Dear InterfaithFamily.com Network Professionals,
As the summer begins and you move into analyzing the projects of the past year and thinking ahead to next fall, I hope you will not ignore the opportunities that summer and the slower pace of life bring to welcoming new interfaith couples and families to your community. The longer, warmer days of summer allow for more casual events and for more time outside, more occasions when those who have been hesitant to cross your threshold during the year can meet you, experience your warmth and learn the depth and richness of Jewish culture.
You can publicize your warmth and your welcome by bringing your events outside and by inviting participation of those who are new to Judaism and Jewish culture:
- Move your Kabbalat Shabbats to a public park. You may not realize it, but one effect of the increase in interfaith families is that partners who did not grow up in Judaism have an ingrained pattern of weekly family worship. They want worship services where their children are welcome, where their noise and behavior are expected and heard as a beautiful background to adult prayer. Choose a park that has play equipment and picnic tables and encourage people to bring their dinner with them. You will find that others in the park will wander over to see what is going on. They may join in or just hang around the edges until they can ask a few questions. Observing the joy and hearing the holy hubbub will send out a terrific welcoming message for your community.
- Create an Outdoor Film Festival. Many towns already show films in the park on summer evenings. If your town does this, get a Jewish-themed movie added to the schedule. If your town does not, consider creating your own film festival with humorous and lighthearted Jewish films that will attract those hesitant families. Let them see that Jews and Jewish institutions include more than scholarship and worship. This article will tell you more.
- Hike and Learn. No need to sit when the weather is so nice! Everyone wants to get moving and there is no reason why you can’t hike and learn at the same time. Create a series of Jewish ecology hikes with information from organizations like EcoJews, JNF, the Green Zionist Alliance or your community’s Jewish environmental organizations.
- Host a Photography Contest. Choose a theme like “Finding God in Nature” and invite submissions from the wider community. Invite the photographers to write about why they chose the photo. Hold an exhibit in a park of all the photos and let those who attend vote on which are the best.
Here are some ideas for those newer to Judaism and Jewish culture, as well as for deeper engagement of those already in your community:
Judaism has blessings and rituals to mark the important moments of life and allow us to share them with our community. Why not adapt existing rituals for the meaningful moments of modern times? You can find adaptations here — for ending or changing jobs, honoring matriarchs, graduating students and new grandparents — that you can use “as is” or be inspired to create your own!
The InterfaithFamily.com Organization Affiliate Badge is a quick and easy way to instantly show visitors to your websites that yours is a welcoming organization. Take two minutes now and add it! Click here to find instructions.
Cut 'n' Paste
Here is some content that you can easily cut and paste into a message for your congregants or community members, pointing out some of the many resources at InterfaithFamily.com:
There is a holy day that comes at the end of July this year. It is Tisha b’Av, which literally means “the Ninth of the Av.” This is a fast day, traditionally a day of mourning for the destruction of the first and second Temples. Jews around the world read one of the five small scrolls of the Hebrew Bible called Lamentations or Eicha in Hebrew.
Why isn't this holy day much observed in the liberal Jewish community? Marinell James gives some reasons why in this essay about the difficulty of fasting in summer. Read her essay which raises an interesting question: Why don’t we have a tradition of a break fast the way we do after Yom Kippur?
Traditional Jews refrain from eating meat and drinking wine for the first nine days of the Hebrew month of Av, making it a good time to try some new vegetarian recipes. Katherine Romanow has done the research for us and found a recipe that works for both a pre-fast meal and an after the fast meal. Let me introduce you to Mengedarrah!
Some Jews add the tragedy of Darfur and Somalia and use Tisha b’Av as a pretext for universalizing the need to prevent destruction of communities.
I hope these are helpful to you. Please send me requests and comments so that I can provide you with what you need. And do encourage your preschool and religious school teachers to join the InterfaithFamily.com Network! We have lots of resources for them too!
The next newsletter will come out in July, with helpful ideas for the fall holidays.
Chief Education Officer