Entries for Category: JOI News & Events
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On my recent travels to Jewish communities to talk about bringing Big Tent Judaism initiatives to bear, I was struck, yet again, by how open and engaging people think their institutions are. In reality, they are inadvertently putting up barriers to participation.
Synagogues that don’t actively welcome those on the periphery – Jews by Choice, intermarried Jews, LGBTIQ Jews, Jews of Color, etc. – will continue to find it hard to attract new members. And I don’t mean just members from the traditionally marginalized communities listed above. Why would I, a straight-married-to-another-Jew-family-oriented-person, want to join a synagogue where my best friend and his partner don’t feel welcome? It isn’t about being tolerant. It is about creating policies out of a need, and more importantly a desire, to be engaging, inclusive, and welcoming.
Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute is taking another big step forward in opening the tent of the North American Jewish community by hiring a Big Tent Judaism Concierge for Middlesex County, New Jersey. The Big Tent Judaism Concierge will serve as a guide to the Middlesex County Jewish community, assisting organizations in Public Space JudaismSM program implementation, and creating partnerships to ensure that the Middlesex area Jewish community works together to open the tent to all who wish to enter it.
Partially funded by the local Federation’s Dave and Ceil Pavlovsky Jewish Education Fund, the Big Tent Judaism Concierge will also be working with the Federation’s new community engagement coordinator, Michal Greenbaum. A recent article in the New Jersey Jewish News highlights the work of these two positions to open and grow the Jewish community in New Jersey.
JOI’s “concierge,” meanwhile, will “become the pivotal person to meet with newcomers and guide them into the community and into community engagement,” said JOI executive director Rabbi Kerry Olitzky. “The biggest issue facing the North American Jewish community is engagement. We’ve found that those inside the Jewish community feel that it’s warm and welcoming. Those outside find it cold and prickly — and that gap is widening.”
In addition to working with the Federation’s community engagement coordinator and partnering institutions, the Big Tent Judaism Concierge will work directly with individuals in the community to guide them on their Jewish journeys, ensuring that they are led to the institution that fits their needs, and that that institution is trained in effective outreach techniques, to best welcome them in. Along with Greenbaum, several Middlesex-area Jewish communal professionals will be involved in JOI’s Big Tent Judaism Professional Affiliates program. This training program will allow these Jewish communal professionals to learn together proper outreach methodology, as well as work with one another so that they truly know what the community has to offer as a whole, not as individual institutions.
Are you a Jewish grandparent whose adult children are intermarried, and you want to be able to share the holiday of Passover with your interfaith grandchildren? Then we invite you to join us for a free online discussion to help navigate the sometimes-choppy waters of sharing your traditions with your grandchildren being raised in the context of intermarriage.
With Passover right around the corner, Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute will be holding an online discussion for grandparent with interfaith grandchildren.
WHO: Jewish grandparents whose adult children have intermarried.
WHAT: The Grandparents Circle: Seder with the Whole Family Online Discussion
WHEN: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 1:00 PM EST
WHERE: Online! All you need is a computer and a phone.
HOW: Register for this free class by clicking here.
During the session, grandparents will have the opportunity to share their concerns and approaches to instilling Judaism in their grandchildren, particularly in the context of the holiday of Passover. Co-led by Rabbi Joyce Siegel, a Grandparents Circle facilitator based in central Massachusetts, and myself, grandparents will also have a chance to discuss strategies on sharing the holiday with children and activities to introduce Passover to their grandchildren. Another topic will be how to share the holidays with grandchildren who may not live close by.
JOI wants to help make Passover an enjoyable holiday for everyone. As always, anyone can register for a Grandparents Circle online session, and JOI welcomes participants to do so by clicking the link above. For questions about either session, how to participate, or how to get a question about Passover answered, I invite you to be in touch with me at HMorris@JOI.org or 212-760-1440.
Hurry up! It’s almost time to get your matzah!
Are you a mom looking for guidance on sharing Passover with your children? If you are, or know someone who is, we are here to help!
With Passover just around the corner, beginning on March 25th, Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute is excited to offer a free online discussion about celebrating the holiday of Passover, during which we will talk about the details of the seder (ritual meal), what to eat/not to eat, how to involve your children, and more!
WHO: Mothers of other religious backgrounds raising Jewish children, and anyone else interested.
WHAT: The Mothers Circle: Seder Survival Guide Online Discussion
WHEN: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 1:00 PM EST
WHERE: Online! All you need is a computer and a phone.
HOW: Register for this free class by clicking here.
