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Who Are We Today?

A survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute in February and March 2012 found the following breakdown of the American Jewish community: 35% Reform, 26% Conservative, 8% Orthodox, 1% Reconstructionist, and 29% who said they were “just Jewish.” Regarding the latter category, the survey findings were in line with other surveys — that younger Americans of all faiths are likely to be less religiously affiliated than their elders.

The survey found that 59% of American Jews said religion is at least somewhat important in their lives, with women at 66% and men at 50%. Younger Jews are twice as likely as older Jews to say they do not believe in God (27% to 13%), with only 35% of American Jews belonging to a synagogue. Read more »

Welcoming Interfaith Families

Two studies reported in The Jewish Week (September 28, 2012) by Edmund Case, CEO of Interfaith Family, indicate that 50% of non-Orthodox marriages in New York City are interfaith marriages. Of those, 31% are raised Jewish, 11% are raised “Jewish and something else”, and 13% have parents who are undecided.

In surveying interfaith families about what attracts them to Jewish participation, one study found that explicit expressions of welcome matter “a lot.” Feeling welcome and valued and being included are very important in attracting and keeping interfaith families.

On the other hand, feeling that there are barriers to inclusion, and identifying children of a Jewish father as not Jewish, are turn-offs. Read more »

Raising Your Children in an Open Society

How do you balance your desire to have your children continue in your footsteps with the recognition that they have the right to live their own lives? This is the tension that every parent and every child struggles with, and therefore this memoir by Mary K. Bogot will speak to the hearts of many people, for she has experienced it from both sides: first as a daughter, and then as a mother.  Read more »

Rethinking Conversion Policy

When one of the country’s leading Conservative rabbis states publicly his discomfort with a major policy of the movement, it warrants attention and consideration. In a Shabbat morning sermon, Elliot Cosgrove, rabbi of the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City, shared his thoughts about conversion, interfaith relationships, and the status of non-Jewish family members in Jewish families.

Rabbi Cosgrove said he has seen that love trumps religious affiliation, with the result being that few families are immune from the situation of a child coming home with a non-Jewish partner and wanting to be married in a Jewish ceremony. The policy of most Conservative synagogues requires the non-Jewish partner to complete a conversion program, often lasting a year or longer, but the rabbi feels couples see it as putting obstacles in their way. If the non-Jewish partner does not convert in advance, Conservative rabbis will not officiate at the wedding but encourage conversion after the fact. Read more »