The Jewish Community Study of New York released in June highlights yet again the crucial significance of engaging interfaith families in Jewish life and community. We believe that our InterfaithFamily/Your Community model is the single best available opportunity to achieve that result — and we've made dramatic progress in the last four months:
- We completed year one of InterfaithFamily/Chicago, the first pilot of the initiative, on track to meet all objectives, and we recently added a second staff person there;
- The San Francisco Federation has committed to make a grant and is leading the effort to raise the remaining funds needed for InterfaithFamily/San Francisco — we expect to launch in the Fall;
- The Board of InterFaithways has voted to merge into InterfaithFamily (IFF) to become InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia, has been awarded a grant from the Philadelphia Federation, and is raising the funds needed to launch also in the Fall; and
- We have begun a job search to hire a national Director of InterfaithFamily/Your Community to manage all of this expansion.
We have a very ambitious plan to bring IFF/Your Community to eleven communities within five years and welcome inquiries about bringing the model to your community. We are deeply grateful to our InterfaithFamily/Chicago funders — including the Crown Family Philanthropies, the Marcus Foundation, and the Jack and Goldie Wolfe Miller Fund — for supporting the project and enabling us to add to our national and Chicago staff.
InterfaithFamily/Your Community offers economies of scale provided by our existing content, Network platform, officiation referral service, training programs, classes, and workshops.
Highlights from the past four months:
- Our website traffic is growing 30% a year to over 639,000 unique visitors for the last twelve months. We offered an expanded Jewish Language Cheat Sheet, new "how-to-do-Jewish" resources including videos and re-designed booklets, and a wide variety of interesting articles and blog posts (from matzah ball soup to gefilte fish to the bar mitzvah of Muhammad Ali's grandson) including on our very active Parenting Blog.
- We've also seen record growth in our web-based connections resources. In 2011 our Jewish Clergy Officiation Referral Service responded to 175 requests a month (an increase of 18% over 2010); in the first six months of 2012, the average is up to 194 a month (an increase of 11% over 2011). Since our last Update in February, our Network grew by 61 organizations to a total of 987 (an increase of 7%), 84 professionals to a total of 773 (up 12%), and 34 rabbis on our officiation referral list to a total of 618 (up 6%).
- Finally, we added recommended policies for educators and training materials to our Resource Center for Program Providers and new articles and resources in our Resource Center for Jewish Clergy, including a way for officiating rabbis to stay in touch with their couples post-wedding and recommendations for rabbis who do not officiate at weddings of interfaith couples and for Conservative synagogues.
We are very close to launching the re-design of the look and feel of our website and want to give a "sneak preview" of our new logo and tagline:
Although we'll always be web-based, we're dropping the ".com" from our name because more and more of what we do involves on-the-ground programs and services. We think our new tagline markets us better to our end users by instantly conveying what we offer them. Let us know what you think — and watch for our re-designed site, coming soon.
We are engaged in a strategic planning process that is also addressing staffing models and leadership succession. Yvonne Randle of Management Systems, our consultant, led a two-day Board retreat in May.
At the end of June, Karen Kushner made a transition to working with us as a consultant focused exclusively on the InterfaithFamily/San Francisco project. We feel very fortunate to have her ongoing involvement with IFF. In line with our increased focus on local communities, we eliminated our national Director of Network Activities position; Deb Morandi is now working with us as our Connections Coordinator to support organizations and program providers who join our Network. Jamie Manewith is our new Project Manager for InterfaithFamily/Chicago.
Thank you to Gary Furst and Kristin Hendler who completed ten and six years of service respectively on our Board. Our Board is increasingly national in scope with only six members from Massachusetts; two are from New York, two from the Bay Area, and one each in Atlanta, New Orleans, and San Diego. We are actively seeking additional Board members, in particular from Chicago and Philadelphia.
We are pleased to report that after the first year of operation, IFF/Chicago is on track to meet all objectives. You can find a full report on the first year here.
- Rabbi Ari Moffic, Director of IFF/Chicago, introduced the project in more than 60 meetings and participated in 9 adult education classes, plus other panels and programs. We are very pleased with the relationships established with the Jewish United Fund (the Chicago Federation), numerous community agencies, Reform Jewish Chicago, and local Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Humanist, and independent rabbis and synagogues.
