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For the past eight-and-a-half years, Iâ€™ve been the rabbi of Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai (TMKC). Itâ€™s a small community with a close-knit group of congregants.Â During our Friday night Shabbat service each week, we have Simcha Time:Â when people are invited to come up to the bimah and share about birthdays, anniversaries and other good news.
Dottie Bricker, a TMKC congregant, is an amazing woman with a very strong Jewish background and connection to Judaism and the Jewish people. Dottie grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home. As a young girl, Dottie spoke only Yiddish at home â€“ she didnâ€™t even learn English until she went to kindergarten. Dottie comes to services regularly and often comes to the bima to kvell about her four grandchildren.
Dottie is, in every way, the consummate Jewish grandmother. She bursts with love and pride when she speaks about each of her four grandchildren, all of whom call her â€śBubba.â€ť Though sheâ€™s a Jewish grandmother, not all four of Dottieâ€™s grandchildren are Jewish. Here, in her own words, are Dottieâ€™s thoughts about being a grandmother in an interfaith family.
My Journey that Started Twenty-Two Years Ago (by Dottie Bricker)
It was a few days before Hanukkah when my son Howard called and asked if he could bring someone to our party. I said, â€śOf course.â€ť And he said, â€śMom, sheâ€™s not Jewish.â€ť I asked, â€śIs she nice?â€ť And he answered, â€śVery.â€ť
Howard married Gail a year later. Two years later my Charlie was born, and when he was 3, my Rachel was born. Oh, happy day-Iâ€™m the mother of three boys, the grandmother of three boys and now I finally had my little girl!
After Rachel was born, my son called and said that Gail wanted to raise the kids in her Catholic faith. Then he asked me if I would be OK with this. My answer was, â€śAre you nuts?! I love them the same as the other grandkids. They are the air I breathe. They are my naches.â€ť
When Charlie and Rachel started school, I became very familiar with their school, Our Lady of Good Counsel. When they received awards, I was there at Mass to see them honored. My Charlieâ€™s third grade teacher, Mrs. Yerkes, asked if his Bubba would come to read the story of Hanukkah to his class. I said I would love to. I read the story and taught them to play dreidel. I bought them jelly doughnuts to eat and they had a great time. A few months later, Mrs. Yerkes asked if I would read the story of Passover, and I was happy to go back. I brought matzah for the students to try. They said they liked it, but they liked the jelly doughnuts better.
When Charlie was in fifth grade, he told his teacher about his dadâ€™s small Torah. The teacher asked if he could bring it to school. My Charlie called me and asked if Iâ€™d come to school and teach about the Torah. Once again, I said, â€śOf course.â€ť It was a wonderful experience for me.
My grandkids are now in high school and I have just been retired from my job at Our Lady of Good Counsel. Thereâ€™s a new â€śBubbieâ€ť in Mrs. Yerkesâ€™ class.
My grandkids know that if they need Bubba I will be there for them. I have chaperoned school trips, gone to Phillies games with Rachel and even taken Charlie to the Mother-and-Son Dance when Gail was called into work at the last minute.
I like to say that my family is a â€śblended family.â€ť We learn from each other. Itâ€™s special.
They are truly the air I breathe.
Some Jewish grandparents whose grandchildren are being brought up in a different religious tradition may understandably have a much harder time accepting that reality than Dottie. In my Â blog post about honoring grandmothers of Jewish kids who arenâ€™t themselves Jewish, I noted that, â€śUnlike their own sons and daughters, who fell in love with someone Jewish and made the choice to have a Jewish home and raise their children as Jews (whether or not they themselves became Jewish), these grandparents who arenâ€™t Jewish never had a choiceâ€”theyâ€™re bound by their childrenâ€™s decisions.â€ť Of course, the same is true for Jewish grandparents whose grandchildren are being raised in a different religious tradition. It can be difficult to accept your own childâ€™s decision to not raise your grandchild as a Jew.
