Film Clips Offer Focus on Interfaith Families

More than 200 people gathered at the Hiway Theatre in Jenkintown last week to look at how the American film industry has portrayed interfaith relationships.

The presentation kicked off InterFaithways' fourth annual family Shabbat programming, which includes special events designed to help deepen the relationship between intermarried families and their synagogues at more than 50 congregations in the Delaware Valley. For more information about this weekend's schedule, go to:

"It's just another way to have the conversation from a less cerebral or heart-wrenching angle," said managing director Gari Weilbacher. People get so much information from movies, "and we all appreciate a good film."

With a grant from Goldstein's Funeral Homes, local screenwriter and film professor David Greenberg assembled a range of clips from "Fiddler on the Roof" to "Keeping the Faith." Following the viewing, Greenberg moderated a panel discussion with area rabbis and InterFaithways board members.

Audience members said the clips reinforced the fact that interfaith relationships have become more common in the past few decades.

As Old York Road Temple-Beth Am Rabbi Robert Leib, perhaps unwittingly, put it, "there's no way we can divorce ourselves" from them today.

Weilbacher said the turnout alone shows that the community is more open to interfaith families. Ten years ago, she said, a handful of people might have shown up for this event.

Rabbis on the panel said they didn't believe that intermarriage would lead to the death of the Jewish faith, as long as synagogues helped conserve the religion by opening their doors to anyone with an interest in Jewish life.

That doesn't mean it won't be complicated, said Beth Am Israel Rabbi David Ackerman.

"Assimilation is happening, whether it's intermarriage or not," said InterFaithways rabbinic director Rayzel Raphael. "This is a way that we can grow as a people and stabilize our traditions."


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