Columnist Julie Wiener titled one of her recent submissions “Is Outreach a Bad Word?”* She was reflecting on a seminar that was hosted in New York City on “Jewish identity, Who is a Jew, Membership in the Jewish Community, and Outreach in Israel and the Diaspora.”
In the context of whether or not to embrace Jewish-Gentile couples and their families, Wiener’s article states that several traditional Jewish community leaders said that they are not in favor of outreach.
For example, the Reform movement has slashed budget for outreach staff. Other leaders don’t think intermarried couples deserve focused attention because they are becoming the majority rather than a minority in the American Jewish Community. Meanwhile, an organization like InterfaithFamily.com at least makes some effort at outreach by offering resources and services to encourage “Jewish choices.” However, their pathway into the Jewish community is defined along traditional cultural symbols and religious categories. Often the Gentile partner is welcomed, but not embraced if they won’t relinquish their core faith in God, where Jesus is a central element.
During the last 25 years, Jews have married Gentiles in more than fifty percent of weddings. While traditional Jewish community response vacillates between disdain and outreach, they will soon realize that if they marginalize intermarrieds, they will lose touch with the demographic shift that is occurring in the American Jewish community.
The real question is, “What can be done to help Jewish-Gentile couples and their families find a mutually acceptable spiritual harmony?” It is going to take an embrace of both partners without denying their unique cultural and ethnic identities.
Research tells us that Jewish-Gentile couples want something more than rabbis to officiate at weddings or lifecycle events. Those services can be helpful and important to preserving and celebrating Jewish heritage. But more importantly, couples need the safety of mutual respect and clear communication to help them discuss the differences in their understandings of God. They need innovative help to find a mutually beneficial and comfortable spirituality.
That requires going beyond traditional approaches to “reattach” unaffiliated couples to a synagogue. At JewishGentileCouples.com, we offer personal resources for cross-dating, cohabiting and intermarried couples.
We think that a satisfying spiritual harmony can be found. This can be done without destroying the cultural identity of either partner through mutual pursuit of the purpose that God has for your lives. It doesn’t negate Jewish identity. At the same time, it should involve a courageous and open-minded investigation of the Bible – no matter where it leads to the truth.
We are happy to come alongside to provide support and resources for you in that search. There is no “outreach,” because there isn’t membership or cost. The embrace is gentle. So how may we serve you?