July 2023 News from the Center


The Forward ran a great article by Joanne Kaufman: ‘Are you a Jew?’ To serve on a synagogue board, increasingly the answer can be ‘no’.  Kaufman says that the Jewish movements “don’t track the number of congregations with non-Jewish board members… But conversations with leaders in those movements indicate that while it’s not typical to have a non-Jew on the board, it’s no longer rare.”

Kaufman apparently was not aware that there actually is data on this important issue. The Center conducted a survey of Reform congregations’ interfaith inclusion policies in 2019; 50% of the movement’s congregations participated; the by-laws of 43% of congregations permitted partners from different faith backgrounds to serve as members of the board, and of 21% permitted them to serve as officers (not necessarily including president). The Center conducted a survey of Reconstructionist congregations’ interfaith inclusion policies in 2021; 48% of the movement’s synagogues and havurot participated; 68% permitted partners from different faith backgrounds to serve as Board members, 66% as officers other than President; 28% as President; 2% did not permit them to hold leadership positions.

The Center advocates for treating partners from different faith backgrounds as equal to their Jewish partners. More synagogues allowing them to serve as board members and officers is an important step in that direction.

The Interfaith Families Project posted an edited transcription of a great talk by Rabbi Lex Rofeberg of Judaism Unbound and discussion with Susan Katz Miller. You can also watch a video of the presentation, which has a lot more than the transcription, here.

Missed Opportunities

An eminent group of Jewish leaders penned an eJewishPhilanthropy letterabout efforts like “Our Common Destiny,” a “global effort to build stronger bonds between and among Jews all over the world,” mentioning ENTER: The Jewish Peoplehood Alliance, and Israeli President Issac Herzog’s “Kol Ha’am – Voice of the People: The President’s Initiative for Worldwide Jewish Dialogue.”

The group announces “a new, grassroots global initiative” that aims to “provide a platform for Jews of all ages, celebrate their appreciation for the Jewish values, principles and heritage we all share, reaffirm the importance of Jewish peoplehood and declare their commitment to strengthening the global Jewish community.” They invite people to share their ideas at info@globaljewry.org.

Dialogue and unity are laudable goals, but the descriptions of efforts like this tend to be the same – there’s never even a nod to the many partners from different backgrounds who are participating in Jewish communities; there’s tone-deafness to their pervasive presence in the North American Jewish community – which needs to be inclusive of them in order to be strengthened.

Is This Really Necessary?

Book author Andrew Ridker wrote a cute storyabout how he tracked down the subjects of a photograph of two teenagers awkwardly slow dancing at a bmitzvah, because  it was perfect for the cover of his book. Unfortunately, he went off the rails with this: “The short, brown-haired boy dancing with the tall, blonde girl seems to stand in for…  the history of the Jewboy and the shiksa.” Ridker said that tracking down the photo subjects taught him “something about the state of Jewish-American identity today.” I hope drawing distinctions like that isn’t what he learned.

In Other News

The May program on Radical Inclusion at the Springfield MA JCC is now available on the Centers YouTube channel here.

The last News from the Center missed two things from late June:

  • a nice piece by Rabbi David Levin in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, Intermarriage Can Enrich Our Community
  • a report in the Jerusalem Post that as many as three quarters of Russian immigrants to Israel are not Jewish themselves – they are able to immigrate because under current law – which the current government wants to change – having one Jewish grandparent is sufficient.

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I hope your summer continues to be good,

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