I was pleased to see Jodi Bromberg’s public announcement of InterfaithFamily’s new strategic plan in eJewishPhilanthropy, It’s a New Year, and a New InterfaithFamily. Congratulations to Jodi Bromberg and the Board and staff of IFF on reaching this milestone. I have a unique perspective to offer, as the founder of the organization, now retired from it.
It clearly was the right time to take a hard look at IFF’s activities and to “focus efforts to scale them for maximum effect,” as Jodi writes. I think it makes great sense to focus on new interfaith couples and on interfaith families with young children, because those are the most critical stages at which interfaith couples make decisions about Jewish engagement, and because focus clearly is a good thing.
Providing information on the Internet so it was available 24/7 was the first thing IFF ever did seventeen years ago; we updated the website several times but as things change so fast in that arena, it makes great sense to rebuild the digital strategy now to ensure that interfaith families do get what they are looking for, when they are looking.
The Jewish clergy officiation referral service was certainly one of the most important initiatives IFF ever created. We always thought that having a positive experience with an officiating rabbi was likely to lead to future Jewish engagement, something confirmed much later by the Cohen Center Under the Chuppah study. We thought about trying to strengthen the relationships that couples seeking a referral developed with the rabbis on our list, but didn’t really implement that effort; I’m glad to see the attention given to that in the strategic plan.
I was very proud to build the InterfaithFamily/Your Community initiative, with a full-time rabbi and support staff at its height in seven cities around the country. Each local operation was expensive, though, and one rabbi can only reach and work with a limited number of couples and families. I hope that the addition of a stipended rabbinic fellowship program will expand the number of trained clergy skilled at connecting with interfaith couples and connecting couples with each other, and look forward to a growing cadre of such active fellows. I do hope that the centers of excellence will continue to be offered.
Finally, I’m glad to have seen our early efforts to provide training for Jewish professionals develop into the Interfaith Inclusion Leadership Initiative, and the focus on expanding IFF’s professional development offerings.
I agree with Jodi that it is exciting to see the new strategy start to be implemented – and I hope that IFF will only go from strength to strength!