Weblog Entries for February 2007

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Empowering Ruth Listserve Launches!

Two years ago, JOI piloted Empowering Ruth, a Jewish education and support experience designed to benefit women who have recently converted to Judaism, with a group of women from New York and New Jersey. The program was a great success, creating community for its participants in the form of a practical, hands-on learning experience featuring classroom discussion, practical instruction in Jewish living (cooking, home observance and holidays) and group work in family dynamics.

The success of the pilot further confirms the need for Empowering Ruth. We at JOI are currently working to fully develop and articulate a curriculum for Empowering Ruth, following which the course will be launched in several locations throughout the United States. The first component to Empowering Ruth’s national expansion is the launch of the Empowering Ruth National Listserve.

The Empowering Ruth Listserve will allow women new to Judaism to share ideas, experiences and challenges with other women across the country who have also chosen Judaism. It will serve as a supportive and open environment to exchange questions, insights, joys and sorrows.

We encourage you to invite female Jews-by-choice and those in the process of conversion to join the Empowering Ruth Listserve. Interested parties may sign up for the listserve here or contact to sign up for the listserve and to receive more information.

Jammin’ Judaism

A lot of young people these days are accessing their spirituality through music and concerts. Last year, Los Angeles held an event called “FaithJam.” This multi-religious “jam session” featuring top comedians and artists working within Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions was so successful that it is returning this year. FaithJam 2007 will take place on Thursday, March 8, at 7:30 PM at the Japanese American Cultural Center, 244 S. San Pedro Street, in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Craig Taubman, a musician whose songs are frequently infused with the themes and lessons of his Conservative Jewish upbringing, says, “Now more than ever, we need events that bring together people of all faiths, break barriers, and confront the divisions between people. We expect FaithJam to challenge convention, create new connections through music and laughter and in the process, inspire people to act.” Last year, FaithJam was the first event sponsored by the Jewish community to take place at the Islamic Center of Southern California; this year, the festival is lowering barriers again by taking place in Little Tokyo. Events such as FaithJam show the potential that community-wide musical events in secular venues can have to become expressions of Jewish identity.

We should not lose sight of the fact, however, that concerts are not the only way to reach our target audience – really, any event can serve as a vehicle for outreach. The city of Chicago has announced its first “Looptopia,” an all-night celebration that will take place downtown. It is modeled on the “White Night” events that have taken place in Paris, Rome and other European cities. The Windy City version will take place May 11-12.

The sponsor, the Chicago Loop Alliance, represents about 250 downtown businesses. What a great opportunity for the Chicago Jewish community to experiment with Public Space Judaism! While the Jewish community in Chicago has sponsored its own mega-events such as Jewish Folk Festivals and Israel Festivals, this kind of opportunity is very different, yet promises to reach a particular segment of the community which every community yearns to engage—the young and unengaged.

A Mighty Heart

With much of America focused on Hollywood after Sunday’s Academy Awards, it’s an appropriate time to discuss the upcoming film A Mighty Heart. The film (which stars Angelina Jolie as the protagonist’s wife Marianna) depicts the life of journalist Daniel Pearl, who was killed by terrorists. A Mighty Heart is tentatively scheduled for release in the summer of 2007.

Often, the Jewish community does not have much lead time to prepare for such public events - but now we have plenty. Thankfully, no one has talked about the fact that Pearl was intermarried, nor asked about how their child is to be raised. Perhaps these issues will be discussed in the film. While the Jewish community may care about intermarriage, terrorists seem not to care at all. So why not organize some community outings to the theater when the film is released? What else can be done to develop the film into a low-barrier, “Public Space Judaism” event on those Saturday nights when people spend their leisure time at the movies and you simply want them to stumble over a Jewish experience and come away discussing some pertinent issues?

