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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.

The Shalomist believes that the Jewish idea of turning potential converts away three times is a shonda (terrible thing) and we need to give up the idea that only children of a Jewish woman are Jewish. We are not going to suddenly stop Jews from intermarrying, but we can make them feel more welcome to the Jewish community, and we really need to do so. Time to give up attitudes and behaviors from the past that are contrary to our needs of today. Those who don’t change are consigned to the ash-heap of history.

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