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November 22, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 22, 2013 By Julie Wiener Rabbis raised 00,nr,00si00nas: Growing number come £ro00 n 00'mermarriages NEW YORK (JTA)--When Eric Woodward started rab- binical school at the Con- servative movement's Jewish Theological Seminary, he assumed he would be be the only .student who grew up celebrating Christmas along with Hanukkah. But midway through his training, when Woodward started a discussion group for students of interfaith families, more than 20 people showed up. Not all were children of intermarriage like Wood- ward, who was raised in Los Angeles by a secular Jewish mother and non-practicing Catholic father. Some were Jews by choice. Others had parents who converted or families with a mix of Jewish and non-Jewish members. "I don't see a family being interfaith as a shame br a stigma," said Woodward, 31, who was ordained in May • and is now assistant rabbi at Congregation Tifereth Israel in Columbus, Ohio. "It didn't preclude me from having a Jewish journey, and it won't preclude sorheone else." Fifty percent of Jewish millennials--a generation roughly defined as those born in the 1980s and '90s--grew up in intermarried homes, according to a new analysis of data from last month's Pew Research Center study of American Jews. And while most of them don't end up becoming rabbis, it is no longer uncommon to see such Jews in the non-Orthodox rabbinate. No precise statistics are available on the percentage of clergy or rabbinical students from interfaith families, but they are a noticeable minority at the Reform and Recofistructionist seminar- ies. Informal estimates put the proportion of children of intermarriage at the Reform movement's Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion anywhere from 20 to 50 percent. Marley Weiner, a second-year rabbinical stu= dent at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, reports that six of 12 students in her class were, like her, raised by a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother. "I think it's greatY said Rabbi Renni Altman, who di- rects the rabbinical program at HUC's New York campus• "They bring a richness to the community, and a sensitivity and awareness that's also wonderful." Altman said such rab- bis show the potential of a group many demographers write off--a point echoed by the author of tle new Pew analysis, Theodore Sasson, a senior researcher at Brandeis University's Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. "This is a population that feels itself a part of the Jew- ish world but typically knows little of it," Sasson wrote this week in the online maga- zine Tablet. "How Jewish organizations address this challenge will determine-- more than any inexorable laws of demography--the future character of American Jewry." Rabbis raised in interfaith homes are a mixed lot. Some officiate at interfaith mar- riages, while others do not or have not yet made up their minds. Some were raised Jew- ish, while others embraced • Judaism as teenagers or adults. Some felt welcomed by the Jewish community as children, others not so much. But they all say their families, Jewish and gentile alike, support their decision to become rabbis. All see their backgrounds as something that makes them sensitive  to the needs of intermarried families and comfortable with the diversity of prac- tices among American Jews. And all are testaments to the unpredictable ways in which younger people are forging their own paths to Jewish identity despite their upbringing. "People whose lives are messy can still find joy and a home in Judaism," said Wein- er, 26, whose parents, at her request, joined a synagogue and enrolled her in Hebrew school when she was 12. Rabbis with non-Jewish fathers--like Joshua Caruso and Sara O'Donnell Adler, both 44--are used to ques- tions about their names• O'Donnell Adler, a chaplain at the University of Michi- gan Hospitals in Ann Arbor, said she deliberately kept O'Donnell when she mar- ried--not just because she is close to her Irish Catholic family, but because the name is a good icebreaker as she makes the hospital rounds. "Some people make the as- sumption that I've converted to Judaism, and that's OK," she said• "It builds bridges of conversation and allows people to talk about their families. If I meet interfaith families, it seems to foster connection." For Erik Uriarte, 35, a first- year rabbinical student at He- brew Union College, it's not just'the name but his Latino looks that raise eyebrows. He is constantly asked if he con- verted to Judaism to marry his wifemeven though it is his wife, whose mother is not Jewish, who converted when the two joined a Conservative synagogue. The rabbis whose mothers are not Jewish face different challenges, since without a conversion they are not considered Jewish under religious law. Weiner declined