This article originally appeared in the April 25, 2003 issue of The New York Jewish Week and is reprinted with permission. Visit www.thejewishweek.com.
Since the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey reported that 52 percent of Jews were marrying non-Jews, the American Jewish community has been split on how to respond. While many on the left have called for greater outreach and acceptance for interfaith families, others have urged the community to more aggressively promote "inmarriage."
Now, with many anxiously awaiting the release of the much-delayed National Jewish Population Survey 2000 so they can see what the latest intermarriage rate is, one group is celebrating intermarried families that participate in Jewish life.
The Interfaithfamily.com Network, an advocacy group and Web magazine for interfaith families, is conducting an essay contest on the theme of "We're Interfaith Families ... Connecting with Jewish Life."
Funded by the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, the contest seeks to counter the widespread assumption that intermarriage signals "the loss of Jewish identity and involvement" and instead to give people in interfaith families the opportunity to tell "the personal stories of their involvement in Jewish life."
With several prizes ranging from $1,000 to copies of The Guide to Jewish Interfaith Family Life: An InterfaithFamily.com Handbook, the contest seeks essays by parents, grandparents, children and couples. Essays can address such topics as holidays, lifecycle celebrations, interpersonal relationships, formal religious education, spirituality, synagogue life and finding community.
Winning essays will appear on InterfaithFamily.com and may also be published in a book. Judges include best-selling author Anita Diamant, Jewish Lights Publishing president Stuart Matlins and Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, executive director of the Jewish Outreach Institute.
"This will produce many stories of positive involvement in Jewish life by interfaith families," says Edmund Case, publisher of InterfaithFamily.com. "Hopefully it will attract people who are thinking of getting involved but are unsure and hopefully it will also persuade Jewish leaders that they ought to be doing whatever they can to get more involvement in Jewish life by interfaith families."
For contest details, click here.