Downton Abbey Portrays Reality of Interfaith RelationshipsBy Gerri Miller
Go inside Season 5 Episode 9 where the story line of Atticus and Rose's interfaith relationship comes to a head.Go To Pop Culture
InterfaithFamily.com is reaching the audience that so much of the Jewish community wants to reach -- young, unaffiliated Jews and their partners. According to an October 2000 online survey, 77% of the bi-weekly Internet magazine's readers are 40 or younger, and 64% do not belong to a synagogue.
More than 85% of the 135 respondents strongly agreed that InterfaithFamily.com (IFF) offers interesting relevant content, and enjoy visiting the site. Some comments: "This site provides a one-stop site for interfaith topics." "IFF is a place I can relate to and one that offers relevant discussion about issues happening to me and my family." "It is open and non-judgmental in its approach, which is refreshing since interfaith marriage is largely unpopular in the Jewish community."
IFF readers, who live throughout North America, include people who are intermarried (51%); people who are interdating (34%); children of intermarried parents (2%); converts (5%) ("[I]t reassures me that I am accepted"); and Jewish communal professionals (6%) (one rabbi said "Professionally, I find it invaluable.")
Sixty-four percent of readers first found out about IFF by Internet searches or links from other websites, 53% visit once every two weeks or more frequently, and 72% spend 10 minutes or more on each visit.
Forty-three percent said they visit the site for information and support. From the wide range of perspectives the site offers, and through access to other interfaith couples, they learn how to get the most out of their interfaith relationships. One said, "I learn many things about my husband's religion from the site. I appreciate the explanations of various rituals and holidays." Another said her main reason for visiting IFF is "to better learn how I can blend into my fiancé's Jewish family and beliefs, and how we can create a cohesive and healthy Jewish home." That there is a strong desire to live Jewishly among many interfaith families is evident from responses like this one: "I am 28, and my fiance is Jewish. We don't belong to a synagogue right now, but we want to have a Jewish home and raise our children as Jews, so we have begun looking around at various synagogues."
Fifty-five percent particularly like the personal stories written by people involved in interfaith relationships telling how they have dealt with the common issues that interfaith families face - such as how to celebrate holidays and life cycle events, how to negotiate family relationships, and how to fulfill their spiritual needs. These stories, and the bulletin board discussions on which readers post their own comments, give one reader "The sense that I'm not alone in this situation - that there are many other interfaith relationships and families out there, and that there are things I can do to make my own interfaith relationship stronger." Many readers agreed that the site made them feel less alone, including one who added, "I often use the topics as a springboard for our own discussions." A third wrote, "It has helped me learn some of the things you can't learn in books. By reading other people's stories and their experiences and how they have handled them, it helps me as I encounter similar situations."
Forty-two percent of readers said that IFF gives them a sense of community, like one who said this was "because there are other people in the same situation that visit and respond to the site." "Reading about others in similar situations makes me feel more connected." "I feel good knowing that there are others like me, and knowing I have a resource to find others who are like me and my fiance."
Forty-eight percent of readers said that InterfaithFamily.com made them feel more welcomed in the Jewish community. "[T]he mere fact there's a site dedicated to my type of relationship, and that the site is sponsored by a Jewish organization, makes me feel welcomed," said one. Another said, "my spouse did not realize there was actually outreach for interfaith couples. He was concerned that I wouldn't be accepted by other Jews/synagogues." A third wrote, "I recently got engaged to an Irish Catholic man. We are planning our future together and find this website extremely helpful and warm! Thank you for providing such a wonderful resource. It is beyond anything I ever thought would be available to couples of mixed faiths." As one reader summarized, InterfaithFamily.com shows "a completely different face of the Jewish community."
InterfaithFamily.com has had a major impact on readers' lives. "[B]y just having this site available to me as a resource, I feel connected and accepted in a way I never thought possible and this is extremely important to me especially as I grow older. This site has provided the spark and interest that I thought I had lost in remaining active in my religious culture and education," said one. Another wrote, "[I]t has helped me make the first step to making a connection in real life with folks from a congregation." A third said, "Thanks to this site, we became members of [a Florida synagogue]. I am Jewish [though] my father was not. I ended up intermarrying myself; however, I have strong ties to Judaism. I made it clear to my wife that it would be extremely important for me to raise our children as Jews. We celebrate all of the Jewish holidays at home and are becoming active in our synagogue."
Aspects of IFF that readers indicated they would like to see improved include: adding more local area program information (5%); adding more resources (5%); improving the discussion boards (4%); and providing more content, more frequently (4%). Specific topics that respondents said they would like to see more of include stories on: people who were in-married, then divorced, and then intermarried; adults who grew up in interfaith families; inter-dating; conversion; child-raising; starting a family; handling opinionated grandparents; how the non-Jewish family is affected by an intermarriage; recipes; and book suggestions. One reader asked that the site be made more accessible for the hearing-impaired. Several identified hostile comments on the discussion boards as something they did not like.
Ninety-eight percent of respondents are likely to visit IFF again within the next month, 97% are very satisfied with their experience visiting IFF, and 94% are likely to recommend IFF to a friend similar to them in terms of involvement with interfaith families.