WEST HARTFORD– The Mandell Jewish Community Center has announced the creation of the Interfaith Family Connection, a new initiative designed to provide programs for interfaith couples and families in the Greater Hartford area. Funded by a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford, the Interfaith Family Connection will offer a variety of programming throughout the year.
“The mission of the Interfaith Family Connection is to support interfaith couples and families and build community as they explore Judaism in their own way,” says Elana MacGilpin, director of outreach and Jewish engagement at the Mandell JCC, located in West Hartford. “We are excited to welcome interfaith couples and families, and offer much needed resources and opportunities for them to learn and connect in a supportive environment. As someone who is also intermarried I know the importance of feeling like you belong and are with others who understand your unique experiences.”
The initiative is in response to a recent study by the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford and the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford that found that, locally, 40 percent of interfaith respondents reported that they are not as involved in Jewish life as they would like to be, 20 percent do not participate in Jewish life and 64 percent didn’t know anyone to participate with at Jewish community events.
The same study reported that 90 percent of the respondents felt it was important to them that their children be proud to be Jewish and almost all wanted their children to be knowledgeable about Jewish traditions, rituals and customs.
“Interfaith families form an important part of our Jewish community,” said Howard Sovronsky, president and CEO of Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. “We’re proud to work with the Mandell JCC to provide opportunities for interfaith families to celebrate their connection to Judaism.”
Programs developed specifically with interfaith families in mind include how-to educational and experiential workshops, as well as discussion groups and informal social gatherings. Participants will have opportunities to learn from community experts as well as connect with other intermarried couples and families.
“It is important to have an inviting environment for interfaith couples and families in our communities,” says Moira Leshen, who along with her husband Steve, are raising five daughters in the Jewish community. “It seems too often that we feel like a fringe group because one of us is not Jewish. Community involvement, in general, is a key to the continued advancement of any society.”
The Interfaith Family Connection roster of fall programs include “Doing Jewish in an Interfaith Family,” a three-part session in which families will experience and discuss Jewish traditions and values with dedicated time for facilitated discussions and hands-on activities for children. Each session will conclude with a family-style dinner for the entire group.
“Our goal is to enhance connections, build community and help couples and families find their place in the Jewish world,” adds MacGilpin, who points to The Mother’s Circle, an award-winning educational and support program for moms in interfaith families, as a great resource for interfaith families with children.
“I’m so proud and grateful to be a part of our welcoming Jewish community in Greater Hartford, as we continue the work of opening the tent to include those who wish to participate,” says Laura Kinyon, LCSW, facilitator of The Mother’s Circle.
For more information, visit www.mandelljcc.org or contact Elana MacGilpin at firstname.lastname@example.org.