Dawn Kepler, Director BJB
Register here for Building Jewish Bridges’ programs.
Years ago, an elderly gentleman walked past my office, saw the name plate which said “Building Jewish Bridges: Interfaith Programming” and humphed. “I don’t believe in that sort of thing,” he said to no one in particular. This was a bit of a surprise given that the Bay Area has a Jewish population in which more than half the married Jews are married to someone not Jewish.
And here’s a bit of added irony, the programs of BJB are often attended by people not in interfaith relationships themselves, but who have intermarriage in their family, or didn’t get a Jewish education growing up, or are returning to their roots, or are just plain curious.
Additionally, the programs have expanded. A recent study found that 89% of LGBT Jews who are in relationships are in interfaith relationships, which has led to programs that focus on the LGBT community like, Transgender and Jewish, coming in November. In the racially diverse Bay Area there are many interracial and interethnic Jewish families. In response, last year’s program included a series of workshops about the experience of the multiracial Jewish family, What Color Are Jews? This fall’s workshop is, All in the Family: Jews Talk About Their Multiracial Families.
Contrary to popular myth, most interfaith couples are quite comfortable in a Jewish environment, even the synagogue. But many express a desire to meet other interfaith couples and families to share experiences and ideas. That has resulted in programs that are more social and cultural in nature, Homer & Moses: Poets of Their People, Hanukah for Adults, and God Talk.
The standard fare, the classes offering guidance and exploration opportunities to interfaith couples are still available. This fall includes Women in Interfaith Relationships and Talking to Children About God. Perhaps the most frequently desired program is not really a program, it is the opportunity to sit down, just the couple and me, to discuss their personal concerns and desires.
More and more, I’m meeting with adults who grew up in interfaith homes and are now working on sorting out what exactly they want their identity to be. Whoever YOU are, you are most welcome to explore interfaith life in the Jewish community, one-on-one or in a program. I look forward to meeting you.