If you take Israel out of the equation, there’s little in the Jewish world that gets people as riled up as the idea of intermarriage.
Danny Richter and his fiancée, Lauren Perkins, have never been to a Jewish wedding, yet this fall, the interfaith couple is planning to be married in a Jewish wedding ceremony.
What is the difference between a pit bull and a Jewish Mother? The pit bull eventually lets go.
Purim is a time to dull our senses with drink and cloak our identity by dressing in costume. We do so in order to confront a troubling part of our history and the threats to Jewish life and continuity in the Diaspora.
The reasons why milifers and seniors have gravitated to adult b'nai mitzvah programs since the trend first took off in the 1970s are numerous, including the fact that most women didn't have such ceremonies until the 1980s (the first bat mitzvah was held in 1922). One perennial influence is a child or grandchild reaching b'nai mitzvah age, and the divergent issues brought about by intermarriage can sometimes compel one or more adults in a family to take on b'nai mitzvah study to serve as a role model.
Three new scholarly reports on intermarriage argue for increasing Jewish educational opportunities, encouraging Jewish behaviors among both intermarried and inmarried Jews and opening the doors even further to intermarried couples and their children.
In last week's column I proposed addressing the pain of Jewish women approaching the end of their childbearing years who cannot find a Jewish mate. One solution, I wrote, would be to encourage them to date non-Jews, and for our rabbis and community leaders to create pathways for inclusion and conversion for the non-Jewish partners. The idea sparked dozens of responses pro and con, and in fairness to the idea's detractors (and supporters) we reprint a sample on these pages, with a brief coda by me.
And other letters to the Editor.
I know too many beautiful, brilliant single Jewish women in their 30s and 40s.
The Jewish world has a problem with the way Renee Kaplan defines herself: half-Jewish. Kaplan, a television producer in her mid-30s, is the daughter of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother who was raised Jewish.
In the past decade, as Jewish leaders grapple with how assimilation and intermarriage have affected the numbers of Jews, many Jewish organizations, temples and synagogues are increasing efforts to reach out to teach Judaism -- both to secular and unaffiliated Jews, as well as to interfaith families.
Akira Mizutani, a tall, willowy Japanese man who's been living in Los Angeles for 12 years now, has long, flowing, jet black hair that hangs loose to his waist -- and on this night, his mane is topped with a yarmulke.
"I was raised Jewish, was always told I was Jewish," said the 35-year-old, who did not want his real name printed. "I went to Jewish camps, even had a bar mitzvah." But when Levine joined a Conservative congregation after his marriage, the rabbi told him that because his mother was not Jewish, he needed a legal conversion.
Charles Dickens' classic, "A Tale of Two Cities," begins with the famous line: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Sociologist Steven Cohen's new study on intermarriage has a similar title but a different spirit.
In the mid-1990s, following the Oslo peace accords and with the prospect of a thriving Israeli economy, the debate raged in Jewish philanthropic circles about what might change if Israel "was going to grow up and not be a poor cousin," said Lois Weinsaft, senior vice president at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, who oversees Israeli and other overseas programs.
Social scientists, myself included, have charted -- and implicitly celebrated -- the growing and exhilarating diversity of Jewish identities, communities and innovation.
Letters to the Editor
Many interfaith couples are raising their children to be Jews, even without conversion of the non-Jewish parent.
Reaching unaffiliated Boomers who begin to ponder midlife.
The JOI presented results from "The Jewish Outreach Scan of the West Valley/Conejo Valley" during a well-attended Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance board meeting at The New JCC at Milken in West Hills on Oct. 4. The survey was funded by the United Jewish Communities' Emerging Communities Project.
Rabbi Deborah Bravo of Temple B'nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, N.J., went through plenty of placement interviews after her 1998 ordination as a Reform rabbi. Everywhere, she got the same question: not about her attitude toward homosexuality, not whether she wore a kippah and tallit, but whether she would officiate at an intermarriage. "It has become the litmus test for placement," Bravo said in San Diego at last month's annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the Reform movement's rabbinical association.
When you first learn that your child is -- or might be -- marrying someone who's not Jewish, you may not feel like celebrating. This can be a difficult and stressful occasion instead of the joyous one you had hoped for. To help you, here are a series of tips from people whose children have intermarried, as well as from outreach professionals and counselors.
Founded in 1997, the Justice Ball has grown into one of the nation's most successful nonprofit fundraisers/parties targeting young professionals, Jews and non-Jews alike. Over the past nine years, more than 16,000 attorneys, financiers and others have attended the soirees, and scores of them have gone on to become Bet Tzedek contributors and volunteers.
When 50-year-old Hector Ventura was a young boy growing up in El Salvador four decades ago, his mother would always talk about Jewish customs. Which was strange, because the Venturas were not Jewish. Like most of their neighbors, they were Catholic -- not particularly devout but Catholics just the same.
Fewer than one-fifth of non-Jews who marry Jews convert to Judaism, according to a new study distributed by the American Jewish Committee.
Stephen Lachter didn't know what to expect when a friend dragged him to a men's club meeting at his Conservative synagogue five years ago.
"My father was in a men's club, and to me, it was guys sitting around playing pinochle and volunteer ushering," he admitted.
Lachter was surprised to see "interesting people having serious discussions," and he "fell into a session on kiruv," or outreach, to intermarried families. "I said to myself, this is something shuls need to be talking about."
Let's face it. Every marriage between two Jews is an intermarriage. I'm not talking about the obvious ones, like a marriage between an Orthodox Jew and a Jew-by-birth who is not at all religious. Clearly if one spouse davens three times a day and the other spouse uses Mapquest to find her way to synagogue on Yom Kippur, a silver anniversary is not in their future. I'm talking about the rest of us.
