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Nov 10 2014

My Adopted Son Wants to Be Christian–And I Need to Let Him

By at 9:54 am

Learning How to Raise My Christian Son

We were walking out to the car after Yom Kippur services when my son Matheus, 14 years old at the time, unexpectedly broke the silence and asked, with a tinge of exasperation in his voice, “Father, when can I go to church?”

It had only been a few months past our first anniversary since I’d adopted him and his younger brother from Brazil. Up until then, Matheus had mostly kept to himself any thoughts he might have had about his religious inclinations. His brother had decided that he wanted to become Jewish, abandoning his Christian roots barely nine months into our first year together—he could hardly wait to attend Hebrew school later that year. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 3 2014

What Going to a Baptism Taught Me About Judaism

By at 3:04 pm

What Going to a Baptism Taught Me About Judaism

I sat in the parking lot of the Baptist church. Five minutes until the service would begin, and it was time to go inside. I stared at the huge stucco building; it was much more grand and modern than my Conservative shul, and I was surprised to see so many worshippers on a Tuesday night. I was vaguely uncomfortable about walking in alone. I didn’t know what to expect of the ceremony that I’d be witnessing, and I anticipated feeling uncomfortable in a non-Jewish service. But I was there for a good reason. I was attending a dear friend’s baptism.

I walked in and took a seat in the rear of the sanctuary. It looked like a professional theater, with camera and lighting crews, and a vast stage with large screen TVs flanking the sides. People slowly filled in the hundreds of seats, and I was no longer inconspicuous in the back. I’d rehearsed in my head what I would say if asked why I was there. My sense of not belonging made me sure I’d stand out. Me and my Big Jewish Neuroses. But no one questioned my presence. The people in front of me turned around, introduced themselves, and welcomed me. No one cared why I was there, and I began to relax. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 10 2014

So You’re Thinking of Converting Your Child

By at 3:54 pm

mikveh

I’m a Jew-by-choice. But my conversion to Judaism wasn’t voluntary. When I was about 4 or 5, my Catholic parents converted and took me and my siblings along with them.

I don’t have a great recollection of the process. I vaguely remember the mikveh, which just seemed like a trip to the pool. I remember standing in front of the congregation as our conversion was announced. But that’s about it.

But while I don’t really remember the conversion itself, my experiences growing up as a converted Jew were instructive. Indeed, considering every adult should be free to choose his or her own religious path, choosing to alter your child’s path requires additional consideration. Here are some things to consider before converting your children. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 10 2014

Can a Christian Mother Raise a Jewish Child? Yes, but It’s Complicated.

By at 10:21 am

challah-interfaith

During a recent parent-teacher conference, I learned that my 8-year-old daughter Sophia was asked by a classmate at her Jewish day school, “So your dad is Jewish and your mom isn’t?” Sophia responded, “Yes.” The other child said, “You know if your mom’s not Jewish, then you aren’t either.” According to a teacher who overheard this conversation, Sophia responded, “It’s complicated,” and walked away.

When the teacher told me this story, my first reaction was anger at the other child and my second reaction was regret that Sophia hadn’t dished out a firm retort: “Yes I AM Jewish, I was converted by an Orthodox rabbi when I was a baby, and, by the way, it’s none of your business anyway!”

I could go on. But it would go south fast, as in, “And you go tell whatever parent or rabbi who taught you it was ok to question someone else’s religious identity to shove…”

OK, I admit it. I’m a little defensive…actually, more than a little. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 30 2013

When the Jewish Parents from Long Island Spend Christmas with the Missionaries

By at 4:00 pm

details of christmas tree

My father-in-law is the vice president of an evangelical missionary organization. Yes, evangelism. I know… that word has made me shiver a bit too. If I were to write a sitcom about our family dynamic we would get feedback that it’s unbelievable that the Jewish girl’s in-laws are missionaries… but they are. Truth.

When things started getting serious with my now husband and I, we both had conversations with each set of our parents about our feelings for one another and each other’s religions. We chatted with my parents in my aunt and uncle’s living room when my man and I were on Long Island for Passover. We discussed that while we would return annually to read from the haggadah and play with the four question finger puppets, my guy wasn’t giving up the big JC just because he was opening the door for Elijah.