We at JOI consider mothers of other religious backgrounds raising Jewish children to be the unsung heroes of the Jewish community. Therefore, we want to make sure they have the resources necessary to create a Jewish home. By offering this class in an online discussion format, moms from across North America who may not have a local Mothers Circle will be able to get their questions answered while virtually surrounded by moms just like them.
The online discussion will be co-led by Laura Kinyon, a long-time Mothers Circle facilitator based in Hartford, CT, and myself, and participants will be able to submit questions in advance to ensure they are answered during the session (submitted during registration).
We hope you will join us, and will pass this information on to anyone who you think might be interested!
JOI wants to help make Passover an enjoyable holiday for everyone. As always, anyone can register for a Mothers Circle online session, and JOI welcomes participants to do so by clicking the link above. For questions about either session, how to participate, or how to get a question about Passover answered, I invite you to be in touch with me at HMorris@JOI.org or 212-760-1440.
Through the generosity of our supporters and after many years of working with Jewish communal professionals in the Windy City, Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute is hiring a Public Space Judaism Coordinator in Chicago. In this (initially) part-time role, the Public Space Judaism Coordinator will take JOI’s training on best outreach and engagement practices, and use them to coordinate and implement outreach programming in public spaces. The programs are designed to reach and engage all those who may benefit from the meaning and value of participation in the organized Jewish community, including intermarried households. The Public Space Judaism Coordinator will foster collaboration between Chicago’s Jewish institutions, as there is now a broad coalition interesting in casting the widest possible net through Jewish holiday programming and experiential education in secular spaces. The Coordinator will also steward newcomers to other relevant programs and organizations that meet their needs, as our approach is “client-centered” and about serving the individuals’ interests and needs. For the complete job description, click here.
Most importantly, the Public Space Judaism Coordinator will be providing a crucial service for the community – someone who can independently provide a doorway into the entire gamut of Jewish communal programming and organizations. We envision that our Public Space Judaism Coordinator will promote the value of Jewish life, no matter the route one chooses.
While the secular New Year is a time to take stock and make resolutions for change, and the Jewish calendar includes a large block of time in late summer and early fall to do so, Judaism actually has a variety of times and places that encourage self-evaluation and reflection, what is called cheshbon hanefesh (literally, an accounting of the soul, a fitting name for a time when lawmakers in the United States are worried about the fiscal cliff and debt ceilings). It seems to me, therefore, that this is a great time to look at the successes and strides we have made in Big Tent Judaism as we make our resolve for 2013. Among our accomplishments in 2012:
• More women from other backgrounds are raising Jewish children. The Mothers Circle data indicates that 97% of women who take the course will choose or have chosen Jewish education for their children and 80% feel they are raising Jewish children in a Jewish home. Over 1500 women have taken a Mothers Circle course since 2004 and 77% of them will affiliate with a Jewish institution.
• Grandparents whose children are intermarried report a greater comfort in instilling Jewish values in their grandchildren who are not being raised Jewishly. The Grandparents Circle evaluations tell us that 70% of grandparents who take the course have not only increased Jewish activities with their grandchildren of mixed faith, but they themselves have become more active in their Jewish observance. There have been 75 circles in nearly 100 communities in the four years since inception.
• Volunteer and Professional leaders in 49 U.S. States, 9 Canadian Provinces and 8 international communities have utilized our outreach and engagement strategies. We help them to make their institutions more welcoming through improved websites, better trained staff members and by taking their programming out of the four walls of their institution into the community – where the people are.
If your community or institution has been impacted upon by our work, please feel free to add to the list by leaving a comment in the area below.
I have found out recently that one of the wonderful things about working for JOI is that you never know what kind of skill set you may be called upon to apply. About a week ago, I had the pleasure of helping out at one of our Public Space JudaismSM programs, which took place here in New York City. These programs usually take place just before major Jewish holidays and are all about bringing Jewish content to where people are (rather than waiting for them to come to the JCC or the synagogue). This particular program was called Hands-On Hanukkah, and the name says it all. At the back of the Barnes and Noble store in Union Square, a crowd of parents and caretakers with young children began to gather, attracted by colorful flyers and a real-life dreidel who happily agreed to have her picture taken with the little ones. There was also a puppet show put on by Yellow Sneaker, coloring of JOI’s Sesame Street-themed Color-Me CalendarSM (thanks to our collaboration with Shalom Sesame), lots of dreidels to spin, and my personal favorite – dreidel origami (you can find several versions online but this is the one we used). I remember loving origami as a kid, and this certainly brought back memories. At any rate, the kids loved them and kept asking for more.
