When Alex Schindler pioneered outreach in the early ’80s, the focus was on interfaith couples. It was all about getting those who had intermarried to feel welcome in the Jewish community, and feel like the Jewish community was something they wanted to be part of.
But what about their children?
According to the National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01, there are 360,000 Jews aged 18 to 29 whose parents are Jewish and something else. While some of these children benefited from the outreach revolution of the ’90s, most did not. Yet the Jewish community’s outreach efforts remain mostly focused on interfaith couples.
The latest cover story for j, the Jewish news weekly of northern California, explores this untapped population of children of interfaith couples. It’s a very diverse population, ranging from children who grew up with no religion, to children who grew up with too much religion, to children who were raised solidly in one faith.
One problem facing these adults–or really anyone without a preexisting connection to a synagogue–is the lukewarm welcoming newcomers get at most synagogues. While there are certainly exceptions–Chabad chief among them–congregants and clergy don’t always make a point of setting newcomers at ease, whereas many churches, especially Evangelical ones, do. From the story:
[Madeline] Adkins [child of an atheistic interfaith upbringing] has noticed during her extensive “shul-shopping” that Jewish institutions are not always as welcoming as she’d like.
“I remember going to an Easter service once and being so welcomed. They really wanted me to join,” she said. “I’ve rarely had this experience with a Jewish congregation. There isn’t that, ‘Oh, yeah! Come join us!’”
This population is only going to grow, and it is vital for the Jewish community’s health to figure out how to engage them.
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