- We put up 40 posts on our Chicago blog and sent countless tweets; we had 36,559 site visits from the Chicago area and 3,200 visits to the new Chicagoland Community Page; we added 15 more clergy to our officiation referral list for a total of 31, and added 46 more organizations for a total of 72, 56 more professionals for a total of 70, and 154 more individuals for a total of 241 to our Network.
- We responded to 103 requests for officiation referral, and Rabbi Moffic's personalized responses led to 24 follow-up conversations and 5 in-person meetings; we created 2 follow-up resources for clergy to use with their couples.
- We conducted 7 trainings for 80 participants, including religious school teachers at three synagogues and preschool teachers at two synagogues, a workshop for rabbis to discuss wedding officiation, and a two-day training with three sessions at the Community Foundation for Jewish Education's Principals' Kallah for Reform and Conservative synagogue religious school educators.
- We offered our hybrid online/in-person Love and Religion workshop (created by Marion Usher, Ph.D.) in February and again in May, for 12 couples.
- We offered our first hybrid online/in-person class, Raising a Child with Judaism in Your Interfaith Family, to 21 couples.
The responses to our post-training, workshop, and class surveys (developed with the help of JESNA) have been very positive — read the full report for a sample. In particular, almost all respondents from the Raising a Child with Judaism in Your Interfaith Family class said that as a result of the class they felt more knowledgeable about Judaism and Jewish practice and gained more of an understanding of how Judaism can fit into their interfaith family; ten respondents said their practices had changes as a result of the class to include saying the bedtime Shema, Ha'Motzi, and/or Shabbat blessings; one respondent said they visited two synagogues "because of involvement in the class." We are close to completing the second online class that we will be offering in the second year of the project, Preparing for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah in Your Interfaith Family.
Our InterfaithFamily/Your Community model that is working so well in Chicago provides the Internet platform, trainings, and local programs that a group of national funders said was needed back in 2008 and that the UJA Federation of New York said was needed in late 2011. As noted in the introduction, we are likely to launch InterfaithFamily/San Francisco and InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia in the Fall, and we've started a job search for a national Director of InterfaithFamily/Your Community to manage our expansion into new communities. We would be pleased to provide additional information about the InterfaithFamily/Your Community model and how it could be brought to your community.
We continued to improve and add to our "how-to-do-Jewish" content, with:
Benjamin Maron created an extensive Jewish Language Cheat Sheet which elicited this comment from Joanna B on Facebook: "IFF Cheat Sheets are a HUGE contribution. Thanks for another one."
Our Parenting bloggers were busy, with great posts like Who Needs Shabbat? ME, That's Who! by a mom who's not Jewish, Julie Daneman; one that generated a lot of comment, Why I Do Not Want My Children to Intermarry, by SLP, another mom who's not Jewish; one about teaching children about the joy of Judaism, by Elana MacGilpin; and one about the need for interfaith parenting support groups, by Chana-Esther. And Audrey Etlinger, a young woman raised as a Jew whose mother was not Jewish, wrote about her decision to have a formal conversion before marriage in Going Under, Letting Go.
We addressed a wide range of interpersonal topics:
Benjamin covered wide ground in our Network blog — ranging in the past four months from the Bar Mitzvah of Muhammad Ali's grandson to asking whether there is A Jewish Tooth Fairy?
If you don't receive our bi-weekly email newsletter highlighting our newest content and would like to, sign up here.
Jewish Clergy Officiation Referral Service
Our free Jewish Clergy Officiation Referral Service helps interfaith couples find rabbis or cantors to officiate not only at weddings, but also for counseling, conversion, birth ceremonies, tutoring, bar/bat mitzvah, and even funerals. In 2011 we responded to 2,102 inquires, an average of 175 a month and an 18% increase over 2010. In the first six months of 2012, we've responded to an average of 194 a month (up 11%).
We routinely get grateful messages like this one, from Mark S., on June 13, 2012:
"Thank you SOOOOOOO MUCH for referring us to Cantor S!! He truly was a G-D send!! Our wedding could not have been more perfect, and if it wasn't for your referral, we would have never met him. We greatly appreciate your service, and will absolutely recommend it to our friends & family!!!"
We know our referral service responds when others don't. We got this message from Randi D., on June 26, 2012:
"I cannot thank you enough for your quick response. It has been very difficult to find a rabbi in my area for my son's bar mitzvah."
We now have 618 rabbis and cantors to whom we make referrals — an increase of 34, or 6%, since our February Update. Interested clergy should take our Jewish clergy survey.
