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.”
You know how, from the outside at least, there’s always that friend who seems to be perfect, who seems to succeed at everything you can’t pull off yourself?
That’s how I feel about the Jewish community of Boston. Every time I go there, I’m struck by how well things appear to be run, how Boston actually does all these progressive things that other Jewish communities only talk about doing.