INTERFAITHFAMILY COM INC
October 28, 2009
The first time I found the InterFaith Family web site, I stayed up until 2am reading the stories. I wish that I had found the site earlier when it would have been reassuring to hear about other families like mine with a non-Jewish parent raising Jewish children and about people like me who took decades to finally convert. It was good to feel that we weren't complete oddities. I thought how ironic it was that since I was finally in the process of converting, my family would soon cease to be "interfaith". And yet since converting, I visit the site as often as ever because it gives me a connection to a community of people who have had similar experiences or feelings, or whom I can help by offering my own experiences and thoughts.
I found the IFF web site from a link on the web site of the synagogue to which I had sent my children to Hebrew school and which was led by the rabbi I was studying with for conversion. I clicked on a link to an IFF story because it sounded interesting, but I did not think the web site would pertain to my family because my household had always practiced only Judaism even though I was not Jewish myself. And since even before marrying my Jewish husband I had thought of myself as being on the path to conversion, just a very long, slow path, I did not think that my family was really "interfaith". But I forgot that once I converted, my own birth family would become "interfaith", and the web site has many stories and discussions about dealing with non-Jewish relatives.
The IFF web site has inspiring and uplifting stories by people who have happy interfaith families. But it also has stories in which people share painful and difficult experiences. Some stories of people who acted in hurtful ways towards intermarried couples made me very grateful that most of the rabbis and lay-people I have met have been welcoming, accepting, and non-judgemental of me and my family. I like that I am able reassure people who write on the discussion boards about negative experiences on the discussion boards that not all of the Jewish community will necessarily be so negative.
The stories about real people and situations and the postings on the discussion boards encourage people in interfaith families to "make Jewish choices", the goal of the site. For instance, recently a poster on the discussion board was convinced that it was "impossible" for a non-Jewish mother to raise Jewish children with strong Jewish identities. But articles and examples by other posters indicated that this is not necessarily true. That information may help parents to at least consider the option as a possibility and possibly to try it rather than to not try because they believe it can't work.
I have contributed four articles that were "published" on the web site plus two others that I have submitted more recently. Writing the articles allowed me to think more deeply about my experiences and emotions as I gave form to feelings that I had kept to myself. And the articles generated both positive reader feedback and some criticism.
For me, it was especially a relief to hear about other people who had taken decades to convert. Sometimes I had wondered if there was something wrong with me that I should take so long to work through the conversion process and that I should be hesitant and have doubts and fears even while wanting so much to convert. The Jews by Choice that I knew had mostly converted when they were in their early 20's and I certainly did not know anyone who had taken as long as I did to finally convert. I was very moved by the story by woman who converted after many years and so eloquently described the very same feelings I had myself both before and after I converted. I hope that my stories might similarly touch other people, both those who identify with the stories and those for whom my story might allow them to understand what might seem to be a contradictory situation: that Judaism has played such an important role in my life and for my family even though I was not Jewish for many years.
The best thing about the IFF web site is definitely the way it enables readers to feel like they are part of a "community" of other people who share their experiences and concerns. Being able to be a full member of my close minyan community was a key factor in my decision to finally convert. But with only two other interfaith families in the minyan, both of which are interfaith in a different way than mine, my religious community cannot give me the type of support I find on the IFF website. I visit the site so frequently that I keep a tab open with the site in my Internet browser.
I appreciate that the web site is well organized, has many features that other user sites lack, such as the ability to tag "spam" and the "Facebook"-like feature that allows users to create profiles and to communicate privately with other IFF users. The site is also closely monitored. The staff are there to jump in when a user is unreasonably nasty or giving bad information. And the staff also offers additional information. When there was an abuse of the system, the staff were on it so fast that I got the fake "friend invitation" at the same time as an email noting that it was due to web site abuse and that "user" had been blocked. The IFF web site is much better run and monitored than the vast majority of the web sites with a "forum" feature.
The Interfaith Family website is a fantastic resource for so many people: people in interfaith relationships or interfaith families, or friends or relatives of interfaith families. With the high rate of Jewish intermarriage, this is indeed a very large number of people. With intermarried people and their families often scorned or rejected, it is so refreshing to see the positive approach taken by IFF. I am certain that it is effective in helping people to make Jewish choices.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
reading articles, writing articles, reading/contributing to the forum discussions.
What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...
feeling a connection to people who have similar experiences.
The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...
friendly and communicated with me as a person, not as merely a nameless/faceless "reader" or web site "visitor". And yet the staff are also very professional.
How frequently have you been involved with the organization?
About every week
When was your last experience with this nonprofit?
Volunteer & I have written 4 articles and submitted two more. I am a frequent forum contributor.