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The editor’s column in the Nov. 2 edition of the Canadian Jewish News (not online, unfortunately) made an interesting connection between two studies by the American Jewish Committee. One, titled Teaching about American Jewry in Israeli Education, found that only 14 percent of Israeli schools teach anything about American Jewry; the other, titled Young Jewish Adults in the United States Today, found that only one-third of young Jewish American felt that caring about Israel was important to Jewish identity (Israel placed 11th out of 15 markers of Jewish identity).
Taken together, these two facts suggest that the citizens of Israel and the Jewish citizens of the U.S. are drifting apart and prophesy a future where Jewish-Americans feel a much lower level of connection to Israel.
On late Friday, JTA, the Jewish newswire, did its story on the extraordinary news out of Boston: 60% of intermarried families there are raising their children Jewish.
Unlike the Boston Globe story, the JTA story, by Sue Fishkoff, more explicitly makes the connection between outreach and intermarried families raising their children Jewish, starting with the title “Investment in outreach is paying dividends in Boston, study suggests”:
Our own Ed Case is quoted in the article, also arguing the case for the connection between outreach and interfaith families making Jewish choices.
The JTA story goes into detail how San Francisco, another city with a well-funded, well-organized collection of outreach programs, has also had higher-than-average rates of intermarried families raising their children Jewish:
Brody also makes the important point how there is beginning to be a change in mindset. In the past, the Jewish community viewed those who intermarried as marrying out of the community; but, as Brody says of interfaith families making Jewish choices, “What’s remarkable is that these families see themselves not as where the Jewish partner has married out, but where the Christian partner has married in.”
There is extraordinary news this morning: according to a demographic study of Boston’s Jewish community released today, 60 percent of intermarried households are raising their children Jewish.
Michaal Paulson of the Boston Globe did a front-page story on this remarkable development this morning, and the news is clearly striking a chord. As of 9:20 a.m. EST, “Jewish population in region rises” was the most e-mailed story on Boston.com–and rising.
The news is extraordinary for two reasons:
2) For years leading voices in the Jewish community have been referring to intermarriage as a “threat.” This shows it can be an opportunity, an opportunity to expand and enrich the Jewish community. Why is that? Because 50 intermarried Jews create 50 households, while 50 inmarried Jews form 25 households. If only 25 of the 50 intermarried households–50 percent, that is–raise their children Jewish, they are raising the same number of children as the 25 Jewish households. If more than 50 percent of intermarried households raise their children Jewish–as they are doing in Boston–they contribute to a net increase in the Jewish population, which is what Boston has seen in the last 10 years.
We will keep you regularly updated on press about this extraordinary development.
Gina Hagler, one of the writers in our current issue, will be interviewed on her local Washington, DC-area station–Channel 24 for News 4 at 4 on Tuesday, November 14.
She was invited to appear on the TV show as the result of another adoption article she wrote for Washington Parent.
You might want to watch her debut TV appearance if you’re in the DC area.
He’s known best for pretending to be a virulently anti-Semitic Kazakh reporter, but Sacha Baron Cohen, the star of Borat, is the son of Orthodox Jews and is dating Isla Fisher, a non-Jewish Australian actress. You might remember Fisher as the crazy sister from Wedding Crashers.
According to this article and other sources, Cohen and Fisher are engaged and are planning a Jewish wedding, on the condition that Fisher convert.
Also, among the six new Jewish representatives to Congress elected on Tuesday, at least one of them is from an interfaith family. See this blurb from the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix article “Ms. Giffords Goes to Congress”:
For the curious, there are now 30 Jews in the House (up from 26), and 13 in the Senate (up from 11).
As promised, I’m returning to “Untying a civil knot,” where Rabbi Shammai Engelmayer argues that the state should have nothing to do with marriage.
His argument needs to be explained in detail before it can be refuted or critiqued. His fundamental assumption is that marriage is a religious act, and under the principle of the separation of church and state, it should therefore be separate from the state’s control.
He believes the state should instead issue a “civil commitment certificate.” This certificate would essentially be a contract that couples would sign where they would make certain legally binding promises regarding “the exclusivity of the union, how it is to be terminated and what the responsibilities of each party will be at termination and beyond.” Any couple who wants to make their marriage in a religious institution legally binding in the secular world would be obligated to get a civil commitment certificate.
The benefit of this solution is twofold, he argues: one, it frees civil courts from the expense, time and pain of determining divorce settlements because everyone who has a civil commitment certificate will essentially have a prenup; and two, it resolves the contentious issue of same-sex marriage because it would be illegal to bar two homosexual men or women from entering into a contract together.
Reading an obituary of the controversial theater critic Richard Gilman, I found myself pondering a quote of Gilman’s that was referred to in the article. He had said, “I don’t think of myself as a critic or teacher either, but simply — and at the obvious risk of disingenuousness — as someone who teaches, writes drama criticism (and other things) and feels that the American compulsion to take your identity from your profession, with its corollary of only one trade to a practitioner, may be a convenience to society but is burdensome and constricting to yourself.”
Thinking about the quote, I realized that the same thing is true in a different way for interfaith families: The identity as an interfaith family is usually one small part of a family’s overall identity, not something they want to be reminded of all the time–they may be a family with two young daughters, a mom who does x and a dad who does y, close with their friends, family, etc… and also interfaith.
Not much time to write today, but one important link I forgot to share with you on Friday: the cover story of the Oct. 27 issue of the J., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California, was on interfaith families who send their kids to Jewish day school.
The piece is testament to the committed, powerful Jewish choices that interfaith families make, and makes the important point that in some cases, the non-Jewish parent is the driving force behind the children’s Jewish education. (The story even includes the story of a non-Jewish single mother who adopted a child who was born Jewish and decided to send the child to Jewish day school.)
And there’s also this great quote:
Some interesting links:
I read a very powerful article in Tuesday’s New York Times about a 43-year old woman who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. This woman, the mother of a young daughter, is intermarried and grateful for the fact that her Ashkenazic genes–which tend to be linked to a bewildering array of genetic diseases–are not the only ones being passed on to her daughter. In fact, in the article she expresses gratitude that she herself is the daughter of an intermarried couple, hence her genes are not all Ashkenazic.
It’s an article worth reading and reflecting on.