The Power of Letters

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One of the small but important ways IFF advocates for making the Jewish community more welcoming is by writing letters to the editor of papers that run stories on intermarriage. Sometimes we are able to congratulate newspapers and writers for shedding light on important issues and talking about them in a fair, sensitive manner. Other times we’re forced to set the record straight.

Our letter to the editor of the Washington Jewish Week in response to their biased review of Jim Keen’s Inside Intermarriage that we told you about a few weeks ago was recently published.

We also just wrote a letter to the Boston Jewish Advocate regarding its article on the Lappin Foundation and its funding of trips to Israel for Jewish educators and teens. The Lappin Foundation, founded by Robert Lappin, funds several wonderful programs for interfaith families, mostly in Boston’s northern suburbs. But when discussing the reasons for offering these programs, Lappin and his spokespeople consistently denigrate intermarriage, which we think is counter-productive. The article says:

[Lappin Foundation spokeswoman Amy] Powell said that the foundation is serious about funding free trips to Israel because research has shown that the three things that prevent intermarriage and assimilation are Jewish day school, Jewish summer camp and a peer trip to Israel.

In response, we sent this letter to the editor of the Jewish Advocate:

Robert Lappin does wonderful work through his Lappin Foundation (“Foundation funds trips for teachers,” October 4). Sending teenagers and educators on free trips to Israel can only be commended. But he and his foundation make a terrible mistake in the way they consistently demean intermarriage. The article reports Amy Powell, a foundation spokesperson, as equating intermarriage and assimilation. Mr. Lappin and his staff know well that many intermarried families are actively engaging in Jewish life; indeed, they sponsor excellent programs that support their doing so. The article also reports Ms. Powell as promoting the teen trips because they supposedly prevent intermarriage. Teen Israel trips doubtless are a strong factor motivating trip graduates to stay Jewishly involved–but the reality is that many of them will nevertheless intermarry. It would be so easy to promote these programs because they lead to positive Jewish engagement. I cannot understand why Mr. Lappin insists on speaking about intermarriage in a negative way that can only serve to alienate so many of the people that his otherwise positive programs serve.

Edmund Case

President & Publisher, InterfaithFamily.com

Newton, MA

In other news, a new Statistics Canada report came out on Tuesday that showed intermarriage in the general Canadian population is on the rise. The report says 19 percent of all partners in 2001 were intermarried with someone of another religion, compared to 15 percent in 1981. That’s a tad lower than the overall American rate–22 percent–and significantly lower than the Jewish intermarriage rate–31 percent or 27 percent, depending on your source.

The Vancouver Sun did a piece on the report that prominently features a Jewish/non-Jewish intermarried couple who are raising their children as Jews. We were quoted in the online version of the article.

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3 thoughts on “The Power of Letters

  1. I’m really enjoying this blog- but I have one request! Please find a way to publish it with a feed so that folks can subscribe to it using a reader- it’ll make it much easier to keep up with.

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Thanks for the heads up. We’re working on it, and should get an RSS feed button up soon. My apologies for not having it up already.

    Any other technical requests as we look for ways to improve our blogs?

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