Inside the theatre, why not have a raffle for copies of I Am Jewish, a book of personal reflections inspired by Daniel Pearl’s last words? While not everyone could win a book, it would be ideal if it could be arranged so that simply entering the raffle would win you a coupon for a free drink or appetizer at a local bar or restaurant immediately following the screening where you and your staff/volunteers are prepared to engage folks in discussion. Such an unobtrusive name-collection tool will also make follow-up possible. Make sure that you have planned a follow-up event prior to the program itself—so that you have something to recommend at the movie, at the follow-up discussion, and on the follow-up calls that we recommend, as well.

Passover in the Aisles: Year III

At the end of January, professionals from around the country participated in JOI’s third annual Passover in the Aisles conference call. Discussing ways to creatively engage unaffiliated Jews and intermarried families in Jewish life around Passover, we focused on our model of bringing Passover to the “Aisles” of local grocery stores and supermarkets. This approach has enabled communities across the country to literally bring Judaism to the unengaged where they are - providing an entry point into Jewish life without waiting for the unaffiliated to come to us (because we might find ourselves waiting for a long, long time).

On our call, we discussed key elements of the program: working with stores, marketing, how to engage shoppers and how to effectively collect participants’ contact information (so that this first interaction with the Jewish community won’t be their last). On our call, two professionals shared their experiences organizing these events in locales as varied as Syracuse, NY and Saratoga, CA. To learn more about Passover in the Aisles, you can read this interesting article describing last year’s programs.

There is still time to bring this fabulous program to your community this year.

Check out our Jewish Outreach Professionals Log-In Network (JOPLIN) site for a complete program description, and call Eva at (212-760-1440) for additional FREE helpful tips to make this program a reality!

Subscribe to a Courageous Publisher

A few months ago, Gary Rosenblatt of the New York Jewish Week took the courageous decision to publish a monthly first-person column by reporter Julie Wiener about her own experiences in an intermarriage (that we’ve blogged about here, here, and here). In almost any other Jewish media market in the country, this decision would be better described as “logical” not “courageous,” but as with so many other things, New York City is different.

The tri-state area is home to the largest Orthodox community outside of Israel (perhaps even larger than Israel’s) and there are still many more in-married than intermarried homes in New York—unlike in the rest of the country. In his column this week, Rosenblatt explains, “Just about every time ‘In the Mix,’ Julie’s column, appears, a few subscribers cancel.” He describes how he made his decision:

We understood that some people would interpret publishing such a column as condoning or even endorsing intermarriage. But the way we see it, we simply are recognizing that intermarriage is here to stay — affecting the majority of Jewish families indirectly if not directly — and that our job is to report on the community as it is, not just as we would like it to be.

JOI encourages intermarried families to subscribe to their local Jewish newspapers. It is a low-barrier way to get a window into your Jewish community and on world Jewish events. And it is one more way to make your home feel ‘Jewish.’ If you live in the New York area and are intermarried, we’ve had a longstanding offer with the Jewish Week for a free two-month trial subscription (which you can sign up for here). We encourage you to try it out, not just because of Julie Wiener’s column, but because the journalistic integrity in publishing her column is also reflected throughout the rest of the newspaper.

The Big Question: Can Jews and Muslims Get Along?

The website recently decided to begin tacking the most difficult issues of the day in a series of articles called “The Big Question.” Rather than skirting the thorniest topics, Jewcy brings together respected intellectuals to parse through subject matter that may be too intimidating to broach in casual conversation.

With that in mind, Jewcy recently asked Stephen Schwartz, Executive Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington, DC and Kerry Olitzky, Executive Director of The Jewish Outreach Institute (JOI), a centuries-old question to see if their extensive backgrounds in the fields of outreach and pluralism could shed any light on the subject: “Can Jews and Muslims get along?”

While ancient animosities are hard to quell, both Schwartzand Olitzky believe that a pivotal aspect of any relationship between two seemingly oppositional parties is a willingness to break down barriers that may separate the different sides.