Ultimately, itâ€™s a parentâ€™s decision how to raise their child. With mutual respect and lots of communication between grandparents and adult children, grandparents can hopefully find ways to share their Jewish traditions with their grandchildren without the parents feeling that the grandparent is â€śpushingâ€ť Judaism on their child. Â ThisÂ may be hard, and the grandparent may legitimately feel a sense of loss that their grandchild isnâ€™t Jewish (see my blog on acknowledging the loss of a parent who commits to raise children in a religious tradition other than the one they grew up with-this can be all the more difficult for grandparents who didnâ€™t have the choice to make.) But hopefully, like Dottie, the grandparent will love their grandchildren unconditionally, and describe them as nothing less than â€śthe air I breathe.â€ť
Note: All comments on InterfaithFamily are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed.
It was all over the news. â€śIvanka and Jared can ride in cars on inaugurationÂ Shabbatâ€ť proclaimed the New York PostÂ on Thursday, January 19. â€śIvanka Trump and Jared Kushner Get Rabbinic Pass to Ride in Car on Inauguration Shabbatâ€ť said a headline in The Forward. All of my friends were talking about this and posting about it on social media. How could Ivanka and Jared say that theyâ€™re modern Orthodox Jews, who observe the Sabbath, and yet theyâ€™d be traveling in a car following Donald Trumpâ€™s inauguration on Friday, after the beginning of Shabbat? Why were they granted special permission by a rabbi to use a vehicle on Shabbat out of safety? After all, my friends would point out, Ivanka and Jared didnâ€™t have to go to the inaugural balls and galas. Other friends were saying that they probably got the dispensation because theyâ€™re rich and powerful.
The more I heard people criticize Ivanka and Jared, the more uncomfortable I got. Whether or not I like or support them or the president is irrelevant; I donâ€™t think I have the right to criticize Ivanka and Jaredâ€™s Jewish observance.
I often hear people judge interfaith couples and families just as theyâ€™ve been judging Ivanka and Jared.
If the Jewish partner truly cared about Judaism, they say, then they wouldn’t have married someone who isn’t Jewish.Â (For my personal thoughts on this issue, see my postÂ ‘Marrying Out is not ‘Abandoning Judaism’.)
If they wanted to have a Jewish home, they wouldn’t have a Christmas tree.
Their children aren’t really Jewish because the mother is Christian and they never took the children to a mikveh (ritual bath) to convert them.
How could they have had both a rabbi and a priest at their wedding?
How can the Christian mom be raising Jewish kids if she herself goes to church?
Many years ago, Rabbi Israel Salanter said, â€śMost men worry about their own bellies and other people’s souls, when we all ought to be worried about our own souls and other people’s bellies.â€ť What a beautiful teaching! Wouldnâ€™t it be great if all of us could spend less time focusing on and talking about the ways in which other people practice their religion, and more time trying to bring healing to our fractured world?
I spend a lot of time advocating for interfaith couples and families to be accepted by the Jewish community â€śas they areâ€ť and encouraging synagogues and Jewish institutions to welcome and embrace all those who want to walk through their doors, rather than judging them. I think that itâ€™s only fair that I speak out in favor of giving that same respect to Ivanka and Jared. Letâ€™s not obsess over the fact that they traveled in a car on Shabbat – itâ€™s not really news. Weâ€™d all be a lot better off, to paraphrase Rabbi Salanter, focusing on our own spiritual and religious lives and concerning ourselves with eliminating hunger and poverty. Now thatâ€™s something to talk about.
Note: All comments on InterfaithFamily are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed.
This year InterfaithFamily/Atlanta hosted our first annual Promukkah: Prom-themed Hannukah party in our Ponce City Market office! The evening was a blast with rockin’ dance music spun by Russell Gotchalk of the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival, delicious nosh, a corsage/boutonniere making station and a very popular photobooth.
Highlights include dancing the hora as we celebrated the recent marriage of Baca Holohan and Kai Murga, some incredibly creative outfits with lights, wigs and glowing shoes, as well as enormous jelly filled doughnuts.
We celebrated the festival of lights with members of the greater Atlanta community including our co-sponsors: Moishe House-Inman Park,Â SOJOURN,Â the Sixth Point,Â Limmud Atlanta + Southeast,Â AAspire, Bechol Lashon, theÂ Jewish Federation of Greater AtlantaÂ andÂ Honeymoon Israel.Â Plans for next yearâ€™s gathering have already begun!
Note: All comments on InterfaithFamily are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed.
