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Love Conquers a Lot--but Not All--in Interfaith Families

This article is reprinted with permission of the New Jersey Jewish News. Visit www.NJJewishNews.com.

Review of Interfaith Families: Personal Stories of Jewish-Christian Intermarriage by Jane Kaplan, Praeger Publishers, 256 pages, $39.95.

Intermarriage is a reality of the Jewish world today, and Jane Kaplan's Interfaith Families: Personal Stories of Jewish-Christian Intermarriage provides for the first time a window onto the thoughts and experiences of many couples in such unions. The conflicts, negotiations, and resolutions that affect the religious identity of their families are presented in a candid and thorough manner.

The members of the couples interviewed by the author have made the tough decisions in their efforts to find an orientation to fit their respective beliefs. She examines their struggles to find a meeting ground that sits well with each other and with their extended families. Their stories and journeys are not new to the professionals who work with such couples and families, but it is rare for so many such stories to be captured with such candor on the written page. The author's portraits are the result of extensive interviews; they are thorough, non-judgmental, and offer no advice.

Kaplan did notice some recurring patterns in the interviewees' stories: There were more marriages between Jews and Catholics than between Jews and Protestants; many Christians who intermarried did convert to Judaism while few Jews converted to Christianity; far more of the couples chose a Jewish orientation for their families; there were very few cases in which a Jewish woman allowed her children to be raised Christian; and when Judaism was chosen as the family's religion, it was the Christian woman who was often the catalyst for the family's leading an active Jewish life.

(The patterns, in fact, mirror much of what I have observed during the past 13 years I have spent as a professional in the field of intermarriage.)

Interfaith Families is essential reading for those who plan to intermarry and those already intermarried, is instructive for the parents and families of such couples, and valuable for clergy and synagogue and community leaders who are grappling with the issue of intermarried families in their midst. Kaplan's examination of where these couples come from, the choices they make, and how they often revisit their decisions in order to keep their resolve demonstrates that despite its prevalence, dealing with intermarriage still is not easy! Love may conquer a lot--but not all!

Derived from the Greek word for "assembly," a Jewish house of prayer. Synagogue refers to both the room where prayer services are held and the building where it occurs. In Yiddish, "shul." Reform synagogues are often called "temple."
Lynne Wolfe

Lynne Wolfe created and directed PATHWAYS, Outreach to Intermarried Families, United Jewish Communities of MetroWest, New Jersey. On June 10, 2004, Lynne was inducted as a charter member into the Jewish Outreach Institute's "Outreach Hall of Fame" in recognition for her innovative work, dedication, and achievement in creating a more inclusive community to previously disenfranchised intermarried families.

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