Schwartz endured an odyssey during which he sought a religion that he felt was the right one for him. He finally settled on Islam because, as he said, “In Islam I found simplicity.” The weight of the rules of Judaism (such as abiding by the 613 mitzvot and the concept of being halakhically Jewish) Schwartz believed, acted as impediments to welcoming outsiders. Not only did he feel as if he himself were being excluded from possibly choosing Judaism as his own religion, but he felt as if the numerous rules and regulations only made life more difficult for believers themselves.

To deal with just the types of drawbacks of Judaism that Schwartz discussed, Rabbi Kerry Olitzky counters with JOI’s concept of “Big Tent Judaism,” a more welcoming and inclusive idea of the Jewish community. The ideals of Big Tent Judaism are grounded in a Torah passage:

“The stranger that lives with you shall be to you like the native, and you shall love him [or her] as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Lrd your Gd” (Leviticus 19:34).

Rabbi Olitzky’s goal of embracing rather than excluding the outsider lays the groundwork for better relationships between the Jewish people and all other people, Muslims included. The question “Will Jews and Muslims get along?” may not be fully answered in our lifetimes, but both Stephen Schwartz and Kerry Olitzky believe that, with the proper attitude of inclusiveness, Jews and Muslims can indeed break down enough barriers to facilitate better understanding in the future. How will we be able to gauge this progress, though? As Rabbi Olitzky states, “The real test will therefore be, can an inclusive Jewish community include Muslims as it does Christians?”

Opening the gates of the Jewish community

Gary Tobin, president of the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish & Community Research, is one of a few sociologists and demographers who are involved in the ongoing debate about the real size of the Jewish community and the importance and validity of reaching out to those on the periphery. He is a brave soul, taking many unpopular positions, most of which agree with positions taken by JOI.

Tobin is an optimist. While most think that the Jewish population in North America is shrinking, he says it is growing. While most are clinging to the core, he is embracing those on the periphery. While most see the Jewish community as monolithic, he sees its brightly hued tapestry. His latest op/ed, carried by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and aptly titled “Intermarriage studies may be right; community’s fearful response isn’t” is no exception.

In this piece, Tobin confirms what JOI has been regularly communicating to Jewish communities:

‘Prevention’ of intermarriage is the primary ideology and practice of the Jewish communal infrastructure. This approach is neither desirable nor workable beyond a minority of Jews….[And] Who wants to be part of a community that scolds its members as bad Jews for choosing the wrong partner?… We should be far more concerned about how to help families to be Jewish than about how to keep gentiles away. What do we do to positively promote conversion? How do we advocate for Judaism? How do we attract and involve rather than warn, scorn and criticize?

Perhaps Tobin’s call should be the beginning of the community’s agenda for the next 5-10 years: “The Jewish community should promote the joys, meaning and benefits of Jewish life. We should overcome being afraid of who will be lost to Judaism and instead work on who will join us.”

Welcoming Jews-by-Choice to the Family?

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel just won’t stop, and it makes our work harder in trying to bring those on the periphery closer to the Jewish state. Recently, the Chief Rabbinate once again reared its ugly head. As reported in Israeli newspapers, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar is proposing a bill in the name of “The Eternal Family” that would deny converts to Judaism equal access to the Law of Return. Aliyah to Israel is at an all-time low. Conversion rates are low - yet the chief rabbi is trying to make things worse! Moreover, it is the attitude that underlies his proposal that troubles me even more, an attitude that stresses exclusivity over outreach. Were Rabbi Amar not gaining followers, this wouldn’t even be worth mentioning. But since there are people who are supporting his initiative, it is important for us to speak out against it as being simply unacceptable, immoral, and wholly inconsistent with the values of Judaism as well as the history of Zionism.