Born into a strongly Democratic family but later a founder of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Berman, at 51, is a man of strong physique and opinions.
"I am fed up with intermarriage and with rabbis who reach out to gay and intermarried couples," he said during an interview in his spacious Sunset Boulevard office.
Narrated in the first person, present tense (always risky), "Love With Noodles" follows Gelder's canoodling with a string of women who enter his life just as he emerges from mourning his late beshert, Ellen. Gelder lives alone. His grown son, Eric, faces financial ruin. What's worse, Eric is planning to marry a non-Jew.
56-year-old actor extraordinaire Streep of "Out of Africa," "Sophie's Choice," "Kramer vs. Kramer," "Postcards From the Edge," "Angels in America,"etc. and 13 Academy Award nominations fame has taken on the comi-tragic role of a Jewish mother.
My resolution that High Holiday season? To find a congregational home by the following fall. I've lived in this cluster of small towns for almost a decade: people know me on the street, at the grocery store, at the community-supported organic farm. It felt wrong to be so rootless when it came to religion.
It's Davidson, as in Ronald Davidson, my stepfather. He died yesterday at 62 and that's why I'm at a funeral home out on Charleston Boulevard in Las Vegas. My mom is here, too, and though there are copious boxes of proper tissue in the place, she is clinging to the roll of toilet paper she's had by her side since returning from the hospital with nothing but a bag of Ron's stuff: slippers, a stack of Louis L'Amour paperbacks, his watch.
Welcome to Chanukah and the December Dilemma. In Hebrew schools all over Los Angeles -- and in temple discussion groups for intermarrieds on how to survive the holiday season -- Chanukah is taught as a ritually dense Jewish substitute for Christmas that needs to elbow its way into some December shelf space, rather than a holiday that commemorates a group of Jews fighting against the forces of Hellenistic secularism to remain an insular, Torah-committed community.
I fell in love with a brilliant, attractive and witty Filipina woman last year. She was a fallen Catholic, didn't accept Jesus as her savior and was totally cool with raising kids Jewish.
Shawn Green sits quietly in the Dodgers dugout waiting for pregame batting practice to begin. His unassuming nature seems at odds with his 6-foot-4 figure; his quiet presence inconsistent with his celebrity.
We're told repeatedly that intermarriage is the death knell of the Jewish people, but let's face it: Jews have been intermarrying since the beginning of our tribe 4,000 years ago. Marrying "out" is precisely how we got Jews with looks covering the gamut from blonde hair and blue eyes to black skin and nappy hair. It's also one of the reasons that Hitler hated us: We were at it again, blending with the local race, destroying its ethnic purity.
Jake Gruber and Chloe Davis (not their real names), who have been living together for four years, are sitting at a cafe, projecting 10 years into the future.
The National Jewish Population Survey, funded for $6 million by the federation umbrella group United Jewish Communities, reported that the nation's population of 5.2 million Jews represented a decline of 2 percent from the 1990 survey, which reported 5.5 million Jews.
Jews for Jesus, Jews attending churches, low synagogue membership, astronomical rates of intermarriage -- as complex as these issues are, there is at least one remarkably simple and inexpensive solution to encouraging Jewish participation. It's called a warm greeting.
A friendly smile, a warm greeting, an invitation to lunch. If you think that is silly and simplistic, think again. As part of their course work, I require my students to interview two Jews. Because many of them -- all non-Jews, primarily from the South Bay -- lead very narrow lives, they do not know how to find Jews and turn to familiar institutions, one of which is church. Lo and behold -- as the most recent National Jewish Population Survey has finally shown -- they find Jews there.
The National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) 2000-01, dubbed "Strength, Challenge and Diversity," offers key findings on demographics, intermarriage, Jewish "connections" -- that is, communal behavioral trends -- and such "special" topics as the elderly, immigration and poverty.
The Jewish population is aging and shrinking, its birthrate is falling, intermarriage is rising and most Jews do not engage in communal or religious pursuits.
Yet a majority attend a Passover seder and celebrate Chanukah, Jewish education is booming, and many Jews consider being Jewish important and feel strong ties to Israel.
These are not dueling headlines, but parallel portraits contained in the long-awaited National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) 2000-01. Federations and Jewish communal leaders use these studies every decade for policy and planning decisions.
It has been a great year in Jewish studies at San Francisco State University (SFSU). The program enjoys surging enrollments.
Jews have been migrating to Siberia from all over the continent for several centuries, lured by Siberia's relative isolation and, sometimes, the promise of wealth.
Vail, Colo., might seem like Siberia compared to the more established Jewish community of Los Angeles, yet here in Lionshead (elevation: 10,350 feet) there's some 75 Jews gathered for Shabbat morning services.
A lesbian, a Chinese American and a black man walk into a bar.... It's not the start of a joke, it's the beginning of a minyan.
When Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis asked a group of approximately 80 retirees in his Conservative congregation how many had a non-Jewish member in their family, almost every hand shot up.
When Sandra Caplan, a Jew-by-choice, was dying, her husband promised her that he would work toward a unified conversion process for the Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements.
I was at a party in Sunset Plaza recently where a woman walked over to me and accused: "Could you leave some for the rest of us?"
"Intermarriage is a fact of Jewish life and it's time we opened our doors and made everyone welcome, not just Jews," said Monica Engel, who said that at her own synagogue that interfaith couples felt marginalized because of their ignorance of Jewish practices.
From my seat on the stage of the ornate Grand Ballroom at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, I look out from behind a beautiful bouquet of purple and red flowers at the assembling audience of nearly 1,000 people. I study the faces of Shoah survivors, sitting with their sons, daughters and grandchildren.
The immediate effect of a new, painstaking, multiyear, $6 million population survey of American Jewry has been to convince Jewish professionals that whatever they've been doing is the best thing for American Jewry.