a formal conversion, even though several professors at the Jewish Theological Seminary offered to facilitate one while she was an undergraduate there. She knows conversion would mean she is recog- nized as Jewish beyond the non-Orthodox movements, but she wants to signal • her acceptance of patrilineal descent. "It's not my job to be all things to all people or con- vince everyone I'm right," Weiner said. Rabbi Karen Perolman, 31, the assistant rabbi at Congregation B'nai Jeshu:un in Short Hills, N.J., took a different approach, opting for a Conservative conversion after she was excluded from reading from the megillah at a community Purim celebra- tion in college. But perhaps the biggest dilemma for these rabbis is whether to officiate at intermarriages. Weiner an- ticipates that she will, while Uriarte says he is lean- ing against--a position he acknowledges is "slightly ironic" given his background. "I totally, 100 percent sup- port people marrying people they love and are going to get along with," Uriarte said. "Where my concern comes in is regarding the children and how they're raised. There's a certain level of confidence you can have in marrying two Jewish people, even if Choosing the right tablet for kids this Chanukah PAGE 17A they're pretty secular, or two people when one is on the road to converting to Judaism. That, to me at least, would perpetuate a sense of Jewish identity." Marly of the rabbis say their interfaith background - has better prepared them to handle the challenges facing interfaith couples. Caruso believes he has credibility in explaining that his refusal to officiate at an intermarriage doesn't imply rejection of the couple. Weiner says her background makes her more conscious of her obligation to care for both the Jewish and non-Jewish partners in a rela- tionship. And Woodward says it makes him more conscious of the language he employs. "Welcoming interfaith families doesn't just mean not being mean to them," Woodward said, "but saying we want you here•" I Greetings and Best Wishes for a Happy Chanukah Ma t and T Company Robert A. Lesperance 233 North Orlando Avenue • Msitland, Florida 52751 407-539-0800 • Fax 407-559-0608 i Nun Glickstein • Laval • Carris • P A CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS • Wish OurClients and Friends a Happy Chanukah 555 WINDERLEY PLACE, STE 400 MAITLAND, FL 32751 PHONE: (407) 645-4775 • FAX: (407) 629-1606 (StatePoint) Everyone is using technology to stay con- nected these days--especially kids. And Chanukah is a great time to think about getting your kids a device to keep them plugged in and learning at the same time, like their very own tablet computer• Parents worry mobile tech- nology can be expensive, breakable and give users access to a world of informa- tion-not all of it kid-friendly. But that doesn't mean you should exclude the next gen- eration from the tech trend, say experts. "Technology can be in- timidating for parents who aren't familiar with the wide array of choices available,". says Dr. Eric Klopfer, toy development consultant and learning expert at VTech; a maker of age-appropriate and developmental stage-based electronic learning products for children. "But there are good options out there that can provide safe, fun, in- novative, yet age appropriate experiences foryoung kids--if you know where to look." Here are some things to consider when looking for new technologies for children this holiday: • Kid-friendly tablet:Acon- ventional tablet is a delicate, breakable instrument• But a kid-friendly tablet is tough, durable and able to withstand Durable, kid-friendly tablets can help you avoid a being handled by little ones. • Safe messaging: Whether they are at daycare, a neigh- bor's house or across the country visiting grandpar- ents, a tablet can help kids stay connected to their parents. And thanks to breakthroughs in kid-safe family networking, you can ensure your children are communicating only with people approved by you. Preschoolers as young as three years old can emulate their parents and older sib- lings, allowing them to feel like they are part of the mes- saging trend by sending text andvoice messages to parents' smartphones, all from a kid- safe, kid-friendly tablet• • Safe browsing: With a kid- safe Web ,browser, kids won't • be able to access inappropriate . q cosHyaccidenL content, but can still explore the sites they love through an easy-to-navigate format. • Educational content: You can give your kids full-time access to great educational content with the right down- loads• Look for educator- approved fun and games. This holiday season, you can help your kids stay on top of tech trends safely and securely. HANDYMAN SERVICE Handy man and General Maintenance • Air Conditioning • Electrical • Plumbing • Carpentry Formerly handled maintenance at JCC References available STEVE'S SERVICES Call Steve Doyle at (386) 668-8960 Harrieff & Shelley Lake