San Francisco

Thanks for the publicity! Did you see the article from j., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California? By way of intro: InterfaithFamily, the 10-year-old national nonprofit dedicated to providing interfaith couples and families with resources to help them engage with Judaism and get more involved in Jewish life, has expanded to the Bay Area […]

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Amare Stoudemire – Jewish Journey

When a celebrity declares his desire to get in touch with his Jewish roots, the Jewish community is wary. How serious can Madonna/Lindsey Lohan/Ashton Kutcher be, we wonder—without considering the irony that many of us are not particularly serious about our religion either. So it’s no surprise that NBA star Amar’e Stoudemire’s recent trip to […]

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Gosh Darn It, People Voted for Him

Al Franken and his wife of 32 years, Franni Bryson. Eight months after the election, Al Franken (D, Jewish) was declared the winner of Minnesota’s 2008 Senate election over incumbent Norm Coleman (R, Jewish). That makes Franken the 13th sitting Jewish U.S. senator. Like Coleman, Franken is intermarried. In 2003, Franken talked about his family with the Jewish Journal […]

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The Next Big Half-Jewish Hip Hop Star?

Aubrey Graham, AKA “Drake,” a former star of Degrassi: The Next Generation, is apparently about to be bigger than the Beatles, Elvis and Michael Jackson combined, if you are to believe this hyperbolic story in the Toronto Star. He hasn’t released an album yet, but Kanye West has directed his video, he’s touring with Lil […]

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Lamm, of God? Hardly.

A week and a half ago, Norman Lamm, the chancellor of Yeshiva University, gave an interview with the Jerusalem Post that is so full of insults for every Jew who’s not like him that it could pass as anti-Semitism. In the interview, Lamm says, “With a heavy heart we will soon say kaddish on the […]

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Extra! Extra! Star Trek’s Director Is Intermarried

We were going to use a picture of the slick new Starship Enterprise, but this still from the original series is indescribably cooler. BREAKING NEWS! A new Star Trek movie comes out today!!!! Wait? You already knew that? Darn. The Internet just can’t keep up with newspapers and TV. (Especially in this economy.) Even if […]

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Especially in This Economy

A new game that has amused me and my friends in recent days is adding “…especially in this economy” to the end of any opinionated statement. The more ridiculous, the better. Let’s take some examples from friends’ Facebook status updates (all names changed to protect the guilty): “Lisa Martin is really going to miss ‘Lost’ […]

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Emancipation of the Non-Jewish Partner

During Passover–which began Wednesday night–Jews are commanded to make a “mishna,” or commentary, on the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. The rabbis who drew up the Passover rituals demanded that each successive generation find ways to connect the ancient story of enslavement and freedom to their lives. One of today’s parallels has less to do with […]

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Happiness Is…

What was the happiest moment of your life? It’s a question a new musical at the Lincoln Center, appropriately titled “Happiness,” poignantly asks. Written by the Tony-winning writer of “Assassins” and “Contact” (John Weidman), with music by the team behind “Grey Gardens” (Scott Frankel and Michael Korie), “Happiness” tells the story of nine New Yorkers […]

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The New Europe, Reconsidered

Are European Jewish leaders becoming more liberal towards intermarriage and conversion? A new report we blogged about on Wednesday appeared to say yes, but now that I’ve read the report–rather than just the JTA and The Jerusalem Post stories on it–I’m not so sure.

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European Leaders Changing Ways on Intermarriage?

Most European Jewish leaders support liberalizing their approach to intermarriage and conversion, a new survey shows. As the JTA reports, 85 percent of the 251 respondents to a pan-European survey of Jewish leaders felt it was “not a good idea to strongly oppose intermarriage and bar intermarried Jews and their spouses from communal membership.” Further: … fewer than […]

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Can You Be for Inmarriage Without Being Against Intermarriage?

Can you be for inmarriage without being against intermarriage? My gut says yes. But explaining it is the tricky part. When people of different religious backgrounds ask what I do, I tell them I work for a Jewish non-profit that provides resources for interfaith couples with a Jewish partner. “So you encourage Jews to marry Christians?” they inevitably […]

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Jewish Population Shrinking?

The American Jewish population–as defined by religion–continues to decline, according to the just released American Religious Identification Survey. However, as measured by ethnicity, the number of Jews remains relatively stable, say the survey’s principal investigators. The ARIS 2008 is the third in a series of large-scale surveys conducted by the Institute for the Study of […]

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Survey: 60% of Progressive Rabbis Officiate

Sixty percent of rabbis at Reform, Reconstructionist, Jewish Renewal and unaffiliated congregations officiate at interfaith weddings, according to a new transdenominational survey by Dr. Caryn Aviv and Dr. Steven Cohen, reports JTA. I haven’t seen the survey yet–it only was presented yesterday as part of a conference on best practices for engaging LGBT Jews–but if that […]

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A Wedding on Planet Obama

From L-R: Anne Hathaway, Tunde Adebimpe, Rosemarie DeWitt and Mather Zickel in Rachel Getting Married. As a ravenous consumer of film (insert shameless plug here), I make it a point to see as many of the Oscar contenders before the show as I can. Given that the Oscars are in less than three weeks–and nominations […]

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Is Intermarriage Worse Than Bernie Madoff?

Jonathan Tobin is a fiercely intelligent, exceptionally eloquent Jewish journalist who was recently appointed editor of Commentary, an esteemed conservative (small-c) Jewish magazine. I would be a big fan, if it weren’t for his equally fierce, equally exceptional retrograde politics on Jewish issues. Intermarriage, unsurprisingly, is one of his favorite bugbears. In his first op-ed […]

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A Bad “Practice”

This past summer, the San Diego Jewish Journal published a nice cover story on intermarriage that prominently featured Ed Case, our CEO. Unfortunately, this month the magazine–where I was the founding editor–published a silly, insulting and misinformed column by their singles columnist titled “Shiksas Are for Practice.” Here is the letter I sent to the […]

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Black Jews at the Inauguration

A number of Jews from racially mixed backgrounds are attending the inauguration of President Barack Obama, according to the Institute for Jewish and Community Research. One of them is Lacey Schwartz, who is now the New York regional director of Be’chol Lashon, the Institute’s initiative for Jews of racially diverse backgrounds. She also made a […]

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Inside-Outsiders?

Many progressive Jewish organizations have made great strides in recent years in creating a welcoming environment for intermarried members and visitors, but what of those who work for the organizations themselves? Does the same attitude of welcoming apply to the organization’s intermarried employees? There is no definitive answer. But the Jewish Outreach Institute is starting an email discussion […]

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Happy 2009?

Two weeks ago, Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and Levi Fishman of the Jewish Outreach Institute wrote an op-ed for The Jewish Week about how 2008 was a year of advances in the field of outreach. 2008 may have been a good year for outreach, but 2009 looks like it could be far different. The big difference […]

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A Sad Day for Outreach

Two weeks ago, I was eating lunch with employees of the Robert I. Lappin Foundation, as fellow workers in interfaith outreach marveled at the foundation’s programming and sophistication. On Friday, these employees–and everyone else who worked for the foundation–lost their jobs. The Foundation was the victim of securities fraud, as it saw its entire $8 […]

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How Do You Spell That Jewish Holiday in December?

How do you spell Hanukkah? At InterfaithFamily.com, we spell it H-A-N-U-K-K-A-H. But 157 search results), HANNUKAH (46), CHANUKKAH (5). HANUKKAH is the spelling of choice at non-Jewish websites like Wikipedia and Blue Mountain and tends to be the preferred spelling of transdenominational or progressive Jewish organizations, like My Jewish Learning, the Conservative movement and the […]

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Civil Marriage to Arrive in Israel?

Civil marriage in Israel may have a new (sort-of) champion in Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, one of the two leading candidates for prime minister of Israel. Last week, The Forward reported that Livni promised that if she wins in February, she will allow civil marriage for the 350,000 Russian-speaking immigrants and their children who are caught in the so-called “marriage trap.” […]

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A Goldmine for Geeks

Every few weeks, I get a call from a reporter, student or amateur researcher looking for statistics on intermarriage. Usually I can quickly answer the question–47% of Jews marrying between 1996-2000 married non-Jews, 28 million American are intermarried, 31% of all Jews were intermarried as of 2000–but sometimes I have to look things up. My […]

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Boy Wonder

When I had my bar mitzvah 18 years ago, it was truly all about the party. Back then, at least at my synagogue and in my community, there was no required community service project, kids didn’t lead the service and the theme of the party was more relevant than the theme of your haftarah portion. […]

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Why Bill Maher’s Wrong

Love him or loathe him, there’s one thing we can all agree on about Bill Maher: he’s a jerk. In Religulous, his documentary-cum-diatribe on the horrors of religion, his approach to his interview subjects is at best mocking, at worst contemptuous. He variously interrupts, laughs at, winces at and provokes his subjects. He edits the interviews […]

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The Death of Cool

The coolest man on the planet died this weekend. Sure, Paul Newman had all the outward accoutrements of cool: the mesmerizing blue eyes, the charming smile, the fame, the wealth, the love of car-racing. But what really made him cool was his character. Here was a man who was still a heartthrob into his 80s, […]

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The Candidates’ Jewish Connections

Michelle Obama has a rabbi in her family, Anthony Weiss of The Forward reported on Tuesday: Michelle Obama, wife of the Democratic presidential nominee, and Rabbi Capers Funnye, spiritual leader of a mostly black synagogue on Chicago’s South Side, are first cousins once removed. Funnye’s mother, Verdelle Robinson Funnye (born Verdelle Robinson) and Michelle Obama’s […]

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A Jewish Children’s Museum

I’m a big advocate of Jewish-themed museums as a potentially potent tool for reaching unaffiliated intermarried and interdating Jews. They lack the religious baggage of synagogues and the political baggage of Israel Independence Day festivals. Unlike JCCs or synagogues, there is nothing clubby about them–they are essentially public spaces marked more by anonymity than community. […]

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“Code”: Read

As a member of the Jewish Outreach Institute’s Big Tent Judaism, we recently received JOI’s newest outreach tool, a business-card sized glossary to common Jewish terms. This little pamphlet, called “Cracking the Code,” defines words familiar to insiders–like Shabbat, minyan, Reform Judaism, Hillel–but often bewildering to outsiders. It’s a great little resource; I gave one to a […]

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Meet the “New Jews,” Same As the Old Jews

In The Jerusalem Post two weeks ago, Larry Derfner wrote about how both of his friend’s sons are marrying children of Asian immigrants. Part elegy, part rant, the piece explores why “old-fashioned, secular unrich” Jews like his friend’s sons are coupling with Asian women rather than Jewish ones. His answer? The simplest reason … is that both couples met […]

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A Troubled Daughter and an Atheist Mother

Yesterday I wrote about the fictional story of a successful man whose child inexplicably descends into self-destruction in her teens. Today, my friend Nate Bloom alerted me to a similar story in The New York Times. The big difference is that the story in the Times is true. In Sunday’s edition, Julie Schumacher, a novelist […]

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Philip Roth on Intermarriage

I recently finished reading Philip Roth’s American Pastoral, which won the Pulitzer for fiction in 1997. Roth of course has written extensively about Jewish men who fall in love with non-Jewish women–and the parents who disapprove–and American Pastoral is no different. Except when it is. Unlike most of his other protagonists, the central character in American Pastoral […]

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Late Bloomers

Julie Wiener at The Jewish Week has a nice column about non-Jewish women who convert many years after their intermarriage. This phenomenon marks a change from the typical pattern 20 or more years ago, when women would often convert before marriage under pressure–either overt or subtle–from their partner’s families.

