Back in January I was contacted by a staff member of the United Israel Appeal Federations Canada (UIA) who was researching international best practices for outreach to underserved members of Jewish communities, including interfaith couples. I gave her a lot of information about outreach programs in the US. I remember thinking at the time that things must be changing in Canada, which traditionally has had lower rates of intermarriages.
A new study by UIA verifies that that is the case. It reports that by 2021 “2/5 of the largest communities in Canada are projected to have intermarriage rates above 50% and over 1/3 of all individuals residing in couples families will be living in interfaith arrangements.”
The report also states, “It is incumbent upon Jewish communal institutions to strongly consider facilitating the participation of interfaith couples. . . . if the organized community can accept intermarried couples and their children through the institutions of the synagogue, school, daycare, and other community-oriented programs, then there is a greater likelihood that they will choose to be Jewish.”
Given how behind the Canadian Jewish community has been in having to address intermarriage, I was amazed that the UIA report says that one area where the organized Jewish community can make a difference is in rabbinic officiation at weddings of interfaith couples: “Having a Rabbi officiate at an interfaith ceremony is extremely important to the likelihood of future participation in Jewish life. In fact, 50% of interfaith couples married by a Rabbi indicated that it is important to them that their eventual grandchildren are raised Jewish as opposed to 18% when no Rabbi officiated at their wedding ceremony.”
And I was glad to see making resources readily available for interfaith couples on websites as another of their recommended actions.