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The Best of InterfaithFamily.com: Your Picks

January 2007

On the occasion of the 200th issue of our Web Magazine, we asked several of our supporters and contributors to pick their favorite articles or sections of the website. Their choices are below.

Also see The Best of InterfaithFamily.com: Our Picks, with selections by the staff of InterfaithFamily.com.

Intermarriage is Good for the Jews

Selected by Susan Ardell

Karen Kushner's article Intermarriage Is Good for the Jews illustrates truths that those of us who work in interfaith outreach recognize. She tells of Fernando, the "dutiful" Catholic who participates in his wife's and daughter's Jewish observances, whose response to others who would eliminate some of the 613 Commandments as "irrelevant" is stunningly Talmudic: "Replace the ones we drop so that there will always be 613." Fernando "gets" that this number is sacred and that each of the 613 should be meaningful to today's Jews. Fresh perspective and a reverence for tradition are qualities we often gain when we embrace those from another faith tradition.

Karen next quotes Rabbi Ed Feld who calls Jews-by-choice "a gift from God to keep us from being too ethnocentric after the Holocaust…" However, ask a Jew-by-choice about gifts and he or she will speak of discovering Judaism. As Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the URJ (Union for Reform Judaism) has recently urged, we need to ask more "not yet Jews" if they might wish to formalize their unspoken desire to be a part of our Peoplehood.

Finally, Karen offers a most beautiful practice--"Balancing the Yahrzeit list"--which illustrates hope for a future Jewish people which will be multi-ethnic, rich in a diversity of customs and strengthened by those who bring a passion and vision to our door. Imagine a memorial service on Yom Kippur. As we somberly listen to the names of the ones who have gone before us, the rabbi pauses "… for one moment of celebration, the reading of a list of names of all the New Jews of the year… all those born, all those adopted and all who chose Judaism read together." How can this counting of all new life not elevate the mood at this most reflective time? How can we not rejoice with those who have cast their lot with us even as we rejoice at the welcoming of a new young life in our midst?

And so, I ask you: is Intermarriage good for the Jews? Only if we "embrace the Stranger" today, as we were commanded to do two thousand years ago.

Susan Ardell, a member of Temple Jeremiah, Northfield, Illinois, has been active in Reform Jewish Outreach since 1994. She also volunteers for the Midwest Region of the Union for Reform Judaism and sits on the Union's Joint Commission on Outreach and Synagogue Community.

Activism as an Aphrodisiac

Selected by Joelle Asaro Berman

I commend Sue Eisenfeld's Activism as an Aphrodisiac for emphasizing that there are ultimately other equally important forces besides religion at work in a relationship. While Eisenfeld mentions the fact that her husband is not Jewish, this is not what ultimately defines her struggles and her marriage. In fact, Eisenfeld and her husband seem to share a host of common values, proving that it is possible to find common ethical and moral ground despite a difference in religious upbringing. This appears to be the truth behind any successful intermarriage. While intermarried couples encounter unique challenges, Eisenfeld's piece proves that the "religion piece" should never be the sole criteria when finding and sustaining a relationship with your perfect mate.

Joelle Asaro Berman is a senior editor at JVibe.

First Steps into Synagogue Life

Selected by Cheryl F. Coon

Among the many articles that have helped our family, perhaps the one I remember best is First Steps into Synagogue Life by Debora W. Antonoff (1999), which sensitively explored the question of what an interfaith family can do to develop a feeling of belonging when it comes time to select a synagogue. Her advice was "think of yourself as involved in a journey to a Jewish family life, comprised of a series of 'stepping stones.'" That rang true for me; in our interfaith family, it seemed as though our process of figuring out who we were going to be religiously was, indeed, a series of steps. Knowing that that was true for many families was reassuring; using her sensible advice to evaluate the right place for us helped us to find a good fit.

Cheryl F. Coon is the author of Books to Grow With: A Guide to the Best Children's Fiction for Everyday Issues and Tough Challenges. Cheryl lives with her husband and children in Portland, Oregon.

Cheese Blintzes: An Adoptee Discovers Her Jewish Roots

Selected by Ellen S. Glazer

I was fascinated by Cheese Blintzes: An Adoptee Discovers Her Jewish Roots for many reasons. I have long been curious about the various meanings of a "Jewish identity"--especially when it comes to converts, people who "don't look Jewish," adoptees and people whose names "don't sound Jewish." For personal and professional reasons--I counsel families coping with infertility and am an adoptive mother myself--I am very interested in adoption. I am also interested in the impact of secrecy and on how secrets are uncovered. And so it is easy to see why this article, which addressed what it means to "feel Jewish" intrigued me.

