There are a number of important institutions in the Jewish community that should be both preserved and perpetuated because they are effective in developing and nurturing Jewish identity among our children. However, we want those institutions open to all our Jewish children, including the children of intermarriage. If institutions such as day schools, Jewish camps and youth groups really are as effective in building Jewish identity as they’ve been hailed, it seems it would be even more productive to have interfaith families send their children too. (As long as they are welcomed when they get there!)
We applaud those day schools in the Silicon Valley — as reported in this article from their Jewish Federation — who have taken this important step forward, and we encourage others to follow their lead.
I am of course aware of arguments about halakha (Jewish law), but whether a child [under the age of 13 in particular] may be considered halakhically Jewish seems to be beside the point. If the institution is effective, then the child will be able to make a better-informed decision about his or her own identity when the time is right. We have heard it said that some interfaith families, recognizing their own limited “Jewish memories,” send their children to day schools as surrogate parents. If this is true even some of the time, we should recognize the opportunities in this trend for all involved.
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