The following blog post has been reprinted with permission from Edmund Case, Founder of InterfaithFamily: edmundcase.com.
I think itâ€™s safe to say that we would all have to agree that an awful lot has happened in the past two months. That includes developments in the field of engaging interfaith families Jewishly, which I summarize here.
On October 10, eJewishPhilanthropy published my review of a demographic study of British Jews that I found to be unfortunately negative about intermarriage, given trends indicative of a generational shift in identity and practice that I thought supported increased efforts to engage interfaith couples and families.
The October 26 Interfaith Opportunity Summit marked a watershed moment, putting engaging interfaith families at a high level in the mainstream Jewish communityâ€™s agenda. eJewishPhilanthropy published Jodi Brombergâ€™s and my report on new understandings of how to influence engagement, new efforts to engage interfaith families, and the need for an attitudinal â€śnarrative shiftâ€ť about intermarriage discussed at the Summit.
The Cohen Center at Brandeis on the day of the Summit released a very important study on the impact of rabbinic officiation at weddings of interfaith couples. My op-ed, Are Rabbis Who Refuse to Marry Interfaith Couples Hurting Jewish Continuity?, was published in the Forward and eJewishPhilanthropy. I said that it is no longer tenable for rabbis not to officiate on the grounds that intermarriage is â€śbad for the Jews,â€ť when the new research shows strong association between officiation and interfaith couples raising their children as Jews and joining synagogues.
The Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem released an important report in November on definitions of Jewishness in a time of fluid identity. In my blog post, what I found promising was the apparent consensus, among Â over 700 Jewish leaders from Israel, the US and other countries, on the need to be welcoming to interfaith couples. However, I noted a conflict with an accompanying desire to maintain community standards that express a preference for in-marriage.
In November CJP released the 2015 Greater Boston Jewish Community Study, conducted by the Cohen Center and Steinhardt Institute at Brandeis. In my blog post, I note that the Study confirms the very large extent of intermarriage in the community, and validates the wisdom of CJPâ€™s welcoming approach, with high rates of intermarried couples raising their children as Jews and promising rates of engagement in many other Jewish behaviors. The Study is also important for creating an Index of Jewish Engagement that recognizes multiple patterns of engagement and supports programmatic efforts targeted towards groups with different needs and interests.
We are clearly in a time of increased interest in the field, with new convenings and research supporting increased efforts. The question that remains is how to make a national coordinated effort to engage interfaith families a reality.
I am a rabbi and I love Christmastime. I love the twinkling lights in the cool dark nights. I love listening to carolers sing of joy and hope as I sip my spiced cider or hot chocolate. I love that everyone greets each other more than any other time of the year. (I am, however, terrified of Santa Claus because of a run in with a mall Santa as a child.) And one of my favorite songs is â€śIâ€™m Dreaming of a White Christmas.â€ť Itâ€™s not my favorite because of its religious theme, or even because of its references to snow (Iâ€™m an Arizona kid after all). Itâ€™s my favorite because it was my dadâ€™s favorite.
Hereâ€™s a little backstory on my family: My dad converted to Judaism when he married his first wife, decades before I was born. All my life he was extremely committed to being Jewish and for the last several years of his life he was dedicated to Jewish study and worship at his local synagogue. But he sang that song like it was his personal anthem. We even had it playing on the stereo during the luncheon after his funeral. Iâ€™m pretty sure that was the first (and last) time his synagogue has had Christmas music playing at a funeralâ€¦ and maybe the only time itâ€™s ever played at any funeral in August. But it was his favorite, and now that itâ€™s Christmastime again Iâ€™m hearing it on the radio every day and thinking of my dad.
This year the first night of Hanukkah falls on Christmas Eve. Some people are very excited about this since it means that for the first time in decades Hanukkah has similar â€śstatusâ€ť as Christmas. To some people it means that Jews still get to take advantage of Christmas shopping sales, which doesnâ€™t happen when Hanukkah falls in November. But for some interfaith families it is a source of a lot of conflict.
When the holidays are separate on the calendar it is easier to separate their celebrations. For my family, it doesnâ€™t matter that Hanukkah is on Christmas because Hanukkah is always on Thanksgiving for us. Growing up in a family that was geographically dispersed, Thanksgiving was the one weekend that we were all usually together. No matter when Hanukkah fell on the calendar, you could find us eating latkes and exchanging gifts on the Friday after Thanksgiving. In my family, Hanukkah was primarily about spending time with family, eating delicious food from family recipes, and presents.
