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On Interfaith Workshops
Mon, 08/12/2013 - 20:00

I have several questions for Marion Usher regarding her opinion piece, “How Interfaith Workshops Are Paying Off” (July 26).

Is the primary purpose of her workshop to allow intermarried couples to work out their religious conflicts or to foster Jewish identity? If it is to allow these couples to work out their conflicts, should this be outside the framework of the Jewish community, since any solution would be to diminish the Jewish identity of the Jewish spouse?

Secondly, if the purpose is to promote Jewish identity, should it be limited to the one-quarter to one-third of intermarried for whom the religious identity is primarily Jewish? To include the larger group of couples, which include both Jewish and Christian identity elements, waters down the meaning of being Jewish.

Thirdly, might the Jewish community be better served with a stronger effort to create core Jewish identity? Such programs are underfunded by the various federations, but create a far better result in the transmission of Jewish value.

Fairlawn, N.J.

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Thank you very much for your interest in m y work with interfaith couples. I would like to try and address your points. When I developed my workshop, "Love and Religion: An Interfaith Workshop for Jews and Their Partners,' I had several goals in mind. First, to provide a safe place for interfaith couples to address the issues they needed to deal with as they created their religious life together. Second, I wanted them to experience a welcoming Jewish institution within the Jewish community. As you may recall, 20 years ago when I first began this work, the Jewish community had a great deal of difficulty looking at this issue. Third, I wanted to be part of those within the Jewish community which would welcome and encourage Jewish choices made by these couples.
As you can see from my results, going to a workshop which focuses on these issues can have a major effect on having more Jews in the world.
I totally agree with you when you talk about the lack of funds aimed at outreach. Right now, I can say that there is a growing number of Federations including New York and Washington DC which are changing that. It is very exciting.
Thank you again for your comments, Marion L. Usher, Ph.D.