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March 14, 2006 eNewsletter


 Web Magazine

March 14, 2006

Dear friend,

Because of an unprecedented flurry of recent news about intermarriage--including a front page Sunday New York Times story, Reform Jews Hope to Unmix Mixed Marriages --we decided to offer this special issue of's Web Magazine on "the outreach debate."

The Times article reports that the head of the Reform movement, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, recently called for Reform synagogues to increase their efforts to convert non-Jewish spouses. The article aptly notes the risk of that approach by quoting a non-Jewish partner who anticipates no longer going to the synagogue if she feels pressure to convert. We've heard similar comments from other interfaith couples, which causes us great concern.

To frame the debate, we offer two featured articles. First is the latest statement of my own views, The Next Big Thing is Now, reprinted from the New Jersey Jewish News. I call for more genuinely welcoming attitudes and less promotion of conversion, extensive offerings of outreach programs, and addressing a largely ignored frontier in the outreach field: the difficulties interfaith couples have in finding rabbis to officiate at their weddings. On the other side is Real Realism on Intermarriage, a September Forward op-ed by Jack Wertheimer and Steven Bayme, two of the leading ideological proponents of promoting in-marriage and conversion.

In addition, we offer:

  • Letters to the Editor of the Forward responding to the Wertheimer and Bayme op-ed, from me, Sherry Israel of the Hornstein Program at Brandeis, and Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and Paul Golin of the Jewish Outreach Institute;
  • Let the Outreach Debate Be Heard, a November editorial by Gary Rosenblatt of The New York Jewish Week;
  • What Rabbi Yoffie actually said about Welcoming Non-Jewish Spouses and Converts in his November sermon at the Reform movement's Biennial. In addition to calling for new efforts to encourage conversion, Rabbi Yoffie said that non-Jewish spouses raising Jewish children are "heroes of Jewish life" who deserve not merely welcome, but profound thanks--something the Reform movement regrettably has not publicized as much as the new conversion effort;
  • Revisiting and Promoting Conversion, another offering by Bayme and Wertheimer reprinted from The New York Jewish Week, and Mean-Spirited Approach, my letter to the editor in response; and
  • Gary Rosenblatt's latest editorial, When Intermarriage Hits Home, where he renews the suggestion of an interim status for non-Jewish partners.

What do you think? Please join our online discussion on the topic: What is the best way to encourage more intermarrying couples to connect with the Jewish community and raise Jewish children?

Going beyond the theoretical, we offer two news stories about outreach "on the ground." The Conservative movement has also called for new efforts to encourage conversion of non-Jewish partners--click here to read about that--but some synagogues are taking a different approach, as told by Johanna Ginsberg in Conservative Synagogues Join Forces to Welcome Interfaith Families. And Dinah Spritzer describes how European Jewish Leaders Confront Questions of Apathy, Intermarriage.

Finally, today is Purim--a holiday that commemorates the rescue of the Jewish people by an intermarried woman, Queen Esther--and Rabbi Rayzel Raphael offers Purim and Intermarriage.

Coming Next

Don't miss our next issue on Passover and Easter, on March 28.

Warm regards,



 Edmund Case, Publisher

Write for Us!

For our forthcoming issue on Jewish Identity, we're looking for writers. If you are the child of intermarried parents, do you struggle with your religious identity? If you do, how much is that because of the way you feel you are perceived by the Jewish community? How much because of your own feelings of divided loyalties?

If you want to write about this topic, please send an email to

Connections In Your Area--Featured Organization  

The Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia is a social service organization dedicated to enriching the life of the individual Jew and of the Jewish community. The JCC is a membership organization devoted to activities with Jewish content. Its programs are permeated with the spiritual, cultural, and ethical values comprising the Jewish way of life on the American scene.

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Network News

We'd Like Your Input

The Network is creating a new resource to respond to many requests for help making Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies and celebrations welcoming and inclusive. To have your Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony idea included, please email us at .

We're still eager to hear whether having a rabbi officiate, or not officiate, at your wedding impacted your later involvement in Jewish life. Please share your experience, and be eligible to win a $100 gift certificate.

Thanks to the over 250 people who took our Passover/Easter Survey. Watch for the results in our March 28 issue--and for the winner of the $100 gift certificate.


We're exhibiting at the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education conference in Boston March 19-21.

On March 20, 2006, Rabbi Sam Gordon will make a presentation to the Network Professionals Advisory Circle third quarterly conference call. For more information on the Circle, click here.

We're honored to be featured at a reception hosted by the Samuel Bronfman Foundation at the Jewish Funders Network conference in Denver on April 3, 2006.

We're pleased to co-present the 20th anniversary gala celebration of San Francisco's pioneering Interfaith Connection on April 10, 2006 at the San Francisco JCC.

Ways You Can Get Involved

Support Us.  If what we do helps you or others you care about, please make a tax-deductible charitable contribution in support of our work.


Join Our Discussions.  We want to know what you think--and it's easy to tell us!

Spread the Word.  Ask your friends to subscribe to The eConnection --the more people we reach, the better!




Hebrew for "daughter of the commandments." In modern Jewish practice, Jewish girls come of age at 12 or 13. When a girl comes of age, she is officially a bat mitzvah and considered an adult. The term is commonly used as a short-hand for the bat mitzvah's coming-of-age ceremony and/or celebration. The male equivalent is "bar mitzvah." The spring holiday commemorating the Exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The Hebrew name is "Pesach." Hebrew for "lots," referring to the lots cast by Haman, the story's antagonist, to determine the date on which to kill the Jewish people. It's a spring holiday commemorating the Jewish people's triumph. The story is told through the biblical Book of Esther; the namesake heroine, a Jewish woman, marries the Persian king. Their interfaith relationship is central to the story. 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.
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