To me, Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday from a religious perspective and does very little to define my Jewish identity. Which means that loving Christmastime does little to threaten my Jewish identity.
Because of my relationship with Hanukkah, when a friend recently asked me if it was OK for Jewish people to like Christmas movies and music, I chuckled thinking about my own annual tradition of watching â€śElfâ€ť and my childhood memories of driving around town to see Christmas lights. And then I thought more closely about the question: IS it OK for Jewish people to like Christmas movies and music? What about lights? Trees?
As a Reform rabbi I do not feel it is my place to tell people whatâ€™s â€śOKâ€ť for them to do Jewishly. I do feel itâ€™s my role to guide people along their path and offer expertise and opinions where appropriate. It is not my job to tell people not to listen to Christmas music, or not to have a tree or to keep kosher. It is my job to help people see how positive Jewish experience can impact your life and shape familiesâ€™ lives.
When it comes to the winter holidays, there is so much more at play than religious beliefs. To one family Christmas music may symbolize songs of hope for a savior or faith in God. To another family it may symbolize beautiful melodies and joyful tunes. To me, it reminds me of my father who sung those songs with a huge smile and especially now that heâ€™s gone, I want to listen to that music to remind me of him. I spoke with an interfaith family recently whose kids identify as Jewish, and who have a tree to honor one parentâ€™s family tradition. They feel no guilt and they do not feel that having a tree in any way compromises their Jewish identity, but rather that it helps them represent their entire family.
Meanwhile, I hear rabbis and others tell scary tales of Christmas trees leading to diminishing Jewish communities and threatening Jewish identity. Iâ€™ve heard the sermons from rabbis who are committed to the survival of the Jewish people. Iâ€™ve read the articles describing how Jewish families (or interfaith families) having a Christmas tree is a threat to Jewish identity. I understand the argument that Jewish identity is important and the survival of Jewish community is essential. However, I believe that when many of our families are already embracing the tradition of the Christmas tree, despite the best efforts of some to discourage it, the real threat to our Jewish community is the dismissal and judgment of these families.
I think that if our Jewishness is defined by a tree or a movie or a song, we need to rethink our religious identity and spend the rest of the year strengthening it. There is more to a religious identity than physical symbols. It is about a way of life, a set of values and a tradition, and the ways in which we enact that tradition.
Recently, my colleague in Los Angles posted a question that piqued my interest on her personal Facebook page: “Did any of my Jewish professional friends grow up with a Christmas tree?” I knew where she was going with this. She was betting that a number of rabbis and Jewish educators had grown up in an interfaith family with a tree, or in a family with a Jewish parent or parents who had a tree for whatever reason, or they were Jews by choice who had grown up with a tree and became Jewish as an adult and then Jewish professionals. In any of these scenarios, having a tree did not deter them from becoming Jewish professionals. I had to delve into this!
So, I posted the same question with credit to Rabbi Keara and an amazing thing happened. There were over 50 comments made to my post, and they’re still coming in. I donâ€™t think I had that many comments when my children were born or when my Grandmother, of blessed memory, died.
The amazing thing is it started with Jewish professionals admitting that they had grown up with trees and how and why that was the case and then morphed into other Jewish friends who do not work in the Jewish world writing about having trees or not having trees. And, some people even wrote that they didnâ€™t have trees, which was as much a statement about attitudes on this subject as anything else people wrote because I had only asked to hear from people who did have a tree.
Here is what I conclude:
1. Â Many Jewish leaders grew up with a Christmas tree. Many interfaith families today raising children with Judaism have Christmas trees in their homes or at a close family memberâ€™s home. There seems to be a disconnect between these two realities. Somehow interfaith families donâ€™t see their lives and reality always mirrored in the lives and reality of their clergy and educators.
2. Â Judaism from on high (Iâ€™m not sure who or what this is or if most people can even articulate this. Itâ€™s just a feeling or perception) seems to judge negatively Jewish families who have trees. This has not always been the case. There were times when many American Jews had trees and it was seen as typical and normative in their assimilating American Reform circles.
