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Jun 11 2014

Up Close: Adina Kay-Gross & Family

By at 9:50 am

adina-kay-gross-up-close

In what ways do you think having extended interfaith family has enriched your lives?

I’ve written about this a bunch before, and my feelings haven’t changed. My mother, who converted to Judaism, honored her non-Jewish mother by making sure she was never alone to celebrate her holidays. This meant she and my dad often packed up our family of five and shuttled us to the bowels of Italian Brooklyn for Christmas Eve and Easter dinner. Sometimes when holidays overlapped, we’d bring our matzah or our menorahs with us. My parents worked hard to make sure we knew who we were, and that meant not just knowing that we were Jews, but also knowing that we were, as the Talmud teaches, “the compassionate children of compassionate parents.” They were confident in their Judaism and instilled that confidence in us. There is no such thing as mutually exclusive in this situation; you can be religiously committed and not alienate family members who have made different choices. Sure, it’s hard work and it’s often confusing and complicated, but if you want to make it work, you can. In my family, love came before difference.

Is there a specific day/experience you can remember where this family set-up felt particularly complicated?   Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 10 2014

When One Daughter is Jewish and the Other is Not

By at 10:40 am

one-Jewish-child

A lot has changed since I had my first child: I got divorced, converted to Judaism, and most recently, got re-married. My wife is also Jewish. We have a daughter together who is Jewish, and she is being raised Jewish. So far, so good, right?

But this is my second marriage and I have a fabulous daughter from my first marriage. While I do share custody with my ex-husband, my first daughter lives with me the majority of the time. And she is not Jewish.

When converting, I did a lot of reading about the commitment as a Jewish parent of raising your children to be observant Jews. You teach them or you have them taught at religious school about the history, the culture, and the religion of Judaism. Read the rest of this entry →

May 16 2014

Up Close: Gen & Max Tolsky

By at 11:04 am

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1. Can you think of a particular day when it felt especially difficult to be an interfaith family?

When we were engaged, we had a very difficult time finding two officiants who were willing to marry us. My priest at the church I grew up in said he’d officiate our wedding, and even with a rabbi, but it would have to be in the church (he wouldn’t do a banquet hall). The hard part there is that would make it awkward for some and feel “slanted” on one side of the religious scale… not preferable.

The rabbi at the temple Max grew up in said he’d officiate in a banquet hall and would be happy to marry us if we agreed to raise our children Jewish (implying Jewish only). Read the rest of this entry →

May 14 2014

Up Close: Sarah & Carl Chen

By at 11:51 am

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Are you raising your kid(s) with one religion, both religions, or somewhere in between?

When deciding what religion we would raise our children, we struck a funny bargain. It was never up for negotiation for Sarah not to raise Jewish children, but Carl’s heritage mattered, too. As a proud Michigander, Carl grew up with tons of ethnic and religious diversity. He consented as a non-Jew to fully participate in raising Jewish children as long as: 1. They referred to carbonated beverages as “pop” (not soda) and 2. Cheered for the Red Wings, his favorite hockey team. So far, no problems with either end of the bargain!

How do you feel about your family being labeled “interfaith”? Read the rest of this entry →

May 12 2014

When the Terrified Non-Jewish Mom Hosts the Bris

By at 3:06 pm

newborn-bris

My husband Marc was Jewish, I was not. We hadn’t decided, not entirely, what that would mean for our kids. We already had a 3-year-old daughter, and she was happily celebrating Christian and Jewish holidays with both sides of our extended family. But having a son made any theoretical discussion suddenly incredibly real.

For Marc, the idea that we wouldn’t circumcise our infant son wasn’t an option. It was an absolute. This wasn’t a topic for discussion, not like whether or not we’d have a Christmas tree or should we not give our toddler cheerios during the week of Passover. I had to honor Marc’s right to make this decision. I had known he was Jewish, I had chosen to create a family with him. I had to respect his feelings on this topic, but I was surprised at the strength of his conviction.

I knew about circumcision. All of the little boys in my family had been circumcised in the hospital before coming home, so it wasn’t a foreign idea for me. Having it done at home was new, but my husband (and a Jewish friend who was also a resident at the local hospital) convinced me that having it done by an experienced mohel, as opposed to an exhausted and inexperienced resident, would be the best choice. If we had to do it, at least it would be done in a loving and gentle environment, by someone who was incredibly experienced and competent. Read the rest of this entry →

Up Close: Rachel & Scott Stein

By at 9:02 am

Up Close: Rachel & Scott Stein

1. How did you and your husband meet?

Scott and I met as undergraduates at Stony Brook University. We were both dating other people at the time but socialized in the same circle of friends. After graduation we reconnected and he asked me out on a date.

About two months into dating we took a road trip to North Carolina. After being in the car for such a long time I just blurted out, “So is it important to you to raise your children Jewish?” I said it so casually, like if it was important to him to put pickles on his burger. It turned out to be a great conversation starter for such a long drive and it really helped us make sure we were on the same page in regards to the future. Read the rest of this entry →

Up Close: Putting a Face on the Interfaith Conversation

By at 8:53 am

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Here’s something: More than half of Jews who got married over the past eight years wedded a non-Jewish spouse, and one third of intermarried families are not raising their children Jewish at all.

Interfaith families are certainly a hot topic, and the conversation was only amplified last October when a new study on American Jews highlighted the sharp rise in intermarriage over the recent years.