Over the years, Public Space Judaism has a proven record of success. From our research we know that these events have the potential to draw hundreds of participants, most of which “stumble upon” the event as they go about their day, not having planned to participate but drawn to the activities and displays. We know that out of this crowd, dozens (about 25% to be exact) are members of Jewish households (including family members of other religious or cultural backgrounds) who would otherwise have little or no engagement with the Jewish community. The success of these programs highlights the desire of this demographic to participate in the Jewish community; they just need to be given the (low-barrier) opportunity to do so.
Who knew that folding origami dreidels would come in handy in expanding an inclusive Jewish community?!
Our recently released report on the success of The Mothers Circle is starting to make waves, as more communities are asking us to share this important program.
The fact is that when an intermarried couple decides to make a Jewish home for their children, it is often the mother who bears the primary responsibility for making the home Jewish. And when this mother does not have a Jewish background, the task may seem impossible. The fact is, too, that non-Jewish mothers in interfaith relationships have been less than welcomed by the Jewish community. Without the necessary support, many of these women may abandon Jewishness altogether.
Enter The Mothers Circle. At the Jewish Outreach Institute we believe that interfaith couples are an opportunity, not a threat to the Jewish community. With the right support, and the right welcoming attitude on the part of our communities, these mothers and their family can become part of our Big Tent, creating a Jewish home where there may not have been one before.
Which brings me back to this latest report. Through our research, we learned that participants of the 16-session course become more comfortable doing Jewish activities, bring more Jewish practices into the home (for example, the percentage of those who say they currently light Shabbat candles at home jumps from 50% to 83% following the course), and begin their journey toward greater Jewish engagement by choosing Jewish education for their children and participating in Jewish institutions.
The term “General Assembly” can refer to a lot of different things. There’s the UN General Assembly, various state General Assemblies, and now even the General Assembly for the tech community. But to the Jewish communal professional world, the General Assembly refers to “the premier annual North American Jewish communal event, attracting Federation volunteer leaders and professionals, the leadership of our partner organizations and a range of national Jewish organizations,” as stated on the GA website.
Hosted by the Jewish Federations of North America, this year’s GA took place in Baltimore, MD, and I was lucky enough to attend for the first time. In a lot of ways, the GA looks like every other conference: a busy schedule of sessions and plenaries, a few notable speakers, and a marketplace of booths all clambering for your attention, many by giving out candy and reusable tote bags. While I definitely returned with plenty of chocolate and tote bags in tow, I also returned with an even deeper appreciation for the work we do here at JOI.
For this year’s marketplace, we chose to literally open the tent, as Chemi Shalev of Haaretz describes:
The Jewish Outreach [Institute] has set up a campaign entitled “Big Tent Judaism,” and just in case you miss the point, their booth is, indeed, a blue-topped tent.”
The tent featured testimonials from participants of The Mothers Circle, the Grandparents Circle, the Big Tent Judaism Professional Affiliates Program, and Passover in the Matzah AisleSM, one of our most popular Public Space JudaismSM programs. Several JOI staff and I spent the three-day conference literally inviting people into our tent to talk to them about Big Tent Judaism, and what it has to do with them and their community. We met with people from across world, including many from Israel and Canada, as well as many students there with their college Hillel programs.
This weekend is going to be a first for me – my first time attending the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly. When I first started working in the Jewish world and heard about the GA, I thought my colleagues were going to the United Nations. And in a sense, they were. The Federated world encompasses so much of the Jewish communal world that it represents a vast diversity of North American Judaism. Scratch the surface of many Jewish institutions in any city and you’ll find a Jewish Federation.
We are pleased to co-lead a session titled, “Engaging Interfaith Families: Programs and tactics for increased community involvement.” Intermarried couples and the children and grandchildren of intermarriage represent a large segment of our community, and have often felt marginalized. This interactive session will allow staff and volunteer leaders from Federations and other Jewish organizations to explore the needs and challenges facing intermarried families, and discuss successful programs that increase their level of participation in the Jewish community.
If you are going to be at the GA in Baltimore this weekend, please join us for what should be a very engaging program. Be prepared to share your opinions, and leave with tools and resources.
And unlike the GA at the UN, IMHO u dnt hve 2 wr a trad costume.
Not sure what that says? Look for our Big Tent in the Marketplace (#711) and find out why using in-speak and acronyms excludes people. See you there! Do you think they’ll give me a first-timers badge?
