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October 2011 Update

 

 

October 2011

What's in this Update

Organizational Highlights
InterfaithFamily/Chicago
Education Activities
Connections Activities
Advocacy Activities
Marketing
Key Metrics
Finance and Development

Dear Supporter,

The past four months have been exciting and productive for InterfaithFamily.com:

  • We were honored to be included in the Slingshot guide to innovative Jewish organizations for the seventh consecutive year — and this time named one of ten "Standard Bearers."
  • The just-released results of our 2011 User Survey confirm InterfaithFamily.com's impact: growing percentages of intermarried respondents with children at home say we positively influenced their decisions to send their children to Jewish education and their decisions to join synagogues.
  • Visitors are flocking to our greatly expanded "how-to-do-Jewish" resources — 35% of survey respondents came for information about Jewish holidays, up from 25% in 2009 — and finding new Resource Pages, new and revised booklets, video and audio files, downloadable blessings sheets, articles and more.
  • As a result, our traffic increased dramatically. We had 563,055 unique visitors in the twelve months ending October 31, a 32% increase over the same period last year! We had our best October ever, with 61,486 visitors, an 85% increase over October 2010. Facebook fans increased by 55% from 5,127 to 7,947 and Twitter followers by 21% from 1,101 to 1,330 since our last Update in June.
  • We issued an important report on data from our last four holiday surveys that shows that interfaith families, contrary to what some Jewish professionals believe, are in fact interested in programs that are explicitly marketed as "for interfaith families." Our InterfaithFamily/Chicago pilot initiative, to coordinate and provide a comprehensive set of just such programs, and designed to be replicable in communities all over North America, is in active start-up mode.
  • We reorganized our Resource Center for Program Providers and offered our first set of resource materials, on model synagogue website home pages, with much more to come.

There continues to be 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

The Slingshot guide started listing the fifty most innovative Jewish non-profits back in 2004. InterfaithFamily.com is proud to have been included then — and in every year since. This year we are again proud to be included among the inaugural group of ten "Standard Bearers" — organizations listed in at least five editions of Slingshot and chosen not only for sustainability but also because they continue to achieve Slingshot's core criteria of innovation, impact, leadership and organizational efficacy. Read our press release to learn more, and check out the entire Slingshot '11-'12 guide.

The results of our 2011 User Survey are in, and they are very positive.

Of intermarried respondents with children at home, 79% say we positively influenced their knowledge of Jewish life, 34% their decisions to join synagogues — an increase from 24% in 2009 — and 32% their decisions to send their children to Jewish education — an increase from 25% in 2009.

We learned a great deal about who are users are, why they come to the site and what additional resources they are interested in. Check out our blog post, our press release or the full report itself to learn more.

InterfaithFamily/Chicago

InterfaithFamily/Chicago got underway in July. Rabbi Ari Moffic has had over twenty meetings to introduce the project and develop collaborating relationships, with organizations including the JCC of Chicago, PJ Library of Chicago which is part of the Jewish United Fund of Chicago's Joyfully Jewish Family Programs, the Union for Reform Judaism's Introduction to Judaism program, the Spertus Institute and several Conservative synagogues including Anshe Emet and Congregation Beth Judea. We launched our Chicagoland Community Page with many new organization and professional listings. We are developing our first hybrid online/in-person program, Raising a Child with Judaism In Your Interfaith Family, which we plan to offer in February 2012.

Education Activities

The reorganization of our Resource Pages, the gateways by which most people enter our site and find help with the topics they are concerned with, continues. Check out the new Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Resource Page and the new Sukkot and Simchat Torah Resource Page. We had great content for the High Holidays:

We had great new content on Sukkot and Simchat Torah, too, including:

In addition to our holiday content:

There was a lot of celebrity coverage in the past four months:

Rabbi Lev Baesh officiated at what Newsday described as the first legal gay wedding in New York on July 24. We blogged about this extensively, Julie Wiener covered it and Lev wrote an essay for Standing on the Side of Love. We also created an LGBT Resource Page.

If you don't receive our bi-weekly email newsletter highlighting our newest content and would like to, click here. If you have content suggestions, contact our Managing Editor, Benjamin Maron, at benjaminm@interfaithfamily.com.

Connections Activities

Jewish Clergy Officiation Referral Service

Our 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 2010 we responded to an average of 148 inquiries a month; in the first ten months of 2011, we've responded to an average of 178 a month!

We routinely get grateful messages like this one, from Bernie R., on August 23, 2011:

Thank you SOOOOO very much.

Or this, from Mallori R., on August 9, 2011:

I was unsure on where to begin and this information and the website helps tremendously!!

We now have 553 rabbis and cantors to whom we make referrals — an increase of 123, or 28%, since our February Update. Interested clergy should take our Jewish clergy survey.

Network: Members, Organizations, Professionals and Events

From July through October, 361 individuals and 124 professionals created personal pages and joined the InterfaithFamily.com Network; as of the end of October, we had 3,339 members, including 611 professionals. In addition, we've had a net gain of 69 organizations listed on the Network, bringing the current total to 809. Our Director of Network Activities, Adina Matusow Davies, adinad@interfaithfamily.com, would be glad to help you get on the Network.

