I recently received a copy of Hope Not Fear by Edgar M. Bronfman and Beth Zasloff. The first thing that struck me in reading it was that here is a wealthy man with extensive access to probably anyone he wanted to interview and yet he did not speak to a single individual who is currently working in outreach to interfaith couples. He spoke to people who do a lot of talking about it, to people who do outreach that happens to include interfaith couples, but no one who does this for a living. The closest he came was Dru Greenwood who used to run the Union for Reform Judaism's Outreach Department. But Dru has been gone several years.
What this tells me is that Professional Interfaith Outreach is so far under the radar that even Bronfman couldn't find it.
What does this mean?
First I think it reflects the community's continued ambivalence towards the entire issue of interfaith marriage. We are afraid that any effort might give permission to intermarry. So we don’t fund ongoing, strong programs. Thus no programs emerge onto the general community landscape and consciousness. How many programs have we seen open and close?
In this environment very few professionals continue to work in the field for more than five years. Therefore, no experience is developed, no institutional memory is sustained. Programs are constantly run by novices. I could count on my two hands the professionals that have done this work continuously for more than 10 years.
If you were going in for surgery would you want a doctor who was making it up as he/she went along or would you prefer someone who had actually done your procedure hundreds of times on hundreds of different people?
Until we transcend fear and begin to believe that we as a community will survive, we will continue to have programs that rotate in and out of existence with staff that lack experience sufficient to address the needs and challenges of this growing population.