Houston’s Unique Approach to Outreach

I was in Houston for the weekend recently, first to participate as scholar-in-residence for Congregation Beth Israel and then to participate in a Yom Limmud (study day) for the entire community. I always try to seize the opportunity to share ideas with folks from around North America. That Friday night, I introduced the congregation to some of our more progressive notions about reaching those on the periphery, especially the urgency of reaching those in interfaith marriages and their children. Following a Shabbat dinner, I participated in a Q&A session with the congregation regarding intermarriage in general. On Saturday morning, I led a Torah study session, which focused on a spiritual read of the weekly Torah portion. As is the case in so many synagogues, a group of adults gathers weekly to study the Torah portion in a liberal context. The key now is to help them attract even more people through the application of outreach best practices! To that end, later on Saturday evening, I met with members of the synagogue’s outreach committee. I was pleased to see that they, too, are dedicated to changing the status quo. Finally, on Sunday morning I made a presentation to the community about JOI’s signature program of Public Space Judaism.

While many communities across the continent share common traits, the Jewish communities of Texas are noteworthy for their unique aspects. Rather than copying what other communities are doing, Houston takes its own approach to building a Jewish community. As the nation’s fourth largest city, Houston has many advantages that can allow them to be successful, but it still faces many of the same demographic challenges that communities and their institutions are confronted with elsewhere in North America. And that is why JOI is so pleased to be able to be of help.

Engaging For Life

JOI has long advocated systematizing name collection and tracking to help communities better reach and engage Jews on the periphery. It is a great pleasure to share the success of the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City, and especially Karen Gerson, Director of Informal Jewish Education for CAJE/Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City. Ms. Gerson and CAJE have created the “Engaging for Life” system which has succeeded in tracking the Jewish engagement of local youth over the past three years. We remember with pride our first conversation with Karen several years back, when the program was still being piloted, and commend the community on its vision.

The Engaging for Life program owes its success to numerous factors: 1) a community collaboration partnering seven of Kansas City’s nine congregations; 2) systemic name-collection as an intrinsic part of every youth-based program; 3) data collection organized to best facilitate follow-up and program development, and 4) a level of personalized follow-up that is still too uncommon in the organized Jewish community.

By making use of the system developed by Karen Gerson and CAJE, the community now can extrapolate reasons for the drop-off in Jewish engagement for youth of high-school age, and can reconfigure programs to best compete against the changing landscape of this demographic. When sports involvement is correlated with decreased Jewish engagement, the community began to make plans to hold a Purim basketball tournament to better meet the needs and interests of Jewish youth in this age group. A key aspect of any community’s outreach initiatives must be the inclusion of ideas that reach individuals that meet both their secular and spiritual interests.

A Valentine from St. Joseph’s Prep

He looks about sixteen, his sun-streaked hair flapping over his soulful eyes, the bluest I’ve ever seen…A most bussable busboy…I toy with the fantasy of pulling him out onto the dance floor, certain of the instant whispering that would erupt among the gossip-starved yentas. Oy gevalt! Sylvia and Herb’s daughter is dancing with the hired help!

For a witty and reflective look at the joys and oys of teenage inter-dating, check out Goy Crazy by Melissa Schorr. This novel tells the story of a Jewish teenage girl named Rachel Lowenstein who falls for Luke Christensen, star of the St. Joseph’s prep basketball team and a “goy”. She meets him, believe it or not, at her brother’s Bar Mitzvah (the above excerpt comes from this first encounter). The book deserves praise for its vivid and entertaining portrayal of the plethora of issues involved in inter-dating. The story is told from the perspective of the Jewish teenage girl, and it is surely a great read for female young adults in similar situations and for parents who are trying to better understand their children and their choices. Additionally, the book could serve as an excellent starting point for discussions with teenagers about interfaith dating.

