The Genesis Prize and Jewish Funders Network: A Winning Partnership for Interfaith Families

Inside Leadership

The Genesis Prize and Jewish Funders Network: A Winning Partnership for Interfaith Families

Panel: Michael Douglas, April Baskin, Danny Meyer, and Jodi Kantor

At the recent URJ Biennial, actor and activist Michael Douglas announced that the Jewish Funders Network has launched the Avenues to Jewish Engagement for Intermarried Couples and their Families Matching Grant Initiative.

Developed in honor of Douglas, the 2015 Genesis Prize Laureate, the program will make significant funding available to congregations and other entities involved in efforts to make our community – the Jewish community – more welcoming to interfaith families and individuals who come from such families.

Indeed, such holy work has been at the core of our movement for more than four decades.

When Rabbi Alexander Schindler, z"l, created Reform Jewish Outreach, the URJ listened to those in our target populations -- individuals who were considering a path to Judaism, as well as couples who were in love and did not see such a path as an option, but were considering raising Jewish families. We asked them to tell us about the barriers they encountered, what made them feel welcome, what made them feel distant, and what we could do to bring them close.

Today, a key principle of audacious hospitality relies on Reform Judaism to be an ohel patuach (open tent) and to eagerly and readily welcome Jews and their partners from other backgrounds, just as Sarah and Abraham welcomed the strangers who happened upon their tent. We acknowledge that our circle is both wider and deeper than it was in the late 1970s, with many more groups to be included in our target population. We more fully understand that the process to bring closer those who are distant is a collaborative one, and we seek to build on our many successes around Outreach, which has enriched and strengthened the Reform Movement and North American Jewry immeasurably.

We are proud of the sacred work so many of our congregations have done and continue to do in this realm during the last 40 years, even as we recognize we have a long way to go before we can claim complete success – within both our own congregations and the broader Jewish community of which we are a part.

This matching initiative provides an opportunity to approach donors, offering them a chance to actualize their values with a gift that goes twice as far as its price tag. More important, it is an opportunity for each of our congregations to ask these and other key questions:

  • What might we be doing right now to make the Jewish world more inclusive?
  • Can we design or enhance an existing program to include interfaith families more proactively so that our community can reach its full potential as a leader on this issue?

With support from the Genesis Prize and the Jewish Funders Network, together with matching funding, congregations will be eligible to receive a portion of the $3.3 million generated by the initiative – all of it designated to help them launch or expand endeavors that promote a warm, inclusive Jewish community. Complementing the funding, audacious hospitality tools and resources that will better equip congregations to serve and engage current and prospective members will be piloted in the near future.

Watch Michael Douglas’ discussion of the Avenues to Jewish Engagement for Intermarried Couples and their Families Matching Grant Initiative and then begin a conversation among your congregation’s leaders and members to determine how the initiative can help your community live out the example of Sarah and Abraham, whose tent was open in all directions. Application and eligibility information is available on the initiative’s website. The application deadline is March 15, 2016.

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April Baskin, a longtime advocate for Jewish diversity and inclusion, is a graduate of Tufts University, a member of the Selah Leadership Network, and an alumna of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation's Insight Fellowship and Jews United for Justice's Jeremiah Fellowship in Washington, D.C. She most recently served as the vice president of Audacious Hospitality at the Union for Reform Judaism. In addition, she previously served as the national director of resources and training at and president of the Jewish Multiracial Network.


April Baskin

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