Most people think of the tipping point as a single item that weights the scale and forces it in another direction. When Malcolm Gladwell coined the phrase “tipping point,” he was referring to a time when things coalesce to make a change evident. And, he added, that it was often difficult to discern the tipping point—and nearly impossible to do so in advance. It is kind of like a prophesy which is only certain when reading backwards in history.
So I have been thinking. Have we reached the tipping point in the Jewish community with regard to those on its periphery, particularly interfaith marriage? Have we reached a point in which those on the periphery are now moving towards the center? I thought that the beginning of a new secular year would be the best time to ask such a reflective question. And I would even boldly ask: can we take credit for any of it?
If so, what are some of the items that we can consider to have contributed over the last year to the tipping point?
I ask this question particularly because of the change in attitude that I have felt among many synagogue and institutional leaders. Even the stalwart Conservative movement has changed its various positions. There have been changes in the policies regarding membership of interfaith families in synagogues, as well as camps and schools. In addition, seminars have been offered about intermarriage and how we might embrace those who have intermarried at the Jewish Theological Seminary and in local Conservative congregations.
JOI has been pushing for these changes for years. When we started The Mothers Circle years ago, non-Jewish women raising Jewish children were considered anathema. Now they are included in the planning of most communal federations and institutions. And although we are among the first to raise the issue of the growing number of adult children of intermarriage, the community is quickly recognizing that this population, especially as part of the elusive 20s-30s, is an important force to be considered. And now we hear national organizations such as the Jewish Community Centers Association advocating policies that we have been promoting for years.
How much of the change is directly due to JOI is hard to calculate, but it’s no coincidence that as our programs grow so does the welcoming attitude throughout the Jewish community. The momentum has clearly shifted in favor of inclusion; the periphery is becoming the core.
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