While access to statistics and percentages like those in the above study can be incredibly helpful in understanding the current trends of American Jews, the avalanche of articles from various outlets (and oh there were many) focusing on these numbers seemed to forget one very important thing: interfaith families are not a collection of numbers and statistics. They are real, live families made up of (you guessed it) real, live people. 

In an effort to put a face on the numbers, Kveller is excited to kick off a photo series for the next month. We’ll be highlighting interfaith families through photographs and interviews to hear what it’s actually like to be in an interfaith family, or part of an extended interfaith family–no statistics required.

Stay tuned, and if you’re part of an interfaith family and would like to be involved, drop a line to info@kveller.com.

Here is a list of the families we have featured:

Up Close: Rachel & Scott Stein

1. Rachel & Scott Stein

On a road trip she fell in love with her husband–and his love of Judaism.

sarah-chen-interfaith2-up-close

2. Sarah & Carl Chen

He agreed to raise the kids Jewish. She agreed to refer to soda as “pop.”

 gen-and-max-up-close3. Gen & Max Tolsky

The most difficult part was finding a rabbi and a priest to officiate their interfaith wedding.

Alinas-Family-Up-Close

4. Alina & Scott Wickham

Their son is named for Ehud Barak. Their daughter, for Martin Luther King.

maria-steve-3 5. Maria & Steve Broutt

They are raising the kids Jewish, but celebrate Christian holidays with Maria’s Catholic family.

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6. Jessica & Derek

They are raising their daughter with both Jewish and Christian faiths.

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 7. Victoria & Dmitri

This family celebrates with moon cakes during the autumn festival and matzah ball soup on Passover.

lara-robby-upclose8. Laura Robby & Shawn Gaiero 

What happens when your future husband offers to bring a challah to your parent’s seder?

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9. Melissa & Marc Cohen

December can be difficult when you are the only Jews who have a Christmas tree.

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10. Stacie & Andrew Garnett-Cook

When they met, he was skeptical about organized religion. Her love of Judaism helped him see the positive side.

11. Mayim Bialik & Family

When Mayim and her boys visit their Mormon relatives in Utah, they talk about who celebrates what and why.

courtney-up-close

12. Courtney Naliboff & William Trevaskis

They met at a rock club in Boston, where both of their bands were lined up to play. Now they live on an island.

max-tolsky13. Ben & Meida Tolsky

There isn’t much Jewish life outside of Shanghai, so on Passover, they made their own matzahs.

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 14. Adina Kay-Gross & Family

Sometimes they brought their menorahs or matzahs to Christmas and Easter at Grandma’s.

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15. Carin & Mike Mrotz

Mike’s not “letting” her raise the kids Jewish, they’re doing it together.

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16. Elizabeth & Matthew

She still has unresolved feelings about Christmas and feeling left out of things.

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17. Tamara Reese & Family

Since her extended family is not Jewish, things got complicated at the baby naming ceremony.

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18. Michelle Tirella-Ventura & Andre Ventura

The biggest obstacle that this blended family has faced? Other people.

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19. Amy Ravis Furey & Brian Furey

Though he has no intention of converting, this Catholic dad drives Hebrew school carpool and volunteers at temple.

This series was made possible in part by the UJA-Federation of New York.

Apr 17 2014

Breaking News: Chelsea Clinton is Pregnant!

By at 5:08 pm

chelsea

We are thrilled to announce that Chelsea Clinton and her Jewish husband are expecting a child later this year. Kveller has been following the former first daughter’s baby timeline every since she married Marc Mezvinsky in 2010, and declared her desire to create a little (half?) Jewish baby with him this past fall.

Chelsea was co-hosting a Clinton Foundation event about female leadership with mom Hillary when she made the announcement:

“I just want to thank all of you for being such an inspiration to us and to me in particular. Marc and I are very excited that we have our first child arriving later this year.”

“And I certainly feel all the better, whether it’s a girl or a boy, that she or he will grow up in a world with so many strong, young female leaders,” she said.

Mazel Tov, Chelsea and Marc!

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Apr 9 2014

How to Lead a Passover Seder at Your Child’s Episcopalian School

By at 4:04 pm

seder-sample

My third grade daughter is finally getting excited about the idea of me leading a mini-seder for the 3rd and 4th graders at my kids’ Episcopalian school next week. As my daughter has struggled with whether she will agree to “assist” me, I have wrestled with determining the best way to significantly portray the powerful story of Passover to a group of 9 and 10-year-olds of various religious backgrounds in 30 minutes.

When I discussed this with the school chaplain, I was pleasantly reminded that all the children actually already know the Passover story as they recently finished learning the story of Exodus.

Music to my ears. Now I could focus on the excitement of this action-filled story, in which God shows his glory through the burning bush (wow!), the 10 plagues (gross!), the splitting of the sea (awesome!) and against all odds, the liberation of Jewish people (yay!). We will look at the amazing symbolism found on the seder plate (oh, how kids love symbols!), taste some Passover foods (matzah, haroset (nut-free of course) and bitter herbs), hear the four questions and some great musical numbers like “Let My People Go.” In addition to instilling the kids with the “flavor” of Passover, I would like to impress upon them that there are important lessons to be learned from the Passover story that apply to their lives today. 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 →

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