This booklet explains the history of Hanukkah, the symbolism and significance of lighting candles for eight nights, the blessings that accompany the lighting of the candles, the holiday's foods, the game of dreidels, and more!
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The JCC of Greater New Haven is part of your extended family, your home away from home - providing programs and services for all ages and stages in life.
Within our walls and through our programming, our members gather together to meet, play, learn, celebrate, and be part of the Community. Everyone, regardless of age or religious affiliation, is welcome.
Join the San Diego Jewish Film Festival and Jewish Family Service to explore the interfaith family experience, including a screening of the film Out of Faith followed by a facilitated discussion. Out of Faith is a feature-length documentary that follows three generations as they struggle with complex and emotionally-charged conflicts over intermarriage, familial duty, ethnic identity, and cultural continuity and survival.
A great way for Jewish professionals and volunteers who work with and provide programming for people in interfaith relationships to locate resources and trainings to build more welcome into their Jewish communities; connect with and learn from each other; and publicize and enhance their programs and services.
Back in January I was contacted by a staff member of the United Israel Appeal Federations Canada (UIA) who was researching international best practices for outreach to underserved members of Jewish communities, including interfaith couples. I gave her a lot of information about outreach programs in the US. I remember thinking at the time that things must be changing in Canada, which traditionally has had lower rates of intermarriages.
A new study by UIA verifies that that is the case. It reports that by 2021 “2/5 of the largest communities in Canada are projected to have intermarriage rates above 50% and over 1/3 of all individuals residing in couples families will be living in interfaith arrangements.”
The report also states, “It is incumbent upon Jewish communal institutions to strongly consider facilitating the participation of interfaith couples. . . . if the organized community can accept intermarried couples and their children through the institutions of the synagogue, school, daycare, and other community-oriented programs, then there is a greater likelihood that they will choose to be Jewish.”
Given how behind the Canadian Jewish community has been in having to address intermarriage, I was amazed that the UIA report says that one area where the organized Jewish community can make a difference is in rabbinic officiation at weddings of interfaith couples: “Having a Rabbi officiate at an interfaith ceremony is extremely important to the likelihood of future participation in Jewish life. In fact, 50% of interfaith couples married by a Rabbi indicated that it is important to them that their eventual grandchildren are raised Jewish as opposed to 18% when no Rabbi officiated at their wedding ceremony.”
And I was glad to see making resources readily available for interfaith couples on websites as another of their recommended actions.
There were a number of articles and comments on the Internet last week about a new report from the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey to the effect that the number of American Jews who consider themselves religiously observant has declined by more than 20 percent over the last two decades while the number of Jews who consider themselves secular has risen. Where just 20 percent of Jewish adults described themselves as nonreligious or cultural Jews 19 years ago, that total has risen to about 35 percent. The report’s authors, Barry Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, reportedly attributed the increase in secularism in large part to high rates of intermarriage.
Kosmin and Keysar aren’t completely negative about intermarriage, however. As quoted in the Jerusalem Post, “Keysar said there was a benefit to intermarriage, as many more people were now connected to Jews in America and around the world. ‘If you maintain Jewish culture, you bring new people into the fold,’ she said. ‘We tend to look at [Judaism] as religion, but if you look at the other aspect of culture and history, there are many aspects of Judaism that are open.’ The emphasis on Jewish culture could help fight anti-Semitism, Keysar said.”
Nina Amir, who has frequently written for us in the past, disagrees in the San Jose Jewish Examiner that intermarriage leads to less religiosity. “We would not be practicing Jews at all – in fact, I wouldn’t be writing about Judaism and Jewish spirituality and mysticism – if my husband had not been a non-Jew who later decided to convert.”
The growth in secularism seems to be at odds with the recent Synagogue 3000 study by Steven M. Cohen and Rabbi Larry Hoffman that found increased interest in spirituality among young adult Jews, including the Orthodox, and the non-Orthodox with one Jewish parent, in particular. We blogged about that study just four months ago. This may be a matter of definition – when Kosmin and Keysar talk about religiosity and religiously observant, they may not be talking about those who are spiritual but not interested in traditional forms of prayer. As Rabbi Brad Hirshfield of Clal is quoted in Jewkey.com, the study “doesn’t say the Jewish people or Judaism is dying. What it is saying is the way religiously identified Jews are practicing their Judaism is not working for a lot of people. It’s an opportunity — the kind of opportunity that paved the way for the Protestant Reformation.”
Why didn’t I take statistics in graduate school? Who knew that instead of teaching history I’d be working for a non-profit where statistics are vitally important and constantly contested. Take the recent flurry of posts from major bloggers about Jewish and African-American attitudes toward intermarriage.
I suppose I should also mention that I am an ethnic Jew engaged to a gentile, and that I have at various times in the past dated non-Jews who are also non-white. However, my case is just one of many examples of the point I made in the post. Although I am ethnically Jewish, I am not religious, and my engagement will not actually lead to an interfaith marriage because our attitudes towards religion are actually very similar despite the ethnic difference.
