A lot of relevant articles today:
One of the lead stories for the new issue of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles is titled “September is a struggle for interfaith families.” While the article does discuss the oft-addressed issue of taking off work and being accepted in synagogue, it also brings up another less-publicized issue: the difference between Christian and Jewish concepts of forgiveness, and how that can make it difficult for non-Jewish partners to embrace the High Holidays. As Rabbi Neal Weinberg says in the article, it’s “the difference between the Christian concept of unconditional love, which mandates that people be automatically forgiven, with the Jewish concept of justice, which insists that individuals be held accountable for their actions.”
Rachel Zoll, the terrific religion writer for the Associated Press, has a problematic piece today on the issue of conversion in interfaith families. It talks about the renewed push for conversion from the Reform and Conservative movements last year, and the difficulties the Jewish community faces in pushing conversion. But the central thesis seems to be that pushing conversion is actually an effective strategy for gaining new Jews. As proof, she says, “The American Jewish Committee, a leading advocay group based in New York, released the first major study in nearly two decades of why people decide to become Jewish. Among the central findings is that advocating for conversion works.” This statement is flawed for two reasons:
1) “Major” is relative. Less than 40 converts to Judaism were actually interviewed for the study.
2) While the author of the study, Sylvia Barack Fishman, makes a big point of the fact that a number of the participants were happy that they were asked to convert–or conversely, wondered why they weren’t asked sooner–Fishman also notes that there is a big difference between younger interfaith couples and older interfaith couples: the younger couples said they would be put off by a push to convert. In her words, these younger couples have “strong anti-pressure feelings,” “see pressure to convert as a negative,” and “would be ‘turned off to Judaism’ if they were approached about conversion by clergy or even family friends.” So in what way does that prove that “conversion works”?
For a complete statement on our position on conversion and our response to Fishman’s study, read Enough is Enough.
There’s a nice story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the Mother’s Circle, a program for non-Jewish moms raising Jewish children.
And there’s an interesting column from Louise Crawford–who goes by the moniker “Smartmom”–about how this Jewish Buddhist mama in an interfaith family always feels a strange compulsion to go to synagogue during the High Holidays.
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