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The Board and staff of InterfaithFamily.com are thrilled that Karen Kushner has joined us as Chief Education Officer. We are establishing a presence on the West Coast, with Karen in San Francisco, and want to extend a big and warm welcome to her and tell you about our exciting plans.
This development has been a long time coming. We’ve been talking with Karen for years about the possibility of working together, at least since the May 2007 conference IFF held for outreach professionals. Last fall we started talking with two foundations, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, and the Walter and Elise Haas Fund. They had been among IFF’s first funders, and later funded Karen’s work first with Project Welcome of the Reform movement, and then on her own as the Jewish Welcome Network. Both foundations made “bridge/planning grants” to support Karen’s ongoing work in the Bay Area until June 30, 2010 and to plan for a transition into IFF, and then made generous grants to IFF to enable us to bring her on board. Needless to say we are very grateful to our funders!
We issued a press release back on August 3 and our news has been covered in eJewishPhilanthropy, j the Jewish newsweekly of northern California, the (New York) Jewish Week, and Jacob Berkman’s Fundermentalist blog on JTA.
We think the media has been interested because the last few years have not been a time of growth in Jewish non-profits or in the field of engaging interfaith families in Jewish life. We hope our growth is a sign of positive change!
The reason we felt this combination was a great strategic idea is that Karen has tremendous expertise in precisely the two areas where IFF wants to grow: Jewish education, especially for families with young children, and training of Jewish professionals and organizations on how to attract and engage people in interfaith relationships.
IFF has been recognized by others, most notably the Slingshot guide to innovative Jewish organizations, as the central web address for people in interfaith relationships who are interested in Jewish life. Our strength has been in personal narratives by people in interfaith relationships about how they resolve common issues. We started on our own to develop more “how-to-do-Jewish” resources, most notably our series of eleven Resource Guides, but it was clear to us that we needed to expand these resources based on what we heard from users, including in our 2007 online User Survey. Karen has extensive experience creating exactly these kinds of resources. She is the co-author with Anita Diamant of How To Raise a Jewish Child, and at the Jewish Welcome Network she created a series of booklets that will now be offered by IFF. Our long-term goal is to provide a comprehensive set of text, video and multimedia resources, and online classes designed to respond to the unique perspective of interfaith couples and to support their engagement in Jewish practices. No one is better suited than Karen Kushner to direct this work for IFF.
With respect to training of professionals and organizations, the InterfaithFamily.com Network helps many rabbis and other Jewish professionals publicize their and their organizations’ work with interfaith families; we have a Resource Center for Jewish Clergy that is the only cross-denominational effort to help rabbis work with interfaith couples including on the issue of officiation; and we have a Resource Center for Program Providers (which has never been staffed) designed to support program offerings for people in interfaith relationships. Karen has excellent relationships with rabbis – for example, at the request of the CCAR (the Reform rabbis’ association), she participated in leading sessions at their recent conference. Karen is ideally suited to strengthen the work of the RCJC and will direct the RCPP in offering resources, models, and trainings for Jewish professionals and organizations. We plan to become the central web address, not only for people in interfaith relationships, but also for Jewish organizations and professionals who work with them.
This is definitely a win-win combination. Adding Karen to our staff strengthens IFF’s ability to accomplish our mission to engage interfaith families in welcoming Jewish communities, and expands the reach of Karen’s skills and expertise to our national web based platform. We will be opening a new office in San Francisco, and have added to Bay Area residents, Paul Cohen and Nancy Gennet, to our Board of Directors. We’re in the process of planning an event in San Francisco on October 28 to celebrate!
I hope you will join me in welcoming Karen Kushner to InterfaithFamily.com and I’m sure Karen would love to hear from you – you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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