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The ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ movie is a dated view of intermarriage



(JTA) — After watching “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” with one of my grandchildren, I’m very concerned that the thousands of tweens and teens who watch the movie will accept, as true, its very negative message about religion in general, and interfaith marriage in particular.

The movie is based on a book Judy Blume wrote in 1970, a long time ago. That date does flash on the screen when the movie begins, but it’s easy to forget that you’re watching a story based on things as they were over 50 years ago. The movie’s treatment of puberty, pre-teens kissing and mean girls ages well, although I’m no expert on those issues.

But the ways people experience interfaith marriage and religion today are very different.

The most dramatic part of the story is how Margaret’s Christian mother’s parents cut off contact with her when she married Margaret’s Jewish father — and had no contact with their granddaughter for 12 years.

It’s true that even today some non-Orthodox Jews react very harshly if their children fall in love with someone who is not Jewish. That definitely happened more in the 1970s, when there was not yet much interfaith marriage and the taboo against it was still high. My mother’s father literally sat shiva when a first cousin of mine intermarried in the 1960s. 

When I married in 1974, my parents were unhappy that my wife was Christian, and while my wife’s parents never said anything, we learned much later that her father was unhappy that I was Jewish. 

But they all put love of their family over those preferences, and they all had very loving relationships with our Jewish children. 

Both of our children married partners from different faith backgrounds; I am pretty sure that our Christian machatunim (their spouses’ parents) were as delighted with these marriage choices as we were. Our grandchildren are adored by their two Jewish grandparents and two from different faith backgrounds.

I am afraid that the tweens and teens who watch the movie will not understand that its depiction of parents cutting off contact with their children for marrying someone from a different religion has fading relevance in our world today. As far back as 2000, an American Jewish Committee study found that 56% of American Jews did not oppose interfaith marriage and 80% said it was inevitable in an open society. The most recent Pew study of Jewish Americans found that only 22% of Jews said it was very important that their grandchildren marry Jews. 

Meanwhile, Pew found that the number of Americans who have a spouse from a different religious group than their own rose from 19% who wed before 1960 to 39% who wed after 2010 — suggesting taboos have fallen among non-Jews as well. 

Viewers of the movie won’t understand that people realize now that giving up connection with children and grandchildren deprives one of so much love, it’s just not worth doing

The second largely out-of-date part of the story is how Margaret’s parents do not practice any religion — they don’t celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah — and tell Margaret she can pick a religion when she’s an adult. Margaret is clearly curious about religious matters — after all, as the title says, she’s always trying to talk to God.

I’m afraid that kids who watch the movie will not understand that today it is rare for Jewish-Christian couples to decide not to have any religion in their lives. The recent Pew study found that 57% of interfaith couples raise their children as Jewish only; that may include celebrating Christian holidays in a not-religious way, or it may not. The study found that 12% of parents raise their children partly Jewish and partly another religion. Some 30% do not raise their children Jewish at all; they may be raised Christian only, maybe with or without Jewish holidays, or with no religion at all. 

There’s no suggestion in the movie that for Jewish-Christian interfaith families like Margaret’s, engaging in a religious community — whether Jewish, Christian, or both — can be a profound source of meaning and connection. Instead, the message is that religion is boring and confusing. In the movie’s synagogue scene, everything is unfamiliar to Margaret because she had no prior experience, and incomprehensible because all in Hebrew. I’m afraid that kids who watch the movie will have no idea that Jewish worship services can be lively and meaningful — even with lots of Hebrew. 

The dramatic climax of the movie is a scene in which the Christian grandparents show up to say that Margaret should be baptized. They’ve had no contact with her for 12 years. The Jewish grandmother’s declaration that Margaret is Jewish because she went to services once is equally ridiculous. In over twenty-five years working with and studying interfaith families, I almost never encountered this kind of conflict. I’m afraid viewers won’t understand that this kind of fighting over a granddaughter’s religious identity — instead of respecting her parents’ decisions about religion — thankfully is very rare.

Fiction seems to need conflict. There is a paucity of positive messaging about interfaith families being happily engaged in fulfilling religious communities with supportive grandparents. Perhaps those stories wouldn’t sell — but they are the reality for so many interfaith families. It is very unfortunate that this movie will leave tween and teen viewers — especially those from interfaith families — questioning that reality.

The post The ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ movie is a dated view of intermarriage appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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