We are incredibly thankful here at the JOI office in Manhattan that our staff is safe and making it through the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. We have heard from some of our partner organizations, and while many here in the Northeast were hard-hit and some still have no power or water, all are fairing well and staying strong.
Opening the tent to the Jewish community is not just about welcoming in newcomers, but it is also about taking care of those who wish to be in the tent. On an average day, this may mean assisting families in our community who are having financial difficulties, or reaching out to those who are sick. Today, and for the foreseeable future, this means even more. As we begin to get back to work here in New York, we are looking for ways to help those around us.
Many websites have begun listing ways you can help, whether local or out-of-the-area, whether on the ground or financially. We are compiling a list of ways you can help, and if you have anything to add, please let us know.
Donate to the Red Cross Disaster Relief
*You can also donate by texting REDCROSS to 90999
Donate to the UJA Disaster Relief Fund
Donate to North Shore Animal League
Volunteer with Repair the World
Volunteer at a Red Cross Shelter
HELP BY COMMUNITY (Donations and Volunteering):
Lower East Side Recovers
Red Hook Recovers
Staten Island Recovers
New York Cares
The Jewish community is often cited for its resilience and how it comes together in difficult times. Here at the Jewish Outreach Institute, we include everyone in our community, and expand the tent to include all who wish to enter it, and all who need assistance in times like this. We hope that you will take a few moments to open your tent by either donating or volunteering. We thank you in advance for your support of our community, and plan to get back to the business of opening the tent of the Jewish community.
JOI is excited to announce three new members of its board of directors. Laura Kinyon of Avon, CT; Henry Salmon of New Brunswick, NJ; and Rabbi Abigail Treu of New York, NY will work closely with Executive Director Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky and the rest of the board of directors to promote JOI, help guide its development, oversee its management, and ensure that it has the resources, professional leadership, and policies needed to fulfill its mission.
Meet the new Board of Directors members here:
Laura R. Kinyon: a licensed clinical social worker residing in Avon, CT, and a facilitator of The Mothers Circle and Grandparents Circle programs in Hartford for eight years.
Henry Salmon: has received many awards for his service to his local New Jersey community, and is past president of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Raritan, NJ.
Rabbi Abigail Treu: a Rabbinic Fellow for the Jewish Theological Seminary and is the incoming National Director of the Torah Fund and Philanthropic Planning.
We are delighted to have these three leaders of the North American Jewish community as part of the board, and look forward to their continuing participation in the future of our organization.
It is with great sadness that we begin the New Year by announcing the passing of a dear friend and member of JOI’s Board of Directors, Saul Mintz.
Prior to joining the JOI Board of Directors in 2008, Saul Mintz was a generous supporter of JOI since 2003. He also served on the President’s Advisory Board from 2006 to 2008. A graduate of Tulane University in architecture, Saul served on the boards of Tulane University President’s Council, LSU Health Sciences Foundation-Shreveport, as well as the Institute of Southern Jewish Life. He also served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and as the Chairman of Strauss Interests.
Saul was the recipient of the: ADL Torch of Liberty Award/South Central Region, Tulane University Emeritus Club’s Outstanding Alumnus Award, and the Jewish Endowment Foundation’s Tzedakah Award.
He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Jean Strauss Mintz; brother Albert Mintz and wife, Linda of New Orleans; sisters-in-law, Elaine Levy Mintz of New Orleans and Peggy Strauss Greenbaum and husband, Jim Greenbaum of Rancho Mirage, CA; children, Morris Mintz and wife, Melinda, Carolyn Kaplan and husband, Jay of Houston, TX and Sally Mann and husband, Anthony of Greenwich, CT; and his grandchildren; Mark Mintz and wife, Jennifer, Clifford and Sarah Mintz, Glynn, Layne and Jack Kaplan, Alexandra, Isabelle, Strauss and Georgia Mann; great granddaughter, Lillian Mintz; and a score of adored nieces and nephews. His daughter Carolyn Mintz Kaplan is also on the JOI Board of Directors.
To read Saul’s complete obituary, please click here.
I just returned from the International Lion of Judah Conference, celebrating women’s philanthropy as part of the Jewish Federation system. I spoke to 150 women who are concerned about how intermarriage affects their family and their community. We talked about many things, including how to effectively grandparent grandchildren who are being raised in intermarried homes and how to make the community more welcoming. But clearly what they wanted to hear was what to say when your adult children “brings home” someone from another faith background and introduces that person as their intended life partner. To me, the only thing to say is “welcome,” for in that nanosecond you determine what your future relationship will be with your adult children, his/her partner, and their future children. Here is a list of items regarding what else I had to say on the subject. (Click on the image to download the PDF list.)