And we talked to his parents while we were driving to lunch in Minnesota. Very strange to be looking at the back of someone’s head when you’re telling them you won’t be converting to their religion. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 25 2013

This Year I’m Thankful for My Mom

By at 10:03 am

lighting the menorah

People are all about being thankful this time of year. So, in lieu of Thanksgiving approaching, I want to thank my mom. I could seriously spend a lifetime thanking my mom. No, really, I could!

I could thank my mom for always putting me first as a single mother. I could thank her for encouraging me to follow my passion of horseback riding and being my cheerleader at every competition. I could thank her for my love (borderline obsession) with chocolate. I could go on and on, but it would sound too cliche. Every mother knows they gave their child the gift of life, right?

Instead I will thank my mom for doing something profound–showing unconditional love and acceptance as her Christian daughter embraces Judaism:

Thank you for seeing my interfaith marriage as a strength, not a weakness. You were beyond excited about the breaking of the glass, the Hora, and the ketubah signing at our wedding. I know it broke your heart silently that I wasn’t married in a church as generations before me did. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 30 2013

My Interfaith Daughter Wants to Know About Jesus

By at 10:14 am

cross necklace

“Who is Jesus?”

Of all the questions my daughter has about the two faiths we celebrate I find this question to be the one that makes me the most nervous. How can I possibly answer her without offending or discrediting our faiths?

My daughter asked this question last week after she noticed my mother wearing a cross. I do not have crosses hung in our house or any other specific religious ornaments other than mezuzahs (which my father in law insisted on hanging for protection). She was immediately intrigued with the necklace for two reasons. Mainly because she has never seen a cross necklace before, and partly because any type of shiny jewelry makes my princess-obsessed daughter giddy with excitement.

My mother explained that it was Jesus hanging on the cross. She quickly changed the subject. She would much rather have me explain religion to her because she insists on being the fun-loving grandmother. She does not want to say something that might be considered hurtful one way or another. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 11 2012

Shielding My Kid from Christianity

By at 9:49 am

rudolph the rednosed reindeerWhen E was younger I was determined to treat Christianity as a secret I could keep from him. This would be no small feat in our neck of the woods. Churches abound. Billboards and bumper stickers Praise Jesus! Grocery clerks tell customers to have a blessed day. In the heart of the south, where upon learning your name, the next question many ask is: “Where do you attend church?”

E was born in Boston where I was heavily entrenched in the Jewish community. Six months after his birth, we moved to my hometown of Atlanta and I found the pervasiveness of Christian messages overwhelming. After living in Boston for nearly eight years, I had forgotten just how much Jesus rules the South. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 25 2011

Mommy, What’s Being Jewish?

By at 2:33 pm

little girl with a question“Mommy, what’s being Jewish?”  “Why don’t I go to Sunday School?”

These are some of the questions that my daughter has started to ask and I tend to dodge the bullet and say “Go ask your Daddy.”  My children are 6 and 4 and they are starting to ask these types of questions.  They are making friends and when some of their friends do things differently, they want to know why. To be honest, these make me pretty uncomfortable.

I grew up in Minnesota in a very Christian household. I was baptized, attended Sunday school, and got confirmed.  When I moved to Los Angeles, I had never met a Jewish person in my life and then I got a job at Jerry’s Famous Deli and I learned very quickly who Jewish people are, what they liked to eat, and my eyes were opened.  As luck would have it, I went on to marry a Jew. Well, I guess that depends on what you call Jewish. He does not wear a yarmulke, we do not have a menorah, and we do not celebrate Passover. When my mom told my grandma that my boyfriend was Jewish, she said, “Oh, Jewish men treat their women really well.” (Stereotype one of many.)

Our house is a little confusing when it comes to religion, faith, and beliefs.  I do not think I am educated enough to try to explain these things to our children, which is why I am here.

Trying to be married to someone who is Jewish and keep a positive relationship with my Mom is somewhat of a challenge.  My Mom is pretty upset that my babies were not baptized or that they do not go to Sunday school.  She will ask me things like “Aren’t you going to teach the kids about Baby Jesus?”  This makes my husband go nuts.  He actually caught her telling our daughter about going to heaven to see baby Jesus. That didn’t go so well.

I want to teach my children about the world and different religions and beliefs but I am not sure how to do this when I do not have a strong belief one way or the other.  My husband likes to just state the facts.  I know I believe in tradition and I want our children to have a solid foundation of something, but I am just not sure what that something is.

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