3. Â People who are active in Judaism today have amazing stories of interesting family dynamics and experiences and there could be more venues or formats for sharing our stories, learning from and seeing ourselves in one another. This would inform our way of transmitting Judaism if we understood more about the context and lens by which people were experiencing Jewish messages.
4. Â Symbols matter. The American flag is a symbol. We feel something when we see the flag. We feel something when we raise the flag at camp or when we see it at a sportâ€™s event. We feel something when we see brand logos. The tree is symbolic. For many it symbolizes warmth, beauty, good memories, family time, gifts, glee and togetherness. It is all positive. If we tell those who love the tree that it is inconsistent with Judaism, they might hear that their warm family times (void of theology and religiosity, but maybe full of meaning and richness) is inconsistent with Judaism. This is confusing and hurtful. It puts people on the defensive and can lead to shame. It makes people feel they must justify the tree and argue for it lest they be seen as hurting a Judaism they are trying to perpetuate. It pits lay person against professional. It creates an us versus them.
5. Â If Jewish leaders said that the tree is secular (as the Supreme Court has declaredâ€”thatâ€™s why they can be erected in public spaces) or just stopped putting so much emotion into encouraging Jewish families to not have them, then there is a fear that the tree will become like a jack-o-lantern on Halloween and be deemed â€śsecular American.â€ť Would Jewish families who had never had a tree suddenly feel free, open and welcome to try one? I have no idea. Maybe it would happen or maybe it wouldnâ€™t. Would Hanukkah practice be threatened by this? Is that our fear? What really is the fear?
6. Â This Facebook thread made me ask a question I come back to often which is, “What is the role I play as a Reform rabbi?” I do not believe I am a gatekeeper for Judaism. I do not believe I can tell people what to do in their Jewish expression as a one-size-fits-all or even most prescription.Â I believe I am supposed to inspire and inform, love and accept. Some things are outside the realm of Judaism. Some things are cool but are not Jewish. Sometimes Jewish leaders are afraid of what people want because we feel it will water down, taint and hurt an authentic, recognizableÂ Judaism.
This is the same fear that happens when a parent, letâ€™s say, suggests that there could be more choice in Hebrew School such as having a tutor, or coming one day a week or trying other alternatives. The educator fears that â€śeveryoneâ€ť will want a private tutor, so no changes are made. If there is a feeling that everyone wants something different than what is offered but the Jewish professional deems that desire â€śbadâ€ť or â€śwrongâ€ť or for â€śpeople who just want an easy way out,â€ť then the people will make their own decisions and they wonâ€™t chose institutional Judaism. They will do it on their terms in ways that work for them. At a certain point the people decide and Judaism adapts and changes. If our communities are inspired, literate and invested, we should have no fear. We can trust.
I for one don’t get to decide if you have a tree, don’t have a tree, put a star on your tree or make s’mores latkes (this I recommend). I decide what my Jewish practice is and I work on this daily. I decide to hear you and try to understand you. May your holiday traditions be meaningful and lead to our defining what we are dedicated to (as the word Hanukkah reminds us to do). May I refrain from putting my judgment or my assumptions on your customs and allow you to define what they mean to you.
This piece is a heartfelt, fictionalized snapshot of one personâ€™s experience. It is not meant to be a judgment about having a Christmas tree. I would love to read about other peopleâ€™s experiencesâ€¦
Sarah had only been to her dadâ€™s house a couple of times since he married Joanne, and her heart raced as she rang the bell. Quincyâ€™s barking calmed her some. She knew that dog loved her.
Joanne wasnâ€™t home, but her presence filled the rooms. Sarah saw her in the framed family photos of strangers, and her dad. She saw her in the decorative plate collection framing the kitchen archway, and in the silver thimbles on tiny shelves in the dining room. And she was in the treeâ€¦
Sarah had always loved Christmas trees. She loved helping her friends decorate them, and she loved hearing stories about treasured ornaments. She loved the way they smelled and the way the lights looked in the dark. She loved the warm cozy feeling they evoked in Christmas movies, but this tree was different.
This tree kicked her in the heart. This tree was proof of just how far her dad had strayed from their family. She didnâ€™t see the dad who wouldnâ€™t let her quit Hebrew school in this house. She couldnâ€™t find the dad who only let her date Jewish boys in this house. She couldnâ€™t find the dad who had raised her in this house.
