Q&A with Rabbi Melinda Mersack

Tags: Planned Giving, Charitable Giving, Family, Interfaith

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Spotlight on Innovative Programs at Work

According to our population study, 38% of Jewish Cleveland married households are interfaith and the majority of those who consider themselves interfaith want to feel connected to their Jewish roots. That’s why we partnered with the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland (JECC) to launch jHUB, an innovative new program made possible with a grant from the Federation’s Endowment Fund.

Rabbi Melinda Mersack, who leads jHUB, speaks about her experience connecting with Cleveland’s interfaith families through Jewish traditions and holidays like Rosh Hashanah in this Q&A. Check it out!

Tell us about your role?

I am a resource to all things Jewish in Cleveland, no matter who you are; and especially for jHUB’s interfaith families. I’m here for individuals and families in whatever capacity they need me. I’m here to support each interfaith family on their individual journey.

Can you tell us about jHUB?

jHUB was created a little more than a year ago. The Jewish Federation of Cleveland recognized that a large percentage of our community was part of an interfaith family, and many of these families were seeking a connection to Jewish life and culture. So, the Federation and the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland (JECC) partnered and created jHUB, connecting interfaith families to Jewish life in Greater Cleveland, and to each other.

We do it all! There is no one person or family that’s just like another. So we don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. We offer social gatherings, holiday experiences, and Jewish learning in a supportive, welcoming environment. We listen and respond to the interests of our families.

What’s one of your favorite programs you’ve done this past year?

That’s easy, Seder in a Box! People loved it! We sent an email through the Federation inviting interfaith families to register for a free Passover gift. Before we knew it 300 families signed up, and each of them received a box with holiday recipes, games, a Seder plate, a Haggadah–that’s the story of Passover recited during the Seder meal. Just like that they had all that they needed to celebrate Passover in their homes.

What’s new this year?

We are off to a great start! For the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, jHUB families met at the beach and it was beautiful! People of all ages, grandparents, young couples, children, everyone came. We sang songs, shared stories, and ate apples and honey, of course. But what was really meaningful was the opportunity to reflect on the past year together. We talked about how our actions, our words, how we react, affect one another. We recognized that we’re all connected. Together, we stood on the sands of the beach, the seagulls flying overhead, and we threw bread crumbs, representing our mistakes, into the water, symbolically washing them away. It may be the first time that some of these families have practiced Tashlich together. It was a wonderful way to come together as a community.

What do you want people to know about jHUB?

It’s an amazing feeling to help families experience the beauty of Judaism on their own terms. And meeting new people is a real blessing.

If you or someone you know is looking to connect with Jewish life and culture in Cleveland, or with interfaith families, contact Rabbi Melinda Mersack at 216-371-0446 or email mmersack@jecc.org.

A joint initiative of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland, and an InterfaithFamily affiliate, jHUB provides a new way for interfaith couples and families to comfortably explore, discover, and personalize the meaning of Jewish culture and values in the modern world. We connect interfaith families to each other and to Jewish Cleveland through social gatherings, holiday experiences, and Jewish learning in an open and non-judgmental environment.

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Learn More: Planned Giving, Charitable Giving, Family, Interfaith