There was a great editorial in the Forward a week and a half ago about the two new studies that are showing the American Jewish population has risen since 1990–not fallen, as commonly believed. The editorial makes an important point about why the 5.2 million number, although viewed with widespread skepticism by almost all demographers of the Jewish community, had such traction:
Virtually every scholar of American Jewish population studies understood that the number was wrong, but none of them wanted to descend to the level of polemics. Consequently, the doomsayers and triumphalists had the field to themselves. Maybe now, as the scholarly field begins to speak out, the hysteria can be laid to rest.
Nonetheless, critics of intermarriage have now found a new tactic to denigrate the intermarried: dismiss these important new reports on the American Jewish population as irrelevant, because quantity isn’t as important as quality–which is kind of odd, given the worldwide Jewish obsession over the absolute number of Jews.
Meanwhile, the JTA continues its impressive run of stories on the intermarried in the Jewish community with a story by Sue Fishkoff on interfaith couples searching for Jewish cemeteries where both members can be laid to rest. It’s one of the less-discussed issues for interfaith families, mainly because intermarriage rates were low when people who are currently in their 70s and 80s were marrying. But in the next few decades, it’s going to become a much more significant issue. Luckily, Jewish funeral directors seem ahead of the curve on this issue. The story mentions interfaith-friendly cemeteries in Massachusetts and San Francisco’s East Bay that have opened in recent years–and we’ve recently started listing cemeteries and funeral homes on our Connections in Your Area system. However, as we’ve learned recently, making a Jewish cemetery more inclusive isn’t as simple as just rewriting the cemetery’s policies; some are bound by covenants written decades ago that explicitly bar non-Jewish spouses from being buried.
On the opposite end of the life cycle spectrum, Jacob Berkman of the JTA did a story early last month about Jewish institutions engaging families immediately after a new child is born. One such program is called Shalom Baby, which sends gift baskets with information on the Jewish community to parents of newborns. As Rabbi Kerry Olitzky of the Jewish Outreach Institute points out in the story, this is also a great opportunity to engage interfaith families with newborns.
To complete the lifecycle trifecta, JTA also included a story from campusj.com on the way that Facebook.com is changing the way Jews on campus interact with each other, and is especially helpful as a social forum for Jews of mixed descent.
Finally, our op-ed on marketing community day schools to interfaith families is now online.
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