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February 2011 Update

February 2011

What's in this Update

Organizational Highlights
Education Activities
Connections Activities
Advocacy Activities
Marketing
Finance and Development

Dear Supporter,

I am very pleased to report that InterfaithFamily.com had a strong finish in 2010 and that 2011 is off to a very good start:

  • We have a terrific new Director of Network Activities, Adina Matusow Davies, and hope to hire a new Chief Advancement Officer soon;
  • Our content keeps on improving with re-designed Resource Pages, our first in-house videos, a new booklet, a new couple blogging about their upcoming wedding, and more;
  • Our clergy referral service — which is now for all life cycle needs, not just weddings — responded to 148 requests a month in 2010, and 199 a month so far in 2011, and our Network continues to grow with members, organizations, professionals and programs;
  • We did three trainings for rabbis and early childhood educators and were busy writing and speaking in favor of welcoming interfaith families;
  • Our traffic is growing 11% a year — we had 436,872 unique visitors in the last twelve months — and we're implementing a social media strategy with dramatic increases in Facebook fans and Twitter followers; and
  • Our income increased by 19% in 2010 to just under $1 million, and we are budgeting to spend at that level in 2011.

We are working on an exciting initiative that we hope to announce in our next Update. There is a huge opportunity to expand on our efforts to engage interfaith families in Jewish life and community. We welcome your interest and support to make that happen.

Organizational Highlights

We are pleased to announce our new Director of Network Activities, Adina Matusow Davies, who joined us in March. Adina brings great training and experience from her previous position as Program Director and Introduction to Judaism coordinator at the Union for Reform Judaism in New York. She would be glad to help you make the best use of our Network!

We hope to have our Chief Advancement Officer position filled well before our next Update in July.

Curious about what we do here at InterfaithFamily.com? Check out our new video!

Education Activities

Content

We've had a virtual explosion of new content in the past four months since our new Managing Editor, Benjamin Maron, arrived, with wonderful contributions from Karen Kushner, our Chief Education Officer.

Most significantly, we're re-organizing our Resource Pages, the gateways by which most people enter our site and find help with the topics they are concerned with. Check out the new design of our Purim Resource Page, and all of our new Purim content, too.

We produced our first in-house video, Lighting the Hanukkah Menorah. Here's Sara D.'s comment on our blog:

Thank you so much for the Hanukkah video. When I was first learning about the holidays I felt frustrated and left out because I didn't know what Hebrew should sound like, so I thought I couldn't say the blessings… It is great to know the traditional way to recite them. If you continue to produce such videos, I'm sure they will become a wonderful resource for families and anyone wishing to increase their Jewish observances.

We also produced another in our series of booklets, Shabbat Made Easy, and a Sample Sabbath Worship Experience from our friends at the Society for Classical Reform Judaism. And we gave significant attention for the first time to Tu Bishvat, with a blog post complete with an in-house video, and the introductory What Is Tu Bishvat, Anyway?

On the personal side, a second interfaith couple getting married soon starting blogging on our wedding blog, The Hitch. We published many interesting narratives:

As in the past, our traffic jumped during the December holidays. December 2010 was our third best month ever, with over 46,000 unique users. They were attracted by our latkes recipes, and explanations of the meaning of the holiday in Rabbi Howard Berman's Hanukkah and the American Spirit and Why Hanukkah? by Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben.

Finally, checking our Network Blog regularly is a great way to keep up on news and discussions about interfaith family life happening in the media and on the web — like our coverage of Natalie Portman, her interfaith relationship and her denunciation of anti-Semitism.

If you don't receive our biweekly email newsletter highlighting our newest content and would like to, click here.

Connections Activities

Jewish Clergy Officiation Referral Service

In the last part of 2010 we expanded our Jewish Clergy Officiation Referral Service — it's not just for weddings anymore! We realized that interfaith couples were starting to ask us for rabbis and cantors for counseling, conversion, birth ceremonies, tutoring, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, even funerals. So we started asking clergy which of these services they're willing to provide, and we changed our request form to expand what we offer.

In 2010 we responded to a total of 1,609 referral requests for weddings, and another 167 for other services. That's an average of 148 a month. In the first two months of 2011, we responded to 366 requests for weddings and 31 for other services — an average of 199 a month!

We don't just send names when we respond to couples; we also suggest resources to help their planning, and we send follow-up requests for feedback. We routinely get grateful messages like this one, from April M., on January 11, 2011:

Thank you so much for providing this information, we really appreciate it as it has been difficult trying to find a rabbi to officiate an interfaith wedding.

We now have over 415 rabbis and cantors to whom we make referrals. Interested clergy should take our Jewish Clergy Survey.

Members, Organizations, Professionals and Events

From November through February, 377 individuals and 59 professionals created personal pages and joined the InterfaithFamily.com Network; as of the end of February, we had 2,380 members, including 458 professionals. In addition, we've had a net gain of 22 organizations listed on the Network, bringing the current total to 722. Our new Director of Network Activities, Adina Matusow Davies, would be glad to help you get on the Network.

