Entries for Category: Grandparents Circle
For everyone here at Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute (JOI) —and for all who work toward the creation of a more inclusive Jewish community—there is much to be thankful for this year.
- Raising Jewish Children: The Pew Forum’s study of the American Jewish community confirmed that the majority (61%) of intermarried households are raising their children with a Jewish identity.
- Changing the Conversation: Jewish communal leaders are beginning to shift the conversation away from handwringing about who people marry to helping households of all configurations determine how to raise Jewish children, and how to find meaningful answers to the great Jewish question of the 21st Century: “Why be Jewish?”
- Seizing the Opportunity: Some of the most prominent Jewish communal organizations in America are increasingly joining us to do the actual work of providing Jewish programming for all of those who are historically marginalized, lowering the barriers to their participation while still offering meaningful content.
- Broadening Our Vocabulary: The phrase “Big Tent Judaism,” which we coined to refer to our inclusive approach to Jewish communal life, has made it into the vocabulary of the Jewish community.
- Beyond the Walls: Our signature series of programs designed to move the Jewish community’s outreach efforts beyond the walls of Jewish communal institutions, Public Space JudaismSM, has become a prominent program model for Jewish communal institutions that want to meet potential newcomers where they are.
- Radical Welcoming: People have come to realize that welcoming is a strategy that requires more than just a warm and friendly “hello.” Greeting a newcomer at the door is a wonderful start—but it is only a start. We must learn to follow through by getting to know our newcomers as complex human beings, and serving their needs and interests with relevant programming and events.
- Aiming for Engagement Over Affiliation: Synagogues and other member-based institutions are recognizing that new models are needed for new times. They are beginning to see that affiliation (whether someone pays to be part of the community) is no longer as relevant a goal of outreach as engagement (actually participating in Jewish activities).
- The Grandparent Connection: Grandparents are embracing their grandchildren being raised in interfaith homes, and growing closer to their adult children who have intermarried—all with an eye toward a more inclusive and optimistic Jewish future.
From all of us here at JOI, we hope you have a warm and meaningful Hanukkah, and of course Thanksgiving.
Jewish grandparents whose grandchildren are being raised in intermarried households can play a big role in shaping the Jewish identities of their grandchildren. And they’re more likely to get the chance to share the fun and meaning of Hanukkah with their grandchildren this year because of the once-in-a-lifetime convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.
If you’re a Jewish grandparent who often gets to spend Thanksgiving with your grandchildren, but rarely Hanukkah, can you introduce a menorah-lighting before or after the Thanksgiving meal? Or whip out a dreidel for a little fun during halftime of the Lions game? Or maybe you can add latkes to the usual Thanksgiving dishes?
Careful! Just because this year’s holiday conflict is with Turkey Day instead of Christmas, it doesn’t mean you can disregard the sensitivities of your adult children and children-in-law. Broach the subject beforehand. Keep it lighthearted and fun. Don’t let the season’s joy get gobbled up by any preexisting tensions!
To talk it out beforehand with your peers who are also thinking about this opportunity, and to address other challenges and opportunities of being a Jewish grandparent of children being raised in interfaith families, join the free Grandparents Circle email listserve at www.GrandparentsCircle.org. We welcome your voice in the conversation!
And Happy Thanksgivukkah from the Grandparents Circle and everybody at Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute!
I gasped when I read a recent article by David I. Bernstein in eJewishPhilanthropy that you should cut (or threaten to cut) your child’s inheritance in half if they intermarry– even though most of us know that our parents are living longer and there probably won’t be all that much to inherit. Bernstein goes on to suggest that you should only send your children to colleges with large Jewish populations. (Read: Only pay for college if they go where you want them to go.)
But Jews are no longer (for the most part) meeting their spouses in college. According to the National Jewish Population Study, only 10% of college-aged Jewish men and 18% of college-aged Jewish women are married. That means 90% of all Jewish men and 82% of all Jewish women marry after they get out of college. So there goes your child meeting his or her Jewish spouse in college. Maybe you could put in your will that your child must become a Jewish communal professional in the hopes of meeting another Jew in the workforce. Or we could carry the stereotype even further - they can only work in finance, medicine, or the law - that’s where the Jews are, after all, right? Or media - do we still control the media?
