When my husband read an early draft of this essay, he asked, "Why doesn't her partner have to support our daughter? After all, they agreed to raise children as Jews." What does it mean to raise a Jewish child?Go To Parenting
We’re not the only bloggers who have picked up on the implications of the news from Boston that 60 percent of intermarried families there are raising their children Jewish:
Following up on last week’s post on Yossi Abramowitz’s comments on how the Jewish community spends too much time on issues of exclusivity and survival, Irwin Kula did an interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on a similar theme:
Every year, the Forward, the national Jewish newspaper, compiles a list called the Forward 50, a list of the 50 most notable Jewish figures from the previous year. “Each year’s compilation is a journalistic effort to record some of the key trends and events in American Jewish life in the year just ended, and to illuminate some of the individuals likely to shape the news in the year ahead,” says this year’s introduction. “… We’ve chosen [the 50] because they are doing and saying things that are making a difference in the way American Jews, for better or worse, view the world and themselves.”
In 2001, our president and publisher, Ed Case was chosen for the list. This year, arguably seven of the 50 have a connection to intermarriage or engaging the intermarried. They are:
A bunch of interesting stuff from the past week or so:
It turns out they were part of a clever and buzz-generating marketing campaign from L.A.’s Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries, which is trying to market itself to interfaith couples and families. Mt. Sinai gets points not just for a great marketing ploy, but for having the courage to provide a burial spot for the growing interfaith population–it’s one of the emerging problems for the significant number of baby boomers who have intermarried.
An editorial co-authored by our president and publisher, Ed Case, will be in tomorrow’s issue of the Forward and is now available online.
Co-authored by Kathy Kahn, director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Department of Outreach and Synagogue Community, “Engaging the Intermarried” offers a blueprint to other communities who are looking to engage intermarried families and encourage them to raise their children Jewish. It’s not noted in the editorial, but the previous demographic study of Boston’s Jewish community, done in 1995, showed that 33 percent of the area’s interfaith households were raising their children Jewish; only 10 years later, that percentage had nearly doubled, to 60 percent.
Why? Because more so than any other community, with the possible exception of San Francisco, Boston has made outreach to interfaith families a priority, both in terms of attitude and financial support. As the editorial says:
As the op-ed explains, it’s also about an overarching approach that focuses on good programming (Boston has a rich variety), working through the religious movements (the CJP directly funds the Reform and Conservative movements), use of welcoming language (which is incorporated into invitations for every CJP event), marketing (especially online) and evaluation.
Both the Forward and the New York Jewish Week did stories about the news. The Forward article, by Nathaniel Popper, followed a similar tenor as the JTA article, connecting the results to Boston’s outreach efforts, and makes the important point: “The findings from Boston could fuel and shift the long-standing national debates over Jewish demographic trends, a seemingly obscure but perennially divisive topic in Jewish philanthropic and religious circles.”
The New York Jewish Week article, however, focuses on critiques from opponents of outreach:
If those complaints aren’t weak enough, in the Forward article, Cohen, pointing to the study’s finding that Jewish women in intermarriages raise their children Jewish much more often than their male counterparts, says: “For those who believe that welcoming has made the difference, they have to answer why Jewish women feel much more welcomed than Jewish men … If there is a difference, it’s probably attributable to Boston’s superb efforts in Jewish culture.” For a sociologist, he should know better: women almost always take the lead role in child-rearing, so of course they’re going to more often dictate their child’s religious upbringing. But the fact that they make a Jewish choice isn’t a given; that choice can be encouraged by the local Jewish community through outreach programs.
Meanwhile, the authors of the Boston study, Leonard Saxe, Charles Kadushin and Benjamin Phillips, wrote an op-ed for the Forward that discusses the 60 percent news, but from a slightly different angle. They focus more on the “the broad range of Jewish insitutions that serve religious, cultural and educational needs.”
Greetings InterfaithFamily.com readers! I wanted to share with you all a very interesting experience I had the other night. Quite often, my position here at InterfaithFamily.com as the Community Connections Coordinator intersects with my “real life” outside of work – as evident in the story I’m about to tell you. Outside of working here, one of my volunteer hats is to be the Social Action chair of my synagogue board. Part of this role is to attend the monthly temple board meetings to give a report. Monday night was our monthly meeting, however, it was like no other meeting I had ever attended. The rabbi of our congregation is retiring after over 30 years of service to the community, and our congregation has the daunting task of finding a new rabbi to be the spiritual leader of what is a small, but very warm – and extremely diverse – Reform congregation. Our search committee and long range planning committee brought a candidate to meet with us at our monthly meeting, and we had the opportunity to ask this rabbi as many questions we could come up with!
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.