The Interchange: Embracing the Interfaith Opportunity
Federation and InterfaithFamily rolled out the welcome mat last week to nearly 100 Jewish professionals and community leaders from Atlanta and beyond for The Interchange—an exploration of the opportunities and challenges around welcoming and engaging interfaith families. This ground-breaking conference had a clear intent to put Atlanta out front nationally on interfaith outreach. It began with the assertion that “Are you Jewish?” should never be a trick question. Speaker after speaker stressed that Judaism has incredible potential to bring meaning and community to all Jews and their partners, whether they feel connected to the tradition or not. Nobody, whether Jewish or not, should ever feel “JewBarassed,” to use keynote speaker Archie Gottesman’s term, for not knowing the rules and practices of Judaism. At Monday night’s kick-off dinner, Mose Poma, a 13-year-old in an interfaith family who recently became a bar mitzvah confidently said, “No one except you should get to decide if you’re Jewish enough.” There was robust applause.
Tuesday was a day-long dive into best practices in interfaith welcome and outreach with keynote talks and workshops. With national statistics confirming that 71% of Jews outside the orthodox community are marrying someone of a different faith, a recurring theme was that interfaith families provide an opportunity, not a problem, and that celebrating the loving partners of Jews might be the most important investment we can make in the Jewish future. The Interchange ended with exciting rapid-fire pitches from participants on projects that will move our community forward on Interfaith welcome. Read on to see which projects will be funded!
These five pitches were reviewed by a panel of judges and awarded between $1,000 for individual projects, and $1,500 for collaborative projects. Limmud Atlanta’s award was a community choice matching grant, voted on by participants at The Interchange.
- Rabbi Ruth Abusch Magder & Honeymoon Israel Atlanta: Supporting alumni of Honeymoon Israel trips to cook and share a series of Israeli-themed Shabbat dinners. The goal is to renew connections and inspire the group to make Israeli food and Shabbat part of their lives.
- Repair the World & OneTable Atlanta: supporting “Serving Up,” a Shabbat discussion series exploring social justice and Tikkun Olam. Participants will develop their own personal service ethic and be connected to opportunities to take action in our Atlanta community. The program helps interfaith couples coalesce around service and Jewish values.
- Neshama Littman: Support for a radically welcoming chavruta learning cohort to study Jewish texts. The monthly chavruta will provide a safe place for Queer and interfaith couples, and “outsider Jews,” to understand each other. A facilitator will help create a safe climate to critique systems of power and hold space for conflicting ideas.
- Congregation Bet Haverim: Support for a monthly Challah Baking Chavurah for non-Jewish partners in interfaith relationships. The goal is to help people who are new to the Jewish community and Jewish ritual become comfortable more quickly by learning a specific skill that is deeply honored. Over 6-9 gatherings, participants will learn recipes, explore styles of braiding and be inspired to identify proudly and confidently as challah bakers.
- Limmud Atlanta + Southeast: Community choice matching grant for a fellowship to subsidize attendance of 3-5 interfaith families at LimmudFest. We will invite the fellowship families to plan and implement a program for interfaith discussion in the program and will meet pre-and-post Limmud to deepen their connections.
These five pitches which were also focused on welcome and diversity, and received $750 in funding:
- Kehillat Chaim & Seeds of Wonder Journey School & PJ Library: Partnership to develop radically welcoming spaces and events throughout Roswell, targeting Interfaith families
- Camp Airy & Louise: In collaboration with Federation’s camping initiatives, this will be a recruitment tool to attract, recruit and support interfaith children.
- OneTable Atlanta: More content, nourishment, and program support for interfaith couples and individuals at OneTable Shabbat dinners.
- In the City Camp: Targeted support for children of interfaith homes in the Johns Creek location.
- Jewish Kids Groups: Creation of “The Shpiel,” a storytelling hour for interfaith families that also provides babysitting.