By Jodi Bromberg
My first day at InterfaithFamily, the Pew Research Center released the now-infamous report, A Portrait of Jewish Americans. It’s so ubiquitous among Jewish communal professionals and leaders that it is known simply as “The Pew Report,” – predominantly because it reported that 71 percent of non-Orthodox Jews are marrying someone of a different religious background. In the five years since its publication, the conversation around interfaith couples and families has shifted, and there is more attention being paid to the topic than there was five years ago. And, still, there is so much more to do.
That’s why I am excited to announce that after a six-month strategic planning process, we adopted a new strategic plan earlier this year. In short, our new plan builds on the best of what IFF does, and allows us to focus our efforts to scale them for maximum impact. As the only national organization laser-focused on understanding and meeting the needs of interfaith couples and families, we want to be sure we get it right.
Our new plan calls for us to focus our attention on four key priorities for future growth. It also focuses our resources on newly married or committed interfaith couples, and on families with young children – the areas where we believe we can make the biggest difference.
First, because we know that being able to find the information you need when you need it is more important now than ever, we’re rebuilding our digital strategy so that it’s truly interactive and provides information, resources and other ways to connect to Jewish life “just in time” – to interfaith couples and families when they need it, how they need it. Getting married or having a baby? We’ll connect you to resources that are important to you then, and programs that might be of interest.
Second, from the research, and the thousands of couples that we’ve connected with, we know that being married by the right rabbi can be a seminal moment in the lives of interfaith couples, helping develop a caring, trusting relationship with a spiritual leader that can lead to lifelong engagement in Jewish life and community. We’re working to ensure that more couples have that experience by expanding our Jewish clergy officiation referral service, building on the expertise we’ve developed in making more than 20,000 referrals since we began doing so a decade ago. This means strengthening the relationships we build with a couple at one of the most important moments in their life, and ensuring that the Jewish clergy we connect them with can provide the high-quality experience that couples and families deserve.
Third, we are launching a new, two-year, stipended rabbinic fellowship program. Through an immersive retreat, innovative professional development, coaching and a community of practice, the Fellows will become a pluralistic, nationwide network of clergy devoted to meeting and understanding the needs of interfaith couples and young families. Fellows will connect couples and families to existing inclusive Jewish communal resources, and facilitate dialogue for couples and families about the role of Judaism in their life, while connecting them with other people at the same life stage. The Fellowship program will connect more interfaith couples and families to Jewish life in communities that we can’t currently reach in our existing model. At scale, there will be up to 45 active Fellows, with an Alumni Fellowship Network that will grow each year.
And lastly, because we want to ensure that Jewish professionals and organizations are set up for success, we’re expanding our professional development offerings, building on the success of our Interfaith Opportunity Summit, and our intensive year-long Interfaith Inclusion Leadership Initiative.
It’s exciting to see this new strategy set in motion. We’ve begun to transition toward our new model in some communities already, and others will transition at the end of 2018. In some communities, we expect to maintain centers of excellence from which we can continue to innovate and pilot new initiatives. In all cases, we are committed to executing with excellence.
The end result? We’re a catalyst for connection to Jewish life, impacting thousands of interfaith couples and families, and strengthening the field of Jewish professionals, clergy and organizations. We hope that you’ll join us along the way.
Jodi Bromberg is the CEO of InterfaithFamily, a national Jewish organization based outside of Boston, Mass. A second-generation member of an interfaith family herself, Jodi knows first-hand how important it is for families to feel included and welcomed in Jewish life. You can read more about InterfaithFamily’s new strategic plan here.