JOI’s strategic partnership with the Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL) has thus far been an exciting one. This week alone, we held a training session for ISJL Fellows and staff members (focused on welcoming in interfaith families, and what we can learn from their experiences), and led a webinar on how to celebrate the High Holidays with your children if you weren’t raised Jewish for those in the ISJL service area for moms of other religious backgrounds. (We will be offering several more free webinars for non-Jewish mothers in the South who are in an interfaith relationship. If you live in the South, or know someone who does, please contact Andrea at ALevine@JOI.org for more information.)
This week, ISJL released its monthly educational newsletter, which highlighted our work together. Employing the theme of “Big Tent Judaism,” JOI staff members and ISJL Fellows worked together to present compelling stories about intermarried families, multi-racial families, Jews with special needs, and the less-engaged, especially those in the wide-spread small Jewish communities of the southern United States. In addition to spotlighting a Mothers Circle in Greensboro, NC, the newsletter provides southern Jewish educators with the tools to reach the less-engaged and develop a sensitivity to the many faces of the Jewish community in the South.
We look forward to our continued partnership with ISJL. JOI will continue working with ISJL fellows to reach those in small southern Jewish communities with our programs, and conducting free webinars (on-line seminars) for mothers of other religious backgrounds raising Jewish children, and for grandparents whose adult children have intermarried.
To read the ISJL e-newsletter, please click here.
Readers of this blog may already be familiar with The Mothers Circle – one of JOI’s flagship programs, serving mothers of other religious backgrounds who have committed to raising Jewish children. While these women often do not feel welcomed by the Jewish community, we believe them to be our unsung heroes. The majority of Jewish households in North America are, in fact, intermarried households – where one spouse was not raised Jewish. And it is these women, these mothers raised in other religious backgrounds, who we should look up to. Choosing to raise their children in a faith other than their own, these mothers, for whom The Mothers Circle was designed, hold the key to Jewish continuity in North America.
Yet, steeped as we are in the daily routine of work here at JOI, it is often easy to overlook the positive change we manage to bring daily to Jewish communities around the country. Now is the time to celebrate our success!
JOI has recently released a case study featuring the wonderful success of one community where The Mothers Circle has been implemented successfully over the past four years. One of close to a hundred communities who have already implemented Mothers Circles, Portland, OR has a legacy of successful recruitment. As is the case nationally, alumnae of the Portland Mothers Circle overwhelmingly go on to affiliate with Jewish organizations and to choose Jewish education for their children.
As a native Houstonian, I’m particularly excited that JOI has recently begun a three year partnership with the Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL), an organization dedicated to preserving, documenting, and promoting the practice, culture, and legacy of Judaism in the South. Living in New York City today, it’s easy to forget that Jewish life in the city is unique, that Jewish here is almost “normal,” and that American Jewish life has many regional flavors. Here, we don’t turn our heads when we see a man with a kippah, let alone a Hassid. And while this “normalcy” might not exist at home, I do want to see Jewish life in the South flourish more visibly. Thanks to my (Houston-based!) Jewish education at the Emery/Weiner Schools, I did once have the opportunity to travel beyond Jewish Texas into the Deep South (with stops in Jackson, Natchez, and New Orleans), to marvel at the old synagogues, learn about Jewish Civil Rights work at the sites where they actually took place, meander through Jewish cemeteries, and learn about the bustling Jewish life and the vestiges it left behind. Jewish life in a lot of the South is not always easy to find.
I see a partnership like the one between JOI and ISJL as an exciting and important step in making Southern Jewish life more vibrant and self-sustaining. Our partnership will be primarily focused on working to support intermarried couples and their families in all the communities that ISJL reaches. JOI will train the ISJL Fellows not only on the sensitivities surrounding intermarriage, but also the opportunities that intermarried couples provide; we have so much to learn from them! Additionally, JOI will provide and support courses, webinars, and take-home materials for its Mothers Circle (for women of other religious backgrounds raising Jewish children) and Grandparents Circle (for grandparents whose grandchildren are being raised in intermarried families) programs. I’m hoping that the training and services provided will help ISJL communities be all the more prepared to welcome and embrace our intermarried families, as well as help these families feel all the more supported by their peers.
