Of Shofars, Slingshots and Secrets

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There are a couple of great links today:

  • Julie Wiener, who writes a great column on intermarriage for the Jewish Week in New York, has a particularly good piece today on “coming out” as intermarried in the organized Jewish community. Having a non-Jewish girlfriend and having worked in traditional Jewish journalism from 2001 to 2005, I can empathize; I never lied about her religion, but I would often cleverly maneuver the conversation to other subjects.
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    New Approaches to Officiation in D.C., S.F.

    IFF is in the early stages of developing a resource for rabbis on the issue of officiation at interfaith weddings. It’s a sticky issue for rabbis; the Conservative movement forbids its rabbis from officiating at interfaith weddings, but obviously there are a significant number of interfaith couples in their congregations. The Reform movement’s position is more nuanced: the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the association for Reform rabbis, has a resolution on the books that disapproves of officiation but also leaves the decision up to individual rabbis.

    Once a rabbi decides he will officiate, the situation often gets trickier: What are the conditions? How do you announce the decision to your congregation? The third-largest Reform congregation in the U.S., The Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C., recently went through this process, as detailed in a Washington Jewish Week article. Judging from the article, it sounds like they’ve thought long and hard about the decision, and have come up with a carefully crafted policy that is fair to the needs of interfaith couples and respectful of individual rabbis’ principles.
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    A Muslim-Jewish Wedding

    It appears that we’re not the only ones interested in Muslim-Jewish relationships.

    Ha’aretz recently published this story about the wedding of Hadar Harris, a Jewish human rights lawyer, and Rahim Sabir, a Moroccan Muslim who was one of the United Nations’ first human rights observers in Darfur. This follows a New York Times story about their wedding.

    In the interest of full disclosure–and self-promotion–we should note that Hadar is a loyal reader and supporter of InterfaithFamily.com. Congratulations, Hadar and Sabir!

    Fuzzy Math

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    According to a Baylor University study of Americans’ religious attitudes released today, more Jews believe Jesus is the son of God than attend weekly religious services.

    At first glance, that’s a distressing and embarrassing result for the Jewish community: on the one hand, nearly 10 percent of Jews believe something that is utterly antithetical to basic Jewish doctrine; on the other, we’re so areligious that few of us attend weekly religious services, despite Shabbat’s centrality to Judaism. But a little bit of basic math quickly casts the numbers in a suspicious light.
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    Amy’s Thoughts on Mourning

    This is Amy, the Community Connections Coordinator, blogging for the first time ever – from Micah’s account (mine’s not set up yet). I just couldn’t wait until it was set up, because I had some thoughts about today, being that it’s the 5th anniversary of what I don’t think any of us will ever be able to look at the same, the date, 9/11. I was thinking about how in Judaism, we have this concept of a one year period of mourning, and then when it’s over, we recognize the anniversary of a death each by commemorating a “yahrzeit” – literally a remembrance of a person or an event. A yahrzeit can be a powerful thing; the wounds are no longer fresh, but each year, we never forget and publicly or privately express our own pain of loss and remembrance.

    I started thinking about how on this anniversary, even thought it’s been 5 years later, how raw many of us still feel. I take comfort in Jewish death rituals, but I wonder how many others haven’t been able to rid themselves of their pain. I surround myself in community, and in family, and in friends, but today, I feel sad. If you are in an interfaith relationship, or you are part of an interfaith family, I wonder how (or if) your mourning changes. I share the same traditions and customs with my husband – but what if he practiced another religion than I did? Would each of our own mourning practices comfort each other? How does that get reconciled? Or does it?
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    What We Can Learn from the Zoroastrians

    A few days ago, the New York Times published an article by Laurie Goodstein titled http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/06/us/06 … ref=slogin” target=”_blank”>“Zoroastrians Keep the Faith, and Keep Dwindling.” It says nothing about Judaism, but the similarities between the issues the Zoroastrian community and the Jewish community relating to issues of intermarriage are uncanny. If you just replace the word Zoroastrian with Jewish and priest with rabbi, this article could be about the American Jewish community.

    “We were once at least 40, 50 million—can you imagine?” said Mr. Antia, senior priest at the fire temple here in suburban Chicago. “At one point we had reached the pinnacle of glory of the Persian Empire and had a beautiful religious philosophy that governed the Persian kings.

    ”Where are we now? Completely wiped out,” he said. “It pains me to say, in 100 years we won’t have many Zoroastrians.”
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    Touring the Temple

    Before I went to Salt Lake City for the RNA conference, I was urged by my publisher, Ed Case, to take a tour of Temple Square, the world headquarters of the Church of Latter-day Saints and the site of the original Mormon Temple. Since I always do everything my boss tells me, I snuck out on Friday afternoon to take the tour. It was a fascinating experience, and it has some interesting ramifications for the Jewish community, I think.

    The tour begins unlike any tour you’ve ever been on. After you pass the fleet of young couples being photographed after their wedding at the Temple (which apparently can happen any time of day, any day of the week), as soon as you enter the Temple Square grounds, two missionaries approach you. They introduce themselves, ask your name and ask if you’d like to go on a tour. There are no tickets, no lines, no wait. Even if they only have three people–as my group had–they happily lead you on a tour through the grounds.
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    Courage of the Converts

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    I was on a plane to Salt Lake City to attend the Religion Newswriters Association conference, a three-day conference for mainstream journalists who cover religion. To prepare, I was reading The Impact of Jewish Outreach on the Intermarried and Unaffiliated, a 2001 study by the Jewish Outreach Institute on the effectiveness of outreach programs. It’s one of the few studies of its kind, and like other studies addressing the issue, it finds that outreach does work, that previously unengaged interfaith and unaffiliated families and singles increase their Jewish behaviors after participating in outreach programs.

    That’s important, but I bring up the study because as I was reading the section that analyzes methods of outreach, I came across a familiar name: Pam Waechter. You may not remember the name, but she was the woman who was shot and killed by a gunman at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle in July.
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    The God Squad on intermarriage

    In their recent column, advice columnists “The God Squad” were asked a question by the Jewish parents of a woman who was marrying a religious Catholic man. The God Squad makes a great recommendation–make a definite choice in how you’ll raise the children–but they base this recommendation on some very gloomy-sounding statistics about the future of children raised in Jewish/Christian intermarriages. According to The God Squad:

    In Jewish/Christian intermarriages, roughly four out of 10 kids are raised as nothing. Four out of 10 are raised as Christians, and two out of 10 as Jews. Among the grandchildren of intermarriages, about 95 out of a 100 are lost to Judaism, with slightly less lost to Christianity.

    The best national statistic we’re aware of is that 33 percent of children raised by interfaith couples with one Jewish partner are raised Jewish (which is more like 3 in 10 than 2 in 10). As for how the other 7 of 10 children are raised, there’s no clear national statistic. We emailed The God Squad to find out their source.

    Stay tuned.