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 be that he fears that all the talk of outreach to intermarried families will overshadow the importance of programs that seek to socialize Jews (such as day schools, Jewish summer camps and birthright israel trips), and the Jewish community will suffer. To his credit, he isn’t against outreach and he feels that the recent survey results from Boston suggest that outreach may be successful. The problem is, he seems to see the message of outreach–and its primary purveyors, like InterfaithFamily.com–as an exclusive one, a message that seeks to denigrate efforts to encourage inmarriage.

For the record, IFF has never denigrated inmarriage, encouraged intermarriage or criticized inreach programs like he discusses. Neither have the Reform movement, the Reconstructionist movement or the Jewish Outreach Institute, which Tobin presumable would include in the “outreach lobby” he refers to.

But more important than any of our words are the Jewish community’s actions. The funding for Jewish day schools, Jewish camping or birthright israel all dwarf the Jewish community’s funding for outreach to the intermarried. No more than $3 million a year of the Jewish community’s money is spent on dedicated programming for intermarried families; birthright israel alone has a $40 million+ annual budget. Numerous cities in recent years have seen donations greater than $3 million to subsidize Jewish day schools. While Tobin may fear a shift in the Jewish community’s priorities, we are a long way away–and millions of dollars short–from outreach overtaking inreach on the Jewish community’s agenda.

In other news, New Jersey’s Jewish Standard has a nice article about Temple Emeth, a Reform synagogue in Teaneck that is doing a series of programs for interfaith couples.

In Israel, the Supreme Court ruled last week that “intermarriage ceremonies performed abroad would be considered valid vis-a-vis inheritance laws” but shot down a district court decision that had “deemed intermarriages legitimate for all purposes,” according to Ha’aretz.

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