1. Are you raising your kid(s) with one religion, both religions, or somewhere in between?
Our three kids are Jewish. Not half-Jewish, 100 percent Jewish. Not just because they have a Jewish mother, which makes them Jewish under halacha (Jewish law), but because we have a Jewish home. We celebrate the holidays, we celebrate Shabbat, my daughter goes to a Jewish Day School and my sons go to services. We go to their paternal grandparents for Christmas and Easter. We’ve been to a cousin’s communion. But the attitude is, just like you go to someone else’s house and celebrate their birthday when it isn’t your birthday, we are there to help them celebrate their holidays. Oh, and if gifts are being given out, they are taken. My husband is extremely supportive of our having a Jewish home. We agreed on that before we were married.
Periodically, I get flack from people who tell me that I should have married a Jewish man. I ask, “So it would have been better for me to marry, say, a Soviet-born Jew who knows nothing about the customs and would be aggressively dismissive of practicing it? Just as long as he was Jewish?” Sometimes, they say, “Yes.” They are so, so wrong.
2. What did you think would be an issue about being an interfaith family that really hasn’t been?
When I was pregnant, we went to see a rabbi who had a reputation for being good at helping interfaith families through various issues that might come up. One of the things she mentioned was that, in some temples, non-Jewish parents were not allowed up on the bima during a child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah. I was very upset about this, until my husband calmly said, “Then we will not join that temple.” He has been equally as sensible about all issues, ever since.
3. How did you choose your kids’ names?
Our oldest is named Adam. It was a name my husband’s grandmother suggested which we both liked right away. My husband thought it would make us seem lazy. Like we opened the bible, saw the first name and said: good enough. Our second son’s Hebrew name is Barak. The more he learned about Israel, the more my husband wanted to know, “Why don’t they just build a fence to keep terrorists out?” Within days of him asking this, Israel announced that they would be building a fence. As Ehud Barak was Prime Minister at the time, at our house, we called it the “Barak-Wickham fence.” So we named our son after it. Our daughter was born on Martin Luther King Day weekend. Martin comes from Mars, which is the Roman name for the Greek God, Ares. Our daughter’s English name is Ares Camille (the latter after my husband’s late grandmother), and her Hebrew name is a combination of both: Arielle. So it’s after Martin Luther King… and Ariel Sharon.
“Up Close” is a photo and interview series on Kveller aiming to put a face on the interfaith conversation. We’ll be highlighting interfaith families and hearing their stories all month. If you’re interested in participating, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Kveller Up Close.”