These responses to intermarriage are purely punitive. As parents, we know that punishment only goes so far toward achieving the behaviors we desire in our children. If we cross the line, the rebellion can create a wedge in relationships that last for generations.
Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute is dedicated to providing education and support to those on the periphery of Jewish life through a wide array of programming, including The Mothers Circle and The Grandparents Circle. As part of that commitment, we have collaborated with our friends at Shalom Sesame to introduce you to free educational resources at ShalomSesame.org. From the creators of Sesame Street, Shalom Sesame is a cross-platform media initiative developed to introduce American children to Jewish culture, Hebrew language, and the diversity of Israel.
The Shalom Sesame site is easy to use, focusing on timely themed units. Each unit includes videos, worksheets, games and a series of parent articles. We are excited to share our new holiday-themed Shalom Sesame resource guides, which help you navigate the resources, with an eye toward the diversity that characterizes the Jewish community of today. As you bring Jewish tradition into your households, Shalom Sesame is a wonderful way for you and your children to learn together.
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!
The staff of Big Tent Judaism / The Jewish Outreach Institute wish you a Happy Hanukkah!
How are you sharing the light this Hanukkah? Click here tell us below!
In the spirit of opening the tent, our staff are opening their doors and sharing the light this Hanukkah in many ways– through both their work here at JOI, as well as at home and in public spaces with family and friends. We invite you to leave your comment about how you plan to share the light this Hanukkah, and we wish everyone a safe, bright, and happy holiday!
For the past two and a half years, I have worked for the Jewish Outreach Institute helping to provide Jewish professionals with the tools they need to build a more welcoming and inclusive Jewish community. After a semester-long internship helping to evaluate our Public Space Judaism initiatives, I accepted a position as Program Associate, training Jewish professionals all over North America in bringing resources and support to all those who may wish to enter the tent of the Jewish community, including less-engaged Jews, Jews by choice, Jews of color, Jews with special needs, and the group I worked with the most, interfaith families. I have spoken to countless professionals and volunteer leaders, assisting them in bringing programs like The Mothers Circle and The Grandparents Circle into their communities. However, my time doing this work is coming to an end. In less than two months, I will begin my rabbinic training at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia. While I am very excited to take this next step professionally, I will miss the work that I am doing here.
The Jewish Outreach Institute’s work carries a deep personal meaning for me. As a patrilineal Jew, my family has struggled with finding meaning and acceptance in the Jewish community. I took this job partly out of a sense of personal responsibility, in order to help families like mine find the acceptance and support that would lead them to deeper involvement in Judaism.
I leave JOI tremendously optimistic that the Jewish community is headed toward ever more inclusion and support. In my time as Mothers Circle and Grandparents Circle National Coordinator, I have heard firsthand the tremendous impact our programs have on families. We have helped parents bring Shabbat into their homes for the first time. We have helped grandparents communicate about religion with their adult children with confidence and respect. And all of this is leading to rich and engaging Jewish upbringings for thousands of children from interfaith homes across North America.
Thanks to the purchase of a new iPhone and tech-savvy parents with an iPad, this past Friday night my parents were able to light the Shabbat candles with my two-year old daughter—while she was in the bathtub, no less.
What made this moment all the more significant is the fact that my daughter is being raised in an interfaith household. It is important to my parents to have Jewish experiences with her, even from another state; and with the help of technology like FaceTime, they can.
We’ve been using FaceTime religiously (so to speak) since I upgraded my iPhone last week. So as we started bath-time, I decided to reach out to my folks (who recently joined the Grandparents Circle listserve and have been looking for ways to share their Judaism with my daughter). They were just getting ready to sit down to dinner, so they lit the candles and said the blessing while my daughter looked on.
My daughter’s reaction? She tried to blow out the candles through the phone and started asking about a cake. (She’s two years old, after all, so candles must mean cake!) But her grandparents couldn’t have been more pleased. And while our daughter doesn’t understand the full significance of it right now, lighting the Shabbat candles is a Jewish activity I hope we’ll be sharing frequently in the years to come. My wife (who is not Jewish) also appreciates the sharing of this tradition. To her, lighting the candles means bringing family together and sharing our cultures— something important to both of us. With the help of modern technology, and my parents, we are creating a foundation that will always underlie our daughter’s Jewish identity as she grows up.
So what’s next? Maybe a FaceTime seder?
Through the help and hard work of our excellent partner institutions, we at the Jewish Outreach Institute have brought Grandparents Circles to 49 communities across North America. Over 800 grandparents like you have completed the course and now feel empowered to nurture the Jewish identities of their grandchildren in a respectful, yet meaningful way. Today, you can find circles in Greensboro, NC, Philadelphia, PA, Miami, FL and beyond!
Nevertheless, we know that some of you may not have access to Grandparents Circle courses. There may not be a class in your neighborhood, or you may prefer to explore these sensitive topics on your own. For this reason, we have created two new Grandparents Circle programs that will help you learn the strategies offered by the Grandparents Circle course in order to share your Judaism with your grandchildren. For example, you can now explore the Grandparents Circle recommendations and techniques through a an introspective new reading guide, Grandparenting Your Interfaith Grandkids, to accompany Twenty Things for Grandparents of Interfaith Grandchildren to Do (And Not Do) to Nurture Jewish Identity in Their Children by Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and Paul Golin. By signing up and working with this self-guide, you will emerge with an action plan and sense of optimism in sharing your Jewish identity with your grandchildren.
For those of you who would prefer to grapple with these topics through conversation and engagement, you now have the option to host a Grandparents Circle style get together yourself! If you know fellow grandparents who may benefit from the program, sign up to start a Grandparents Circle Discussion Salon. You can discuss techniques offered in the book, Twenty Things for Grandparents of Interfaith Grandchildren to Do…together in a casual setting; it is a great evening for book clubs, Sisterhood and Brotherhood meetings, or any other casual get-togethers. In fact, it can be a reason to have a get-together in the first place!
If you are interested in either of the two new programs, just sign up on our “Join the Grandparents Circle” page here
At the Jewish Outreach Institute, we seek to welcome newcomers and engage those on the periphery of Jewish life. Increasingly, Jews in their 20s, 30s, and 40s fit into this latter group, feeling no need to affiliate with a synagogue, and with no other way to connect with other young Jews. As a member of this demographic, I often wonder what organizations can do to engage us, to get us involved in “something Jewish” so as to not completely lose our cultural identity, while not making us feel obligated to join a synagogue.
While in college at the University of Delaware, I attended events at both the Hillel and Chabad; but outside of college, Jewish experiences for those in my generation are not as readily available. There is also an increasing perspective that my generation doesn’t want to have to go searching for opportunities, we want them easily accessible.
A recent article in the Minnesota Post shows that many are starting to think along these lines, and some are beginning to take action. Following some of the basic principles of JOI’s Big Tent Judaism Coalition, as well as the model created by Tempo, the Minnesota Opera’s young adults group, Rabbi Avi Olitzky (son of JOI Executive Director Rabbi Kerry Olitzky) has started a young-adults group at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park, MN, designed to reach young adults where they are. The group’s events include Jewish happy hours and young-adult Sabbaths, with the goal of reaching young Jewish adults where they are.
The work of Rabbi Olitzky and others is a step in the right direction, and I am excited to see other groups offer opportunities to young Jews in the 20s, 30s, and 40s to reinvigorate our interest not necessarily in Judaism, but in being Jewish together.
One very important part of our work at the Jewish Outreach Institute involves educating interfaith families about how to embrace Judaism in their day-to-day lives. Through programs such as The Grandparents Circle, The Mothers Circle, How Should I Know, and Answering Your Jewish Children, we seek to provide interfaith families with the tools they need to feel confident being a part of the Jewish people. Over the years, we have heard wonderful stories of our programs’ impact on the lives of participants and on communities as a whole. We would like to share the stories of such communities and the programs’ impact in transforming the North American Jewish community into a more welcoming place.
Congregation Shir Hadash in Los Gatos, CA began hosting the Grandparents Circle in 2009. The course focuses on teaching grandparents how to nurture the Jewish identities of their grandchildren from interfaith families by providing concrete tools such as arts and crafts, high-tech communication for long-distance grandparents, and swapping stories about family rituals. However, in many communities, including at Shir Hadash, the program also empowers grandparents to radically re-envision the way that they view intermarriage and the future Jewish identities of their grandchildren.