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The Singles Difference

Young unmarried Jews are just as interested in Judaism as their married peers, a surprising new study shows. What’s different, say co-authors Steven M. Cohen and Ari Y. Kelman, is that they avoid affiliating with synagogues, federations and JCCs in part because those institutions are so focused on the traditional family unit. Uncoupled: How Our Singles […]

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The Jew in the NBA Finals

The list of Jewish players who have ever played in the NBA is short (and the list of notable ones is even shorter). The best ever is Hall-of-Famer Dolph Schayes, who was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history in 1996. The newest Jewish talent in the NBA–and first since Dolph’s son Danny last played […]

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Coming Out of the Closet… As Interdating

In yesterday’s Huffington Post, one of the original plantiffs in the California Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage, Robin Tyler, wrote about the one thing more shocking than her pending marriage to a woman: her pending marriage to a non-Jew. Tyler (original last name: Chernick) and her partner Diane Olson plan on being married […]

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Think We’ve Got It Bad?

In this Middle Eastern country, a woman of the majority religion married a man from another religion. Her family had no problems with it, but the couple lives in fear of being exposed to the religious authorities as an interfaith couple. Meanwhile, the majority of this state’s young people support a couple’s right to civil […]

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Bush on Intermarriage

In his (presumably) last trip to the Middle East as president, Pres. Bush joined in the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Israel. But he also, as Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times, “received something else: a little lesson in cultural awareness.” In a museum garden, where Pres. Bush and his wife […]

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Visiting Israel

In last week’s The Jewish Week, Julie Wiener wrote about a “mini-trend” we first reported on earlier this year: the emergence of trips to Israel geared towards interfaith families. Wiener addresses the trips through the lens of personal experience. When she was fresh out of college, she spent a year interning at a Jewish non-profit. […]

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The Dangers of First Impressions

Today’s New York Times has an article by Ethan Bronner on Israel’s 60th anniversary, and how the country is celebrating by inviting a collection of the world’s top political, scientific and business thinkers to discuss major world challenges–with a uniquely Jewish and Israeli spin, of course. Of course the article can’t avoid mentioning Middle Eastern […]

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Where Do You Stand, Part II

Yesterday, I explored the study It’s Not Just Who Stands Under the Chuppah: Intermarriage and Engagement, co-authored by demographer Leonard Saxe, as well as the response that sociologist Steven Cohen offered at the Reform rabbinical convention in March. After writing the post, I exchanged emails with Saxe. He responded to my concern that the study […]

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Where Do You Stand?

At the Reform rabbinical convention in late March, the two leading academics in the debate over intermarriage squared off. In one corner was Leonard Saxe, director of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University. In the other corner was Steven Cohen, research professor of Jewish social […]

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A Tale of Three Cities

Earlier this year, JDate began offering bulk-rate discounts on JDate subscriptions for rabbis interested in promoting Jewish dating among younger, unmarried members of their congregations. Nothing wrong with that, although the measure is more symbolic than practical, given the small number of young, unmarried people in most synagogues. And the kind of young, unmarried Jews who join synagogues […]

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Intermarriage in Egypt, Moms, Etc.

Consider this a belated cleaning of online hametz: Julie Wiener recently wrote about the growth of local Mothers’ Circle chapters for the Wall Street Journal. The Mothers Circle, a program for non-Jewish women raising Jewish children, now has chapters in 26 communities. Wiener also wrote a great pre-Passover piece for AP on Passover food and […]

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Slate on the Intermarriage Debate

The prolific Shmuel Rosner gives Slate an overview of the latest exchanges of fire in the Jewish intermarriage wars. It’s nothing earth-shattering, covering studies that have been reported on elsewhere, but the opening anecdote nearly made my head explode. Rosner relays the story of a 30-something Jewish woman married to a Catholic man who walks […]

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“Both Sides” of the Story

I saw a very interesting one-act on Sunday. Called “Both Sides of the Family,” it tells the parallel stories of an Episcopalian woman raising Jewish children in a Conservadox community and a twice-married Jewish man with Jewish children from his first wife and Christian children from his second. It was created and produced by the Charenton Theater Company of […]

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Papal Visit

The Pope is coming to the U.S. for the first time next week, making stops in Washington, D.C., and New York on his five-day trip. What does this mean for interfaith families? Like his predecessor John Paul II (and really, like any mainstream Catholic official), Benedict XVI is pro-life, anti-death penalty, anti-birth control and anti-homosexuality. He also follows the recent […]

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More Similar Than You Think

One of our central messages has always been that interfaith couples can offer their children just as strong a sense of Jewish identity as their inmarried brethren. But besides our own research, almost no studies have focused on the population of interfaith families raising Jewish children. Until now. A new report from the Boston Jewish federation […]

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A Fitting Faith

If you ever wondered why The New York Times is considered home to the best newspaper writing in the country, consider the following introduction from Dana Jennings’ essay “Religion Is Less a Birthright Than a Good Fit,” from last Sunday: I WAS raised a Protestant in a Rockwellian New Hampshire village that was the proud home to stout, […]

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American Jews and Israel, Take II

Are American Jews losing their attachment to Israel? Common wisdom and a widely covered report from last year say yes; a new report from the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University says no. “American Jewish Attachment to Israel: An Assessment of the ‘Distancing’ Hypothesis” is a direct rebuke of “Beyond Distancing: Young Adult American […]

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Judy Blume’s Legacy

Most people hold dear books that they read as a child. Me, I can barely recall anything I read prior to turning 15 (and those books that I do remember, like the Encyclopedia Brown and Choose Your Own Adventure series, hold no special place in my heart). So “Judy Blume” has long been just another author […]

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A Catholic Controversy

The Latin prayer that includes a call for the conversion of the Jews continues its controversial revitalization, reports the New York Times. Since I know next to nothing about Catholic liturgy, I won’t presume to have a firm opinion on the issue. For two informed takes on the controversy, read (Catholic) James Carroll’s call to […]

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Challenged, and Disturbed

Keeping with Wednesday’s theme, I’d like to write about two very different recently published articles. In Thursday’s The (New York) Jewish Week, Julie Wiener writes about an organization that commits “the ultimate taboo”: teaching both Judaism and Christianity to the children of interfaith couples. Going to visit the Interfaith Community’s religious school in Long Island, […]

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The Nasty and the Nice

I want to share two stories about the strange priorities of the Orthodox today. One’s nasty, one’s nice. The nasty one comes from London, where the JTA reports that an Orthodox day school has repeatedly refused admission to the daughter of a convert and teacher in the school. Says the brief, “The office of the […]

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Learning About Christianity

One thing that always strikes me about my Christian friends is how curious they are about Judaism. But the reverse doesn’t hold true for my Jewish friends. Very few are particularly curious about Christianity–indeed, ignorance of Christianity is almost a badge of honor among Jews. I’ve always attributed this willful ignorance to anxiety. Anxiety over […]

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Two Definites, One Maybe

Opening on Valentine’s Day is a romantic comedy starring Ryan Reynolds and Abigail Breslin called Definitely, Maybe. Yawn. But Jewdar, a blogger on Heeb magazine’s website, points out that two of the three leading women–Elizabeth Banks and Isla Fisher–are converts to Judaism. Banks converted in 2003 upon marrying her college boyfriend, Max Handelman, and Fisher […]

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Ronna and Beverly

Have you read You’ll Do A Little Better Next Time: A Guide to Marriage and Remarriage for Jewish Singles? No? Never heard of it? It’s written by Beverly Ginsburg and Ronna Glickman, two Massachusetts-based Jewish mothers. Watch this video (courtesy of Jewcy) to see them harass an intermarried record store clerk. “We’ll talk you through the […]

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Unsilencing the Intermarried

The Conservative movement’s rabbinical organization may rethink its ban on intermarried speakers at its conventions, according to Ben Harris of JTA. “The policy is we will only invite speakers who are either single or, if they are married, are not intermarried,” said Rabbi Joel Meyers, the R[abbinical] A[ssembly]’s vice president. Which is proving to be […]

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When the Devout Marry

R.R. Reno, a practicing Christian and theology professor at Creighton University, wrote a wonderful essay in Commentary on his intermarriage to a religiously observant Jewish woman. Unfortunately, it’s available for subscribers only. The story of his interfaith relationship begins typically. He met Juliana when they were both graduate students at Yale in the ’80s: Make no […]

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Facebook Is Not a Waste of Time

About four months ago, I signed up for Facebook. Several of my younger friends in the Jewish communal world had been clamoring for me to join. They had “tagged” photos of me in their profiles, whatever that meant. I was skeptical. I’d spent some time on MySpace. It was a disorganized mess. I had set […]

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Why Jewish Summer Camp?

Overnight summer camp is awesome. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a former camper who disagrees. But why do parents send their kids to summer camp? More specifically, why do Jewish parents send their kids to Jewish summer camp? In a terrific essay for the (Vancouver, B.C.) Jewish Independent, Kelley Korbin writes of her shock at […]

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Progressive Conservatives

Arnold Eisen’s inauguration as the chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary last fall has generated a fair amount of excitement in the Jewish world. As the first non-rabbi to serve in the role in more than 65 years and one of the leading sociologists of American Jewry, he is widely seen as bringing a fresh perspective […]

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Chalk Soup

The Boston Globe brought together five Jewish grandmothers and one Jewish grandfather to taste canned chicken soups. Their conclusion? They all stink. Which I could have told them. I’ve never tasted a canned soup that tasted anything like home-made. (Credit due Nextbook for turning me onto the link.)

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Unclassifiable

How’s this for an unlikely story? A non-Jewish Korean professor of Jewish history at Brandeis does anthropological research that debunks cherished Jewish-American myths about shtetl life in 19th-century eastern Europe. In The Forward, Gabriel Sanders profiles ChaeRan Freeze, who showed in her first book, Jewish Marriage and Divorce in Imperial Russia (2001), that Jewish divorce […]

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The Other Jamie-Lynn

JTA’s Dina Kraft has a nice piece today that connects to several of our recent stories. As Nate Bloom reports in today’s installment of Interfaith Celebrities, Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Meadow Soprano on “The Sopranos”) recently visited Israel as part of a birthright israel tour. Birthright israel provides young Jewish adults who’ve never visited Israel before with a […]

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Cracks in the Orthodox Armor?

Our site is full of stories of people who encountered resistance to their interfaith relationships from Jewish family. But their problems pale in comparison to the rejection and ostracization experienced by Jews from the Orthodox community who are dating or married to non-Jews. In her latest “In the Mix” column, Julie Wiener tells the story of “Ilana,” […]

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Tahiti’s 200 Jews

Keeping with the theme of island paradises, Ben Frank of JTA has written a story on the tiny Jewish community of Tahiti, where more than half of the Jews are intermarried. The island is home to one Orthodox synagogue and while Shabbat services attract only about 20 regular worshippers, most of the island’s 200 Jews attend […]

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The Off-Shore Marriage Industry

I’ve written before in this space about the difficulties faced by Israeli interfaith couples looking to get married. For quite a few of these couples, the solution to their problem is only a 55-minute flight from Tel Aviv: Cyprus. According to this Moment magazine article by Karin Tanabe, in Lanarca, one of the wedding meccas, […]

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Is Judaism Becoming a Girls’ Club?

