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 are raising awareness and becoming the central resource in our IFF/Your Communities for people in interfaith relationships and the Jewish leaders who work with them. Our new National Director of Marketing and Communications, Liz Polay-Wettengel, started in March, and is collaborating with Lisa Colton of See3 Communications to develop a strategic marketing plan that will increase visibility of both our web-based activities and our growing local community programs. We also raised awareness and connections by extensive partnering: in Chicago with the JCC (a new in-person “Ask the Rabbi”), PJ Library (a new “JBaby” program), and the Jewish Outreach Institute (“Sunday in the Park with Bagels”); in San Francisco in a multi-session joint training with Keshet, Be’chol Lashon and Jewish Learning Works, with several JCCs, and with Wilderness Torah, Hazon and other Jewish Outdoor, Food and Environmental Education organizations; in Philadelphia with Jewish Learning Venture’s jkidphilly, Gratz College and the Victor Center for Genetic Diseases; in Boston with Reform Jewish Outreach Boston, the Jewish Discovery Institute, and the JCC. We will be expanding our InterfaithFamily Shabbat program, another awareness-raising effort, to run throughout November 2014.
- We are helping Jewish leaders to be inclusive: More than 400 professionals, including religious school educators, rabbinic students, PJ Library coordinators, Hillel, camp and Federation staff, participated in an IFF/Your Community training in the first six months of 2014—more than we trained in all of 2013!
- We responded to almost 1,100 officiation referral requests nationally; in our local communities, we are establishing connections with more than 40 percent of the requesters, beyond our initial email response. Nationally, 80 percent of the requests were for wedding officiation, and of those, 35 percent were for co-officiation. Twenty percent of the requests were for life cycle events other than weddings, including 56 for a bris or baby naming, 59 for conversion, and 42 for a bar or bat mitzvah.
- We help new interfaith couples think and talk about religious traditions in our Love and Religion workshop, originated by Dr. Marion Usher at the DC JCC. In Chicago, we piloted Love, Religion and Baby, for new and expectant parents, in partnership with PJ Library. We also provided individual consultations to almost 200 interfaith couples on issues relating to interfaith relationships.
- Finally, we helped more than 350 interfaith families learn how and why to live Jewishly both with our own offerings, and by leading adult education sessions offered by other organizations. We continue to innovate with our Raising a Child with Judaism in Your Interfaith Family class, offering it as an asynchronous online class, co-branding it to be taught live at other Jewish organizations, and e-mailing the material in low-barrier content-rich PDFs over several weeks.
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:
- [The most useful outcome of the Love and Religion workshop:] “Connecting us with other couples and with resources. We know that we don’t have to figure out everything on our own.”
- [The most useful outcome of the Raising a Child class:] “I think having a community that is accepting is for me the most useful part of the course. Feeling like we can be involved and that we will be accepted is a wonderful thing.”
- “I am about 4 weeks from the birth of my first child and have already reached out to IFF about a bris or baby naming and I am sure this will not be the last time that I reach out.” (participant in Raising a Child class)
- “We had never said the Shabbat blessings at home previously. Now we have.” (participant in Raising a Child class)
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.”
- Rabbi Moffic and Editorial Director Lindsey Silken facilitated two well attended sessions on interfaith engagement at JFNA’s TribeFest conference in March.
- For the first time ever, in March, the 2014 Jewish Funders Network International Conference had a session about engaging interfaith families, at which Ed Case spoke; Ed and Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Reform movement, also spoke at an invitation-only breakfast. A video interview of Ed at the JFN can be viewed here.
- In April, Rabbi Moffic led two sessions at PJ Library’s national conference.
- Jodi Bromberg, our Board members Mindy Fortin and Laurie Franz, and Rabbi Frisch will have a session at the International Lion of Judah convention in September along with Mindy’s daughter Caroline.
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.
Edmund C. Case, CEO
For more information please contact Jodi Bromberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-581-6804.
The first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), or the scroll that contains them. Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation. 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."