Interfaith Outreach in Silicon Valley

Religious practice wasn’t terribly important to Carrie McCarthy and Steve Weinger when they met in college. It wasn’t until they had a child that they “first addressed the issues of what role religion would play in their home,” she said in an article in the Jewish Community News of Silicon Valley. She was raised Irish-Catholic, but agreed to raise her children in the religion of her husband – Judaism.

What Carrie found in Silicon Valley was an inclusive community that welcomed her, her husband and their children unconditionally.

By being so open, Silicon Valley now has a fully affiliated family in the Weingers. Carrie is heavily involved with the area JCC, sits on committees, and the family joined a Havura, a group of people who gather once a month to celebrate Shabbat and other holiday observances. She is also helping to bring PJ Library to the area, a program that sends Jewish books and music to families with young children to create stronger Jewish homes.

These experiences not only made Carrie feel welcomed, but they have also given her the opportunity to talk to others who are in her position, women of other religious backgrounds raising Jewish children. Though conversion is not “on Carrie’s horizon,” her involvement in the community is helping make sure that her children “are secure in their own identities.”

This story is an example of what a Jewish community is doing right. Instead of creating barriers, they have been removed so Carrie and her family have access to the resources they need. These are the steps every community should be taking to welcome interfaith families.

We have had the privilege of working with the community for a couple of years now, conducting a “community scan” that focused on what they are doing to welcome intermarried and unaffiliated families, and traveling extensively to the area to meet with professionals and lay leaders about how to create a more welcoming and inclusive Jewish community. And through the vision and direction of Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley executive director Jyl Jurman and the support of Koret Foundation, we know there is a lot more happening there that can fit into one article. But a success story like the Weingers shows us that outreach works – and more stories like this will hopefully inspire other communities to welcome all Jewish families in their midst.

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