Interfaith Summit to Educate About Jewish Life for All

InterfaithFamily will bring together leaders from interfaith organizations, families, couples, philanthropists and everyone in between for a summit Oct. 26.

In October, Philadelphia will learn what it means to be one big, happy (religiously inclusive) family.
InterfaithFamily will bring together leaders from interfaith organizations, families, couples, philanthropists and everyone in between for its first “Interfaith Opportunity Summit: Embracing the New Jewish Reality” at the National Museum of American Jewish History on Oct. 26. The event is in partnership with the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Funders Network.
“We are so excited to be doing this,” said Jodi Bromberg, CEO of InterfaithFamily. “It is really the first national convening of this size and type that’s ever occurred to have a national conversation about engaging interfaith families in Jewish life.”
After a big event in its headquarters city Boston last year — though the organization has local offices in other cities across the country, including Philadelphia — that reached its full capacity, Bromberg said the timing was right for a bigger convening of leaders to discuss interfaith issues.
“We thought, the time is right for us to have a conversation and that we, as InterfaithFamily, who’ve been thinking about this issue and this work for the past 15 years, are the right organization to bring people together,” she said.
After forming the aforementioned partnerships, as well as garnering sponsorships from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and other regional groups, Bromberg is “thrilled” to be able to have the summit as well as a celebration in the evening.
The second annual #ChooseLove celebration will take place that night honoring “the legacy of Leonard Wasserman as well as two other pioneers in engaging interfaith families in Jewish life, Rabbi Mayer Selekman and Bill Schwartz,” Bromberg said.
Selekman is the rabbi emeritus at Temple Sholom in Broomall and chairman of the InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia board. Schwartz was the vice chair of the board of InterFaithways.
Philadelphia in particular was a significant city to choose as host for the summit, other than accessibility, Bromberg said. InterfaithFamily Philadelphia had merged with its predecessor organization InterFaithways, which was started in in the city by Wasserman.
As of right now, Bromberg said, there are already almost 200 people registered for the summit, which will include panels and discussions from leaders such as Director of Religion Research at Pew Research Center Alan Cooperman, among many others.
She hopes that the summit will be a first step to expanding the conversation about interfaith couples and families.
While it is becoming more common to see interfaith families — a religious landscape study by Pew found that “almost four in 10 Americans (39 percent) who have married since 2010 have a spouse who is in a different religious group” — Bromberg said there is still work to be done as far including these families in the Jewish community.
“There still exists a stigma in Jewish life for people who choose to marry someone of a different faith or religious background or no faith and religious background,” Bromberg said, “and while we’ve made some inroads and there’s some really amazing, terrific organizations and professionals and clergy and movements who are really out in front on this topic, there’s still so much work to be done.
“I hope that this” — the summit — “is really a significant step in moving the ball to lead to both organizations and professionals and philanthropists thinking about this issue and this topic in a way that leads to concerted effort on the part of the Jewish community to create comfortable space for interfaith families in Jewish life.”
For InterfaithFamily Philadelphia Director Rabbi Robyn Frisch, this summit will hopefully serve as an entry point to understanding what interfaith families and couples want for their religious lives.
“By and large, the people in the Jewish community are trying to embrace interfaith families,” she said, adding that it’s a “reactive” situation. “It’s a recognition that these are a vast number of our community, but I think one thing we sometimes fail to do is hear the voices of people in interfaith families and hear where they’re coming from and what their needs and desires are.”
She is looking forward to hearing the panels and learning from the “amazing diversity of speakers” about the work they are doing — and what else must be done.
“I’m excited about connecting with other people who care about this issue and care about integrating interfaith couples and families,” she said.
Bromberg echoed that sentiment.
“I am looking forward to having all these Jewish leaders and [Jewish] Federation professionals and philanthropists and interfaith family engagement practitioners all together in one room thinking about the issues that need to be addressed to have more interfaith families engaged in Jewish life and community,” she said.
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