In the opening line of his latest column for The (New York) Jewish Week, Editor and Publisher Gary Rosenblatt asks: Is it fair to trace our communal challenges of intermarriage, assimilation and lack of affiliation back to boys losing interest in Jewish life after their bar mitzvah celebrations? It’s a provocative question that relates to […]

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Being the Best Bubbe

Yesterday, the Jewish Outreach Institute launched its first discussion group for grandparents looking to share their Jewish heritage with their interfaith grandchildren. The first Grandparents Circle was held at Temple Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, Calif. A second is hatching in Atlanta Jan. 25. Modeled on JOI’s successful Mothers’ Circle program, Grandparents Circle is a five-week guided […]

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The “Non-Jewish Jews”

In Israel, one in 25 people is both Jewish and not Jewish. They are Jewish enough to be allowed to emigrate to Israel under the Law of Return, but not Jewish enough to be recognized by the Orthodox establishment that oversees lifecyle events like marriage, divorce and burial. They are what Israelis call the “non-Jewish Jews.” A JTA story by […]

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Irving the Snowchicken

After a month of publishing almost exclusively “December Dilemma”-driven content, I promised myself that there would be no more. But then a friend sent me this essay on Salon.com, where Christopher Noxon explains the unique solution he and his Jewish wife found for their holiday hangups: Irving the Snowchicken. Noxon relates how they came to hatch Irving: Eventually, […]

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The Link Sink

It’s a little late, but I need to pass along this amusing story of the Jewish daughter of a Jewish mom and a Christian dad named Sarah Christmas. The Forward has a wonderful story about a group of 55 African-Americans who converted to Judaism in Cairo, Ill.–home to 40 churches and only 4,000 people. Also […]

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The Power of Controls

In the sciences all experiments require controls as well as subjects. Controls allow scientists to see if the expected results from an altered environment are any different than what would occur in an unaltered environment. Typically, research on intermarriage in the Jewish community has looked at the effect of intermarriage on Jewish behavior as a […]

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Of Mega-Churches and Christmas Trees

At its recent biennial convention in San Diego, the Reform movement apparently borrowed a few chapters from the modern evangelical handbook: In a darkened room at the San Diego Convention Center last week, nearly 1,000 people clapped, sang and danced to evening prayers, with the words projected on two large screens against a bucolic backdrop […]

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Adam Sandler = Israeli Super Spy

I’m not much of an Adam Sandler fan, but for the first time in well over a decade, I saw a trailer for a Sandler movie that looks genuinely funny. Called You Don’t Mess With The Zohan, it stars Sandler as an Israeli Mossad agent who goes to New York to become a hair stylist–and […]

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Outreach Pros and Cons

While I was at the Reform movement’s biennial last week, Anthony Weiss suggested in the Forward (Intermarriage Study Muddies Waters, December 12) that Boston’s figure of 60% of interfaith families raising their children as Jews may not be the result of its CJP-funded outreach programs, contrary to a Forward op-ed I co-wrote last year. Weiss […]

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The Rap on Rent-a-Rabbis

Independent rabbis without congregations get a bad rap. There seems to be a general cultural assumption that unless you have a congregation–or you’re famous, the great reprieve of American culture–you are somehow not a “real” rabbi. Somehow the fact that a small group of volunteer leaders at a synagogue decided to pay you a salary confers more […]

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IFF in the Boston Globe

Allow us to gloat: a week after making the New York Times, we were featured in a front-page story in the Boston Globe. Philanthropic Shift: Young Jewish donors go beyond traditional groups, by Sacha Pfeiffer, focuses on efforts by 20- and 30-something Jewish philanthropists to give money to different causes and organizations than their parents […]

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Intermarriage Peaks Up North

A recent story in The Forward reported that Portland, Maine, has the highest rate of intermarriage in the country. While true, the number cited in the story–61%–is a little different than the number typically used when citing intermarriage rates. The most commonly cited intermarriage rate is the percentage of married Jews who are married to […]

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Undermining Assumptions

I’m a little late on noting this, but a few weeks ago Scripps News published a thought-provoking column by Rabbi Arthur Blecher on intermarriage, the High Holidays and the Jewish future. Attentive readers of this blog will recognize his name as the author of the recently published New American Judaism, which argues that widely held […]

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The Art of (Speaking About) Intermarriage

Esther Kustanowitz, the prolific blogger, columnist and editor of PresenTense, has written a column about her experience speaking about intermarriage–or more accurately, serving as “session artist” for a workshop on intermarriage at a conference for young Jewish leaders. At the session, Kustanowitz read an essay from her book-in-progress about her own thoughts on intermarriage: (To ruin the […]

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IFF in the NY Times

It’s the first week of December which means only one thing: TV shows and newspapers are flooded with stories on the “December dilemma.” Yesterday morning, the Today Show had a segment featuring Jewish-Christian couples and advice from Rev. Sherri Hauser, of Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, and Rabbi Irwin Kula, best known for his recent book […]

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Do You Miss the Mistletoe?

In today’s The Virginian-Pilot, Steven G. Vegh has a smart little article about converts to Judaism who miss Christmas. Interestingly, though, our recent 2007 December Holidays Survey showed that 63 percent of conversionary families plan on participating in Christmas celebrations in some way, although only six percent plan on celebrating in their own home. Half plan […]

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Dylan the Jew

In Friday’s post, I said Bob Dylan “grew up as a non-participating Jew.” Leave it to my friend, the sage of Jewish celebrity trivia, Nate Bloom, to correct my error. Turns out Dylan was quite a bit more Jewishly involved than I thought, according to this email message from Bloom: Bob’s parents were practicing Jews. […]

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The Link Sink

So I have to apologize for the long layoff. Thanksgiving, combined with site overhaul business and preparing our report on the 2007 December holidays survey, has kept me away from the blogosphere for several weeks. I make no promises of a return to daily blogging until 2008, but here’s a grab bag of goodies that […]

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The Revolutionary Generation

Reform Judaism Magazine’s winter 2007 issue looks at the so-called “outreach revolution” through the eyes of children of interfaith households and their parents. The term “outreach revolution” is never precisely defined but I assume it is referring to the gradual change in the atmosphere, programming, outreach and membership of Reform synagogues that has changed the […]

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The Jewish Al Sharpton

I was going to write about Reform Judaism magazine’s impressive package of articles on outreach, but I felt the need to respond to the latest instance of Abe Foxman-related controversy. In the most recent issue of The (Boston) Jewish Advocate, Raphael Kohan reports on Boston Jewish leaders’ reaction to Abe Foxman’s Oct. 24 Q&A with JTA’s Ami Eden. […]

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From Hanukkah to Christmas… and Back

Jessica Ravitz of the St. Lake Tribune wrote an entertaining, insightful essay on the wonders and worries of being a child of an interfaith household late last month–and all in under 800 words. When my Jewish parents split up, I was at an age when I would have sooner shoved tinsel in my mouth than […]

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Do Children of Intermarriage Do Worse?

That’s the question posed by a study published in the September 2007 issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, reports Christianity Today: The authors noted studies confirming positive effects of religious participation on the lives of children in the form of higher self-esteem, overall satisfaction, higher grades, and reduced usage of drugs […]

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JOI Announces Outreach Coalition

At its oversubscribed conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this week, the Jewish Outreach Institute announced the creation of a national directory of Jewish organizations committed to reaching out to the unaffiliated, including the intermarried, gays and lesbians and converts. Called “The Big Tent Coalition,” the online directory will list organizations that are friendly to the […]

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Are Museums The Next Frontier of Outreach?

On Sept. 30, several hundred people gathered at a construction site at Fifth and Market Streets in Philadelphia to celebrate the groundbreaking on a new $150 million museum devoted to American Jewish history, according to the (Philadelphia) Jewish Exponent. The National Museum of American Jewish History is just one of several ambitious Jewish museum projects […]

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The Forgotten 360,000

When Alex Schindler pioneered outreach in the early ’80s, the focus was on interfaith couples. It was all about getting those who had intermarried to feel welcome in the Jewish community, and feel like the Jewish community was something they wanted to be part of. But what about their children? According to the National Jewish […]

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Intermarriage: Helping Jews Find Their Hotel Since 1970

Ed Siegel, the Jewish intermarried former theater critic for The Boston Globe, has written an amusing piece for the Globe about interfaith couples. It begins: I have a theory about intermarriage. I know some people think Judaism is going to die out if Jews keep marrying outside the religion, but if my circle of friends […]

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Embracing Intermarriage?

Noam Shpancer, the always controversial columnist for The (Columbus, Ohio) New Standard, an undiscovered gem of a Jewish newspaper, has written a new essay sure to stir up the paper’s more traditional readers. It’s titled Nu’ Ma? Let’s embrace intermarriage. He is for welcoming interfaith families, but for a slightly different, and more radical, reason […]

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The Emerging Consensus

Shmuel Rosner, Ha’aretz‘s intrepid American correspondent, has started an ambitious series on American Judaism. The first article, Reaching Out to Interfaith Families, focuses on intermarriage through the microcosm of Boston. It’s an appropriate starting point. We are based just outside Boston, in Newton, and the 2005 demographic study of Jewish Boston released last year showed […]

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The Rabbi Formerly Known as Half-Jewish

Not much time to blog today, but I need to mention these two great articles from The Jewish Week that are now a few days old: Rabbi Beth Nichols, the daughter of a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father, writes about her experience as an interfaith child in the rabbinical seminary. On Christmas day 2001, […]

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The “Communal Welcome Mat”

Adam Bronfman, managing director of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation (one of our funders), has written an important essay for The Forward titled “Let’s Put Out a Communal Welcome Mat.” Adam, grandson of Samuel, founder of the Seagram’s liquor conglomerate, considers himself both an “insider” and an “outsider” in the Jewish world: My Jewish education was […]

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Saving Your Date From Hell

I’m always fascinated by the approach of other religions and cultures to interfaith and intercultural marriage. A few have similar concerns to the Jewish community; Zoroastrians, for example, share the same sense of anxiety over dwindling numbers. Others, however, have radically different perspectives on interdating. Take Evangelicals, for example. Unlike Jews, a shrinking or static […]

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Rosh Hashanah Round-Up

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins this evening. The High Holidays can be a challenging time for interfaith families; Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are probably the two most inaccessible major holidays on the Jewish calendar. Fasting, spending all day in synagogue, paying hundreds of dollars to pray, listening to the powerful but atonal […]

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The Link Sink

I’ve been meaning to give a shout-out to our friends at Jew-ish.com for a while, but better late than never. Since February, they’ve had a blog on interfaith marriage called Half-Torah (clever title). It was originally written by a gay man named Brian who was converting to Judaism; since May, it’s been written by a […]

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Interfaith, Interracial, International

