Two Friends

We had a pretty big week at InterfaithFamily.com last week. As we’ve already mentioned, it’s our fifth anniversary as an independent organization, and the 200th issue of our Web Magazine, and we had great coverage in the New York Jewish Week and the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. We launched our new User Survey and have already had a big response (you can win an iPod if you take it!), and we revamped our Discussion Boards so that registration isn’t required, and they’re already busier. I was in Los Angeles Monday through Wednesday, speaking at a conference for RAVSAK (the association of Jewish community day schools) and having a series of meetings that are going to result in significant new funding for us. And we had a meeting of InterfaithFamily.com’s Board of Directors on Thursday, with a presentation by Harvard sociologist Chris Winship, the co-chair of CJP’s community survey committee, on the results of the 2005 Boston Jewish Community Survey.

But something happened Friday night that topped it all.

On Friday night I went to services at a local Reform synagogue. The husband of someone very involved with IFF went to the mikvah at Mayyhim Hayyim on Friday and completed his formal conversion to Judaism; his conversion was recognized at the service, and he spoke about his journey.

This wonderful, accomplished man met his wife in college. She made it clear that having a Jewish family was very important to her, and he was willing to go along. He didn’t know what it would all mean at the start, and he was supportive, but on the periphery. Then they came to Boston, and his wife started getting involved in the Jewish community here. He said that he experienced an incredible welcome from CJP, the Boston federation, being invited to participate in programs and just warmly included by CJP’s leaders. And he said he felt invited and welcomed by what he found on InterfaithFamily.com. He got more involved himself, studied, and — sixteen years after his wedding — he decided to “make it official.”

To think that the work we do at InterfaithFamily.com had even a small part in this man’s journey was deeply moving to me. It made the impact of a welcoming approach to interfaith couples very concrete and inspired me to move ahead to the next five years.

*****

In other news, there is a story in the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle about our friend Sherry Israel, who spoke at Beth Shalom, a local Conservative synagogue. Sherry is a highly regarded social scientest (and my teacher at the Hornstein Program at Brandeis). Among other quotes:

On day schools admitting the children of non-Jewish mothers: “Here’s a family that wants to give a child a Jewish upbringing, and that includes a deep Jewish education. We should say no? Let’s find a way to say yes.”

On permitting non-Jewish family members to participate in life-cycle events, including taking part in the symbolic passing of the Toard during a Bar or Bat Mitzvah: “People who study these matters say the bimah isn’t sacred space… There is no prohibition against non-Jews touching a Torah. Take the situation of the non-Jewish mother who has done all this work raising the child. Hasn’t that mother been helping pass the tradition?”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

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