A little catch-up on some relevant stories from the last two weeks or so:
The j., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California has another great intermarriage-related article. It’s a feature on an interfaith discussion group led by Helena McMahon, who runs Interfaith Connection in San Francisco. Founded 20 years ago, Interfaith Connection is one of the granddaddies of outreach to interfaith families.
I’m not sure if they were inspired by Associated Press reporter Rachel Zoll’s recent piece on conversion, but the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram recently ran a piece on the Conservative movement’s push to convert non-Jewish spouses.
We’ve written letters to a number of Jewish papers, including the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, about the wonderful JTA piece on rabbis who used the High Holidays as an opportunity to honor non-Jewish spouses who are raising their children as Jews. Here is the text of the letter we’ve sent:
The key to the growth and vitality of the Jewish community is interfaith families deciding to raise their children Jewish. But for interfaith families to make this choice, they need to be encouraged, welcomed and even occasionally thanked.
That’s why it was so wonderful to read Sue Fishkoff’s article on honoring non-Jews during the High Holidays services (“The Way to the Bimah,” September 21). Non-Jews who decide to embrace the Jewish community and raise their children as Jewish are making a significant personal choice; they are choosing to sacrifice the passing on of their own religion for the sake of their partner’s religion, and for the sake of the Jewish community at large. They deserve to be honored. As Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, has said and written numerous times, they are “heroes” of Jewish life. It is great to see that a growing number of congregations throughout the country agree with him.
-Micah Sachs, Online Managing Editor, InterfaithFamily.com
-Ed Case, President and Publisher, InterfaithFamily.com
The Jewish News of Greater Phoenix ran a sidebar to the story where they interviewed nine rabbis and one temple administrator at Phoenix-area synagogues. Of the 10 synagogues surveyed, only one has ever used a service as an opportunity to thank non-Jewish spouses. The JTA piece made this phenomenon seem like a bit of a national trend, but I suspect it’s not particuarly common.
But if you’re curious what a sermon thanking non-Jewish spouses looks like, check out this 2004 sermon from Rabbi Janet Marder of Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, Calif.
We told you about the flawed article on interfaith dating in the Jewish Journal North of Boston yesterday. We sent them this letter to the editor as well:
Susan Jacobs has written an interesting but flawed article on Jews who specifically seek out non-Jews to date (“The allure of interfaith dating,” October 6).
There’s nothing wrong with looking at this particular subset of Jews, but to do so without acknowledging that they represent the minority of Jews in interfaith relationships is just irresponsible. Despite Susan Jacobs’ insinuations, very few Jews end up dating non-Jews because they are intrigued by “the mystery of the unknown” or are looking for “a way to rebel against [their] parents or society.” They date non-Jews because they live among them, work among them and socialize among them.
By not recognizing that those turned on by “shiksappeal” (her word, not mine) are in the minority, Jacobs’ article makes all Jews in interfaith relationships look shallow, or self-hating or bigoted. The vast majority of Jews in interfaith relationships are just like Jews in intrafaith relationships: regular people who looking for a love in a world where Jews are a tiny minority.
Online Managing Editor, InterfaithFamily.com
Our letter to the Jerusalem Post regarding Binyamin Netanyahu’s comments on intermarriage was also just published.
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