Interfaith / raising children

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This topic has 6 voices, contains 17 replies, and was last updated by  Carole 1641 days ago.

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October 20, 2009 at 7:11 pm #3921

SHF

Amanda,

I’m a Lutheran married to a Jewish man, and I can relate to a lot of what you are saying.  We have agreed to each continue to practice our own religions and to support each other, but that is not always easy to live out (on both sides), and I sometimes feel that my husband does not respect my beliefs or traditions.  

I wish for every interfaith couple that they can appreciate and be supportive of each other’s religion.  It seems pretty common to hear or read that Jews are naturally uncomfortable with Christianity, but in my personal exprience, Judiasm is not as universal and easily beloved as Jews seem to believe.  I try to find good parts and leave the rest behind, because I love my husband and want to support him.  It’s frustrating to work hard to learn about his beliefs and traditions, attend services, and celebrate Jewish holidays in our home, and then to not have that effort reciprocated.

We came to an agreement before we got engaged about how we would handle religion in different areas of our lives, including kids.  It took a lot of conversation, a lot of arguments and a lot of tears.  And mostly, a lot of time.  And, like I said above, even after reaching the agreement, we’re not always good about living up to it.  I continue to ask him for what I need him to do to support me in my religion, and overall, he has become more supportive and less hostile.  I guess I’m saying that if you love your husband, be patient and persistent about you two putting in whatever work is required to make this work, including the counseling others suggested.

I agreed to raise any future kids Jewish, but with the understanding that they’ll share in my celebration of holidays, and learn about my religion from me, by attending services, and by going to some bible school type program in the summer.  I have a lot of doubts about whether this was the right agreement.  I guess better to say, I have doubts and sadness about how I’m going to be able to live up to this agreement.  When I think about not getting to baptize my children, for example, it makes me very sad and lonely.  These doubts are one of the main reasons why I’m unsure that we should have kids.  

So, yeah, I think you can do it, but I don’t think it’s easy, and I don’t think it magically one day becomes easy.  It gets easier with time, as you both get more practice with the relationship, but you and your husband have to be willing to continue to talk about your feelings and tweak the agreements you’ve made as long as your together.  

One thing I appreciate about this website is that you do find a lot of stories about other couples navigating interfaith relationships and families successfully.  I’ve also found it really helpful to talk through my own thoughts and feelings with a therapist.  Sorry this has gotten very long, but I wish you lots of luck.  

One last thought…  the Christmas / Hannukah season is tough for us.  It brings out all the disagreements and tense feelings, and they seem to simmer until at least the end of January.  So, you’re probably heading into a tough time of year to be trying to work through interfaith issues, and it might be good to set the big issues aside for a little bit while emotions are high.

October 20, 2009 at 8:39 pm #3922

Sara

I honestly can’t imagine what it would be like to try to “do” two religions in one household. I grew up in an interfaith family, and so am “half” Jewish experientially (although technically fully Jewish) – and my husband is a former Christian/current atheist. We are raising our children as completely secular.

There is a place called something like…the Dovetail Institute? Where intermarried couples go to combine Judaism with Christianity – where they attend services observing aspects of both faiths. I don’t know much about it, but my impression is that they try to take the spiritual teachings from each faith tradition while also exploring the rituals, holidays, etc. It seems easier to consider blending Judaism with Buddhism, or Hinduism, or another faith without a history of direct conflict.

I guess my question is: IF you are trying to do “both” – how do you keep the two faiths separate? How do you explain them to your children? What do you focus on? What are the central messages you wish to convey or share? How do you keep the important part without diluting it so much that it is replaced by secular humanism? Where does God figure into this? Please do not think I am implying any form of judgment by asking this – I have no idea, myself, which is why I’m asking. What do you think?

January 25, 2010 at 9:30 pm #4272

Carole

A few years ago I attended a panel discussion program at my synagogue that was sponsored by our Sisterhood entitled “The December Dilema”.  On the panel was our senior Rabbi, a woman who had authored a book about explaining Christmas to Jewish Children (she’s Jewish) and an interfaith couple who are members of our congregation (she’s Catholic, he’s Jewish).  I was most impressed by this young couple.  They talked about having made the decision to raise their children Jewish before they were married, though she would not convert and would continue to practice her religion, there would be only one religion observed in the home.  When asked why they chose Judaism, the wife replied that she thought her husband would not be able to raise his children Catholic and they wanted to have only one religion in the home.  Their daughters went to our preschool, mom participates in all Shabbat programs and even has Shabbat dinner at home where she recites the candle blessings and other blessings with her children.  The children are exposed to the mother’s religion by celebrating holidays with their extended relatives on her side, in their homes.  I recently had a chance to meet one of the daughters, now in 4th grade, when she interviewed me in her religious school class as a part of a class project.  She’s a delightgul, exhuberant, totally self confident child who knows exactly who she is.  He parents have done a wonderul job thus far!  I applaud their very brave decision and their maturity.

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