Federation’s first ‘Engaging Interfaith Families Forum’ reinforces the truism that women drive a family’s Jewish life.
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In my household, I’m the Jewish Life Coordinator: I decide which Jewish holidays we’re going to celebrate as a family, whether to keep our daughters in the temple religious school or try an alternative program — and I handle all the logistics, like getting the girls to Hebrew school, filling out the registration forms, paying the bills and supervising Hebrew-reading practice.
Two findings on intermarriage highlight the “New York Jewish Community Study of 2011.” First, there is a huge amount of intermarriage, and it is continuing; between 2006 and 2011, half of the non-Orthodox couples formed were intermarried couples. Second, measured by the study’s index of Jewish engagement, the intermarried score low, but those that do engage act comparably to the in-married. The critical question is, what attracts interfaith families to engage Jewishly?
First-ever welcoming effort aimed at engagement with community.
In a move being hailed by advocates for interfaith families, UJA-Federation of New York — the largest Jewish federation in the country — is launching its first-ever initiative specifically focused on welcoming the intermarried and engaging them in Jewish life.
In my liberal and uber-secular extended family, there was only one figure who cared whether my sisters and I went to Hillel or dated/married Jews: Harold (Hans) Wiener, my father’s father.
Born to a large, secular German family whose members mostly managed to emigrate well before the Holocaust (he arrived in New York in 1922), Grandpa Harold, a wholesaler of men’s undergarments, never lost his German accent. He nonetheless settled comfortably into the mainstream American Jewish life of his generation: membership in a Conservative synagogue and a B’nai Brith chapter, donations to Israel Bonds and UJA, loyalty to the Democratic party and eventually retirement in Century Village, a predominantly Jewish community in West Palm Beach, Fla.
When, just months after announcing my engagement to lapsed Catholic Joe, I got my first job in Jewish journalism, at the Detroit Jewish News, I thought Grandpa Harold would be excited, that perhaps it would compensate for his disappointment about the upcoming intermarriage.
Almost eight years ago I traveled to Israel for the first time on a Birthright Israel trip through Hillel. Recently I returned with my husband, brother and uncle to visit my sister, who is spending the year there on a Young Judaea Year Course. At first glance this hardly sounds different from the experiences of any other Jewish professional.
But my siblings and I are the products of a typical American Jewish narrative: attractive Italian Catholic pianist from Brooklyn meets disengaged Jewish rocker from Yonkers. They fall in love, get married, and have a family.
It wasn’t all that long ago that, in the immediate aftermath of Barack Obama’s sweeping victory in the race for President, more than a few pundits were declaring that America had become a “post-racist society.” I wish it were so, but I’m sure it’s not.
Interdating isn’t the boogeyman it once was. Could it actually lead to increased Jewish involvement?
Eight years ago, as director of a United Synagogue Youth chapter on the West Coast, Lisa Fogelson came up against Section Five, Line 2.
A few pages into the Conservative youth group’s constitution, in between the expectation that teen officers attend religious services and refrain from drugs and alcohol, is the line: “It is expected that leaders of the organization will refrain from relationships which can be construed as interdating.”