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July 14, 2006 - As part of the Reform Movement's continuing efforts to encourage interfaith couples to make Jewish choices for their children, 27
volunteers are preparing for a five-day intensive training program on the Cincinnati campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
The group will be the second class of Outreach Fellows certified in programming for interfaith and interfaith family relations. As with all Fellows
programs, this is a joint effort of the Union for Reform Judaism, HUC-JIR and the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
"We know from the National Jewish Population Study only one-third of children in interfaith relationships are being raised as Jews, but the percentage
rises to over two thirds if that family is affiliated with a Reform congregation," said Kathy Kahn, director of the Joint Commission on Outreach and
Synagogue Community. "While the Reform Movement encourages conversion, we recognize that there are some who will not take that step. Our goal is to empower
interfaith couples to make Jewish choices for their children and their families."
The five-day program, which runs from July 26-30, includes training in group facilitation and programming as well as a thorough grounding in the dynamics
and challenges faced by interfaith couples and families. Each participant must be sponsored by his or her congregational rabbi, who will supervise the
fellow's work at the congregation.
Rabbi Helen Cohn of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco has nothing but praise for the interfaith fellow from her congregation who was part of the 2004
training program. "I cannot imagine how I did this without her in the past," Rabbi Cohn said. "She has been my associate, partner, reality check and
companion with this group."
The Reform Movement established the Outreach Fellows Program in 1998. Since then 70 graduates have been certified for working to help those considering
conversion, and 15 to work with interfaith families. This spring a third course was created to help develop lifelong synagogue membership in our Reform
congregations - the Membership Fellows Program - to help congregations welcome, integrate and retain members.