However, the book also brings up a number of issues related to the use of language. JOI is a strong advocate for welcoming and inclusive language. Although we are aware that others may not agree, we find the use of the word “goy” offensive. The Dallas Morning News book review, which is featured on Goy Crazy’s website states, “Despite what some people think, ‘goy’ is no slur. It’s really just a Hebrew word for ‘people.’” While some may view “goy” merely as an impartial Hebrew word, others are keenly aware of the negative connotations associated with the word. Considering the fact that there are both Jews and non-Jews in our communities who find the word “goy” offensive, we at JOI feel strongly that the most sensitive and welcoming thing to do is to eliminate the word from our usage. Also relevant to the topic of language is that Schorr’s use of words such as “yentas” (women who talk and gossip a lot) and “bubbulah” (an affectionate way of referring to someone) make the book a harder read for those unfamiliar with Yiddish.

In all, though, it’s worth overcoming Schorr’s use of the word “goy” and her lack of explanation for various Yiddish terms to appreciate her book for its insight into the teenage inter-dating experience.

Best in Shul

This week, the Westminster Kennel Club held its annual dog show at Madison Square Garden. While the event is certainly the longest-running and most prestigious of its kind, it is not unique. Take, for example, Congregation Kol Ami in White Plains, who held their own ”Best in Shul” competition last October. Though this event may have resulted in fewer purebred appearances (not to mention fewer press passes issued) than Westminster’s show, it was still noteworthy in its own right.

This type of community event in a public space is a prime example of JOI’s idea of Open Tent Judaism. Gatherings like “Best in Shul”can attract not only those who are already active in the Jewish community, but may also entice those on the periphery looking for a compelling reason to get involved. In order to fully capitalize on the potential of events such as these, however, we must take further steps to emphasize Jewish themes and make everything relevant in the big picture. For instance, an animal-focused event could include educational materials discussing Tsa’ar Ba’ale Chayim (the imperative to prevent animal suffering) or the Torah laws dealing with compassion for living creatures. As we try to develop the idea of Public Space Judaism, it is important to strive to reach a point where people will leave an event like Best in Shul remembering both the underlying Jewish values as much as the event itself.

The Namesake

For a long time now, we at JOI have been saying that intermarriage is an American phenomenon, a direct result of our immigration pattern in the U.S., rather than a strictly Jewish issue. If you want more proof of this point, prepare yourself for the March 9th release of a film called “The Namesake”. It is about intermarriage in the Gangulia household, a traditional Indian family that has emmigrated to the United States. Gogol, the son, was born and educated in America, and is the main protagonist in the film. He is now an adult, and has fallen in love with a woman, but not a woman of Indian heritage. The film deals with the struggles of Gogol, his girlfriend, his Indian parents, and an Indian woman whom his parents would prefer Gogol marry. Gogol must adapt and find ways to bridge the gap between his parents’ attachment to their time-honored ways and his own new way of life in 21st Century America. This movie is not a typical Bollywood film. It is an entertaining, yet serious, look at a subject that impacts on all immigrant communities in the U.S., including the Jewish community.

JOI Op-Ed in JPost: Oversimplifying Intermarriage

When dealing with complex issues, it’s sometimes tempting to key in on only one element to simplify matters, regardless of actual cause-and-effect. For instance, political pundits often cite a statistic that shows the taller of the two Presidential candidates has won the popular vote in all but two U.S. elections going back to 1888. Some might look at that fact and extrapolate that the taller man won simply because he was taller. Obviously, though, this is specious reasoning – most voters consider myriad other factors before casting their ballots. Being tall may have played some role in developing that candidate’s persona (sociologists suggest a link between height and confidence, for example), but height does not cause election victory, as John Kerry can tell you.

There’s a similar issue in the debate over intermarriage in the Jewish community. JOI’s Paul Golin recently published a rebuttal in the Jerusalem Post to a report by sociologist Steven M. Cohen in which Dr. Cohen implies that higher levels of Jewish education—in and of themselves—can cause lower levels of Jewish intermarriage. Golin writes, “While many of his colleagues in sociology are developing more complex models for understanding Jewish behavior, Dr. Cohen seems to be removing as many factors as possible in order to laud the supposed triumph of Jewish education over intermarriage.”

