InterfaithFamily.com has been in the press lately, and I just wanted to share some of the articles and some quotes with you.
Julie Wiener wrote a column this past week on why her interfaith family is committed to lighting Shabbat candles. She found out she’s not unusual:
Interestingly, there are quite a few of us die-hard candle-lighting interfaith families. A recent study by Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies found that (at least in the Boston area) 54 percent of interfaith families who are raising Jewish children light Shabbat candles “all of the time” or “usually,” compared to 36 percent of Conservative families and 20 percent of Reform families in which both parents are Jewish.
As Ed Case, the publisher of InterfaithFamily.com, explains it, “many intermarried families take Jewish involvement more seriously, and try harder than in-married families who may take their Judaism for granted.”
InterfaithFamily.com’s President Ed Case’s editorial on the study, here published by The Jewish Week, brings out the point that outreach to interfaith families seems to work to make them feel more connected to the Jewish community.
What can Jewish communities do to encourage intermarried couples to raise Jewish children? The reports shed important new light on the impact of two controversial interventions – rabbinic officiation, and participation in outreach programs.
Both studies find a strong correlation between Jewish officiation at the weddings of intermarried couples, and those couples raising their children as Jews.
In Boston, 54% of intermarried families who raise children Jewish report they had only Jewish clergy as officiants at their weddings; only 10% of intermarried families who do not raise Jewish children report they had only Jewish clergy.
The National Center reports a “statistically significant relationship:” 87% of couples who had only Jewish clergy were raising Jewish children, compared to 63% who had other officiants and were raising Jewish children.
The National Center study is noteworthy for its extensive, unfiltered comments from survey participants. Many related how positive their experience was when rabbis signified their acceptance by officiating at their weddings. Feeling accepted is critically important: 77% of Jewish partners and 64% of non-Jewish partners wanted to feel more accepted by the Jewish community, and 67% said their spouse feeling comfortable would lead them to join a synagogue.
Rabbi Lev Baesh, the Director of our Resource Center for Jewish Clergy, also wrote an editorial on rabbis officiating at interfaith weddings, this week.
We were proud and pleased to read an interview with Lev in India New England about being an officiant at Jewish-Hindu weddings. I have one more quote for you, from that article–just because I thought it was evocative:
[The Hindu people I’ve married] were all first generation Americans. Their parents were immigrants.
… When I did the really big Jewish wedding, everyone from the Hindu side of the family [didn’t come to the Hindu ceremony] because they knew it would be really long — but during the Jewish portion … the seats were full, and people were standing in the aisles.
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