In a continuation of its series on religion in black America, NPR interviewed Dara and Oded Pinchas, a black-Jewish couple who are expecting twins. Dara is an African-American Baptist while Oded is an Israeli Jew affiliated with the Secular Humanistic Movement. They avoided the officiation issue by getting married on a beach in Hawaii. Dara […]

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The Link Sink

We’re based in Newton, Mass., and receive great support from Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Boston’s Jewish federation. One of our biggest fans is Barry Shrage, executive director of CJP. So admittedly I’m a bit biased, but this article in Ha’aretz about Shrage’s recent sabbatical in Jerusalem shows that Shrage “gets it” in a way that few […]

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Reaction to Rob Eshman’s Column

Three weeks ago, Rob Eshman, editor-in-chief of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, wrote a provocative editorial arguing that the Jewish community should encourage single women in their 30s and 40s to interdate–better to intermarry and be happy than be Jewishly pure and miserable. Predictably, it inspired a lot of response. Unpredictably, an equivalent […]

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Three Little Birds

It’s been two weeks since Hurricane Dean left surprisingly little damage in Jamaica, a place filled with shoddily constructed housing and tenuous infrastructure. A few days after the storm, Paul Rockower wrote an essay for The Jerusalem Post about Jamaica’s “small, vibrant Jewish community” of 250-300. Despite the community’s microscopic size–down from a one-time high […]

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Better Late Than Never

The few studies on the Jewish affiliation patterns of children of interfaith families have consistently shown that children of intermarriage have stronger Jewish identities as adults if they are bar or bat mitzvahed. This article and video from The Charlotte Observer tells the story of Paloma Wiener, 16, and her brother, Brandon, 15, who are […]

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High Holiday Tickets: High Prices, High Barriers to Involvement

Across the spectrum, including among the Orthodox, synagogues have done an admirable job in recent years making themselves more welcoming to the unaffiliated, the intermarried and the just plain timid. There’s a long way to go, but between Chabad’s outreach, the Reform movement’s embrace of interfaith families and the Conservative movement’s push for keruv, religious […]

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That Thing We Do

I need an intervention. No matter how much I try to move away from writing about Noah Feldman’s The Orthodox Paradox, I keep getting called back by the tantalizing aromas of fresh opinions. The way it makes me feel part of something bigger than myself, the way it makes my worries wash away, the way […]

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Ay, There’s the Snub

Leave it to Julie Wiener of The Jewish Week to come up with an original take on Noah Feldman’s The Orthodox Paradox. Rather than use her column as an opportunity to critique or praise Feldman, she ponders the value of the snub–both Maimonides School’s snub of Feldman and Feldman’s snub of the school and the […]

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Three Stories

I’ve got three interesting stories today about the quirks of interdating and growing up in an interfaith family. I tried to come up with a clever way to link the three, but I’m at a loss. Here they are: On Jewcy, Jordie Gerson complains that Jewish men have a hard time seeing her as a […]

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How Jesus Made Jeremy a Better Jew

Jeremy Greenberg, a stand-up comic, has written an amusing, albeit perplexing, essay on “How Jesus Made Me a Better Jew” for American Jewish Life magazine. “Jesus first came to me in sixth grade through my friend’s older sister’s breasts,” he says. Breasts aside, I was a prime candidate for receiving a Christendectomy. As a kid, […]

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It’s Raining Men… As If

Rob Eshman, editor-in-chief of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, has written an op-ed that is sure to generate controversy. In “Hindu Widows,” he argues that the Jewish community should encourage single women in their 30s and 40s to interdate. Why, his article ask, should Jewish women sacrifice their happiness and their child-bearing years […]

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Noah More!

As I was reading the latest batch of think-pieces on Noah Feldman’s essay on intermarriage and Modern Orthodoxy in the New York Times, I couldn’t help but think of a book I’m reading, Rabbi Arthur Blecher’s The New American Judaism, which will be published by St. Martin’s Press in October. Blecher’s central premise is that […]

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The Bratz Pack

BRATZ’s movie debut last week was no match for the Transformers–it made $4.2 million in its opening weekend vs. $155.4 million for Transformers–but when it comes to toy sales, it’s no contest. BRATZ has generated more than $2 billion in revenue, and its sales are closing the gap on the most successful girl’s toy in […]

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The Jewish Cardinal

Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger died on Sunday. Cardinal Lustiger was a key figure in the Catholic-Jewish dialogue that Pope John Paul II so valued. He was the Pope’s representative at the commemoration ceremonies for the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 2005 and served as a middle man between Jews and the Church on […]

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Breaking Down Walls

Part of a growing trend around the country, a new “synagogue without walls” is opening in Cleveland, according to the Cleveland Jewish News. Called simply “The Shul,” it will cater to unaffiliated and interfaith families, especially baby boomers. The rabbi of this new congregation, Edward Sukol, has clearly done his research. He’s not centering the […]

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Does Noah Feldman Feed the Anti-Semites?

Norman Lamm, the highly respected former president of Yeshiva University–the flagship of the Modern Orthodox movement–stoops to a surprising low in his critique of Noah Feldman’s essay on intermarriage and Modern Orthodoxy, on the Forward‘s website. He says that Feldman “succeeded in supplying via the New York Times article enough anti-Jewish material to last a […]

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The Link Sink

Catching up on some notable articles from the last few weeks: Adam Wills, a fine writer at the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, has written a singles piece unlike anything you’ve seen before in a Jewish paper. He’s been giving his brother dating advice since his divorce, the only difference is that while Adam […]

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Cracking the Paradox

The “Orthodox Paradox” continues to provide fodder for bloggers and Jewish thinkers. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has written another insightful column on the issue, in response to the vociferous criticism he received for his first stab at defending Noah Feldman. The central problem, says Boteach, is that Jews must distinguish between “an immoral sin and an […]

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The Orthodox vs. “Orthodox Paradox”

Noah Feldman’s “Orthodox Paradox” may be influencing people, but it’s not making him many friends. In today’s issue of The (New York) Jewish Week, Editor and Publisher Gary Rosenblatt, probably the most respected Jewish journalist in America, picks apart Feldman’s essay with his typical mix of respectfulness and incisive logic. One of the things that […]

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Pork Rinds vs. Life Partners

The “Orthodox Paradox,” Noah Feldman’s thoughtful discussion of his intermarriage and the Modern Orthodox community’s response to it, has clearly struck a nerve among Jewish bloggers, Orthodox and non-. Joey Kurtzman, the whip-smart senior editor of Jewcy, conducted a Q&A with Feldman, which, unsurprisingly, generated a flood of comments. (There’s a broad cultural stereotype that […]

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Obituary for Sherwin Wine

JTA published a story today on the death of Sherwin Wine, the founder of Humanistic Judaism. In many ways, Wine injected an honesty into the practice of Judaism that had been missing prior to his arrival. While many Jews don’t believe in God (certainly more than believe in the Torah as the word of God), […]

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Rabbi Sherwin Wine, 1928-2007

We just found out that Rabbi Sherwin Wine, founder of the Society for Humanistic Judaism, died on Saturday in a car accident while on vacation in Morocco. Secular Humanistic Judaism has consistently been an extraordinarily friendly place for interfaith families to explore Judaism. Our sincerest condolences to his family and loved ones.

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Shalom in the Orthodox Home

Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard and graduate of a modern Orthodox day school in Massachusetts, wrote a remarkable article for the New York Times magazine about his day school’s response to his marriage to a Korean-American woman. It’s all the more remarkable for the response it has elicited: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the best-known […]

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The Rising Tide on Officiation

Not to toot our own horn, but we appear to have tapped into something with the hiring of Rabbi Lev Baesh as the director of our Rabbinic Circle and rabbinic officiation referral service. Julie Wiener of The Jewish Week has written her most recent “In the Mix” column on the growing interest in officiation at […]

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Critical Mass?

A week and a half ago, the Pope issued a decree authorizing Catholic clergy to conduct the old Latin Mass without permission of the Church. This bit of liturgical news wouldn’t seem to be of much interest to anyone other than Catholics, but nothing involving the Catholic Church is ever just about Catholics. The Good […]

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Making a Half- Whole

A good counterpoint to Sue Fishkoff’s article on half-Jews is Deborah Sussman Susser’s op-ed in the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix on her Jewish identity. It begins: “I didn’t think of myself as half Jewish until I’d been told I wasn’t [Jewish] at all.” This is the other side of the coin of those who […]

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A Symposium on “Doing Both”

At InterfaithFamily.com, a fundamental point of our mission is arguing that interfaith families should make a religious choice for their children. But it is interesting to hear the perspectives of those who advocate for the opposite view, that it’s OK to raise children in a dual-faith household. Interfaith Community is one of the handful of […]

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Half-and-Half

Our current poll question for our Web Magazine issue on Growing Up in an Interfaith Family is “Can a person be half-Jewish?” Appropriately, a day before the issue went online, jacqueline-of-all-trades JTA reporter Sue Fishkoff wrote a story titled “‘Half-Jews’ fight for acceptance.” For years, people have been saying they were half-Jewish, but the Jewish […]

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The Appeal of the Other

Everyone who’s dated–that is to say, everyone–knows that figuring out why you are attracted to someone is often the greatest mystery in your life. Are you interested because the other person is interested? Is it physical attraction? Does the person laugh at your jokes? Is there a chemistry that can’t be explained? One factor that […]

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Speaking of San Francisco…

Keeping with yesterday’s return-from-San-Francisco theme, j., the Jewish news weekly of northern California, and The Forward recently wrote about a clever new outreach strategy from Rabbi Moshe Langer of the Chabad of San Francisco: free trolley tours of the diverse and beautiful city. But unlike other Chabad marketing–free iPods in exchange for enrolling in Hebrew […]

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The State of Jewish Journalism

I returned from San Francisco today, where I attended the 2007 conference of the American Jewish Press Association, the professional association of Jewish publications and websites. This was the fourth conference I attended and the sessions tend to be similar from year to year. There’s always one or two on how to make your print […]

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The Link Sink

Some links to sink your teeth into: Two high-profile conversions: Mare Winningham, best known for playing Wendy Beamish in St. Elmo’s Fire, is starring in a new off-Broadway play, “10 Million Miles” and has just released a new country album of Jewish songs, titled “Refuge Rock Sublime.” She tells The Jewish Week of her enthusiasm […]

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Cassandra vs. Nero?

Jewcy is making a quite a name for itself with its readiness to wrestle sacred cows. It helps when the staff is made up of some of the most talented, eloquent, innovative young Jews around. This week, Senior Editor Joey Kurtzman goes toe to toe with Jack Wertheimer, provost of the Jewish Theological Seminary, the […]

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Officiation as a Litmus Test?

The question of rabbinic officiation at intermarriages threatens a schism in the Reform movement, writes Steve Lipman’s in today’s The (New York) Jewish Week: A decade after the movement’s rabbinical arm, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, examined the effects of intermarriage and outreach within its ranks, the largest Jewish denomination in the United States […]

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We’ve Hired a Rabbi

The story broke today. We have hired our first rabbi. Rabbi Lev Baesh, who led a congregation in Dover, N.H., for 12 years and has taught classes for the Reform movement’s Northeast region, will start July 9 as director of our Rabbinic Circle. His role will have two goals: To help couples find rabbis to […]

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Let My People Convert!

