A Politician Who Chose Judaism; A Seattle Outreach Program Shutters

Some links of note:

  • The Arizona Daily Star has a story about Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D), a Jewish woman who was born to an interfaith home. What makes it particularly interesting is that her parents–her dad is Jewish and her mother is Christian Scientist–didn’t push her to adopt any particular religion.

    “We were kind of neutral,” Spencer Gifford said. “We let them decide for themselves. That’s what Gabby did.”

    But as a state senator in 2001, she went on a trip to Israel with the American Jewish Committee that the article says was “life-changing.”

    “It just cemented the fact that I wanted to spend more time with my own personal, spiritual growth. I felt very committed to Judaism,” she said. “Religion means different things to different people. It provides me with grounding, a better understanding of who I came from.”

    The article also includes information on each of the other Arizona congressperson’s faiths and it’s a pretty diverse list. There’s one Jew, two Episcopalians, four Catholics, one Presbyterian, one Baptist and one Mormon.

  • If you can believe it, JTA has another op-ed on Steven Cohen’s study of intermarriage, A Tale of Two Jewries. It’s by Cole Krawitz, editor of JVoices.com. For those counting at home, this is the fourth op-ed on the topic.

    This one, like our op-ed and Gary Tobin’s, argues that the notion of two Jewries is a harmful one: “The language of who is worth engaging should raise serious warning flags, for as Jews we all have known what it means to be on the outside.”


    But it also connects Cohen’s study to the recent Brandeis study that shows the American Jewish population is increasing.

  • Seattle is losing a small but valuable outreach program that made a point of doing programming outside of traditional Jewish institutions. Called Panim Hadashot–”New Faces” in Hebrew–the organization is shuttering because of a nearly $100,000 deficit in fundraising for 2007.

    I hadn’t heard of this group before, but its programs all focus on the notion of meeting unaffiliated Jews “where they are.” Rabbi Dov Gartenberg, the founder and prime organizer, led Shabbat gatherings in private homes, hosted seders for different holidays and had a booth at a Whole Foods supermarket where he would talk to anyone interested in Judaism. While many of these are outreach techniques pioneered by Chabad, the JTnews article says the organization promoted a pluralistic vision of Judaism.

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