Last week, Micah Sachs posted about Jonathan Tobin’s first article as editor of Commentary magazine. In a time of limited resources and funding difficulties facing Jewish non-profits, Tobin is arguing for a “circle the wagons” approach against reaching out to interfaith families. I wanted to share the letter to the editor that I’ve submitted:
I take exception to Jonathan Tobin’s comment (The Madoff Scandal and the
Future of American Jewry, February 2009) that “the results of the past two
decades suggest that the outreach model is a failure.” Tobin quotes Gary
Tobin’s estimate that the annual amount of Jewish philanthropic giving is $5
billion. InterfaithFamily.com tracks all outreach programs that target
interfaith families; the Jewish community spends less than $4 million on
such programs — less than 1/10 of 1% of its total spending. The outreach
model cannot be deemed a failure because it has never been implemented on a
Moreover, Tobin’s statement that “what data there are indicate that these
efforts have done little to renew the commitment of Jews on the margins…”
is also wrong. Boston is the only local community where the federation has
funded outreach programs for interfaith families in an organized and
comprehensive fashion and conducted regular demographic studies. Sixty
percent of Boston’s interfaith families are raising their children as Jews,
causing its Jewish community to increase in size, and CJP’s annual campaign
also has grown steadily, from $25 million in 2000 to $42 million in 2008.
The Boston example shows that a Jewish community that is open to and seeks
to engage everyone — including interfaith families — can indeed renew the
commitment of Jews and non-Jews on the margins to the community and its
Edmund C. Case
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