Network: Members, Organizations, Professionals, and Events
From March through June, 268 individuals and 84 professionals created personal pages and joined the InterfaithFamily Network; as of the end of June, we had 4,153 members, including 773 professionals. In addition, we've had a net gain of 61 organizations listed on the Network, bringing the current total to 987. If you're not listed, we'd 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 or postal 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, Atlanta, and Chicago. We offer Community Pages as part of our InterfaithFamily/Your Community model; if you are a local federation or funder and are interested for your community, please contact Joanna Rothman, our Director of Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resource Centers for Program Providers and for Jewish Clergy
In the past four months we sent out three email newsletters and added a number of resources to our Resource Center for Program Providers Resource Page which links to marketing, policy, programming, and training materials. We added a new Trainings page that lists the trainings InterfaithFamily offers, describes our training model, and outlines our training for religious school principals in detail. We added two policy materials, about sensitizing religious school educators and a pledge they can make to families.
To learn more about the benefits of being a member of the Resource Center for Program Providers and how to join, visit www.interfaithfamily.com/joinrcpp. And please add our Organizational Affiliate Badge to your website — it's an easy way to indicate that you welcome interfaith families and are listed on our Network.
Our Resource Center for Jewish Clergy provides materials that are available to rabbis and cantors only who are members of our RCJC group — you can find instructions how to join here. In June we sent out an email newsletter to the RCJC members about new content and resources, including from the past four months an essay by a rabbi who changed her position on co-officiation and an essay by a rabbi about weddings on Shabbat. We also added several new resources for rabbis, including an expanded resource designed to help clergy stay in touch with the couples for whom they officiate, suggestions on how to explain boundaries for rabbis who do not officiate for interfaith couples, and recommendations for Conservative synagogues. And there's a new group on our Network for rabbis from interfaith families.
In March we were featured as a "Standard Bearer" at Slingshot Day in New York, exhibited at the CCAR convention, and participated at TribeFest in the "Shark Tank" session and in a session we put on jointly with JOI. We spoke at Temple Sholom in Chicago in April. Rabbi Moffic participated in a Half-Jewish Colloquium sponsored by Secular Humanistic Judaism in April and in a panel on interfaith marriage sponsored by the Winnetka Interfaith Council in May.
We published the results of our eighth annual Passover/Easter Survey, which showed that about half of interfaith families raising their children Jewish participate in secular Easter activities and believe that their participation in Christmas celebrations does not compromise their children's Jewish identity.
Benjamin Maron "fisked" the New York Jewish Community Study and wrote about Women of the Wall and one of the Chief Rabbis of Israel's condemnation of Conservative and Reform rabbis. I said Mazel tov, Mark and Priscilla and Benjamin wrote about Ashley Biden's interfaith co-officiated wedding. Ari Moffic wrote about Jewish identity and Shabbat morning worship. We also offered a guest blog post by Secular Humanist Rabbi Adam Chalom, Who Are the Half-Jewish? and an article by Conservative rabbinical student Danielle Eskow about making bar mitzvah tutoring available to unaffiliated families.
About 23% of our traffic comes from paid search results on Google and from links on Facebook. Benjamin Maron continues to implement a social media strategy that has greatly expanded our reach. On Facebook? "Like" our page. On twitter? Follow @interfaithfam.
- Website traffic: We had 639,249 unique visitors in the 12 months ending June 30.
- Bi-weekly email newsletter: Our June 26 email newsletter was successfully delivered to 9,319 recipients.
- Facebook Fans and Twitter followers: 9,031 and 1,779 as of June 30.
- Organizations and professionals listed on our Network: We had a net gain of 61 organizations and 84 professionals added to our Network between March 1 and June 30, bringing the total to 1,760.
- Requests for Jewish clergy officiation referrals: In 2011 we responded to an average of 175 requests for referrals a month. For the first six months of 2012, we are averaging 194 a month.
Finance and Development
Our 2012 projected spending is now $1,344,000. In the past four months, not including commitments for InterfaithFamily/San Francisco and InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia, we received renewed funding from the Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation and the Jack and Goldie Wolfe Miller Fund and increased funding from the Crown Family Philanthropies and a private gift. We were pleased with the results of a campaign seeking contributions from rabbis; several prominent rabbis made videos explaining why they support IFF. Please contact Joanna Rothman, our Director of Development, at email@example.com if you can help us find individual donors interested in supporting us.
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