Seth Meyers is Jew-ish

Seth Meyers reveals that…he’s not Jewish! Despite what “every single Jewish person thinks,” he is not Jewish (though he does have a Jewish grandfather).

In this clip from Late Night with Seth Meyers, he talks about getting married to his now wife Alexi, who is Jewish, under a chuppah, and about his in-laws who consider him “Jewish enough.” Meyers may have thought he was merely being funny, but little did he know he was becoming the poster celebrity for InterfaithFamily!

Gary Tobin, An Appreciation

I was very sad to learn that Gary Tobin died on Monday. He was a brilliant and provocative thinker, and a passionate advocate for opening Jewish communities to include interfaith families and Jews of color.When I stopped being a lawyer and started working in the Jewish non-profit world in 1999, the first gathering I ever attended was an event around the publication of Tobin’s Opening the Gates: How Proactive Conversion Can Revitalize the Jewish Community. I still have that book on my shelf, with many post-it notes interspersed among its pages. Continue reading

Generation Y Defining Jewishness

Steven M. Cohen and Lawrence A. Hoffman’s recent study confirmed that Generation X and the Millienial generation of Jews, currently young adults, are more spiritually inclined than their baby boomer parents. Even so, attracting young Jewish adults into traditional synagogue membership has been a challenge. Generation X and the Millenials do not necessary feel like they have to join the synagogue down the block to be part of a community. Many are creating lay led communities which do a good job of blending modern values with ancient traditions.

A recent Washington Post article talks about the Moishe Houses, a network of group houses where young adults live and organize worship and social gatherings. Young Jews are also expressing their spiritual values through an organization called Jews in the Woods, which meets in rural settings, and in independent minyanim like Tikkun Leil Shabbat. These new organizations often blur denominational lines and focus on creating communities where diversity is valued.

There is an upcoming one-day conference for the children of interfaith families, an often overlooked demographic in the Jewish Community. InterfaithWays and Birthright Israel NEXT are cosponsoring this event in Philadelphia on Sunday May 17th. The goals of this program are for children of interfaith families to connect, and to make sure that their voices are heard and needs are met by the larger Jewish community. This conference can go a long way in helping the mainstream Jewish communities understand the potential of children of interfaith families.
If you go, send me an email and let me know how it was!

Such Traditionalists

Even though InterfaithFamily.com represents a whole new attitude in the Jewish community toward interfaith marriage, about some things we are surprisingly traditional.

For example, when I write about Jewish food, I do not approve of blueberry bagels. They may be very nice pieces of bread, but they are not bagels.

One thing we do that’s innovative is that we are part of a whole collective of related and unrelated Jewish organizations here at 90 Oak Street. The Forward ran an article about how we are all in the same office space together. That’s how we knew about the fundraising video that my old friend Ellen Krause-Grosman produced for Jbooks.com. I pass Ken Gordon’s desk every day on my way in and out of the building. (I do leave eyeball tracks on his books, I admit it.)

We at IFF tend to be more traditional about fundraising, too. We don’t get the former poet laureate of the United States to play piano and sing (well, sort of) for us. No, we do the more usual: networking, making phone calls, writing proposals, making phone calls, meeting with donors and prospective donors and making phone calls. (Also we have a donate button. Over there, on the right. It’s blue.)
It doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy Robert Pinsky singing for Jbooks.com’s supper. We’re hip. Sort of. Continue reading

Heather Is a Facebook Rocker

I’m a facebook addict, I’ll admit it. I resisted for as long as I could, but once we at InterfaithFamily.com started to build our new website which will include social networking technologies (coming out later this year) I had to log on. And now, I’m hooked.

FacebookIt’s not the need to know how many places people have visited or that someone is drinking their morning coffee right this minute. It’s more than that. It’s being able to keep in touch with people, share simchas (joyous events) with friends and family through the pictures they upload, find out what friends who live far away are doing without having to play telephone tag to keep up with them, and even make plans with friends and family locally. It’s also being able to tell people who you are and what you believe in through the groups you belong to and the pages you connect with.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been working on creating InterfaithFamily.com’s presence on Facebook. It’s another way for us to reach out to people who can benefit from our resources, but may not know we exist. All our new content and blog entries are being fed to the page. We also send updates through Facebook to fans when a new email newsletter goes out or when we launch a new contest. Come visit our page, become a fan, take our poll or just drop us a note on our wall! We’d love to hear from you.

A Sad Day for Outreach

Two weeks ago, I was eating lunch with employees of the Robert I. Lappin Foundation, as fellow workers in interfaith outreach marveled at the foundation’s programming and sophistication. On Friday, these employees–and everyone else who worked for the foundation–lost their jobs.

The Foundation was the victim of securities fraud, as it saw its entire $8 million in assets frozen–and probably lost–in the fraud investigation into New York investor Bernard Madoff’s hedge fund. On¬†Dec. 11, Madoff was arrested after admitting that his fund was essentially a $50 billion “Ponzi” scheme.¬†

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Intermarriage in Egypt, Moms, Etc.

Consider this a belated cleaning of online hametz:

The Link Sink

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  • We’re based in Newton, Mass., and receive great support from Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Boston’s Jewish federation. One of our biggest fans is Barry Shrage, executive director of CJP. So admittedly I’m a bit biased, but this article in Ha’aretz about Shrage’s recent sabbatical in Jerusalem shows that Shrage “gets it” in a way that few Jewish establishment leaders do. A sample of quotes: “Our obsession with numbers is simply not a good thing.” “Within 10 to 15 years, most Jews will live in religiously intermarried families, and in such a situation, it is no longer possible to rely solely on ethnicity and continue to be relevant to all these Jews.” “For us, Israel no longer has to justify its existence, but it must progress to the next stage, of the joint creation of a perfect Jewish society…”
  • The (London) Jewish Chronicle reports that rabbis in the country’s small Liberal movement (similar to America’s Reform movement) have seen a “sharp rise in requests to give blessings to mixed-faith marriages.” It’s still only a tiny amount: 60 so far this year for the entire country, compared to 30-40 last year. But the increase shouldn’t be a surprise considering recent official census figures from Britain on the increase in interfaith dating and cohabitation.
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    Obituary for Sherwin Wine

    JTA published a story today on the death of Sherwin Wine, the founder of Humanistic Judaism.

    In many ways, Wine injected an honesty into the practice of Judaism that had been missing prior to his arrival. While many Jews don’t believe in God (certainly more than believe in the Torah as the word of God), the vast majority of affiliated Jews worship at synagogue services infused with God-language. Wine, a Reform rabbi by training and an atheist by inclination, felt reciting such prayers was intellectually dishonest. So he founded an entire movement of Judaism, one that celebrates Jewish traditions but removes mention of a deity.

    Despite its growing popularity in Israel, it has never caught on in the States, one of the few countries in the developed world where not practicing a religion is more of a social stigma than practicing one. The funny thing is, even the most Orthodox of the Orthodox will tell you that believing in God is incidental to being Jewish; either you’re born Jewish or convert under the proper auspices, or you’re not Jewish. It doesn’t matter what you believe in.
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    Rabbi Sherwin Wine, 1928-2007

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    We just found out that Rabbi Sherwin Wine, founder of the Society for Humanistic Judaism, died on Saturday in a car accident while on vacation in Morocco. Secular Humanistic Judaism has consistently been an extraordinarily friendly place for interfaith families to explore Judaism.

    Our sincerest condolences to his family and loved ones.