Russian Jewish immigrants to Israel face an absurd situation. In Russia, their identity cards marked them as Jewish, and they experienced anti-Semitism in their professional and personal lives. They were reminded of their Jewishness on a regular basis, whether they liked it or not. But once they get to Israel, if they can’t confirm that […]

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Anti-Semites Who Loved the Jew, But Hated the Race

Mandy Katz of Moment magazine has written a fascinating, occasionally repulsive, story about anti-Semites who fell in love with Jews. The big names are Hitler and Mussolini, although Hitler gets off on a technicality. The flirtatious girl he fantasized about marrying, as well as killing, was not Jewish, as he thought. Mussolini, however, was a […]

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Half-Jewish SF Seeks Ortho Jewish SM

A. Pinsker of the New York Press has written a moving, funny story about her relationship with a self-described “post-modern Orthodox Jew” and the way his spirituality ignited her–and his dogma made him reject her. Pinsker’s father is Jewish and her mother is not, but both share a distrust of religion. She’d never dated Jewish […]

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Intermarriage in Less Religious Countries

It’s widely known that the United States is the most religious of the major industrialized countries. Weekly church attendance may be as high as 40% and the great majority of people believe in God. Even the most liberal of politicians feel obligated to affirm their faith on the campaign trail. I’m not quite sure what […]

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Thank God for Non-Jewish Moms

Recent research has shown that children are more frequently raised in the mother’s religion than the father’s religion, so when a non-Jewish mom raises a Jewish child, their family is bucking the odds. What’s more, these women are often the ones driving their children to Hebrew school, reading their children Jewish children’s books and buying […]

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We’re All Intermarried

At our conference a few weeks ago, Rabbi Sam Gordon, of Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette, Ill., led a fascinating session on what he called “sociograms.” He had everyone at the session–who were mostly Jewish–break up into different groups based on how they’re different from their husband, wife or significant other. His point was to […]

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Who is a Jew? Who Cares?

Julie Wiener, in typically brilliant fashion, has written a great piece on the “Who is a Jew?” debate as seen through the eyes of her 3 1/2-year-old daughter: At 3 ½ years old, she knows nothing about matrilineal or patrilineal descent, nor has she any clue about what is recognized by the State of Israel […]

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Innovative Outreach Ideas

Our recent conference gathered 40 outreach professionals who are mostly doing the most established kinds of outreach: couples counseling and family education. But what are some new directions for outreach? One idea comes from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, which operates the “PJ Library,” a project that mails a year’s worth of free, age-appropriate Jewish children’s […]

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Is It OK for Jews to Proselytize?

Is it OK for Jews to proselytize? A terrific new article in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles tackles the question by looking at the Reform movement’s “Taste of Judaism” program. “Taste” is a three-part class that teaches the basics of Judaism to anyone who is interested–Jewish, non-Jewish, interfaith partner, whatever. Since its launch […]

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The Link Sink

I need to unclog the drains of some links that have been piling up over the last two weeks: In what can be categorized as the least surprising news of the last two weeks, the purported “agreement” between the Rabbinical Council of America and Israel’s chief rabbinate on conversion standards has hit a snag. Even […]

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Intermarriage as a Form of Outreach?

We often speak of Jewish outreach to intermarried families, where progressive organizations and programs can serve as a bridge between the intermarried and the Jewish community. But it works both ways. The intermarried can serve as a bridge between the Jewish community and the non-Jewish community. Intermarriage can actually be a form of outreach to […]

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Our First Ever Conference of Outreach Professionals

Last week was blog-free because I was at InterfaithFamily.com’s first-ever conference, a retreat for outreach professionals called “Nurturing Outreach: Embracing the Other, Taking Care of Ourselves.” Taking place at the Capital Camps and Retreat Center in Waynesboro, Pa., it was the first-ever national conference for professionals working exclusively in outreach to interfaith families. More than […]

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The Perils of Intermarriage–’70s-Style

Let me paint a picture: It’s the age of lava lamps and rollerskates. Lynyrd Skynyrd rules the airwaves. America has yet to discover the gritty urban raps of the Sugarhill Gang. It’s an innocent time, the ’70s, a time before intermarriage was commonplace, a time when a Jewish man and a Catholic woman would have […]

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Jewish Identity in Anti-Semitic Lands

Russia and England provide interesting contrasts when it comes to anti-Semitism. Both have rather shameful histories of Jewish persecution–anti-Jewish pogroms were a common feature of 19th century Russian life, Jews were banned from England for more than 350 years from 1290-1656–and both retain legacies of anti-Semitism. In Russia, Jews are openly discriminated against and blamed […]

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Israeli Conversion Impasse Broken–Sort of

The (New York) Jewish Week broke the news last week that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel has agreed to recognize all conversions by the Rabbinical Council of America, the largest Orthodox rabbinical association in North America. In exchange, the RCA will set up regional conversion courts that will follow the strict standards requested by the […]

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The Sopranos and Entourage

Last night, both of HBO’s buzziest shows, The Sopranos and Entourage, included interfaith relationships as part of their storylines. And both were chock full of stereotypes. One of the plotlines on last night’s ep of The Sopranos concerns Hesch (Jerry Adler), a retired Jewish record producer who has loaned money to Tony Soprano and his […]

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Will Intermarriage Lead to a Schism in the Jewish World?

Tahl Raz, the talented editor of Jewcy, a web magazine/group blog for young Jews, recently was interviewed by Shmuel Rosner, Ha’aretz‘s U.S. correspondent. One of Rosner’s favorite subjects is intermarriage–in the past, he’s interviewed our own Ed Case, Steven Cohen and Sylvia Barack Fishman–and so he asked Raz about the issue. Rosner asks Raz for […]

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How to Be a Good Jewish Grandparent

Julie Wiener’s new column focuses on the Jewish Outreach Institute’s new book, Twenty Things for Grandparents of Interfaith Grandchildren to Do (And Not to Do) to Nurture Jewish Identity in Their Grandchildren. One of the book’s main points is that grandparents can be a powerful model of Jewish identity for their interfaith grandchildren, but they […]

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Transformation

The (Baltimore) Jewish Times recently printed a moving column from Haydee M. Rodriguez, who writes about his impending conversion to Judaism. It reflects the tension that many converts feel between believing and feeling Jewish and not being Jewish. Unlike most American Jews, his connection to Judaism is religious, not cultural. He believes “in the tenets […]

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Perspective

We occasionally get indignant over the way traditional Jewish leaders and organizations respond to intermarriage in their midst, but a recent headline put the civility of the debate in perspective: “Interfaith love sparks 23 deaths.” The recent attack in Iraq where Islamist fundamentalists stopped a bus, separated out members of a tiny religious sect called […]

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What Does the Restructuring of the UJC Mean for the Intermarried?

The umbrella organization for North American Jewish federations is undergoing a massive reorganization, dropping a major policy initiative that was created in the wake of the surprisingly high intermarriage rates announced in the early ’90s. What this will mean in practical terms is anybody’s guess. Since 1999, the United Jewish Communities, which links federations that […]

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A Jewish School Full of Muslims

Britain’s The Independent has a truly astonishing article on a Jewish day school in Birmingham where half the students are Muslim–and everyone gets along. It’s not about the kind of interfaith relationships we focus on, but it demonstrates the salutary effects that interfaith connections can have on people’s worldviews. We’re not naive enough to suggest […]

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A Jew and a Nazi Fall in Love…

Some random articles I’ve collected over the last week or two: Black Book, Paul Verhoeven’s (Basic Instinct, Total Recall) new film about the Dutch Resistance during World War II, premieres today in limited release. An interfaith relationship is actually at the center of the story–although I doubt many readers would be able to relate to […]

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Intermarriage Around the World

As much as intermarried couples face a struggle for acceptance from some U.S. Jews, the American Jewish community is easily the most enlightened in the world when it comes to responding constructively to intermarriage. Depending on what country you’re comparing the U.S. to, we either have a low rate of intermarriage–Russia and other former Eastern […]

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Judaism Your Way, and “Seventh Heaven”

The Intermountain Jewish News has a great article on Rabbi Brian Field, who leads Judaism Your Way, an innovative “synagogue without walls” based in Denver, Colo. Judaism Your Way targets unaffiliated Jews, but it’s clear that Field’s passion is engaging the intermarried. He officiates at interfaith weddings without making any demands that the non-Jewish partner […]

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Patrilineal Jew Seeks Conversion

While IFF ascribes to the Reform notion that behavior, not being born of a Jewish mother, is the most important signifier of Jewish identity, we understand that large sections of the Jewish community don’t agree. Sue Fishkoff of JTA wrote two stories last week about patrilineal Jews–that is, Jewish-identifying people with a Jewish father and […]

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IFF in New York Times

I was going to write about some other things today–namely, a new JTA article on the conversion of patrilineal Jews–but when your organization gets mentioned in the New York Times, everything else becomes a second priority. Sam Freedman, author of Jew vs. Jew, wrote a column about an interfaith couple where both partners are committed […]

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The Link Sink

I know you’re supposed to clean house before Passover, but here are some interesting links that have piled up in the last week or two: Tamara Podemski is an unknown in the U.S. but she’s starred on a handful of Canadian TV shows and recorded three albums. Her father is Israeli and her mother is […]

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The Orthodox on Intermarriage

No one expects the Orthodox to be particularly friendly towards interfaith families or intermarriage. Their approach to intermarriage can range from the insulting to the downright vindictive. But every so often a little bit of sense shines through, as in the case of this smart piece from the Canadian Jewish News detailing the religious justification […]

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Thoughts from Outreach Workshop on Death and Mourning

Post by Ronnie Friedland, Web Magazine Editor: I attended a fascinating conference, Comforting the Bereaved: Issues of Loss and Mourning in the Interfaith Family, an Outreach Training Institute program led by The Union for Reform Judaism, Northeast Council, which was organized and run by Paula Brody on Wednesday, March 28. The conference had varied interesting […]

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The Top 50 Rabbis, The Resurgence of Reform Ritual

About two months ago, the Jewish Outreach Institute presented the findings of its “outreach scan” to Jewish professionals in Morris County, New Jersey. To conduct the “outreach scan,” JOI cold calls and emails, and checks out the websites of, institutions in a particular area. The goal is to determine how welcoming–or unwelcoming–an area’s institutions are […]

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April Aggravation? The Spring Situation?

