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
What's in this Update:
We continue to grow by leaps and bounds! Our award-winning website content and our continued advocacy for interfaith families continue to reach record growing numbers. Simultaneously, our InterfaithFamily/Your Communities are both achieving their goals and innovating; and we have secured significant new funding to build our national staff to support an imminent major expansion into several new communities in the coming months.
After extensive commentary on the Pew Report, one thing is certain: the need to engage interfaith families Jewishly. The InterfaithFamily/Your Community (IFF/YC) model is the single best opportunity the Jewish community has to accomplish that objective. Some highlights from our existing communities:
IFF/Chicago Director Rabbi Ari Moffic and her team continue to innovate: We were awarded a Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago Breakthrough Fund Grant to launch a mentoring program for interfaith couples, and Judy Jury, a prominent educator and president of The Board of Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago, is joining IFF/Chicago to coordinate the program. Rabbi Moffic has been busy creatively engaging interfaith families with young children through different events, including an ice cream social, an online book group, and an afternoon with the author of Papa Jethro, a children’s book about an interfaith family.
|Young couples Shabbat dinner program, at the home of Rabbi Robyn Frisch, Director of InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia|
Rabbi Mychal Copeland is off to a great start as our IFF/San Francisco Bay Area Director with poignant blog posts about her own interfaith family; a co-branded offering of our Raising a Child with Judaism in Your Interfaith Family class with Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco; and strengthening partnerships with numerous area organizations.
Rabbi Jillian Cameron recently joined our staff as Director of IFF/Boston. We offered a successful training for Hebrew College rabbinic students in March, built a foundation of collaborative partnerships with area organizations, and will focus on maintaining and adding to a growing number of concierge-type relationships with people in interfaith relationships.
If you would like more detailed information about our progress in each community, please contact us for our full InterfaithFamily 2014 Mid-Year Report.
From an overall perspective, we continued to make good progress on the major goals of the IFF/Your Community initiative in the first half of 2014:
We administer pre- and post-program surveys designed with Rosov Consulting in the IFF/Your Communities to measure achievement of the desired short-term outcomes of those programs. We will report on the data from those surveys on an annual basis. Here are highlights from the survey comments:
InterfaithFamily’s core activities—helping people in interfaith relationships learn about and connect with Jewish life and community, and advocating on their behalf—are supported both nationally and in the growing number of IFF/Your Communities by our extensive online resources and our advocacy efforts. Some highlights from the first half of 2014:
Our website’s friendly, accessible information about Jewish life and community and our lively social media channels won InterfaithFamily a 1st Place Rockower Award from the American Jewish Press Association for Outstanding Digital Reach in 2013. The number of unique visitors to our site is up 14 percent over the 12 months ending June 30, to almost 750,000 unique visitors.
Our bi-weekly email newsletter, which also won a 1st Place Rockower Award for Excellence in Organizational Newsletters, is distributed to 14,000 subscribers nationally and in customized versions to the four IFF/Your Communities.
Our resources for Jewish holidays and life cycle events, all easily accessible through our Resource Pages, remain our most popular content. Our Passover resources were especially popular, with over 82,000 unique visitors in April, our busiest month ever, and almost 7,000 visitors on the Monday on which Passover began this year, our busiest day ever.
Exceptional personal essays were published over the last six months, generating conversation on our website and social media: a story about pregnancy and Tay Sachs, an essay about being the only Muslim at Passover Camp, an article by a Jewish educator about Israel and his interfaith family, and an intermarried mother’s struggle chronicled in “What Do I Tell My Sons about Dating?” As always, our column about interfaith celebrities was very popular too.
We are particularly proud of new resources we created about Jewish summer camp. Working closely with the Foundation for Jewish Camp, we established a popular new Jewish camping resource page that lists interfaith-friendly Jewish summer camps, including resources like the questions interfaith parents should ask about Jewish camp.
IFF continued to play a leadership role in the first half of 2014 advocating in favor of engaging interfaith families Jewishly. We responded in January to media coverage of new efforts to discourage intermarriage, and advocated for a more inclusive approach. We were quoted in JNS, JTA and The Jewish Daily Forward. The New York Jewish Week published our letter to the editor, and eJewishPhilanthropy published our op-ed, “Promote Jewish Engagement, Not In-Marriage.”
An article by Ed Case, “Engaging Interfaith Families Jewishly”, has been accepted for the summer/fall 2014 issue of the JPRO Network’s Journal of Jewish Communal Service.
Our staff blogs regularly about issues involved in welcoming interfaith families. In April, Editorial Director Lindsey Silken offered Chelsea Clinton our baby welcoming resources. For Shavuot, a post by Rabbi Robyn Frisch, Director of IFF/Philadelphia, "Interpreting the Book of Ruth as a Story of Interfaith Marriage," was published as an op-ed in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.
|The InterfaithFamily Staff at our July 2014 retreat|
In October 2013, Jodi Bromberg joined IFF as President to strengthen our senior management and provide for leadership succession. Jodi is on track to become CEO before next June 30, 2015, with Ed Case to continue working with IFF as Founder.
Our Board is forming a working group to re-envision our strategies and approaches for robust advocacy to create a receptive environment for interfaith families. We are also emphasizing partnerships on a national level—we have had ongoing discussions in the first half of 2014 with PJ Library, the URJ, Moishe House and Birthright Israel NEXT, and we recently started discussing partnering with a proposed new Honeymoon Israel project that aims to send newly married couples on free trips to Israel.
As previously reported, IFF had an excellent fundraising year in 2013 with new and renewed support from our most generous foundation funders. Our most current projection for 2014 is not materially different from the budget—except for anticipated growth later in 2014 with the addition of new IFF/Your Communities!
We have secured funding to add two very significant new communities by the end of 2014. (Because the grants are not finalized, we cannot identify the communities publicly at this time, but we expect announcements by the early Fall.) Another major city is also interested in implementing our model. We are also close to finalizing an agreement with another major community to be an “affiliate of InterfaithFamily/Your Community.”
To support growth of the IFF/Your Community initiative, we are also adding new national staff in addition to adding a new National Director of Marketing and Communications. In September, Rabbi Maurice Harris will join IFF as Rabbi/Senior Educator, and we have promoted IFF/Boston Project Manager April Baskin to the new position of Director of Resources and Trainings, in order to expand our production of resources and trainings for both people in interfaith relationships and for Jewish community leaders who work with them. We will also be hiring an Associate Director of the IFF/Your Community initiative, and an Executive Assistant to the President who will have responsibilities for fundraising administration.
We are simultaneously operating, codifying, refining and promoting our InterfaithFamily/Your Community model, which we believe is the best available opportunity to engage interfaith families in Jewish life and community. We 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.
As always, we appreciate your support and interest very much, and welcome your feedback.
For more information please contact Jodi Bromberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-581-6804.