Founded by four “founding moms” in 1995, the Interfaith Families Project has grown to become a vibrant, active community of approximately 300 adults and children, one of the largest interfaith programs in the country. The core value of IFFP is respect--for each other, for Judaism and for Christianity. As a community, we celebrate, explore, question and enjoy both religious traditions equally. IFFP members neither reject our religious backgrounds nor seek a new religion that is a mixture of Christian and Jewish belief. Instead, we believe it is possible -- and desirable -- to honor our distinct religious traditions and to share those traditions with spouses, partners and children. Our community includes those who continue to practice a faith, and those who do not. Many IFFP parents have chosen not to select one religion for their children, but rather to instill in them an appreciation and understanding of both heritages. Our community also includes parents who have chosen one religion for their children but want them to gain knowledge about both of their cultural heritages.
We have discovered that our community provides us with a sense of connection and support that is an invaluable part of our experience as interfaith families. Our children form lasting relationships with kids whose families are similar to their own. We adults care for each other, provoke and challenge each other, resource and inspire each other, and find many, many opportunities to laugh together. The Interfaith Families Project is a work in process. While we are supported and resourced by gifted staff, we are essentially member-led and member-driven. Our members teach our Sunday School, craft our Gatherings, serve on our Board, lead our committees, facilitate our Adult Group, plan our programs and continue each year to dream up new ways in which our community can resource its members and the wider interfaith community.
IFFP was born ten years ago when four women in interfaith marriages talked over coffee and bagels about their shared interest in providing religious education for their children about both Judaism and Christianity. After researching options, they gradually realized that they would have to create their own program if they were to achieve their goals. Initially, the four families gathered to celebrate the Jewish and Christian holidays. They then embarked on the formidable task of establishing an interfaith Sunday School. They started as a small group in a living room in Takoma Park, Maryland, but soon attracted enough families that they began renting rooms at a local church. After the group had met for about three years, they hired Rev. Julia Jarvis as a part-time administrator for the growing Sunday School. Rev. Jarvis oversaw the group's move to Sligo Middle School and initiated the development of our Gatherings, our Coming of Age program for eighth graders, and a number of programs such as our Women's Retreat. In 2001, we hired Ellen Jennings as Director of Religious Education, and changed Rev. Jarvis' title to Spiritual Director and Community Leader. In 2003, Rev. Heather Kirk-Davidoff came to IFFP as Spiritual Director and Community Leader and was joined in 2004 by Rabbi Harold White, Spiritual Advisor.
Ten years later, IFFP provides dual-faith religious education for over 150 children through our Sunday School for children from pre-school to sixth grade, our Coming of Age Programs for 7th and 8th Graders, and an organized teen group. Our Spiritual Director, Rev. Julia Jarvis, and our Spiritual Advisor, Rabbi Harold White, work in partnership with our members to direct and develop our community. IFFP represents many different things to our families. For many of our members, IFFP is their spiritual center. Others find many reasons to be a part of the IFFP community, but also choose to maintain a relationship with a church or synagogue. Many families express that IFFP provides a uniquely comfortable community in which their entire family can participate, learn and grow. Our membership has expanded well beyond its Takoma Park origins, and now draws families from all over Montgomery County, Maryland as well as a number who come from Northern Virginia, Washington, DC, Baltimore and Annapolis. Our membership includes original members whose children are now in high school and college, as well as many young couples. Some of these couples are not yet married and want to have more knowledge of what it means to be in an interfaith marriage. Others are recently married and want to become a part of an interfaith community for support, and to help them plan for an interfaith upbringing and education of future children. Our members have welcomed the births of many “new members” with baby naming ceremonies and cooked meals for the parents. They have planned memorial services, attended funerals, rejoiced at bar mitzvahs and coming of age ceremonies, and are a source of support for each other.
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