8 In Faith/ Family

Partner Participation

I’m a big fan of On Being Both, the blog by Susan Katz Miller.

  1. it’s helped me feel like my children aren’t going to hate me for choosing not to convert. Which is, shockingly, a real fear I have.
  2. I love reading other people’s interfaith stories. It’s amazing how what seems like a similar experience ends up so different for everyone.

She wrote a great piece about the phrase intermarriage in Forward. I largely don’t take issue with non-Jew, but I know a lot of people who feel it’s very other-ing when you’re trying so hard to be apart of a community. In fact, when I attended Rosh Hashanah services with my in-laws in South Florida the Rabbi’s whole sermon was about interfaith families (I’ll write about that at a later time.) In fact, he offered up a new phrase instead of non-Jew, instead opting to call us k’rov Yisrael. A person close to the people of Israel. It feels less “other” and I agree.

But I’m writing because of another blog post that she wrote. JTA had an article titled Outside the Synagogue, intermarried are forming community with each other, which is great. It’s evident in my interfaith raised peers that their parents didn’t have the same acceptance by the Jewish community that we’ve been so lucky to experience.  On Being Both had a great response to this article, both with the use of the word Intermarried but also with all the programs pointed out. All of the community programs are ones ones where the k’rov Yisrael is embracing Jewish life, run by Rabbis or other Jewish educators. I think that’s important, support from Jewish communities is so important. And there’s a ton to be learned for everyone.  But as Susan Katz Miller points out there are plenty of more balanced programming and communities for interfaith families that provide education from various faith backgrounds.  She keeps a whole list on the site!

I think what gets lost sometimes in the conversation of interfaith relationships, particularly in my circle, is the k’rov Yisrael’s roots or faith their continuing in. Every friend I have spends time going to services, learning to make challah and latkes, and preparing their homes for Passover. I don’t hear of many Jewish partners in my circle going to church beyond Christmas and Easter or learning to prepare the seven fishes for Christmas Eve. It’s a hard balance to strike. We’re constantly working on it and leaving the conversation open. Just because today I say I don’t want to go to church doesn’t mean that I can’t change my mind.

I think what’s most important here is that both sides have to be open to learning about their partner’s faith. Even if the outcome is children raised in one religion, it doesn’t mean that the other partner stops being who they are. That goes beyond putting up a Christmas tree, lighting a menorah or just doing the secular rituals. It’s learning the roots, the stories and the traditions behind all the rituals. That means finding programs or building your own community where the traditions and learning needed from both sides are supported.

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