We’re based in Newton, Mass., and receive great support from Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Boston’s Jewish federation. One of our biggest fans is Barry Shrage, executive director of CJP. So admittedly I’m a bit biased, but this article in Ha’aretz about Shrage’s recent sabbatical in Jerusalem shows that Shrage “gets it” in a way that few Jewish establishment leaders do. A sample of quotes: “Our obsession with numbers is simply not a good thing.” “Within 10 to 15 years, most Jews will live in religiously intermarried families, and in such a situation, it is no longer possible to rely solely on ethnicity and continue to be relevant to all these Jews.” “For us, Israel no longer has to justify its existence, but it must progress to the next stage, of the joint creation of a perfect Jewish society…”
The (London) Jewish Chronicle reports that rabbis in the country’s small Liberal movement (similar to America’s Reform movement) have seen a “sharp rise in requests to give blessings to mixed-faith marriages.” It’s still only a tiny amount: 60 so far this year for the entire country, compared to 30-40 last year. But the increase shouldn’t be a surprise considering recent official census figures from Britain on the increase in interfaith dating and cohabitation.
A while back The Jerusalem Post wrote an op-ed arguing that Israel needs to do more to attract American visitors beyond the three core groups: Orthodox Jews, evangelicals and birthright-ers. One of the trips it proposes–and one we were thinking about helping organize last summer before the war broke out in Lebanon–is a trip for interfaith couples. The Post’s expectation is that a trip to Israel would “widen their faith-based definition of Judaim to include historical concepts of peoplehood, land, state, language and culture.” It will certainly do that, but a less agenda-oriented way to look at is that Israel is a fascinating place for people of all religions: some of the world’s holiest sites in four religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Ba’hai) are packed into a country smaller than New Jersey.
The Forward has a wonderfully amusing interview with Alessandro Piperno, the Italian author of The Worst Intentions, which is being billed as Portnoy’s Complaint on the Tiber. Piperno is the son of a Catholic mother and a Jewish father, as is his protagonist, Daniel. The book has been controversial in Italy for its portrayal of Rome’s Jewish upper class as hedonistic and self-abosrbed. Says Piperno, “After an endless series of books written in the footsteps of Primo Levi, here we find ourselves with a half-Jew who tells the story of a Jewish family who, to exorcise the memory of extermination, chooses hedonism, wealth, sex-mania. Evidently, in Italy, this is intolerable.”
In France, a rabbi who married a Protestant pastor has been fired from his post. Interestingly, Jonathan Levy, 53, and his wife, Catherine Stoerkel, 35, met when Stoerkel was investigating her past and found out she had Jewish family origins.
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