Facebook Is Not a Waste of Time

About four months ago, I signed up for Facebook. Several of my younger friends in the Jewish communal world had been clamoring for me to join. They had “tagged” photos of me in their profiles, whatever that meant. I was skeptical. I’d spent some time on MySpace. It was a disorganized mess. I had set up a profile there months before, never checked it again, and continued to receive friend requests from people with names like “Suzi” and “Candy.” Would Facebook be any better?

Ultimately, it wasn’t the clamor of friends that led me to enlist. It was work. IFF was, and is, considering doing something with online social networking. Having not been involved in any social networks up to that point–and being the youngest person in the office–I needed to get up to speed. Alongside Facebook, I signed up for Yelp! and Shoutlife, a Christian social network. I never look at my Yelp! page and plan to shut down my Shoutlife profile, but I’ve checked my Facebook homepage every day for at least the last two months. My name is Micah, and I am a Facebook junkie.

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Why Jewish Summer Camp?

summer camp

Overnight summer camp is awesome. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a former camper who disagrees.

But why do parents send their kids to summer camp? More specifically, why do Jewish parents send their kids to Jewish summer camp?

In a terrific essay for the (Vancouver, B.C.) Jewish Independent, Kelley Korbin writes of her shock at hearing that “many Jewish parents send their kids to Jewish camps so they’ll meet a Jewish spouse.” So why does she send her children to Jewish camp? “It’s simple really,” she writes. “I chose Jewish summer camp for my kids because that’s where I went.”

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Progressive Conservatives

Arnold Eisen’s inauguration as the chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary last fall has generated a fair amount of excitement in the Jewish world. As the first non-rabbi to serve in the role in more than 65 years and one of the leading sociologists of American Jewry, he is widely seen as bringing a fresh perspective to his leadership of the Conservative movement’s flagship institution.

So far, his statements about intermarriage have been encouraging, but I’m really enthused about what he said in this recent Q&A with the St. Petersburg Times. His response to a question about intermarriage is so positive that I want to share its entire text: Continue reading

Unclassifiable

How’s this for an unlikely story? A non-Jewish Korean professor of Jewish history at Brandeis does anthropological research that debunks cherished Jewish-American myths about shtetl life in 19th-century eastern Europe.

In The Forward, Gabriel Sanders profiles ChaeRan Freeze, who showed in her first book, Jewish Marriage and Divorce in Imperial Russia (2001), that Jewish divorce rates in 19th-century Russia were much higher than the rest of the population. Her next book looks at sexual norms in the shtetl.

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The Other Jamie-Lynn

JTA’s Dina Kraft has a nice piece today that connects to several of our recent stories. As Nate Bloom reports in today’s installment of Interfaith Celebrities, Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Meadow Soprano on “The Sopranos”) recently visited Israel as part of a birthright israel tour. Birthright israel provides young Jewish adults who’ve never visited Israel before with a free trip to the Jewish state–not like Sigler couldn’t afford to pay her own way.

The story touches on the way that Israel can make children from interfaith backgrounds, like Sigler, feel a powerful connection to the Jewish people and story:

“It’s one of the most beautiful, inspiring places I’ve ever been to,” Sigler said. “I now have a greater understanding and motivation about preserving my Jewishness.”
Among the highlights she noted were riding camels in the desert, dining on roast lamb in a Bedouin tent and exploring the back alleys of Jerusalem’s Old City.
Sigler said she was especially moved during her visits to the Western Wall, where she was surprised by her tears, and to Yad Vashem, where the Holocaust and its history suddenly felt deeply personal.
“I started to think, ‘What if I was there, what if I had been ripped away from my family?’ ” she told JTA.
Sigler said Israel had been a fairly abstract concept before the trip, with her images limited to the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict portrayed in the media.

While children from interfaith backgrounds have been going on birthright israel trips for years, there have only been a handful of trips to Israel for interfaith couples. And unlike birthright, nobody’s paying for their visits to the Holy Land. But a recent study has shown that trips to Israel can have a powerful effect on interfaith couples.

Cracks in the Orthodox Armor?

Our site is full of stories of people who encountered resistance to their interfaith relationships from Jewish family. But their problems pale in comparison to the rejection and ostracization experienced by Jews from the Orthodox community who are dating or married to non-Jews.

In her latest “In the Mix” column, Julie Wiener tells the story of “Ilana,” an intermarried Orthodox woman who “was urged to hide her children from her grandfather and tell him she was still single, for fear the news of her intermarriage would trigger a heart attack.” In the Orthodox world, intermarriage is one of the great taboos–perhaps akin to declaring yourself a racist in the secular world.

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Tahiti’s 200 Jews

Tahiti

Keeping with the theme of island paradises, Ben Frank of JTA has written a story on the tiny Jewish community of Tahiti, where more than half of the Jews are intermarried.

The island is home to one Orthodox synagogue and while Shabbat services attract only about 20 regular worshippers, most of the island’s 200 Jews attend High Holiday services.

Having an Orthodox shul as the isle’s only religious option makes for some interesting situations. For years, the synagogue’s sunday school has admitted children of intermarriage, but it recently started barring children of non-Jewish mothers from attending.

Despite the tension between inclusion and exclusion and tradition and modernity, Joseph Sebbag, a former president of the community, says, “It is not a problem; everyone knows everyone else. …. We are all friends. We’re not so many, we are a family. Just that everyone knows we have an Orthodox synagogue.”

The Off-Shore Marriage Industry

Aphrodite Rock in Cyprus

I’ve written before in this space about the difficulties faced by Israeli interfaith couples looking to get married. For quite a few of these couples, the solution to their problem is only a 55-minute flight from Tel Aviv: Cyprus.

According to this Moment magazine article by Karin Tanabe, in Lanarca, one of the wedding meccas, 40% of the marriages involve Israelis marrying Israelis. Cyprus is in such demand for its secular approach to marriage that towns like Lanarca and Aradippou compete for wedding tourists. Aradippou runs a limousine service from the airport to town hall; Lanarca is building a brand-new wedding center next to its town hall.

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Is Judaism Becoming a Girls’ Club?

In the opening line of his latest column for The (New York) Jewish Week, Editor and Publisher Gary Rosenblatt asks:

Is it fair to trace our communal challenges of intermarriage, assimilation and lack of affiliation back to boys losing interest in Jewish life after their bar mitzvah celebrations?

It’s a provocative question that relates to a familiar problem to anyone who’s spent time in synagogues or at Jewish organizations in the last 10 years: Judaism is going female.

While the highest echelons of leadership in the Jewish world remain stubbornly male, the grass roots of Judaism, in synagogues, youth groups and local organizations, is increasingly female. At a conference of young Jewish leaders I attended in November, 23 participants were women–nine were men.

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