Sarah was surprised by the strength of her reaction. The tree brought tears to her eyes. She sat on the floor with Quincy, and buried her face for a lingering moment in his soft fur.
She wanted her dad to be happy, but she also wanted her dadâ€™s house to feel like home. She knew it never would. She also knew that she would make her peace with it, but for now, it just felt like another loss.
Who should receive a Hebrew name? What requirements should be met? Should a Hebrew name only come with a stated commitment from the childâ€™s parents to raise their child Jewishly? What if one of the parents is not Jewish? What if the child might not be raised as a Jew?
I have thought deeply about these questions in recent weeks as opportunities to officiate at baby-namings for interfaith families presented themselves.
I spoke with rabbis, friends and family members, and heard a variety of passionate points of view. In the process, I became passionate about what the answers are for me. Iâ€™m curious to know what you think.
The spirit of the naming ceremony is to bring a child into the covenant of the Jewish people. It includes a commitment from parents to raise their child as a Jew. For most people, this is an unbendable requirement. I understand, and respect, that point of view, but I have come to disagree.
A baby-naming ceremony is an opportunity for a family to connect with Judaism during a powerful moment in that familyâ€™s life. It is a chance for us, as a Jewish community, to be an open, welcoming door. The family may only want to put their babyâ€™s toe through the door for now, but that is enough to keep the door open. This is a defining moment, and it will set the tone for their interest in future engagement.
After the ceremony, the name will forever belong to the child. It may never be thought of again, or it might possess the power to open the door to Judaism further. It could be a catalyst for curiosity. The name may, one day, whisper in the childâ€™s ear, â€śGo find out more about these people you are a part of.â€ť
To me, a Hebrew name is a good seed planted.
What do you think?
By Jodi Bromberg and Ed Case
A significant upcoming convening may lay the groundwork for something missing from the liberal Jewish community for the past twenty-five years: concerted action by funders and community leaders to engage more interfaith families in Jewish life and community.
InterfaithFamily, in partnership with the Jewish Funders Network and the Jewish Federations of North America, is sponsoring theÂ Interfaith Opportunity Summit: Embracing the New Jewish Reality, on Wednesday October 26, 2016 at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.
The goal of the Summit is to explore â€“ with funders, federations, leaders of Jewish organizations and interfaith family engagement practitioners â€“ the issues that need to be addressed to have more interfaith families engage in Jewish life and community, and begin to build consensus for increased efforts towards that end.
Jewish leaders have repeatedly expressed concern since high intermarriage rates were announced in the early 1990â€™s. In most fields â€“ day schools, camps, teen engagement, Israel trips, social justice â€“ funders and professionals have joined together to plan, support and execute major programmatic activities to strengthen organizations and expand recruitment.
The field of engaging interfaith families, however, is different, distinguished by the lack of concerted action by funders and professionals. Individual organizations â€“ notably the Reform movement, Big Tent Judaism, and InterfaithFamily â€“ have developed and offered successful programmatic efforts, and generous foundations, federations and individuals have made those efforts possible with financial support. But there has never been concerted action like that in other fields, apart from a proposal for joint action by several foundations in 2008-2009 that failed because of losses dues to Madoff and the economic downturn.
It is interesting to speculate on the reasons why arguably the single most important issue for the liberal Jewish community has not attracted concerted action. It may be that intermarriage is still viewed so negatively by so many that funders and professionals are discouraged from supporting any related efforts that are not designed to discourage or prevent it. Or, that there is simply too wide a chasm between those who wish to prevent or discourage intermarriage and those that seek to embrace and welcome interfaith couples and families â€“ and therefore, no shared understanding of the way forward.
Recent signs, however, indicate a growing shift in attitudes that could support significant concerted action to engage interfaith families â€“ most notably, the award of the Genesis Prize to Michael Douglas in order to highlight the importance of welcoming intermarried families, followed by the Jewish Funders Network/Genesis Prize matching grant initiative to attract increased financial support for those welcoming efforts. In addition, there has been increased attention from organizations like Hillel, and the Union for Reform Judaismâ€™s â€śAudacious Hospitalityâ€ť work.