Sue Fishkoff calls it “April aggravation.” We call it the “spring situation.” Whatever you call it, there’s something to it. It’s the annual conflict between Easter and Passover in interfaith families, and the JTA’s Fishkoff has written a story about our survey of interfaith families juggling the two holidays. The survey specifically looked at interfaith […]

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Love in the Time of War

Joshua Gross, a public affairs consultant in Washington, D.C., wrote a poignant story in last week’s Forward about how his relationship with a Lebanese woman was threatened by last summer’s war between Israel and Lebanon. As is the case with many Arab-Jewish or Muslim-Jewish relationships, politics was a topic typically avoided in their relationship: Together, […]

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Remaking the Reform Movement

Rabbi David Forman, the founder of Rabbis for Human Rights, wrote a provocative op-ed in the Jerusalem Post arguing that the Reform movement needs to change if it hopes to engage Jews in Israel, the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Germany. While Chabad has emerged as a dominant Jewish force in many of these […]

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All Julie Wiener, All the Time

Julie Wiener, our prolific friend at The (New York) Jewish Week, has a new column in today’s paper that marks her 10-year anniversary in the Jewish media. One of the interesting points she tackles is whether or not her column promotes intermarriage? We receive that question–and that criticism–regularly as well, and the answer is complex. […]

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Not the Sunday School You Remember

The Washington Jewish Week had a very interesting article yesterday about a new, non-traditional Sunday school starting at a synagogue in Maryland. It’s interesting for a number of reasons: first off, the impetus for the new school came from a woman whose daughter is married to a Catholic man and has two children. The fact […]

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The Link Sink

Julie Wiener, author of the column “In the Mix” for The (New York) Jewish Week, is probably the most widely read regular writer on intermarriage. It doesn’t hurt that she’s also a terrific writer with an eye for interesting takes on the subject (and she’s intermarried to boot). She just started a website to catalogue […]

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The Threat of Messianic Judaism

Our new issue on The Threat of Messianic Judaism came out today. We decided to do a story on Messianic Judaism because on the surface, it appears to offer a harmonization of Christian belief and Jewish ritual practice–“the best of both worlds,” so to speak. But dig a little deeper and it becomes clear that […]

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Balancing the Spring Holidays

The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel has a well-thought-out piece on the potential pitfalls of planning a Passover or Easter dinner for interfaith guests. The kosher dietary laws, and the even stricter kosher-for-Passover laws, are of course one constraint, but so is the Catholic prohibition on eating meat on Fridays during Lent. The article includes some helpful […]

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The Adult Children of the Intermarried: The “Forgotten”?

JTA just released a package of stories on the adult children of the intermarried, by Sue Fishkoff. It’s an important and interesting series, although not without its flaws. The centerpiece of the package is an article that looks at how little Jewish programming there is tailored to the needs of adult children of intermarried. Fishkoff […]

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A Politician Who Chose Judaism; A Seattle Outreach Program Shutters

Some links of note: The Arizona Daily Star has a story about Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D), a Jewish woman who was born to an interfaith home. What makes it particularly interesting is that her parents–her dad is Jewish and her mother is Christian Scientist–didn’t push her to adopt any particular religion. “We were kind of […]

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The Debate is Over

Shaul Kelner, a Jewish studies professor at Vanderbilt University, takes Steven Cohen–and outreach advocates like ourselves, as well–down a notch with his wonderfully sensible op-ed for The Forward. Essentially, he argues that debating over the value of outreach to the intermarried is misguided because in a pluralist Jewish world, there are spaces where outreach is […]

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Bears in Space

To pay tribute to his late father’s Jewish heritage, an astronaut from an interfaith home brought a teddy bear into space. The bear was a replica of Refugee, a teddy bear donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum by Holocaust survivor Sophie Turner-Zaretsky. Astronaut Mark Polansky, whose mother is a native Hawaiian, asked the […]

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Encouraging Jewel-ish Choices?

Purim, often called the “Jewish Halloween,” is on Sunday. But it’s more than that–it’s also the Jewish April Fools’ Day. It’s become a bit of a tradition for some papers to publish fake news for Purim. The intermarriage debate comes in for some parody by our friend Julie Wiener at The (New York) Jewish Week, […]

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A Powerful Partnership

Two innovative national Jewish organizations are teaming up to create a program that will help 18 synagogues become more welcoming towards interfaith families. The program, “Call Synagogue Home,” is the product of a partnership between the Jewish Outreach Institute and STAR (Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal), a group that helps synagogue improve and strengthen their services. […]

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The Chutzpah of Hummus

In case you didn’t realize it, an interfaith love story between an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian won an Oscar for best short film on Sunday. Called West Bank Story, the 21-minute spoof of West Side Story is focused on two competing falafel stands in the West Bank, one run by a Jewish family, one […]

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The Life Cycle, cont.

We put out a new issue today on Differences in Interfaith Issues Through the Life Cycle. There’s a great piece by Rosalyn Shafter about why she and her husband decided

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The Entire Lifecycle, in Three Articles

Three interesting articles today, each focusing on a different stage in the lifecycle of an interfaith family: The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles has a short story on the recent RAVSAK conference in L.A., where IFF Publisher and President Ed Case spoke. RAVSAK is the association of Jewish community day schools. Community day schools […]

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The Good and the Bad

Some good news and bad news today. First, the bad: Our favorite quasi-famous child of an interfaith home with an unsightly tendency to pick his nose, Mr. Boston, has been booted off “I Love New York.” He was one of the final six contestants for the love of New York, ne Tiffany Patterson, formerly the […]

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Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Curtails Conversions

Official recognition continues to get more difficult for patrilineal Jews in Israel, as a state-funded religious academy has decided to halt sending conversion candidates to rabbinical courts until the chief rabbinate loosens its conversion requirements, says The Forward. Recently, the chief rabbinate has been tightening its requirements for conversion. Within the last few months, the […]

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Shmuel on Saxe

Shmuel Rosner, Ha’aretz’s American correspondent, continues his ongoing series of interviews with American experts on Jewish demography and intermarriage with the start of a Q&A with Len Saxe, the co-author of the 2005 Greater Boston Jewish Community Study and the just-published “Reconsidering the Size and Characteristics of the American Jewish Population.” Saxe’s appearance on Rosner’s […]

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A Wedding Celebration

Religious differences are of little concern to many interfaith couples until they’re planning a wedding. All of a sudden a relationship that thrived with little to no religious content must face the question of whether the wedding will be in a church, who will officiate and how much–if any–religious content the ceremony will have. In […]

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Steven Cohen Talks

The coverage of Steven Cohen’s A Tale of Two Jewries continues, with an audio interview with Cohen by JTA editor Lisa Hostein and an op-ed on outreach and intermarriage from Gary Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research. Responding to a question about what the most “frightening impact” of intermarriage is, Cohen […]

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Black Jews, including Karen from The Office

We talked about Lacey Schwartz and David Matthews, two children of black-Jewish relationships, a couple weeks ago, but I only just realized that both were featured as part of an entire issue on black Jews in American Jewish Life magazine. Six of the 10 black Jews featured are children of interfaith relationships, including: Rashida Jones, […]

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Intermarriage in Israel

A new study claims that 10 percent of marriages in Israel are intermarriages, and that only 58 percent of all families in Israel have a Jewish father and Jewish mother, says Ynet. New Family, an Israeli organization dedicated to advancing the rights of non-traditional families, conducted the study. It was based on an analysis of […]

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Are We Growing or Shrinking?

The National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01 may have undercounted the American Jewish population by more than 1 million, says a new study just released by Brandeis University’s Steinhardt Social Research Institute. A preliminary picture of the study’s results had been reported more than a month ago, but the new figures are in: the “core Jewish” […]

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A Tale that Wags Are Talking About

A study that says the Jewish community is divided between the inmarried and the intermarried, authored by sociologist Steven Cohen, is finally getting some significant press–more than a month after it was first available. We blogged about the study in early January. Titled A Tale of Two Jewries: The “Inconvenient Truth” for American Jews, the […]

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Non-Jewish Moms in Atlanta, Interfaith Couples in Cali

Next Monday, participants in the first Mothers Circle program in the country will be speaking at the Jewish Federation North Metro Campus in Alpharetta, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. The Mothers Circle is a nine-week course for non-Jewish mothers raising Jewish children started by the New York-based Jewish Outreach Institute. In the Atlanta Jewish Times, […]

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Groovin’

There’s an article in the most recent issue of The (New York) Jewish Week on people who convert to Judaism who are not in a romantic relationship with a Jew. Leana Moritt, diretor of Jewish outreach at the 92nd Street Y, points out that many non-Jews exploring Judaism do so because of the influence of […]

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Does Fear of Intermarriage Equal Xenophobia?

Shmuel Rosner, the correspondent for Ha’aretz who covers the American Jewish community, continues his ongoing series of discussions relating to intermarriage in America. Previously, he’s interviewed our own Ed Case and Double or Nothing: Jewish Families and Mixed Marriage author Sylvia Barack Fishman and written about Steven Cohen’s study Two Jewries: The Inconvenient Truth for […]

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A Center for Afro-Jewish Studies; 100 Years of Intermarriage

File under: The Rising Consciousness of Black Jews. An African-American Jewish professor of religion has started a center on Afro-Jewish studies at Temple University in Philadelphia. Dr. Lewis Gordon, the son of a Jamaican Jewish mother and a non-Jewish afro-Chinese father, has already presented research at a Jewish studies conference and created an undergraduate course […]

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What happens after the divorce?

The Cleveland Jewish News has a fascinating story on interfaith divorce titled “After divorce: will the children still be raised Jewish?” The article looks at three former “interfaith” couples who are now divorced; I use “interfaith” in quotes because two of the couples are conversionary, that is, the non-Jewish partner converted for the sake of […]

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The Link Sink

A few links that have been collecting dust on my desktop: In j, the Jewish news weekly of northern California, Eliyahu Stern, a graduate student in Judaic studies, wonders “Where have all the intellectuals gone?” It’s an elegy for the great rabbinical mind of years past, like Soloveitchik, Kaplan and Heschel–and an indictment of the […]

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Interfaith Issues Around the Country

Many Jewish papers have picked up on JTA’s story on burial options for interfaith families; several have done their own localized version of the story. The (Pittsburgh) Jewish Chronicle’s story, which unfortunately is not on-line, takes a somewhat rosier view of the available options than the JTA story; several cemeteries in the Pittsburgh area allow […]

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Black or Jewish?

Two interesting articles on black Jews recently caught my attention: one, in American Jewish Life magazine (formerly Atlanta Jewish Life), tells the story of Lacey Schwartz, the daughter of two white Jewish New Yorkers who discovered in college that she was the product of an affair between her mother and a black man; the other, […]

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Black and Jewish; Love for IFF

The Washington Jewish Week has a lovely article about black Jews in the Washington, D.C. area. It shares anecdotes from a series of black Jews, most of whom are converts. Like the terrific piece we published this summer,

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A Disney Star and a Samoan Fighter

While many critics doubt whether the children of intermarriage will identify as Jewish over the long term, at IFF we constantly run into examples of children from mixed marriages who identify as Jewish. Two interesting recent examples include: Ashley Tisdale, who was in the hit Disney film High School Musical. According to the Detroit Jewish […]

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Solving the Mixed Marriage Riddle in Israel: From Ben-Gurion to the Present

The difficulties faced by modern interfaith couples and other non-traditional families in Israel is the focus of a great Jerusalem Post piece by Ruth Eglash, “Challenging the consensus of the Israeli family.” The article uses the story of a Russian-born Jew and her Moroccan Muslim husband as the jumping off point for a discussion about […]

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MTV’s True Life: I’m in an Interfaith Relationship

MTV gets a lot of flak for its socially irresponsible reality series like “The Hills,” “The Real World,” “Laguna Beach” and whatever name the Real World-Road Rules Challenge goes by these days. But quietly, MTV also produces some of the most thoughtful, balanced documentaries on issues facing young people. One series that is usually quite […]

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Our Big Fat Anniversary

On Tuesday of next week, we’re publishing the 200th issue of our Web Magazine. It also happens to coincide almost exactly with our fifth anniversary as an independent non-profit. For a history of the organization–and an explanation of the differences between the anniversaries–here’s

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To Bris or Not to Bris?

