Synagogue 3000 (S3K) has released a fascinating new study by Steven M. Cohen and Lawrence Hoffman, How Spiritual Are America’s Jews? Narrowing the Spirituality Gap Between Jews and Other Americans. Given some of Mr. Cohen’s previous writings on intermarriage, both the tone and the substance of this report are noteworthy for highlighting an important path to more Jewish engagement by interfaith families and their adult children. Continue reading
There is a very interesting discussion going on on a listserv for Jewish professionals maintained by our friends at the Jewish Outreach Institute. I wanted to share here the (very slightly edited) posting that I put on that listserv today.
I believe it is of utmost importance for Jewish organizations and communities to offer programs targeted to interfaith couples and families. It is more than a little dismaying to see uncertainty among the Jewish professionals on JOI’s listserv. Continue reading
The Reform movement made a public announcement today that it is closing its regional offices and replacing existing program departments in its national office with teams of specialists. Everyone who cares about outreach to interfaith families should be deeply concerned about the implications of these developments on outreach to interfaith families, which the Reform movement pioneered and has led for more than 25 years.
Prior to 2003, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ, the Reform movement) had a national outreach department and a part-time regional outreach director in each of its 14 regions around the country. Then the outreach department was combined with synagogue membership, and in 2003, because of stated budgetary concerns, most of the regional outreach positions were eliminated. At IFF we started a “Save Reform Outreach” campaign at the time, which some people say played a significant role in preserving some of the positions. Continue reading
Jonathan Tobin is a fiercely intelligent, exceptionally eloquent Jewish journalist who was recently appointed editor of Commentary, an esteemed conservative (small-c) Jewish magazine. I would be a big fan, if it weren’t for his equally fierce, equally exceptional retrograde politics on Jewish issues. Intermarriage, unsurprisingly, is one of his favorite bugbears.
In his first op-ed as editor of Commentary, Tobin makes the remarkable argument that intermarriage and assimilation are bigger villains than Bernard Madoff. Moreover, he says, the whole notion of marketing Judaism to Jews “on the fringe”–the “outreach model”–has been a failure. Therefore, in this brave new world of shrunken philanthropic resources, Jewish givers should abandon outreach and focus only on inreach, like Jewish day camps, day schools and the like.
Two weeks ago, Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and Levi Fishman of the Jewish Outreach Institute wrote an op-ed for The Jewish Week about how 2008 was a year of advances in the field of outreach. 2008 may have been a good year for outreach, but 2009 looks like it could be far different.
The big difference in 2009 will be funding–or rather, the lack of it. A number of financial supporters of outreach have been hurt by Bernard Madoff’s $50 billion investment fraud. One small foundation that focused on engaging the unaffiliated in Boston’s North Shore closed down in mid-December; more recently, the Picower Foundation, a much larger foundation that funded both us and JOI, closed its doors after its nearly billion-dollar endowment was wiped out. Because of the complexities of the investments involved, the full impact of the scandal on the Jewish non-profit world has yet to be determined.
Last night, on NECN (New England Cable News), our CEO, Ed Case, spoke about the impact of the Madoff scandal on IFF’s fortunes, and Jewish non-profits in general: