Weblog Entries for July 2005

Even in Sports: Inclusive vs Exclusive

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A recent article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz—Who is a Jew at the Maccabiah Games—illustrates the challenge for a rapidly diversifying Jewish population. With no set policy, the international Jewish Olympics taking place in Israel allows each country to determine “who is a Jew.” The US delegation allows patrilineal Jews:

“My father raised me as a Jew, I attended synagogue with him, and I regard myself as fully Jewish,” D.T., a Division One college basketball player, says. “I don’t think it’s right that some of the delegations exclude someone because one of their parents has another religion. We’re a shrinking people, and we should try to include as many people as possible.”

Argentina goes even further toward inclusion, allowing non-Jews married to Jews to compete:

The head of the Argentine delegation, Juan Balanofsky, said he does not inspect the religious background of each competitor. “We have 70,000 members at 47 Maccabi clubs across the country, and we think one of the best ways to keep young people and their families involved in the [Jewish] community and connected to Israel is through sports,” he says.

Considering it’s just sports, it seems odd that some countries like Australia and South Africa would adhere so strictly to matrilineal descent to determine participation, but we’re guessing they believe it has ramifications for Jewish life beyond the Maccabi Games. Unfortunately, they are drawing a black-and-white line in an otherwise gray world.

Take for example the Jewish State herself: “When it comes to the Israeli delegation, Jewishness is not a criteria: one of the first medal winners at the 17th Maccabiah was Asala Shahada, a female Arab swimmer.”

Still Jewish!

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There’s an interesting article in the Summer 2005 edition of Lilith Magazine called “Still Jewish! Jewish Women in Interfaith Marriages” by Jeri Zeder, which you can see as a PDF file here. The article is about a fascinating doctoral study of intermarried Jewish women of all ages by Keren McGinity of Brown University. The study “is the first gendered history of intermarriage and the first historical, exclusive look at American Jewish women who intermarried during the Twentieth Century. McGinity interviewed 42 Boston-area women of Ashkenazi descent from Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox backgrounds, whose first, second, or third marriages were to non-Jewish men they married between 1938 and 2000; the oldest woman was 92 at the time of her interview.” The study found that, among other things, “intermarried Jewish women are defining for themselves what a Jewish family is—and those definitions, while they may not please some, feel authentically Jewish for the people who are creating them.”

High Holidays Are Sounding Better

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Craig Taubman, an old friend of JOI whose music can serve as a low-barrier entry into Jewish celebration, has just released INSCRIBED, his first new recording in four years. We have featured Craig’s music a number of times on the JOI website and are pleased to note this collection of songs for the High Holidays. Designed as a soundtrack for the High Holiday season the CD takes the listener on a spiritual journey through the themes of the holiday.

Over two dozen musicians participated in the recording of Inscribed including Grammy award winners Laurence Juber and Mike Stein. Cantor Chayim Frenkel of Los Angeles comments on the recording, “I am deeply moved by the haunting spirit of his melodies. Craig has captured the soul of the Chassid in his quest to reach the almighty.” Inscribed will be available this coming August at specialty and grocery retailers nationally. It is also available online at or

A Jew Named Christopher

JOI’s associate executive director Paul Golin has an op-ed in today’s Jerusalem Post called “A Jew Named Christopher,” in which he looks at the Jewish community through the eyes of his unaffiliated friend and spells out some of what we at JOI have been working toward:

We need to learn who unaffiliated Jews are, find out what they might need from us, invite them to something else they’d find relevant, and then follow-up with them personally rather than dumping them on a mailing list or, worse, soliciting them for membership or donations. They need to get to know us, and we need the sensitivity not to inadvertently turn them away again.

Jewish programs are only as good as the Jewish professionals running them. To reach Jews like Christopher, we need the sort of trained army of outreach workers that Chabad has built, but have them offer countless additional paths into Jewish meaning.

New Battleground: The Prom?

