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After 12 years of working and volunteering in L.A.âs Jewish community, I had stepped away. Iâd loved all of the places Iâd been: The Jewish Federation, Sinai Temple, with Rabbi Sherre Hirsch, and Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock, but something was always slightly off. Not the work, which was rewarding. Not the people, who were wonderful. It was me. I had a deep, dark secret that was keeping me at armâs length from the organizations I worked for and the communities I was serving.
In reality, that secret was neither deep nor dark. Everyone knew, but it was always on my mind. I was living in an interfaith household. And it was a topic I avoided. Not because communities werenât welcomingâmany were, but the conversations around interfaith families that I had at work were so vastly different from those I was having at home. It became harder and harder to imagine that the reality of my life, and the lives of many of my peers, was ever going to connect with the Jewish community as I knew it.
So I left. While stepping away was hard, it also felt right. Working outside of the Jewish community was challenging and fun and, most of all, not personal. There were some bumps, of course. It took ages to realize that when someone agreed with me, it was sincere. Without the âbutsâ and complaints and opposing opinions I couldnât imagine that âyesâ meant yes. And I often found myself calling synagogue board members to catch up on gossip and getting coffee with friends in faith communities just to hear them talk about work. But I felt I couldnât go back.
Then I heard that InterfaithFamily was opening a âYour Communityâ in L.A. It was the first time I hesitated in those two Jewish-free work years.
NahâŚWell, maybeâŚMmmâŚI mean, I might as well find out what theyâre aboutâŚRight?
The more I spoke with the staff at IFF, the more I learned about the communities they were already in and the work they do nationally, the more my guard fell. I had no idea that there was an organization that was openly engaging the very issues my family and I had been struggling with alone.
I admit that until I walked into the national office, I remained a bit skeptical. But even someone who doesnât believe in signs from above couldnât miss these. My start date coincided with a pre-planned trip to Boston, and while at IFF HQ, every game of Jewish geography bore fruit and every conversation was one Iâd had in my head but never had the opportunity to have out loud.
It felt like home on that very first day.
As IFF/LA launches, every day has been amazing. Engaging with the extraordinary and diverse interfaith community here in L.A. and the institutions that welcome them has been inspiring and energizing. Iâm working with teen librarians at the main branch of the Los Angeles Public Library on a Passover-Easter family program. With Haggadot.com, weâll be offering a program on incorporating the traditions of family members who did not grow up Jewish into their seder. For Tu BâAv weâre working on a celebration with Honeymoon Israel.
Iâve met with amazing professionals and families from across the spectrum of Judaism and cannot wait to meet more. Instead of just acknowledging that Judaism has interfaith families, our conversations are about ways we can incorporate and honor them. And for the first time, âthemâ is me.
Itâs almost embarrassing to be this enthusiastic about work. But as IFF/LA grows, I hope that the interfaith families here in the city and the Jewish institutions that welcome them will grow with us.
Contact:Â Liz Polay-Wettengel, National Director of Marketing and Communications
INTERFAITHFAMILY RECEIVES $250,000 GRANT FROM THE JEWISH COMMUNITY FOUNDATION OF
(Newton, MA)âInterfaithFamily is honored to be the recipient of a Cutting Edge Grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles. The grant of $250,000 over three years enables InterfaithFamily to start a new project, InterfaithFamily/Los Angeles, to coordinate and provide a range of services and programs aimed at engaging local interfaith families Jewishly.
âWe are delighted to support this innovative program connecting families to resources that will enable them to incorporate Jewish traditions and engage in Jewish life,â said Marvin Schotland, President and CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation.
âWe believe the InterfaithFamily/Your Community initiative is the single best opportunity we have to engage significant numbers of interfaith families in Jewish life and community,â said Lynda Schwartz, IFF Board Chair. âInterfaithFamily/Los Angeles will be a âcrown jewelâ in our growing network of local communities working on this most important issue for the Jewish future. We are deeply grateful to the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles for making this possible.â
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