There are other issues that Golin suggests are oversimplified in Cohen’s paper (available here in PDF), which divides the community into “Two Jewries,” the in-married and the intermarried. To suggest that you can divide all of Jewry by one characteristic is like suggesting that voters need only know which candidate is taller! (We’d certainly save a lot on political advertising.) But what if interfaith marriage isn’t the real stumbling block, it is just a result of much larger American trends, such as the value of freedom-of-choice to marry whoever makes you happy, the spread of Jews out of the traditional neighborhoods into the ever-expanding suburbs, the decline in anti-Semitism, the lack of meaning in much of the liturgy that contributes to Jewish disassociation by even in-married and single Jews…the intermarried Jew becomes a straw man when these other, larger trends aren’t even acknowledged or properly addressed.

Perhaps the best suggestion in Golin’s article is that we should “get past using in-marriage as the only measurement of success” in preserving Jewish heritage. Judaism is a purposely complex religion, because it acknowledges that life itself is complex. Let’s celebrate that complexity.

Hebrew Literacy Through Tattoos

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Why is it that kids don’t want to go to Hebrew School yet celebrities are getting their bodies tattooed with Hebrew phrases and value constructs? It is true that for many, Hebrew literacy is an obstacle to participation in Jewish communal life, especially in the synagogue. Would the ability to interpret celebrity tattoos serve as a motivating reason for some to remain in Hebrew School? Just as people often use popular culture as a vehicle to learn historical fiction (Braveheart led to a surge of interest in Scottish history, for example), perhaps Hebrew tattoos are a place to start. Consider Victoria Beckham, whose back (along the spinal column) is tattooed with ani l’dodi/I am to my beloved (and that is as far as I can see). I presume the rest of the phrase from Song of Songs is also included: v’dodi li/and my beloved is mine.

In any case, just to set the record straight—any permanent alteration of the skin (like tattoos) is forbidden by Jewish law (though it doesn’t keep you out of Jewish cemeteries as popular myth would suggest). Earrings that have pierced the cartilage of the upper ear are also not permitted under Jewish law. Of course, we recognize that lots of people do both and that few feel governed by the parameters of Jewish law. But that means they have to care about the relevancy of Jewish law to guide or govern their lives. To me, perhaps that is the bigger question. And if tattoos are a place to begin the conversation, color me in.

Shivah - the video game

Perhaps the title of the game is a little misleading. Actual Shivah (referring to the seven day period of mourning) is not a game and does not ever deserve to be described as such. But friends who are intermarried often tell me that they use historical fiction, for example, to learn about Jewish rite and ritual. So for a new younger generation, for whom video games and computers are as common as is reading, then maybe there is something here for them to glean in a new video game.

Here is how the creator describes it:

“Russell Stone works as a Jewish Rabbi at a poor synagogue in New York City. He is a devout man with a problem. Membership is way down and he lacks the funds to keep his synagogue open. Just as he is on the verge of packing it all in, he receives some interesting news. A former member of his congregation has died and left the Rabbi a significant amount of money…Features rabbinical conversation methods, a unique method of fighting, an original score, and three different endings!”

There may be something here for those interested in reaching out to the unaffiliated and unengaged - and what community isn’t? There may also be something for those who are looking to grow synagogue membership, since that seems to be a theme of the game.

Ace of Spades

The book Ace of Spades is a memoir by David Matthews that chronicles the life of a man whose father was African-American and whose mother was white and Jewish. It seems that David was always forced to make tough choices, to determine with which group he was to identify. In an essay for the New York Times, he writes of how he was constantly faced with decisions throughout his life, which complicated the smallest of matters - for instance, figuring out which group to sit with during lunch on his first day at a new school. Most of us can relate to that predicament. Lunch time stress was a regular part of my life growing up in a southern town in the 60s and 70s that was slow to embrace minorities (whether black or Jewish or Asian), however few we were at the time.