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Several weeks ago there was a story in the New York Jewish Week called “Is My Prom Date Kosher?that we at JOI found discouraging on many levels, including the fact that:

  • a Conservative Jewish day school in Westchester, NY, felt the need to announce their policy that non-Jews could not come as dates to their upper-school’s prom;
  • the school seems not to understand how kids date or when people get married these days, by suggesting that “bringing non-Jews to watch a school play or a basketball game is OK” but “there is a greater assumption of intimacy associated with the prom” (the actual average age of marriage is nearly ten years after high school for Jews);
  • and that in the ensuing uproar, some students called the policy racist because it was assumed that administrators would try to stop people, and if “Most people can pass as Jewish…the only red flag would be if someone was another race.” (What RACE is Jewish? An Ethiopian Jew is Jewish, as is a Yemenite Jew or a Russian Jew);

In the end, nobody was stopped at the door even though non-Jews attended, and the article simply served to shine a light on how incapable some Jewish “insiders” (the school AND the students) can be in handling issues surrounding intermarriage and inclusion.

Now for the punch line.


Adult Children of Intermarriage — The Study

We have posted our study:
“A Flame Still Burns: The Dimensions and Determinants of Jewish Identity Among Young Adult Children of the Intermarried”
by Dr. Pearl Beck.

It is online as an Adobe Acrobat PDF document here. The Survey Instrument is a separate document, also in PDF format, here.

[PDF Requires Acrobat Reader Plug-In]

Adult Children of Intermarriage — Study Coverage

The Forward newspaper covered JOI’s recently released study this week, “A Flame Still Burns: The Dimensions and Determinants of Jewish Identity Among Young Adult Children of the Intermarried,” with a front-page article by Jennifer Siegel. The article was great, and even more powerful was the accompanying editorial, called “Welcoming the New Jews,” in which the editors write:

Appended to the study is a raft of proposals by the Jewish Outreach Institute for responding to this growing new population and encouraging it to find a place in Judaism. Most of the ideas are sensible and overdue, such as helping non-Jewish mothers learn how to create a Jewish home, or offering opportunities for bar and bat mitzvah to families that didn’t go the Hebrew school route but want their children to share this crucial moment of public affirmation. If the community decides it wants to be welcoming, the resources can easily be found. What’s needed is the will.

But these proposals beg a larger question that’s implicit in the study. The Jewish community needs to come to terms with the fact that it’s living in a new world where barriers are nonexistent and ideas flow freely. In today’s world, every Jew is a Jew by choice. Most Jews know this; it’s only the leadership of the community’s institutions that hasn’t come to terms with it.

Judaism will continue to thrive only if individuals are encouraged to embrace it and made to feel welcome when they do. The question is no longer how to stop Jews from fleeing the community, whether by “marrying out” or simply assimilating. Those are yesterday’s problems. The burning question today is this: Can the Jewish community make room for the many types of Jews who want to join?

We at JOI are thrilled to read such a perfectly succinct encapsulation of the most important challenge facing the community today, and feel gratified that our study helped provoke such eloquent words.

WHICH Space for your Public Space Judaism?

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Yesterday, 32 communal professionals from across the country “gathered” on a conference call to discuss our new Public Space Judaism program model: Color-Me Calendar for the Jewish New Year. As with all of JOI’s Public Space programs, Color-Me Calendar lowers the “location barrier” by bringing Jewish events out to where people are, rather than waiting for them to walk through the doors of Jewish institutions. In this case, the “public space” we have in mind is stationary and large office supply stores like Staples or Office Depot, or stores with large sections for such products, like K-Mart, Target, or Walmart, in order to reach families with young children during their Back-to-School shopping with a fun, Jewish activity highlighting the upcoming High Holidays.

One question that always comes up is how to approach and work with the commercial establishments to host our events. JOI is currently compiling a wide variety of experiences from outreach professionals throughout North America who have worked with stores and businesses to hold outreach events, in order to create a comprehensive directory of the commercial organizations willing to partner with us.

We believe that having this directory will facilitate the experience of outreach professionals by allowing them to begin the dialogue with local branches of national businesses in a supported way. We invite and encourage you to leave a blog comment or story about your experience with commercial partners, and to please email me at with a specific list of your successful experiences in the marketplace, so that we can progress in creating this directory, which we are confident will become a tremendous resource for the Jewish community.

Click Here!