthropy; and covered numerous issues including ordaining intermarried rabbinic students, the book ‘Til Faith Do Us Part, negative comments about intermarriage by Jewish leaders and journalists (A Razzie Award for the Jewish Media), and the Pew Report.
As part of the IFF/Your Community initiative, we offered numerous trainings to help Jewish organizations and leaders welcome and work with people in interfaith relationships. Rabbi Ari Moffic, Director of IFF/Chicago, participated in the Union for Reform Judaism’s “think tank” in October, and in a training for Birthright Israel trip directors in August, and will lead sessions at the PJ Library national conference in April 2014. Rabbi Robyn Frisch, Director of IFF/Philadelphia, led sessons at Hartford’s Embracing Change conference in November, where Ed Case also gave a keynote.
At the start of 2014, there were reports of a group of Jewish leaders planning to encourage a campaign to promote in-marriage. We were the lead voice in favor of engaging interfaith families quoted in JNS and JTA stories on the “re-ignited intermarriage debate,” and we wrote Promote Jewish Engagement, Not In-Marriage for eJewishPhilanthropy.
InterfaithFamily has done an online user survey every two years since 2007. We were very pleased with the results of the 2013 survey: respondents who were intermarried, with children living at home, reported that InterfaithFamily had a positive effect in the past two years on their becoming interested in (53%), knowledgeable about (63%), and comfortable participating (49%) in Jewish life, and on their feeling of being welcomed by Jewish communities (46%). Key percentages were much higher in Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia, validating our Your Community approach: 72% reported a positive effect on their becoming interested in and on their feeling knowledgeable about Jewish life.
In addition, 61% said IFF positively influenced their incorporation of Jewish traditions and participation in Jewish rituals, 40% their participation in a program for interfaith families, 27% their sending their children to Jewish education classes or Jewish camp, 16% their making an initial contact with a synagogue, and 11% their exploring conversion.
Equally positive were some of the wonderful open-ended comments:
- IFF provided great resources that helped me figure out how I wanted to have a Jewish home and raise Jewish children with a non-Jewish partner.
- I am not the Jewish partner. You website has been great for understanding and learning.
- I feel more confident participating in holidays.
- We found the rabbi that married us through the site and a community we are considering joining.
We were also pleased that Jewish communal professionals who took the survey refer interfaith couples and families with whom they work to InterfaithFamily far more frequently than to any other organization; 65% said IFF has helped them to see the potential for positive engagement in Jewish life by people in interfaith relationships, 57% to work with interfaith families, and 50% to develop welcoming policies and practices.
In October we marked a leadership transition: InterfaithFamily’s new Board Chair, Lynda Schwartz, led us in honoring her predecessor Mamie Kanfer Stewart for five years of service during a period of tremendous growth. In 2013 we welcomed Michael Cedillos, from Chicago, and Eileen Frazier, from Washington DC, to the Board. Also in October, Jodi Bromberg joined us in the new position of President, to bolster our senior management and provide for leadership succession.
In 2013 we added the following new staff: Lindsey Silken, Editorial Director; Rabbi Robyn Frisch, Director, IFF/Philadelphia; Marilyn Wacks, Project Manager, IFF/San Francisco; Joshua Troderman, Director, April Baskin, Project Manager and Jonathon Feinberg, North Shore Ambassador, IFF/Boston; Susan Field, Assistant Project Manager, IFF/Chicago. In March 2014, Rabbi Mychal Copeland will join us as Director, IFF/San Francisco. We are close to filling the new position of Director of Marketing and Communications.
InterfaithFamily had an excellent fundraising year in 2013. We had a great start early on when our most generous foundation funders all renewed and increased their support for IFF. We saw increased support from local federations for our Your Communities in San Francisco, Boston and Philadelphia.
We had great success stimulated by a major challenge grant issued in late October: in addition to a $200,000 grant received from the foundation that issued the challenge, we secured two significant new funders. Seventeen of our existing individual and foundation supporters also committed to either level or increased gifts.
We ended up raising $2.3 million in 2013 – a 65% increase over 2012 – against expense of $1.7 million. With the enlarged funding our top priorities are to hire marketing staff, develop a marketing plan, and increase our out-of-pocket marketing spending to increase our visibility, and to hire a resource director and expand our production of educational resources for both people in interfaith relationships and for Jewish community leaders who work with them.
We are greatly heartened by the increasing attention and support we are now experiencing, and very much looking forward to participating for the first time in a presentation at the Jewish Funders Network conference in March 2014.
As always, we appreciate your support and interest very much, and welcome your feedback.
With best regards,
Edmund C. Case, CEO
Jodi Bromberg, President
For more information please contact Jodi Bromberg at email@example.com or 617-581-6804.