I want to make sure that if a child is forced to make a choice of identity, it is his or her choice equally to make. But we can only do so if we claim such a child as our own and welcome him into our midst. By doing so perhaps we can teach our children—those who populate the lunchroom during the school day—how to act as well.

The World Wide Wrap

As JOI staff members travel to Jewish communities across North America in order to help them and their institutions reach out to those on the periphery, we often teach about JOI’s “Public Space Judaism” model. Communities often ask us about how they can tailor Public Space Judaism specifically to meet their needs. We discuss layering programs so that they function simultaneously as Public Space, Destination Jewish Culture, and Open Door Community programs, and we also make sure to emphasize that most programs can be tweaked to make them more accessible to people on the periphery.

For a number of years, the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, the men’s auxiliary of the Conservative movement, has sponsored a program called the World Wide Wrap (scheduled for February 4th this year) to encourage the daily practice of tefillin (prayer boxes) as part of morning weekday prayers. This is an effective program, so I wondered what could be done in order to make it more accessible to those on the periphery of the Jewish movement. After all, even insiders don’t all put on tefillin—even those in the Jewish religious movements that support the practice. And although the United Synagogue Youth likes to promote the practice among women with double entendres like “men prefer women wrapped in leather,” it is historically a male practice. The only folks who seem to publicly push the use of tefillin are adherents of Chabad.

The World Wide Wrap always takes place inside the synagogue and is advertised internally to members of the synagogue. Could it take place outside of the synagogue? Could it be advertised outside of the core community? But if people are going to be persuaded to perform such as a ritual, it has to about more than just the “how to,” it has to provide spiritual meaning and connection.

House of Love and Prayer

Earlier this week I attended a musical biography of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach at the JCC of Manhattan called “The House of Love and Prayer.” Rabbi Carlebach is one of the most influential people in the Jewish community, especially in the area of Jewish music. The crowd at the performance was comprised of mainly a small, insider crowd of primarily older adults. This was more a result of the producing organization - The National Yiddish Folksbiene - than anything else. I must admit that I am (and have been since I first saw him at a concert at Hebrew University in Jerusalem when I was just 16 years old) a big fan of Carlebach music and liturgy that is davenned (prayed) in the Carlebach style.

Although Rabbi Carlebach’s life didn’t seem to turn out exactly as he planned it, and his work evolved organically—much to the chagrin of his teachers—he was truly an amazing outreach worker. His message was simple: love everyone. If someone is distant or rebellious and you have trouble reaching them, the message gets stronger: love them even more. What better theme for outreach could there be? Rabbi Carlebach’s credo is precisely what I tell parents who seek out my advice once they have learned that their adult child has chosen a life partner from a different religious tradition. To the question of “What should I do?” I answer, “Love them even more.”

Super-Mom Sunday on the Radio

This Sunday, February 4, at 9 AM, you can listen to a radio program starring the moms of The Mothers Circle, JOI’s program for women of other religious backgrounds raising Jewish children! Just click here to visit AM 1690 WMLB for the Atlanta Jewish Times radio talk show “Jewish Brunch with the JT Bunch,” hosted by reporter Marcy Levinson. (If you live in Atlanta, you can actually use your old-fashioned radio!)

The radio program is in anticipation of Raising Jewish Children When You’re Not: A Free Communitywide Discussion on Interfaith Marriage, a panel discussion to be held in Atlanta on February 12, featuring four Mothers Circle participants together with Atlanta Mothers Circle Rabbi Alvin Sugarman (Rabbi Emeritus of The Temple, who will also appear on the radio talk show) for an honest and open discussion about what it is like for women of other backgrounds to raise Jewish children.

The Atlanta Jewish Times is also running a wonderful article about the moms that you can read here.

Click Here!