My friend Ed Case of Interfaithfamily.com is becoming Mr. Jewish Federation!
In November, he’s on the roster of speakers at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in New Orleans, appearing in a panel entitled “Can We Encourage In-Marriage and Welcome Interfaith Families?” He’ll be debating none other than Steven “Intermarriage=Single Greatest Threat” M. Cohen: I’m hoping they live stream or at least videotape this exchange, in which case I’ll of course embed it here, if I can figure out how!
But more immediately, Ed's a nominee in the group’s Jewish Community Heroes contest and is currently ranking No. 14. I’m guessing he’s the highest-ranking formerly (his wife converted to Judaism a few years ago) intermarried hero, but I haven’t done a background check on the other nominees, all of whom sound like quite inspiring people.
In case you are wondering, Jewish federations are Jewish umbrella philanthropies, somewhat akin to the United Way: they raise money centrally and then, in addition to sponsoring their own programs, allocate funds to a range of educational, social-service and other agencies locally and internationally.
The five Jewish Community Heroes winners, each of whom gets a grant (I couldn’t find the dollar amount but I’m guessing, given the struggles of Jewish federations, that it’s not enormous) for his/her organization, will be determined through both web voting and a panel of judges. You can vote for more than one nominee, and can vote multiple times (limited to once a day) per nominee.
If Ed is one of the winners, or at least places in the top 10, it will be an important symbolic victory for those of us who believe that intermarriage is not the single greatest threat to Jewish continuity.
I didn’t have space to go into this in the article itself, which is about outreach to new parents and a soon-to-be-launched website called Kveller, but the federation-commissioned “Jewish Early Engagement in New York” study I discussed actually recommends that the federation “convene a new task force on interfaith families and consult with experts:
The issue of interfaith families in New York City is much larger than the mandate of [UJA-Federation’s Beginning Jewish Families Task Force]. The figures from the 2002 population study of New York City [showing a New York-area intermarriage rate of just 22 percent] are clearly outdated — the intermarriage rate is now higher, and interfaith issues must be addressed in a systematic fashion. They are particularly salient for young families because of the long-term implications of the decisions that parents make. There are many experienced professionals who can be consulted to develop a strategy.
Now that you're all federation-ed up, go eat something -- and, if you are fasting tomorrow, have an easy fast!
Shana tova umetuka (a happy and sweet new year) to all!
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