Oh yeah, right. People are always telling me that they aren’t really in an interfaith marriage because they aren’t religious, but I generally assume that’s because I’ve buttonholed them in the supermarket and am trying to get them to write for our website. I think the problem is the word “interfaith” which makes it sound like every day of your marriage you sit down in a circle, sing “Kumbaya” and discuss comparative religion. A non-religious ethnic Jew marrying a non-religious gentile still has to make identity decisions when he or she has children. For the Jewish community’s purposes, that’s an interfaith marriage, even if it looks like an inter-no-faith marriage. Continue reading →
The American Jewish population–as defined by religion–continues to decline, according to the just released American Religious Identification Survey. However, as measured by ethnicity, the number of Jews remains relatively stable, say the survey’s principal investigators.
The ARIS 2008 is the third in a series of large-scale surveys conducted by the Institute for the Study of Secularism and Society and Culture at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. With data culled from more than 54,000 telephone interviews, it has no equal in terms of sample size among American surveys on religion. Even the landmark U.S. Religion Landscape Survey from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life is based on fewer interviews. Continue reading →
I haven’t seen the survey yet–it only was presented yesterday as part of a conference on best practices for engaging LGBT Jews–but if that number is correct, then it’s an astonishing development. The only comparable historical survey I know of is a 12-year-old rabbinic survey conducted by the Jewish Outreach Institute. That 1997 study showed that only 20 percent of rabbis across the denominations officiated at interfaith weddings, and even among the Reform rabbinate, only 36 percent officiated (although 85 percent of Reconstructionist rabbis did). Those numbers aren’t directly comparable to the reported number from the new study since the new study aggregates rabbis across several movements. But my guess is that officiation numbers are up across the board within movements that permit officiation at interfaith weddings.
The new survey polled 1,221 North American rabbis, synagogue directors and presidents in attempt to learn about how synagogues approach and engage gay and lesbian Jews. Among the other reported numbers: 73 percent of these leaders felt their synagogue did a good job welcoming gay and lesbian Jews; 33 percent said they held programs explicitly for gay people; 73 percent of synagogues had rabbis who officiated at same-sex ceremonies; and 47 percent of synagogue leaders said their attitudes toward gays and lesbians had become more favorable over the last decade.
I will let you know more once I get my hands on the report, but early signs suggest that the research will show that synagogues have become more welcoming towards gays and lesbians AND interfaith couples over the last decade. That’s a welcome development.
Every few weeks, I get a call from a reporter, student or amateur researcher looking for statistics on intermarriage. Usually I can quickly answer the question–47% of Jews marrying between 1996-2000 married non-Jews, 28 million American are intermarried, 31% of all Jews were intermarried as of 2000–but sometimes I have to look things up. My secret weapon? The North American Jewish Data Bank.
Back in April, I read “The Missing” in the World Jewish Digest, and found it absolutely amazing. (The title has been changed: it was “A Jewish Man is Hard to Find.”)
The article was advocating that single Jewish women should “panic” if they hadn’t found a Jewish man to marry. (Click the link, I’m not exaggerating!) One problem, the article asserted, was that Jewish women were too dominant in Jewish religious life, leaving Jewish men feeling sidelined. This was based on a recent sociological study from Brandeis on intermarriage and involvement in Jewish life.
Astonishing, eh? An anti-intermarriage article was effectively blaming Jewish women for being too involved in the Jewish community. Katha Pollitt, the feminist columnist for The Nation, and herself the daughter of an interfaith marriage, just came out with a response to the idea that maybe Jewish men were intermarrying because Jewish women outnumber them in Jewish institutional life. Her pithy analysis:
The study is full of unusually frank references to Jewish men’s dislike of Jewish women—too aggressive, demanding, ethnic—but instead of challenging this as sexist and anti-Semitic, it accepts it as a fact of life that women must accommodate for the sake of the community: “For those who find the synagogue’s world of our mothers too overwhelming, it is possible that dating non-Jews becomes a way to escape from the ubiquitous Jewish woman.”
Of course the article can’t avoid mentioning Middle Eastern politics, pointing out how Israel Independence Day is mourned as Naqba (“Catastrophe”) Day in the Arab world. But what’s a tad more unusual for a secular paper is the way the Times positions Israel in relation to the American Jewish community:
One significant development of recent years that will be discussed here is the shift in the relationship between Israel and diaspora Jewry. For decades, Israel was the needy child depending on contributions and support from abroad as it struggled to survive.
Today Israel’s Jewish population of 5.5 million is the world’s largest, just ahead of that of the United States, which is slowly declining through low birth rate and intermarriage. Israel has in fact become the center of Jewish life and is increasingly being asked to act like the older brother to Jewish communities elsewhere.
Yesterday, I explored the studyIt’s Not Just Who Stands Under the Chuppah: Intermarriage and Engagement, co-authored by demographer Leonard Saxe, as well as the response that sociologist Steven Cohen offered at the Reform rabbinical convention in March.
After writing the post, I exchanged emails with Saxe. He responded to my concern that the study appeared to underplay its finding that the adult children of intermarriage are significantly less likely to raise their children Jewish than the adult children of inmarriage–even when you control for “Jewish capital,” like their network of Jewish friends and Jewish educational experiences.