While everyone in an interfaith relationships knows–and plans–in advance for the issue of what kind of wedding ceremony to have and how to raise the kids, circumcision often creeps up unexpectedly on an unsuspecting interfaith couple, usually one that assumed they were secular. Circumcision is perhaps the only cultural ritual that is almost as common […]

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What Do They Talk About At Those Conferences?

A friend of mine sent me a very funny piece from 2005 mocking the kinds of survivalist discussions that happen at the United Jewish Communities General Assembly, which is held every November. It’s a little out-of-date–even some conservatives have now deserted President Bush–but it does a nice job poking fun at how out-of-touch some community […]

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The Orthodox on Intermarriage, Continued

Yeshivas cannot admit the children of Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers unless the mother has properly repented, according to a rabbinical ruling quoted on My Jewish Learning’s blog “The Mixed Multitudes.” While the Orthodox consider the children of Jewish mothers Jewish even if the father isn’t, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein determined that yeshivas should not accept […]

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Chabad on Intermarriage, etc.

Chabad has a story on its website arguing that despite the recent studies showing the American Jewish population has grown, Steven Cohen’s recent study on intermarriage demonstrates that Jews should do everything they can to prevent intermarriage. While many people in the organized Jewish community are suspicious of Chabad, I am quite sympathetic to their […]

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There’ll Be No Chrismukkah This Year

CNN.com reports that Fox has canceled “The O.C.,” a show that only a few years ago was one of the most popular and trend-setting shows among young adults. “The O.C.” featured an interfaith family at its center, with Peter Gallagher as Jewish lawyer Sandy Cohen, Kelly Rowan as his non-Jewish wife Kirsten and Adam Brody […]

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A Tale of Three Families

Cokie Roberts, the NPR and ABC telejournalist, and her husband Steve Roberts, also a journalist, form one of the most visible interfaith couples in the country. They often speak sensitively to the problems, needs and opportunities of interfaith families. Unfortunately, raised their children in both Judaism and Catholicism, a choice we don’t endorse. One of […]

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Is This the Truth?

Steven M. Cohen has written another provocative paper, A Tale of Two Jewries: The “Inconvenient Truth” for American Jews, published by the Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation. As he has in the past, Cohen compares Jewish behaviors and attitudes–holiday observance, synagogue membership and attendance, having Jewish social networks, providing Jewish education to children, feeling attachment to […]

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From Birth to Death And All Points in Between

There was a great editorial in the Forward a week and a half ago about the two new studies that are showing the American Jewish population has risen since 1990–not fallen, as commonly believed. The editorial makes an important point about why the 5.2 million number, although viewed with widespread skepticism by almost all demographers […]

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New Study on Intermarriage from Steven Cohen

I wasn’t planning on posting this week, but we recently learned from Shmuel Rosner, the American correspondent for Ha’aretz, that sociologist Steven Cohen is coming out with a new study that calls intermarriage the “greatest single threat to Jewish continuity.” Titled “Two Jewries,” the study makes a claim that there are two distinct populations in […]

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U.S. Jewish Population Growing?

It’s been accepted wisdom that the American Jewish community is shrinking ever since the initial findings of the National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01 revealed that the Jewish population in the U.S. was 5.2 million–a 300,000-person drop from the 1990 NJPS. This has had important ramifications for the debate on intermarriage, as many–if not most–observers have […]

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Oy, the Hits Keep Coming

The Jewish Week has an op-ed criticizing both the recent Boston Jewish Community Study and the notion of outreach. It’s written by Samuel C. Klagsbrun, chairman of the Commission on Contemporary Jewish Life at the American Jewish Committee, an organization that has taken up the anti-intermarriage cause with fervor in recent years (led primarily by […]

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Holiday Round-up, Continued

Trying to keep up with the deluge of interfaith family-related stories during the holiday season: The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles has a fun story about “MeshugaNutcracker: A New Chanukah Musical!” The Canadian Jewish News has a fine story on our Third Annual December Holidays Survey. The News and Observer (N.C.) has an article […]

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The December Holidays Survey in the News

For the first time in the three-year history of doing our December holidays survey, JTA has done an entire story about the survey! Frankly, I can’t say enough about what a terrific piece of reporting Sue Fishkoff did. It presents the survey results in a balanced, nuanced, contextual light, and is clear about the survey’s […]

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Jewish Intermarriage vs. Intermarriage in Other Religions

While there have been a handful of newsworthy studies of Americans’ religious affiliation and attitudes, very few have based their large-scale conclusions on samples any larger than a few thousand. But the American Religious Identification Survey 2001 interviewed more than 50,000 adults; as a point of comparison, the recent Baylor Religion Survey, which was written […]

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Interfaith Relationships in the Mainstream Press: A Roundup

It’s always interesting to see how mainstream publications report on interfaith families, especially during December. For many of the papers, December is the only time they focus on people in interfaith relationships and often, the reporters’ ignorance of the issues at stake is readily apparent. Here’s a rundown of some recent pieces on interfaith couples: […]

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Responding to the Critics

As we had hoped, the authors of the 2005 Greater Boston Jewish Community Study responded to the op-ed by Steven Cohen, Jack Ukeles and Ron Miller questioning the findings of the Boston study. Their letter in today’s Forward is short and sweet but makes an essential point: unlike the demographic studies of Ukeles and Miller, […]

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The Latest on Conservative Day Schools, and December Holidays Fun

The Solomon Schechter Day School Association made no decision on whether to change their admission policies to allow the children of non-Jewish mothers, according to Sue Fishkoff’s update of last Thursday’s JTA story. Instead, Fishkoff says, the association’s board of directors “will continue the discussion” after the conference. That’s not surprising; these kinds of decisions […]

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Conservative day schools to admit children of non-Jewish mothers?

There’s some exciting news from Florida today. According to a JTA story by Sue Fishkoff, the Conservative movement’s Solomon Schechter day schools are considering changing their rules to admit the children of non-Jewish mothers. It’s not a full sea change in thinking; the schools won’t accept all patrilineals, only those who convert by Bar/Bat Mitzvah […]

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Boston University Hillel head on the Boston study

The 2005 Boston Jewish Community Study continues to have legs, showing up in a Dec. 4 story in Boston University’s school newspaper, The Daily Free Press. In it, the reporter, Shari Rabin, quotes and paraphrases quotes from the head of BU’s Hillel House that are so noxious and wrong-headed that I wonder if they’re true. […]

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Some interfaith celebs

I was talking with Nate Bloom, the world’s premier expert on Jewish celebrities (no joke), the other day, about a new column he will be writing for us on intermarried celebrities and celebrities from interfaith backgrounds, and he tipped me off on two good stories about celebrities with interfaith heritage. One is Miriam Schor, the […]

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What price outreach?

Jonathan Tobin, the editor of Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent, has written a thoughtful but flawed column on the debate over intermarriage and outreach funding for the Jerusalem Post. I don’t have a lot of time to respond to his arguments–which are well-thought out and well-argued, as all of Tobin’s writing is–but the essential point seems to […]

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What We Learned from Our Third Annual December Holidays Survey, Part II

Yesterday, we published an adapted version of our report on the Third Annual December Holidays Survey. Today, we are publishing the Conclusions section: The great majority of interfaith couples raising their children as Jews plan on participating in celebrations of both Christmas and Hanukkah. Some observers of intermarriage have cast a skeptical eye on this […]

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What We Learned from Our 2006 December Holidays Survey, Part I

What follows is the text–minus the tables–from our report on our 2006 December Holidays Survey, which specifically looked at the 342 respondents (out of a population of 759) who told us they were in an interfaith relationship, had children and were raising the children Jewish. Tomorrow we will post the Conclusions section of our report: […]

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Israel, Philadelphia, Detroit

The Nativity Story, about the events leading up to Jesus’ birth, is coming out on Friday. We’re doing something new with this movie and hopefully others with religious content. We are sending an interfaith couple to see the movie to record their impressions of the movie, in the hope of illuminating how pop culture can […]

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A Leaky Tent

If you read The Jewish Week, you’ve seen Marvin Schick’s ads before. Tucked towards the back, they occupy a horizontal half-page and are all-text (small type) editorials on matters of import in the Jewish community. I rarely read them, but his ad from last week–which is also online on his blog–caught my attention. Titled “As […]

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Thanksgiving Leftovers

A number of good links came our way over the Thanksgiving holiday: Paul Golin of the Jewish Outreach Institute wrote a fantastic editorial for JTA titled “Intermarriage battle long over.” In it, he argues that the release of the Boston Jewish Community Survey was a “tipping point” in the Jewish world’s debate over intermarriage. “Jewish […]

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Bloggers on the News from Boston

We’re not the only bloggers who have picked up on the implications of the news from Boston that 60 percent of intermarried families there are raising their children Jewish: Rabbi Andy Bachman, the founder of Brooklyn Jews, blogged about the news: Out of Boston comes a study by the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, whose visionary leadership […]

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Survivalism vs. Values, Take II

Following up on last week’s post on Yossi Abramowitz’s comments on how the Jewish community spends too much time on issues of exclusivity and survival, Irwin Kula did an interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on a similar theme: Like followers of most religions, Jews have largely neglected much of their own wisdom teachings, Kula […]

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Seven out of 50

Every year, the Forward, the national Jewish newspaper, compiles a list called the Forward 50, a list of the 50 most notable Jewish figures from the previous year. “Each year’s compilation is a journalistic effort to record some of the key trends and events in American Jewish life in the year just ended, and to […]

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The Link Sink

A bunch of interesting stuff from the past week or so: The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles reports on a series of mysterious billboards that began popping up around L.A. after the High Holidays. One had a picture of latkes and fries and said simply “Latke or fries?” Another had a pic of bagels […]

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Our Op-Ed in the Forward

An editorial co-authored by our president and publisher, Ed Case, will be in tomorrow’s issue of the Forward and is now available online. Co-authored by Kathy Kahn, director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Department of Outreach and Synagogue Community, “Engaging the Intermarried” offers a blueprint to other communities who are looking to engage intermarried […]

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Israel and American Jews: A Growing Divide?

The editor’s column in the Nov. 2 edition of the Canadian Jewish News (not online, unfortunately) made an interesting connection between two studies by the American Jewish Committee. One, titled Teaching about American Jewry in Israeli Education, found that only 14 percent of Israeli schools teach anything about American Jewry; the other, titled Young Jewish […]

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JTA on the News Out of Boston

On late Friday, JTA, the Jewish newswire, did its story on the extraordinary news out of Boston: 60% of intermarried families there are raising their children Jewish. Unlike the Boston Globe story, the JTA story, by Sue Fishkoff, more explicitly makes the connection between outreach and intermarried families raising their children Jewish, starting with the […]

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60% of Interfaith Families in Boston are Raising Children Jewish

There is extraordinary news this morning: according to a demographic study of Boston’s Jewish community released today, 60 percent of intermarried households are raising their children Jewish. Michaal Paulson of the Boston Globe did a front-page story on this remarkable development this morning, and the news is clearly striking a chord. As of 9:20 a.m. […]

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Borat is Interdating

He’s known best for pretending to be a virulently anti-Semitic Kazakh reporter, but Sacha Baron Cohen, the star of Borat, is the son of Orthodox Jews and is dating Isla Fisher, a non-Jewish Australian actress. You might remember Fisher as the crazy sister from Wedding Crashers. According to this article and other sources, Cohen and […]

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A Tangled Knot

As promised, I’m returning to “Untying a civil knot,” where Rabbi Shammai Engelmayer argues that the state should have nothing to do with marriage. His argument needs to be explained in detail before it can be refuted or critiqued. His fundamental assumption is that marriage is a religious act, and under the principle of the […]

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Interfaith Families at Day School

Not much time to write today, but one important link I forgot to share with you on Friday: the cover story of the Oct. 27 issue of the J., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California, was on interfaith families who send their kids to Jewish day school. The piece is testament to the committed, […]

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The Link Sink

Some interesting links: Rabbi Dov Marmur, a major figure in the World Union of Progressive Judaism, has changed his tune on patrilineal descent. He used to oppose the notion of recognizing children of non-Jewish mothers and Jewish fathers as Jewish, but he’s changed his mind after meeting numberous people of Jewish descent who longed to […]

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Does Jewish Marriage Require a Rabbi?