Here at JOI, we are always excited to offer unique free materials to help Jewish communal professionals open the tent of their communities. This summer, JOI’s Big Tent Judaism Coalition has introduced a new tool to help families with young children instill the positive values and ethics found in our Jewish heritage, while creating quality time with their families: Torah Topics for Today.
Torah Topics are brief and meaningful conversation-starters drawn from the timeless stories/wisdom found in the Five Books of Moses, empowering parents to spark regular, relevant family discussions with almost no prep time or prior knowledge required.
Now, for the first time, we are able to offer Torah Topics for Today in hard-copy: a printed “starter set” of beautifully designed cards that include discussions about the first three weekly Torah portions, how-to instructions, and value questions. (Parents can then sign up to receive more weekly guides via email, free of charge, at www.TorahTopicsToday.com.)
In partnership with Fred Claar of Torah Topics for Today, the Jewish Outreach Institute is mailing organizations multiple Torah Topics starter sets, and so far over 100 organizations have requested the sets, which are sealed in a clear plastic envelope for easy distribution. There is no charge to receive the cards; we are only asking that organizations distribute some of them beyond the walls of their institutions in order to reach families not currently engaging in organized Jewish life. To support that goal, the Jewish Outreach Institute (JOI) will host a free webinar in late August, “Finding New People Through Giveaways in Secular Spaces,” for professionals and volunteers at all organizations who agree to distribute the starter sets.
Our circle has widened! This summer The Mothers Circle has debuted two new programs, High Holiday Highlights: A Holiday Prep Class and The Mothers Circle Self-Guide, both of which create avenues for mothers of other religious backgrounds to learn and feel empowered by their decision to raise Jewish children.
High Holiday Highlights will be hosted by 17 different organizations across North America, 13 of which will be offering Mothers Circle programs for the first time. Locations include classes in San Francisco, CA, Greensboro, NC, and Scranton, PA. In each of these communities, participants will be learning the “how-tos” and valuable conversation-starters to help them share the meaningful experience of honoring the High Holidays with their families. With class activities ranging from learning to recite the Rosh Hashanah blessings to listening to Leonard Cohen’s “Who By Fire?” (a comparison to the Rosh Hashanah prayer, “Unetanah Tokef”), High Holiday Highlights will be helping participants of all learning styles understand how both individuals and the community as a whole experience the High Holiday period in the synagogue and in the home.
Additionally, we are now proud to offer The Mothers Circle Self-Guide, a practical tool to accompany the book How to Raise Jewish Children…Even When You’re Not Jewish Yourself by Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky and Paul Golin. Those who use the Self-Guide will be able to reflect on the stories, recommendations, and questions posed in How to Raise Jewish Children…, as well as further articulate their goals and determine the choices they will make as they raise their Jewish children. By creating an introspective guide that a mother can work through alone at any given time, JOI hopes to serve more mothers who, whether due to geography or other commitments, may have previously felt alone in the venture to raise Jewish children.
For more information regarding these programs, visit MothersCircle.org or feel free to be in contact with Hannah Morris here.
The recent New York Jewish Community Study can be (and has been) parsed from various angles (here, here, and here, for example). It turns out that while the Jewish population of the NYC metropolitan area (including Long Island and Westchester County) has grown slightly over the past decade, it has also become increasingly dichotomized. Rather than the familiar denominational spectrum, most New York Jews today fall either among the growing (and increasingly poorer) Ultra Orthodox, or among those (also growing in numbers) who are not affiliated with institutional Judaism.
In the rush to debate the significance and implications of this study, one finding is worth looking at more closely. Of those Jews surveyed, fully “12% […] consider themselves ‘partially Jewish.’” And this number, too, is on the rise.
Rising numbers of people report unconventional identity configurations. They may consider themselves “partially Jewish,” or may identify as Jews even while identifying with Christianity or another non-Jewish religion (many more do so now than who so reported in 2002). Of such people with unconventional configurations, 70% have a non-Jewish parent (or two).
Now, what are the implications and significance of this finding to the future of the American Jewish community?
When I joined JOI a couple of weeks ago, it was with the hope of using my research skills to help sustain the research-focused aspect of JOI’s work, both in terms of documenting our successes, and in terms of helping us think about ways to grow going forward. I fully believe in the power of research to help the American Jewish community be the best that it can be. Like many at JOI, I believe that interfaith couples are the largest untapped resource for the Jewish community; pushing them away just makes no sense. But I also think that the growing population of interfaith couples and their children challenges the more mainstream Jewish community to think harder about what it means to be an interfaith person.