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February 20, 2014 - Image 29

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2014-02-20

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JCC from page 28

Since it opened its doors in January of
1976, the Center has:
• Transformed the Jimmy Prentis
Morris branch in Oak Park into a full-
service facility, adding a swimming pool,
health club and other amenities, despite
the core assumption that the Maple-Drake
facility would draw from a 50-mile radius;
• Constructed an art gallery;
• Constructed a children's Discovery
• Converted the tennis bubble into a
permanent complex that now houses an
in-line skating hockey arena;
• Added another full-sized gymnasium
and dramatically expanded its health club
as part of a $30 million capital and endow-
ment campaign;
• Added an indoor kiddie pool;
• Constructed a new office pod for its
staff to make room for the addition of
what is now the Frankel Jewish Academy;
• Added a performing arts center.
In the August 21, 1998, edition of the
Jewish News, Editor Robert Sklar asked
JCC Building Renovation Committee
Chairman Herman Frankel about how
funds would be utilized from the building
improvement and endowment campaign.
Frankel told Sklar that he had left no stone
unturned in looking at the possibilities,
even considering demolishing the Maple-
Drake JCC and starting over. But Frankel
said his committee decided renovations
there would be more prudent.
The combination of lingering grand
vision, growing facility, shrinking Jewish
demographics, substantial competition
— especially from health clubs — and
recurring deficits prompted the Center to
attempt to broaden its revenue sources.
Among the steps it took were to expand
its membership base to the general com-
munity (the last Jewish Community Center
in America to do so) and more fully open
its doors on Saturdays and most Jewish
holidays. These realities went to the heart
of what the Jewish Center was envisioned
to be when it was designed and built.
The challenges associated with oper-
ating and maintaining such a large
infrastructure should not mask the
current questions regarding the actual
management and oversight of the Jewish
Community Center and the apparent
deception that took place in recent years. It
fooled board members, auditors, and bud-
get and allocation committees. Thoughtful
steps are now being taken to put in place
the checks and balances that should lead to
more transparency and accountability.
Once the dust settles and the JCC looks
for a new model that enables it to oper-
ate within its means while meeting its
educational and program obligations to
the Jewish community, the model must
be based on 21st-century realities and
not 20th-century assumptions. And once
again, no stone should be left unturned in
looking at the possibilities. ❑


Outreach To Interfaith Families
strengthens The Jewish Future

The pressing question is, how
do we respond? High intermarriage
II in favor of a strong Jewish
rates require a thoughtful response.
future say "aye." On that
Delivering endless sermons about the
core question, there is
importance of endogamy – or making
resounding unanimity, but there have
apocalyptic arguments – is not going to
been some unnecessarily
dissuade young people from
polarizing articles in the
falling in love with someone
Jewish press suggesting
who is not Jewish. If that were
that we have to select either
the case, we would not be
endogamy or outreach.
where we are today.
Nonsense! Such binary
Intensifying and deepening
thinking reduces a multi-
Jewish engagement for the
dimensional and complex
next generation is an essen-
reality to a false choice.
tial undertaking that forms
At the Union for Reform
the cornerstone of "Inspired
Judaism Biennial in San
Engagement," our large-
Diego a few weeks back, I
scale, new URJ response.
challenged Jewish leaders
Our new youth engagement
to stop speaking "about
strategies reflect our broadly
intermarriage as if it were a disease."
inclusive definition of Jewish commu-
It is not. I do not know how any seri-
nity that seeks to include, educate and
ous observer of American Jewish life
embrace, among others, children of
can believe that in the aftermath of
interfaith families.
the Pew Research Center's study of
Many in the "endogamy camp" argue
Jewish Americans and other surveys,
that outreach to interfaith families is
intermarriage is anything but a reality
not an effective communal investment.
of Jewish life.
At the heart of this debate is the allo-
Many characterize intermarriage
cation of communal resources. But the
as the result of assimilation. There is
impact of outreach to interfaith fami-
some obvious truth in this view, but I
lies – when thoughtfully and effectively
believe that higher intermarriage rates
deployed – matters.
are largely the result of the open soci-
Consider Boston, where Barry
ety in which we are privileged to live.
Shrage, president of the Combined
The sociology is clear enough. Anti-
Jewish Philanthropies, has made
Semitism is down. Jews feel welcome.
outreach to interfaith families a com-
We mix easily with others. So, of course,
munal norm across all Jewish institu-
there are high intermarriage rates.
tions, including synagogues. The num-
ber of interfaith families raising
Jewish children has doubled.
Jews marrying Jews is a
blessing; the long-term demo-
graphic projections are clearly
more encouraging when Jews
marry other Jews. Creating
pathways for Jews and non-
Jewish partners to create
active Jewish homes also is a
blessing, the sacred challenge
of our time. However, talk of
endogamy will not change out-
comes. Only our actions can
create change.
Going forward, the Reform
movement's singular focus is
to make sure that a widen-
ing, not shrinking, circle of
young people in our community
experiences a Judaism that is
deep, compelling and inclusive.
Simultaneously, they must hear
from their Jewish leaders that
interfaith couples can be and
are supported in their effort to

New York/J TA

Dry Bones

- t

raise deeply committed Jewish fami-
lies, especially when they do so in an
inclusive Jewish community that is
offered uniquely by the Reform move-
While other voices will surely pro-
claim that endogamy is the only effec-
tive way to have a committed Jewish
family, the Reform movement has
something altogether different to say:
Jewish commitment can be established
in a variety of settings, especially with
support and increased opportunity for
learning and engaging. Falling in love
with someone who is not Jewish is not
a failure of Jewish commitment at a
time when young adult lives are just
How congregations and rabbis do
this holy work varies, but today it is
an axiom of Reform Judaism that we
take on the work of inclusion every
day. Some rabbis officiate at interfaith
weddings; others do not. But either
way, thoughtful, content-rich outreach
must become the gold standard of our
Jewish communities. I hope that all of
our federations, inspired by Boston's
strategic shift decades ago, will soon
come to that same conclusion.
Little is gained by circling the
wagons only around those who are
involved intensely in Jewish life and
writing off the others as a bad invest-
ment. What a difference inclusion of
interfaith families has made, bringing
the creativity, leadership and service
of hundreds of thousands to enrich
our congregational lives, while count-
less thousands of children are being
raised with meaningful Jewish experi-
ences and commitments.
Let's be clear: Those of us who
champion outreach know, of course,
that creating opportunities for young
Jews to meet and form close bonds
with other Jews while living Jewishly
makes perfect sense. But such obvious
strategies must be only one part of
our ongoing work. The goal, one we all
share even if we disagree on tactics, is
to secure a robust Jewish future. We
can only reach that goal with a real
commitment to outreach.
Day schools, Jewish camps, intensive
adult learning opportunities, soulful
spiritual practice, acts of social justice
and yes, inclusion of interfaith families
in all of the above, are the most effec-
tive ways for us to strengthen the
Jewish future. All opposed? ❑

Rabbi Rick Jacobs is president of the Union

for Reform Judaism.

February 20 • 2014


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