Ellen S. Glazer is a clinical social worker in private practice in Newton, Massachusetts. Her work focuses on infertility, adoption, pregnancy loss and parenting after infertility. She is the author or co-author of six books, the most recent being Having Your Baby Through Egg Donation.

A Kiwi on the Seder Plate

Selected by Jim Keen

I think my favorite article has to be A Kiwi on the Seder Plate, which I wrote myself. It's an account of my experience of leading my family's Passover seder for the first time. I believe that this particular Passover marked a milestone in how I viewed myself as a Protestant dad raising Jewish children. I was no longer just the parent who could occasionally chime in on our daughters' Jewish upbringing. I now had become an integral part in teaching them about Judaism. Running that seder enabled me to realize that it had always been my role as their father. Writing the article helped me understand that I had been performing my role for some time.

Jim Keen is the author of the book Inside Intermarriage: A Christian Partner's Perspective on Raising a Jewish Family (URJ Press). He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his wife and two daughters.

The IFF Network Blog

Selected by Julie Wiener

As a busy mom and freelance writer with two small kids, I was slow to join our national blog craze. I always wondered how anyone had time to read, let alone write, these Web journals. However, in recent months I've become a loyal fan of the IFF Network Blog, particularly the work of its blogger-in-chief, Micah Sachs. Far from the navel-gazing, stream-of-consciousness drivel that constitutes so much online chatter, the IFF blog is thoughtful, well researched and meticulously edited, providing interested readers with an entertaining and comprehensive daily digest of intermarriage-related news. The blog has provided me with a wealth of ideas for my column, "In The Mix," and it has become a regular part of my day!

Julie Wiener is a copy editor for The Jewish Week and freelance writer. Her column on interfaith life appears the third week of the month in The Jewish Week. You can reach her at julie.inthemix@gmail.com.

The Road Taken and Confessions of a Non-Jewish Insider

Selected by Lynne Wolfe

It is a difficult task to choose one article that I found helpful in ALL that I have read since the inception of Interfaithfamily.com. Every article InterfaithFamily.com has published is important because it speaks to the heart of an individual's personal journey.

I have found particular articles more relevant at the moment in time that I read it based on what I was doing and who I was intersecting with as an outreach professional these past sixteen years.

In The Road Taken, by Hedi Molnar, a Jewish partner in an interfaith marriage, she not only warmed my heart, but validated my efforts when she stated that "in a warm and supportive atmosphere we learned about Judaism and slowly, incrementally, decided to raise our daughter (we had one child then) Jewishly… I don't know where our family would be now religiously without the years of interfaith support, wide-open ears and Jewish learning we had in Pathways."

In Confessions of a Non-Jewish Insider, by John M. Blumers, John stated that "the watershed moment for me came when during the course of one of these roundtable discussions, I suddenly realized that I did not need to give up my own religious identity in order to raise a Jewish family." In reading about John's "watershed moment" I felt moved, as I was the facilitator of the discussions that John and his wife came to in order to deal with very difficult issues that could only be done within this group setting.

Personally, the articles mentioned above touched my heart when I read them, because I had a part in creating the programs and facilitating the moments which enabled Hedi and John to begin in earnest their Jewish journeys.

Thank you, InterfaithFamily.com, for providing the vehicle for these articles to be published, and the opportunity for others to learn; as well as for professionals like myself, to know the power of what we do so passionately

Lynne Wolfe created and directed PATHWAYS, Outreach to Intermarried Families, United Jewish Communities of MetroWest, New Jersey. On June 10, 2004, Lynne was inducted as a charter member into the Jewish Outreach Institute's "Outreach Hall of Fame" in recognition for her innovative work, dedication, and achievement in creating a more inclusive community to previously disenfranchised intermarried families.
Hebrew for "Day of Atonement," the final of ten Days of Awe that begin with Rosh Hashanah. Occurs during the fall and is marked by a 24-hour fast. One of the most important Jewish holidays. The spring holiday commemorating the Exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The Hebrew name is "Pesach." Hebrew for "time of [one] year," referring to the anniversary of the day of a relative's death. Reform synagogues are often called "temple." "The Temple" refers to either the First Temple, built by King Solomon in 957 BCE in Jerusalem, or the Second Temple, which replaced the First Temple and stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem from 516 BCE to 70 CE. Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation. Hebrew for "order," refers to the traditional course of events, or service, surrounding the Passover and Tu Bishvat meals.
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