You can easily find people in interfaith relationships, programs, and welcoming organizations and professionals in any local community, because you can search the Network within mileage ranges of a zip code. We also now have Community Pages, that make it even easier to centralize and find everything of interest in a local community, for Boston, San Francisco and Atlanta. If you are a local federation or funder and are interested in sponsoring a Community Page for your community, please contact me.

Advocacy Activities

Resource Centers for Jewish Clergy and for Program Providers

Karen Kushner led our fourth workshop on officiation, for clergy in the East Bay area of San Francisco, on December 14, and is planning another clergy workshop in the Bay Area in June. Karen did workshops for early childhood educators in Palo Alto on November 16 and in San Francisco on January 20, and will do another in the East Bay on April 7. We send a monthly listserv message to over 500 participants in our Resource Center for Program Providers.

Appearances

The program I led in November at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America was filmed by, and can be viewed at, Shalom TV. I summed up my thoughts on the session in What I Would Like to Be Thankful For.

Karen Kushner spoke on Accepting the Gift of Interfaith Marriage at the World Union of Progressive Judaism convention in San Francisco on February 9. We also published Rabbi Lawrence Kushner's remarks at the WUPJ convention, because what he said about intermarriage had a lot to do with his views on What It Means To Me To Be A Reform Jew.

On March 8, Benjamin Maron led a session at TribeFest, the Jewish Federations of North America's gathering for young adults, on attitudes about intermarriage. Ahead of time, he wondered Are we trendy?

Advocacy Writing

The tragic shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords generated a lot of discussion about "who is a Jew?" We blogged early about her interfaith family — her father was Jewish but her mother was not — and I wrote that it was a shame that it took a tragedy for Jewish commentators to say that non-halachic Jews like Giffords should be considered to be Jews. We were critical about a Forward editorial lamenting the divide on that issue between the Orthodox and everyone else, and the Forward published our letter to the editor suggesting that it behooves everyone in the Jewish community, Orthodox included, to regard people like Gabrielle Giffords as a Jew for all purposes except where halachic status matters. We were also glad when several rabbis seemed to agree.

Marketing

In the twelve months ending February 28, 2011, we had 436,872 unique visitors, an increase of 11% over the comparable period last year (as measured by Google Analytics).

According to Hubspot's Website Grader, we still score higher than 97% of other websites in terms of the marketing effectiveness of our search engine optimization.

We continue to see a higher percentage of our traffic coming from paid search results on Google and from links on Facebook, and less from natural searches. In the last four months, 39% of our traffic came from Google and Yahoo natural searches, 32% from paid search results on Google, and 2.1% from links on Facebook.

Benjamin Maron is implementing a social media strategy that is off to a great start. The number of fans on our Facebook page increased from 464 at the end of October to 1,119 at the end of February to 2,027 as of March 16! Just click here to "like" and follow us. We had 803 followers on Twitter at the end of February, too.

Our seventh annual December Holidays survey was covered on USA Today's Faith and Reason Blog and in a story in j, the Jewish newsweekly of Northern California. I was on NPR in Las Vegas about Chrismukkah — which I still think is a bad idea. Karen Kushner was quoted in an article on Examiner.com about divorce in interfaith families.

Finance and Development

We ended 2010 having raised $999,919, up 19% from 2009, and spent $799, 519. Our 2011 budget is $1,075,000.

We were proud to be awarded our third grant from the Natan Fund in January, as well as a generous gift on behalf of the Society for Classical Reform Judaism.

We would be pleased to share our three year plan with you, upon request. In 2011 we plan to hire a Chief Advancement Officer, and do a re-design of the look and feel of our website and improve its search function. We have an exciting initiative in process that we hope to announce in our next Update.

Thank You for Your Interest!

We appreciate your support and interest very much, and welcome your feedback.

Please help us by forwarding this Update to anyone who might be interested in our work.

With best regards,

 

Edmund C. Case, CEO

An international program that sends thousands of young Jews to Israel each year for free. Hebrew for "daughter of the commandments." In modern Jewish practice, Jewish girls come of age at 12 or 13. When a girl comes of age, she is officially a bat mitzvah and considered an adult. The term is commonly used as a short-hand for the bat mitzvah's coming-of-age ceremony and/or celebration. The male equivalent is "bar mitzvah." Hebrew for "15th of [the month of] Shevat," both a date and the name of a holiday celebrated on that date. A holiday that falls in January or February, it's the New Year for trees. Derived from the Hebrew for "Jewish law," it's pertaining or according to the body of Jewish religious law including biblical law (those commandments found in the Torah), later Talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions. A language of West Semitic origins, culturally considered to be the language of the Jewish people. Ancient or Classical Hebrew is the language of Jewish prayer or study. Modern Hebrew was developed in the late-19th and early 20th centuries as a revival language; today it is spoken by most Israelis.
Hebrew for "circumciser" (Yiddish term is "moyel"), the person who performs a ritual circumcision. The feminine form is "mohelet." Hebrew for "covenant," often referring to the ritual for Jewish boys when they are 8 days old ("brit milah" - "covenant of circumcision"). It is commonly known as "bris," which is the Ashkenazi or Yiddish pronunciation of "brit."
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