You can easily find people in interfaith relationships, programs, 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, as well as the new Chicago page. If you are a local federation or funder and are interested in sponsoring a Community Page for your community, please contact Joanna Rothman at joannar@interfaithfamily.com.

Advocacy Activities

Resource Centers for Program Providers and for Jewish Clergy

We have reorganized our Resource Center for Program Providers (RCPP), which is now a private group on the IFF Network. Members of the RCPP can now access a new RCPP Resource Page which will link to marketing, policy, program and training materials that we are now developing. We posted the first marketing materials, recommendations for creating a welcoming synagogue website, in July, and will be adding resources in the coming months. Karen Kushner continues to send a monthly email newsletter to RCPP members. 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, or contact Karen at karenk@interfaithfamily.com.

On June 30 we sent an email newsletter to members of the Resource Center for Jewish Clergy, with six new articles written by clergy, for clergy, on approaches to officiation for interfaith couples, interfaith families at day schools, and different approaches to different types of couples.

Appearances

Karen Kushner led a Yom Kippur study session on the history of intermarriage at Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco. I spoke at the City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in New York on October 28. We will be exhibiting at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Denver, November 6-8, and at the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial in Washington DC, December 14-18.

Program Preferences of Interfaith Families

At InterfaithFamily.com we've always believed that programs designed and marketed explicitly as "for interfaith families" are very effective in engaging interfaith families in Jewish life and community. We've been dismayed at how little such targeted programming is offered around the country, and with our InterfaithFamily/Chicago initiative we are piloting an approach that could turn that situation around.

One of the reasons so little targeted programming is offered is that too many people have the notion that interfaith families do not want to be "segregated," that they prefer to attend general programs for everyone. While some interfaith families don't want to be singled out, we've always believed that many others are interested in programs designed specifically for them, or in attending programs where they will find others like them, especially when couples first put a toe in the water of Jewish life and community.

Two years ago, we started adding questions to our annual December Holidays and Passover/Easter surveys, in an effort to get some data on what interfaith families really do prefer. We finally analyzed the data in four surveys, and the responses of just under 500 intermarried parents raising their children as Jews confirm what we believed: significant percentages of interfaith families are interested in targeted programs and are attracted to organizations that offer them.

Fully 88% of respondents said it was "important" in attracting them to a Jewish organization or synagogue that it offered programs described as "for interfaith families," while 61% said that the program title "Raising a Jewish Child in Your Interfaith Family" would be more likely to attract them than the title "Raising a Jewish Child."

This data has serious policy implications for anyone interested in engaging interfaith families in Jewish life. Check out our blog post and press release or read the full report.

Advocacy Writing

We were saddened by the death of Leonard Wasserman, a hero of the effort to engage interfaith families. Fortunately, Leonard was able to be present at a film event honoring him by Interfaithways, the organization he created, before he died.

Benjamin Maron questioned why celebrities who return to Judaism are greeted enthusiastically while people in interfaith relationships aren't.

In the past four months we blogged about several issues including:

Marketing

According to Hubspot's Website Grader, we now score higher than 99% of other websites in terms of the marketing effectiveness of our search engine optimization.

One third of our traffic is continuing to come from paid search results on Google and from links on Facebook. We engaged a new search engine marketing consultant in July and are getting excellent results.

Benjamin Maron is implementing a social media strategy that has greatly expanded our reach. Just click here to become a fan on our Facebook page. Hubspot's Website Grader gives us a Tweet score higher than 95.5% of others who use Twitter (follow us!).

Summary of Key Metrics

  • Website traffic: We had 563,055 unique visitors in the 12 months ending October 31.
  • Bi-weekly email newsletter: Our October 25 email newsletter was successfully delivered to 8,574 recipients — the first time we've exceeded 8,500.
  • Facebook Fans and Twitter followers: 7,947 and 1,330 as of October 31.
  • Organizations and professionals listed on our Network: We had a net gain of 69 organizations and 124 professionals added to our Network between July 1 and October 31, bringing the total to 1,420.
  • Requests for Jewish clergy officiation referrals: In 2010 we responded to an average of 148 requests for referrals a month. For the first ten months of 2011, we are averaging 178 a month!

In addition to the statistical measures of impact contained in our 2011 User Survey Report, we got some wonderful responses to open-ended questions:

  • "IFF.com is my synagogue away from synagogue, increasing my knowledge of Judaism (I'm the non-Jewish spouse), feeling connected to other people living an interfaith life, and strengthening my resolve to raise my son Jewish."
  • "Interfaithfamily.com has shown me how I can continue to be Jewish and to have a strong Jewish identity even within an interfaith relationship."
  • "I found the name of a local synagogue listed on the website. I contacted the synagogue and spoke with the rabbi and will take my daughter to the children's services in the fall."
  • "I use the site regularly in all my rabbinic work with interfaith couples and individuals converting."
  • "I am a Jewish professional and use interfaith family.com as a resource to educate myself, for materials to use in programming, and for information to be able to make referrals or connections to open and welcoming people in my area."

Finance and Development

Our 2011 projected spending is now $1,122,000. In the past four months we received multi-year grants from the Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation and the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, and renewed funding from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.

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.

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With best regards,

 

Edmund C. Case, CEO

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." The spring holiday commemorating the Exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The Hebrew name is "Pesach." 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.
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