Non-Jews Welcome: New Group Provides Resources For Interfaith Couples

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Jonathan and Stacy Schwartz
Jonathan and Stacy Schwartz

Responding to the changing needs in the Metro Detroit Jewish community, NEXTGen Detroit, the Jewish Federation’s young adult division, is launching its new initiative in reaching out to interfaith couples with a kickoff event 7:30-9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, at the Valentine Distillery, 161 Vester Ave., Ferndale.

Part social networking mixer, part panel discussion, the event hopes to open a conversation and provide resources for a rising demographic in the local Jewish community that may have been long overlooked.

“As NEXTGen Detroit reaches its five-year mark, it is time for us to reassess the community and learn how to better address how portions of our population are being overlooked or underserved,” said Rebecca Hurvitz, content strategist at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

The new interfaith group is a stand-alone group not modeled after any other city’s or Federation’s outreach initiatives and was created to address the unique needs of the Jewish population in Detroit.

According to the 2013 Pew Portrait of Jewish Americans survey, intermarriage is increasingly common among Jews; 44 percent of all currently married Jewish respondents — and 58 percent of those who have married since 2005 — indicate they are married to a non-Jewish spouse.

“Our new interfaith group is just one initiative from the Federation, including our recent affinity group reaching out to the LGBTQ community,” she said. “These sub-groups need to exist to make all who want to be a part of the Jewish community welcome and included.”

Hurvitz added that the group is open to anyone in an interfaith relationship, from those who are dating to engaged couples and married couples in all phases of life.

The Interfaith Couples group is the brainchild of NEXTGen board members Keith Schoenberger and Jonathan Schwartz. Schwartz, an attorney who recently joined the new Southfield office of the Foster Swift law firm, holds several leadership positions in the Jewish community.

Sharing the story of how he and his wife, Stacy, have tackled interfaith issues in their own eight-year marriage as they continue their involvement with the Jewish community, Schwartz will moderate a conversation and a Q&A session with three interfaith couples of varying ages who are in different stages of their marriage.

Schwartz said interfaith couples face unique challenges and one of them is the feeling of being alienated by Jewish institutions. But as NEXTGen reaches a half-decade mark, Schwartz said an interfaith group is just the thing the community needs to make them feel welcome.

“There is a diversity of ways to be Jewish and express one’s Judaism,” Schwartz said. “The new interfaith group will be a space where both the Jewish and non-Jewish partner can explore Jewish customs and history. I hope that even couples who married decades ago will come to us as a resource to learn more and get more exposure to Jewish life.”

Schwartz said the goal of the group is to welcome interfaith couples who want to learn about and be more connected to Judaism.

“We are going to have an open conversation about the challenges interfaith couples face, from dealing with both sides of the family during holidays to raising children,” he said.

“Then we will talk about what the community can do to provide support and how they can be involved and stay connected to the Jewish community. It is a group many older couples tell me they wished existed when they were starting out.”

For more information on the event and to register, contact Alyssa Gorenberg at gorenberg@JFMD.org or go to www.jewishdetroit.org/programs/nextgen.

By Stacy Gittleman | Contributing Writer
Photo by John Hardwick

 

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