Susan Jacobs has an article on interdating in today’s issue of the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. She treats the issue sensitively, although the general impression left by the article, that it is possible for parents to effectively discourage their children from interdating (and intermarrying), is not realistic, in my view.

I’ve explained my own views on this subject in How to Talk to Your Kids about Interfaith Dating: For Those Married to Jews or in Interfaith Marriages.

Because the Pittsburgh article did not express my views fully, I wrote the following letter to the editor:
Continue reading

Conversion again


As the Jewish New Year starts, the issue of promoting conversion is prominent once again. As we noted in last Friday’s post, Rachel Zoll, an excellent AP religion writer, wrote a problematic article about Jews encouraging conversion.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last two days writing letters to the editor of every newspaper that I think published Rachel’s article. It’s an eclectic list, ranging from major papers in major media markets like the Washington Times, the Miami Herald, the New York Post, and the Chicago Sun-Times, to much smaller cities, like Jackson Hole WY, Lincoln NE, Daytona Beach, El Paso, Portsmouth NH, and many in between.

Why bother? Because I’m very concerned about the reactions interfaith couples will have to the story.
Continue reading

Attitudinal Shifts in Favor of Outreach


Our friends at STAR (Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal) issued an interesting press release today on their new survey of rabbis’ attitudes. Over 100 rabbis who are participating in STAR’s programs responded to questions about their goals and views of the future as the Jewish New Year begins.

Of particular interest to us:
Continue reading

Should High Holiday tickets be free?


Sue Fishkoff, the JTA correspondent who focuses on Jewish identity and affiliation, has just launched a new blog. Her first entry raises the question whether High Holiday tickets should be free. I posted this response:

I understand both sides of this issue. As a former synagogue president, I know what it costs to run a synagogue, that synagogues depend on member to pay dues to cover those costs, and that many members, for better or worse, attend primarily on the High Holy Days.

On the other hand, as president of, I know that the high cost of synagogue membership is a serious obstacle to the goal of having interfaith couples raise their children as Jews which synagogue membership definitely fosters.
Continue reading

Interfaith Couples During the High Holidays and More


A lot of relevant articles today:

  • One of the lead stories for the new issue of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles is titled “September is a struggle for interfaith families.” While the article does discuss the oft-addressed issue of taking off work and being accepted in synagogue, it also brings up another less-publicized issue: the difference between Christian and Jewish concepts of forgiveness, and how that can make it difficult for non-Jewish partners to embrace the High Holidays. As Rabbi Neal Weinberg says in the article, it’s “the difference between the Christian concept of unconditional love, which mandates that people be automatically forgiven, with the Jewish concept of justice, which insists that individuals be held accountable for their actions.”
  • Continue reading

    Attitudes vs. Facts


    While more than 50 percent of teenage Conservative Jews say they want to marry a Jewish partner, only 18 percent date Jews exclusively.

    This very interesting fact was relayed to IFF by Ariela Keysar, a noted demographer at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. This was one of the findings of a study she co-authored for the Conservative movement called The Next Generation: Jewish Children and Adolescents.
    Continue reading

    Esther: A Hero for Christians?


    Whatever its other faults, the success of the The Passion of the Christ last year demonstrated a powerful fact: religious movie-goers have massive buying power. In the wake of The Passion, numerous movies have tried to tap the potential of the religious market: Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Medea’s Family Reunion; The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe; The Nativity Story, coming out in December, about the events leading up to the birth of Jesus. But the common thread to all these movies is their appeal to the Christian movie-goer. Which leads to the question: are there any movies for the religious Jewish movie-goer?
    Continue reading

    Yay for J.!

    Cover of the J.jpg

    Part of my job is trawling through Jewish newspapers for stories of interest to interfaith families and those who work with them. Most papers have items of interest every few weeks, but there is one paper that seems to always have intermarriage on its mind: the J., San Francisco’s Jewish paper. (It’s full and proper name is a doozy: J., the Jewish news weekly of northern California (formerly the JEWISH BULLETIN of Northern California)).

    Part of this has to do with the community it serves. While San Francisco’s intermarriage rate is actually lower than the national average, it is high for an established Jewish community of its size (228,000, according to a 2004 population survey, which makes it one of the 10 largest in the U.S.). But unlike some other cities with high intermarriage rates, San Francisco doesn’t close its doors to interfaith families; indeed, the Bay Area is on the cutting-edge of outreach, and is home to numerous terrific outreach programs, including Building Jewish Bridges in Oakland and Interfaith Connection in San Francisco. This might partly explain why that same 2004 population study showed that interfaith families in the San Francisco area were more Jewishly engaged than interfaith families elsewhere.
    Continue reading

    Talk Like a Jewish Pirate


    As some of you may know, today is “International Talk Like a Pirate Day.” I thought this had nothing to do with interfaith families, until I saw this story from the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles on the history of Jewish pirates. Among the nuggets of gold from the article is the fact that a number of pirates were Conversos, Jews who practiced Christianity in public and Judaism in secret to evade the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition. So in a way, every married Converso was intermarried. (It’s a stretch, admittedly, but so was basing a movie on a Disney ride, and look at how that turned out.)

    Here are some Jewish pirate-related jokes I’ve heard today:

    What do you call Jewish pirates?
        People of the Hook.

    What does a Jewish pirate do on Yom Kippur?
        Blows the shof-aarrr.

    What did the Jewish pirate say when he heard tekiah?
        “Thar she blows.”

    What happens when a Jewish pirate turns 13?
        He has a barrrr mitzvah.

    But what does he have to wait until 17 to do?
        See an aarrrr-rated movie.

    Honoring Non-Jews at Synagogue


    JTA has a great, I mean just terrific, story today on how a number of synagogues are using the High Holidays as an opportunity to publicly thank non-Jews in interfaith families who are raising their children as Jews:

    As intermarriage rates continue to rise, and more intermarried families join congregations, increasing numbers of non-Orthodox rabbis are looking for ways to acknowledge the non-Jews in their midst.

    While Conservative and Reconstructionist rabbis tend to be more low-key about it, Reform rabbis like [Rabbi Janet] Marder and [Rabbi Larry] Raphael have come up with a wide variety of ways to express gratitude ranging from festive meals to public ceremonies.

    Continue reading