On late Friday, JTA, the Jewish newswire, did its story on the extraordinary news out of Boston: 60% of intermarried families there are raising their children Jewish.
Unlike the Boston Globe story, the JTA story, by Sue Fishkoff, more explicitly makes the connection between outreach and intermarried families raising their children Jewish, starting with the title “Investment in outreach is paying dividends in Boston, study suggests”:
“CJP is the only federation that has made a serious commitment for over 10 years to fund [outreach to interfaith families],” said Paula Brody, outreach director of the Northeast Council of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose organization receives $140,000 a year from the Combined Jewish Philanthropies for a wide variety of adult-education seminars and workshops aimed at interfaith couples and individuals considering conversion. “We offered these programs before the CJP funding, but it has enabled us to expand our offerings and advertise them in the secular press, so we can reach the unaffiliated.”
Our own Ed Case is quoted in the article, also arguing the case for the connection between outreach and interfaith families making Jewish choices.
The JTA story goes into detail how San Francisco, another city with a well-funded, well-organized collection of outreach programs, has also had higher-than-average rates of intermarried families raising their children Jewish:
San Francisco’s Jewish federation experienced similar results, according to planning director Karen Bluestone. That federation was one of the first in the nation to fund interfaith programming, she notes, following a 1986 Jewish communal study that revealed large numbers of intermarried families.
In the 20 years since, the Jewish population has more than doubled in the San Francisco Bay Area and intermarriage has increased, but increasing numbers of those interfaith households are identifying with the Jewish community.
A 2004 communal study showed that 40 percent of the children in interfaith households are receiving formal Jewish education, and 40 percent of the adults indicated that their interest in Judaism has increased in the past five years. The numbers are about the same for Jews and non-Jews, she said.
While Bluestone admits that “there’s no causality in the data,” she said she sees a correlation between increased outreach and increased Jewish identification.
“Due to the investments we’ve made since 1986 in outreach and training to be more welcoming to interfaith families, we’ve seen a rise in the number of interfaith families identifying as Jews and raising their children Jewishly,” Bluestone said.
Brody also makes the important point how there is beginning to be a change in mindset. In the past, the Jewish community viewed those who intermarried as marrying out of the community; but, as Brody says of interfaith families making Jewish choices, “What’s remarkable is that these families see themselves not as where the Jewish partner has married out, but where the Christian partner has married in.”
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