When Robyn Frisch was ordained in 2000, she vowed not to conduct interfaith weddings.
But about four years ago, after intense personal reflection, the Reform rabbi and 46-year-old mother of three, reversed her stance. Frisch said she began to realize her ideals didn’t reflect the realities of modern life. She began to feel that for the couples she had refused to marry, she had set up a barrier for them to enter Jewish life.
“The interfaith couples I have married — it has been a really powerful, wonderful experience for me,” said Frisch, who last month took over as director of InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia.
Last year, InterFaithways, a small, local organization devoted to making the Jewish community more welcoming, merged with InterfaithFamily, a more than decade-old national organization based in Boston.
The 2009 “Jewish Population Study of Greater Philadelphia” revealed that the intermarriage rate has reached 45 percent for Jews under 40 in the five-county region, with only 29 percent of intermarried couples of all ages raising their children solely as Jews. Finding ways to engage these families has been a top priority for many Jewish organizations.
“I am 100 percent committed to the organization’s mission of empowering people in interfaith relationships to engage in Jewish life and make Jewish choices, and to encourage Jewish communities to welcome them,” she added.
Wendy Armon, who had lead InterFaithways and spent several months directing InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia, won’t be leaving the organization. She’s switching to the part-time role of director of community relations. The local office has another part-time staff member, Robin Warsaw, whose title is project manager.
The organization has an office in the Jewish Community Services Building, though the staffers mostly work remotely.
Frisch is balancing the full-time position with her work as a congregational rabbi at Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai, an unafilliated synagogue in Northeast Philadelphia with a mostly elderly congregation. Her husband, Rabbi Seth Frisch, leads Congregation Tiferes B’nai Israel in Warrington.
Robyn Frisch is set to co-lead a workshop with Tammy Astorino, a Temple Sinai member who is intermarried and raising Jewish kids. There is still time to sign up for “Love and Religion — Online,” which begins on July 14. The multiweek workshop will be open to couples who are newly married, engaged or dating seriously.
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