The Interfaith Opportunity Summit will now bring together everyone interested or potentially interested in engaging interfaith families Jewishly â€“ foundations, federations, Jewish organizations and interfaith family engagement practitioners. The initial response to the Summit is another sign of shifting attitudes; in addition to partnering with the JFN and the JFNA, participants in theÂ Summit programÂ include:
Because of the importance of understanding the lived experiences of interfaith families, Summit participants will also hear from millennial children of intermarriage, young interfaith couples, and interfaith families with young children. The grantees of the JFN/Genesis Prize matching grant initiative, and other interfaith family engagement programs, have all been invited to participate and discuss their programs with interested attendees at tables over an extended lunchtime.
The Summit will provide a rich discussion of the issues that need to be addressed to have more interfaith families engage in Jewish life and community. How can Jews and their partners from different faith traditions experience the value of Jewish wisdom, express their spirituality in Jewish settings, and feel included in â€śthe Jewish people?â€ť How can we effectively reach the spectrum of interfaith couples, from those who are seeking to those who are not, through messaging and marketing to interfaith families, and relationship building/community organizing approaches to them? What services and programs are effective entry points and ways to facilitate progress into more engagement, and what promising trends are emerging? How can we address difficult attitude and boundary issues surrounding intermarriage: privileging in-marriage, wedding officiation, ritual participation, and conversion? Can those who say they are â€śdoing bothâ€ť be included in Jewish life and communities?
The concluding plenary will tie together the preceding sessions and address what a local Jewish community needs to offer to engage interfaith families, and the appropriate roles of general programs aimed at and marketed for everyone, and programs targeted at people in interfaith relationships.
By bringing together funders and organization leaders â€“ people in a position to make things happen â€“Â with practitioners in the field, we hope to build consensus on what increased efforts need to be taken to engage interfaith families and to facilitate the possibility of concerted large-scale action towards that goal. We hope that youâ€™ll be there to join the conversation.
Jodi Bromberg is the CEO ofÂ InterfaithFamily. Ed Case, the founder of InterfaithFamily, is an independentÂ writer, speaker and consultant. More information about the Interfaith Opportunity Summit program is availableÂ here, and registration is availableÂ here.
One of the most difficult aspects of pregnancy for meâ€”especially right now in week 36â€”is the prospect of leaving my other baby: InterfaithFamily. Itâ€™s only temporary, I know, but the idea of dropping everything for several weeks has required more than a bit of office nesting (is that a thing?) over the last several months.
Iâ€™m not paving new ground here. Mothers- and fathers-to-be go through this process every day. While stepping away from a job where there is no backupâ€”no other person who does the same job you do and can simply fill in for youâ€”makes it all the more difficult, I have something that very few other people have. The IFF family.
Iâ€™ve already learned so much from all of our strong, wise parenting writers, especially the new ones, Anna and Anne, who are first-time moms to adorable babies. While my experience will not be from the perspective of an interfaith couple, there are so many big and small decisions to make and questions to work out for all parents before and after having a child. Seeing how our wedding and parenting bloggers approach overwhelming and sometimes incredibly challenging moments with respect, communication and grace is inspiring.
Iâ€™m also blessed to work with some of the most compassionate people I know. It doesnâ€™t hurt that many of them are parents (and grandparents!). One lesson Iâ€™ve already learned is that everything is easier when you surround yourself with a supportive community. My co-workers have been a constant source of insight and understanding throughout this journey. They have been there to kvell (rejoice) with me and to listen to me vent. From giving me their maternity clothes to decorating onesies to sharing their childrenâ€™s favorite books, this family has buoyed me for the last nine months.
I have no doubt that the walls of the editorial department will not crumble in my absence, thanks to the several people who are stepping up to help while Iâ€™m gone. I hope to return a wiser person with new perspectives to bring to the work we do at IFF, albeit a wee bit less rested. If you have a question while Iâ€™m gone? Not to fear: Iâ€™ll get back to you in December (wink, wink).
While Iâ€™m having a hard time letting go of my work baby, my husband and I are filled with awe and anticipation at meeting and getting to know the baby inside me. Thank you to the extended IFF family, and of course my own friends and family, who share in our simcha (joy). We couldnâ€™t do it without you.