There Is Still Work To Be Done on Welcoming Interfaith Families

I’ve blogged previously on a recent report in the Forward that Steven M. Cohen had found, in a study for the Foundation for Jewish Camp, that most interfaith couples feel like that have an open invitation to be part of Jewish life, that outreach “has been misguided by focusing simply on being welcoming” and that “the response of welcoming, making personnel more sensitive to the intermarried, and watching your language and having smiling ushers is not going to be effective.”

I’m pleased to telll you that eJewishPhilanthropy has published an op-ed by Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, executive director of the Jewish Outreach Institute, and me. The title of the op-ed pretty much sums up our argument: There Is Still Work to Be Done on Welcoming Intermarried Families.

Our key points:

  • It is a false dichotomy to separate out the “competency barrier” for interfaith families from the way they are welcomed into the community.
  • Nobody in the outreach community has ever said “all that’s needed is open arms.” There has always been much more to it.
  • The overwhelming majority of all outreach programming we know of, including our own, are educational in nature, working to address the knowledge barrier as well as other barriers that intermarried families face to deeper Jewish involvement.
  • As important as education is policy change. The Reform and Reconstructionist movements made a place in the tent for Jews of patrilineal descent. We still must work with the community for other policy changes, for example on issues of burial or membership, which can make the community even more welcoming.

I was especially pleased to have and the Jewish Outreach Institute submit an opinion piece jointly and hope there will be more of that in the future.

This post originally appeared on and is reprinted with permission.