There was a nice article in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent last week by Ryan Teitman called “Rabbi Deconstructs Marriage, in All Its Assorted Permutations.” It’s little more than a description of a Jewish marriage class taught by Rabbi Yair Robinson of Shir Ami-Bucks County Congregation, but it includes some little-discussed insights. For example, the article […]

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Making Intermarriage Legal in Israel

Israeli leaders like Binyamin Netanyahu sometimes excoriate intermarriage as a grave threat to the Jewish people, which is easy to do in a country with a majority Jewish population. But Israel also has another leg up on preventing intermarriage: a Jew cannot legally marry a non-Jew in Israel. According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, a […]

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One-Quarter of American Jewish Youth are Orthodox, Says Study

There are more young Orthodox Jews than either young Reform or young Conservative Jews, says a study coming out this week, according to a Nathaniel Popper article in the Forward. Says the article: While the Reform and Conservative religious movements have long jockeyed for the title of the largest Jewish denomination in America, a new […]

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The Link Sink

Some links for y’all: Sue Fishkoff’s Hadassah magazine package on converting non-Jewish spouses is now available online. It includes quotes from IFF President and Publisher Ed Case. For several years, I was a loyal reader of Jewsweek.com, which was founded by Binyamin Cohen. But when Cohen left Jewsweek to help start up Atlanta Jewish Life–which […]

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A Little Love for the Reconstructionists

The Reform movement is often praised–or villified, depending on what circles you’re in–for its 1983 decision to recognize the children of non-Jewish mothers and Jewish fathers as Jews. It is rightly considered a watershed moment in the Jewish community’s response to intermarriage, and is a major reason why most affiliated interfaith families are members of […]

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Marketing Day Schools to Interfaith Families

Not sure why I hadn’t thought of sharing this yet, but we wrote this article on marketing Jewish day schools to interfaith families for RAVSAK, the Jewish Community Day School Network. It will be published in their issue coming out in December, I believe. It’s specifically targeted to the boards and administrators of Jewish community […]

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Trigger-Happy?

We recently received a video from the Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation, based in Boston’s North Shore. We’ve talked about the Lappin Foundation before; they fund and manage some great programs for interfaith families, but their spokespeople never miss an opportunity to denigrate intermarriage. This new video is no different. Called “Journey of Faith,” it’s […]

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The Pull of the Holocaust

This week’s Sunday New York Times had a beautifully written piece in its Style section by a secular Jewish woman who is in love with an atheist non-Jewish Irishman. Called “When a Relationship Carries the Weight of History,” it’s about a very particular, very common kind of modern Jew who is unsure about the existence […]

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The Promise

Another month, another casually great column from Julie Wiener at The Jewish Week. In this month’s column on intermarried life, Wiener talks about “The Promise,” that vague commitment to raise the kids Jewish that non-Jewish partners often make to their Jewish spouses-to-be. (I had a conversation with my fiance on this very issue two weeks […]

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Changes in the Conservative Movement?

Arnold Eisen, the incoming chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, one of two main rabbinical schools of the Conservative movement, had something positive to say about intermarried families in a recent Q&A in the Journal News, a newspaper in Westchester County, New York: If we have intermarried families, it’s our job to make them so […]

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Why Jewish Life? (Part II)

While we don’t push non-Jewish spouses in intermarriages to convert to Judaism, converts often have an extraordinary perspective on Judaism. Where born Jews have the culture first and then learn the religion, converts find the religion first and then learn the culture. This outsider’s perspective on Jewish identity can lead to amazing insights into Judaism; […]

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Outreach, from Reform to Orthodox

There seems to be a real uptick in attention to outreach programs lately. Last week’s issue of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles had a story from Adam Wills about a community scan that the Jewish Outreach Institute did in the West San Fernando and Conejo Valleys. A community scan works like this: workers […]

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Open House?

There was a fascinating story two weeks ago by Sue Fishkoff about a new project called Moishe House, a network of subsidized homes for Jews in their 20s who are committed to building a Jewish community with their peers. In exchange for hosting eight to 12 events a month, making weekly reports and maintaining a […]

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The Link Sink

A little catch-up on some relevant stories from the last two weeks or so: The j., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California has another great intermarriage-related article. It’s a feature on an interfaith discussion group led by Helena McMahon, who runs Interfaith Connection in San Francisco. Founded 20 years ago, Interfaith Connection is one […]

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Interfaith Dating, Take Two (or is it 10…)

How’s this for a coincidence: a writer named Susan Jacobs has written an article on “The allure of interfaith dating” for the Jewish Journal Boston North barely a week after a different writer, also named Susan Jacobs, wrote an article on interfaith dating for the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. Like the first article, this piece on […]

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What Makes a Celebrity Jewish

Around a year ago, the website Jewhoo.com went off-line. Created and maintained by Nate Bloom, an Oakland-based writer, Jewhoo was the definitive site to go to to find out which celebrities were Jewish–and which weren’t. It was an amazing resource for Jewish journalists, and I’m sure I was not the only one who mourned its […]

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The Power of Letters

One of the small but important ways IFF advocates for making the Jewish community more welcoming is by writing letters to the editor of papers that run stories on intermarriage. Sometimes we are able to congratulate newspapers and writers for shedding light on important issues and talking about them in a fair, sensitive manner. Other […]

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Some Personal Business, and Some Plain Old Business

I would like to share a little news with our faithful readers. Last week while on a vacation in Hawaii, I got engaged to a wonderful non-Jewish woman! We’ve been dating longer than two people of our age should, and you can probably blame me for that. So the whole debate on intermarriage has just […]

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Interfaith Couples During the High Holidays and More

A lot of relevant articles today: One of the lead stories for the new issue of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles is titled “September is a struggle for interfaith families.” While the article does discuss the oft-addressed issue of taking off work and being accepted in synagogue, it also brings up another less-publicized […]

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Attitudes vs. Facts

While more than 50 percent of teenage Conservative Jews say they want to marry a Jewish partner, only 18 percent date Jews exclusively. This very interesting fact was relayed to IFF by Ariela Keysar, a noted demographer at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. This was one of the findings of a study she co-authored for […]

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Esther: A Hero for Christians?

Whatever its other faults, the success of the The Passion of the Christ last year demonstrated a powerful fact: religious movie-goers have massive buying power. In the wake of The Passion, numerous movies have tried to tap the potential of the religious market: Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Medea’s Family Reunion; […]

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Yay for J.!

Part of my job is trawling through Jewish newspapers for stories of interest to interfaith families and those who work with them. Most papers have items of interest every few weeks, but there is one paper that seems to always have intermarriage on its mind: the J., San Francisco’s Jewish paper. (It’s full and proper […]

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Talk Like a Jewish Pirate

As some of you may know, today is “International Talk Like a Pirate Day.” I thought this had nothing to do with interfaith families, until I saw this on the history of Jewish pirates. Among the nuggets of gold from the article is the fact that a number of pirates were Conversos, Jews who practiced […]

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Honoring Non-Jews at Synagogue

JTA has a great, I mean just terrific, story today on how a number of synagogues are using the High Holidays as an opportunity to publicly thank non-Jews in interfaith families who are raising their children as Jews: As intermarriage rates continue to rise, and more intermarried families join congregations, increasing numbers of non-Orthodox rabbis […]

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Of Shofars, Slingshots and Secrets

There are a couple of great links today: Julie Wiener, who writes a great column on intermarriage for the Jewish Week in New York, has a particularly good piece today on “coming out” as intermarried in the organized Jewish community. Having a non-Jewish girlfriend and having worked in traditional Jewish journalism from 2001 to 2005, […]

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New Approaches to Officiation in D.C., S.F.

IFF is in the early stages of developing a resource for rabbis on the issue of officiation at interfaith weddings. It’s a sticky issue for rabbis; the Conservative movement forbids its rabbis from officiating at interfaith weddings, but obviously there are a significant number of interfaith couples in their congregations. The Reform movement’s position is […]

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A Muslim-Jewish Wedding

It appears that we’re not the only ones interested in Muslim-Jewish relationships. Ha’aretz recently published this story about the wedding of Hadar Harris, a Jewish human rights lawyer, and Rahim Sabir, a Moroccan Muslim who was one of the United Nations’ first human rights observers in Darfur. This follows a New York Times story about […]

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Fuzzy Math

According to a Baylor University study of Americans’ religious attitudes released today, more Jews believe Jesus is the son of God than attend weekly religious services. At first glance, that’s a distressing and embarrassing result for the Jewish community: on the one hand, nearly 10 percent of Jews believe something that is utterly antithetical to […]

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Amy’s Thoughts on Mourning

This is Amy, the Community Connections Coordinator, blogging for the first time ever – from Micah’s account (mine’s not set up yet). I just couldn’t wait until it was set up, because I had some thoughts about today, being that it’s the 5th anniversary of what I don’t think any of us will ever be […]

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What We Can Learn from the Zoroastrians

A few days ago, the New York Times published an article by Laurie Goodstein titled <a href=” http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/06/us/06 … ref=slogin” target=”_blank”>“Zoroastrians Keep the Faith, and Keep Dwindling.” It says nothing about Judaism, but the similarities between the issues the Zoroastrian community and the Jewish community relating to issues of intermarriage are uncanny. If you just replace the […]

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Touring the Temple

Before I went to Salt Lake City for the RNA conference, I was urged by my publisher, Ed Case, to take a tour of Temple Square, the world headquarters of the Church of Latter-day Saints and the site of the original Mormon Temple. Since I always do everything my boss tells me, I snuck out […]

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Courage of the Converts

I was on a plane to Salt Lake City to attend the Religion Newswriters Association conference, a three-day conference for mainstream journalists who cover religion. To prepare, I was reading The Impact of Jewish Outreach on the Intermarried and Unaffiliated, a 2001 study by the Jewish Outreach Institute on the effectiveness of outreach programs. It’s […]

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The God Squad on intermarriage

In their recent column, advice columnists “The God Squad” were asked a question by the Jewish parents of a woman who was marrying a religious Catholic man. The God Squad makes a great recommendation–make a definite choice in how you’ll raise the children–but they base this recommendation on some very gloomy-sounding statistics about the future […]

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