Avi Rubel, Mike Wise: Judaism Unbound Episode 143 - Milk and Honeymoons


Returning to our exploration of the 2013 Pew Study of Jewish Americans, Dan Libenson and Lex Rofeberg are joined by Avi Rubel and Mike Wise, co-founders and leaders of Honeymoon Israel, the only major national initiative that we know to have been conceived and created as a direct consequence of the findings of the Pew Research Center’s population study, called “A Portrait of Jewish Americans.” [1]

(0:01 - 14:19): To begin the episode, Rubel and Wise tell the origin story of Honeymoon Israel, describing how the Pew Research Center’s “Portrait of Jewish Americans,” published in 2013, played a major role in its creation. [2] They talk about core components of the trip itself, including Shabbat experiences, opportunities for participants to engage deeply with the concept of identity, and the incorporation of well-known tourist sites in Israel. They also emphasize the importance of their work “post-trip,” geared towards helping participants build “micro-communities” in their city (each trip is made up of 20 couples, all from the same city). [3]

(14:20 - 28:17): Much of the public conversation about Honeymoon Israel has focused on the high percentage of participants who are in interfaith relationships. Rubel and Wise explain that they see the organization differently from an “interfaith organization.” [4] Calling for new and more precise language around “interfaith” relationships, which would reflect the fact that such relationships are commonplace in Jewish life today, they propose that any work with Jewish families, in today’s world, will involve work with families where one or more individuals are not Jewish. In conversation with the two co-hosts, Wise and Rubel also engage with the question whether Israel is the only location where a project like theirs could effectively operate, or if alternative Jewish experiences could arise elsewhere and resonate powerfully as well. [5]

(28:18 - 45:06): Rubel and Wise address the questions and conversations that arise specifically as a result of their trip’s location in Israel. They look at the challenges around creating a context where discussing the occupation, or obstacles to Jewish pluralism in Israel, can occur comfortably, and where seeds can be planted for participants to explore those issues more substantially after the trip. [6] They return to the conversation around the “post-trip,” exploring how they have sought to translate the experiences of the trip into ongoing Jewish engagement among their participants afterward. To close the episode, they implore Jewish communities of all stripes to move beyond the idea that interfaith families are a “problem” to be confronted.

 Image Credit: Honeymoon Israel

Image Credit: Honeymoon Israel

[1] Learn more about Rubel and Wise by reading their bios, accessible here.

[2] Check out the full findings of the Pew Research Center’s Portrait of Jewish Americans by clicking here.

[3] In introducing their “post-trip” work, Wise cites Avraham Infeld’s philosophy of the “Five-Legged Table.” Explore its tenets by clicking here.

 Image Credit: PewForum.org

Image Credit: PewForum.org

[4] Lex alludes to an article that the two guests co-wrote, responding to the idea that they are an “interfaith organization.” Entitled “Honeymoon Israel is not an ‘Interfaith Couples’ Trip to Israel” and published by eJewishPhilanthropy, you can read it here.

[5] Dan cites Simon Rawidowicz’s philosophy of two “foci” — Israel and the diaspora. See another contemporary application of Rawidowicz’s “foci” framing here. Explore the relationship of his famous “ever dying people” premise to the 2013 Pew Study here.

[6] Rubel and Wise each compare the Jewish people to a “family.” For more commentary, and critique, of the metaphor of “family” for Judaism, listen to Yehuda Kurtzer’s guest appearances on Judaism Unbound — Episode 41: History and Memory and Episode 121: Homecoming and Arrival.