Connecting Interfaith Families to Jewish Life in Greater Cleveland by providing programs and opportunities for interfaith families to experience Judaism in a variety of venues, meet other interfaith families, and to connect to other Jewish organizations that may serve their needs.
A great way for Jewish professionals and volunteers who work with and provide programming for people in interfaith relationships to locate resources and trainings to build more welcome into their Jewish communities; connect with and learn from each other; and publicize and enhance their programs and services.
True story: A friend recently came home from visiting her boyfriend’s family and told us about this docu-reality show, Pregnant In Heels, that she’d watched with his mom. We all kind of laughed at the premise (Rosie Pope, a “maternity concierge, fashion designer, and pregnancy guru” coaches women through pregnancy in style). But we were assured that Rosie often makes fun of the women (and their partners) who are far-too-often completely clueless about what having a baby will mean. Next thing we knew, six of us were glued to the TV for the full hour, watching the show (which is now on the DVR recording list).
So I was pleased to hear that interfaith issues were tackled on this week’s episode, “Clueless” (which is still saved for me on my friend’s DVR). I was not impressed to hear that the couple was nearing their due date and had never discussed religion. One person on a message board summarized the couple’s stance succinctly with, “Neither one of us cares about our faith so we had a non-religious wedding ceremony but I’m going to flip [out] if you try to take MY daughter to temple/mass.”
We’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: talk about religion well before your child appears in your lives! Figure out how you’re going to raise them, which role(s) each parent’s religion will play in the lives of your kids and in your home as a whole. And if you’re stuck? Ask us, we’d be happy to pointoutresourcesforyou.
Having recovered from that Shalom Sesame video (or maybe to help you recover?), check out the Passover Martini on the Gloss. (I’m not sure why there’s so much Passover cocktail action this year, but the first post also had cocktails.)
There are great resources for kids on Uncle Eli’s site, but be warned: it hasn’t been updated since the late-90s, so be prepared for frames and music!
For the more social justice inclined, a hodgepodge can’t be complete without mention of two more resources. COEJL (the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life) explains the value of Hunger Seders, “to celebrate the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, introduce the challenges our nation faces in regard to hunger and nutrition, and present opportunities for action and advocacy opportunities to combat hunger.” Then there’s the Uri L’Tzedek Food and Justice Haggadah Supplement, as reviewed on Jewschool. The supplement, featuring 26 articles and insights about food, justice and Pesach, is available via free download.
Ok, so maybe the last Passover Hodgepodge didn’t contain everything-and-the-kitchen-sink Passover, but it had a lot to offer. Still, there was more I could have shared.
On the Reform Judaism blog, Ben Dreyfus approaches a seemingly simple question: how many days is Passover, 7 or 8? “When does Pesach end? Why do some calendars say it ends April 25 and others say April 26? The answer in most Reform Jewish communities is April 25, but the history is complicated….”
It’s been a while since I’ve rounded up some favorite links, but what better excuse than Passover? There’s something for everybody!
Let’s start with Passover and Easter in a Box. For your convenience, you can now get Passover standards (matzah, a seder plate and grape juice) packaged with Easter treats (candy, chocolate bunnies and Easter cookies).
Sweets aren’t your thing? Is that skewed a little young for your tastes? There’s always the Sipping Seder, a seder in cocktail form! If this isn’t a great way to introduce Passover to your friends and family (of legal age), I don’t know what is.
Looking for the 2011 version of the Passover story? Check out this video:
I asked the Robertses what their goals were in terms of what they hoped interfaith couples would do with Our Haggadah. Cokie Roberts, a serious Catholic, said her goal was to make it as easy as possible to participate in and host a seder. She said Passover is a joyous festival, but people are intimidated about preparing for it, setting the table, and conducting the service. As I’ve said before, I applaud Cokie Roberts for being so supportive of interfaith couples engaging in Jewish practices like the Passover seder.
I asked whether they thought that interfaith couples would still be having seders twenty or thirty years from now, and both were quite certain that they would. Steve pointed out that seders have been conducted for thousands of years, and Cokie said the seder is joyous, addresses universal themes, is home based (avoiding the barriers that synagogues sometimes present), and personally customizable.
But my question posed the issue that I really wanted to explore – the interplay between Jewish identity and Jewish practices. Because if interfaith couples don’t identity their families, or their children, as Jewish, then in another generation, will the children of those families, themselves married, perhaps intermarried – will they still be interested in conducting or participating in the Passover seder?
Cokie’s answer was that what children will do in terms of Jewish practices is always a question – and aptly added that it is a question about children of two Jewish parents, too. They told me that their family has more Jewish content than the families of Jewish relatives of Steve who are in-married. Cokie said that given the reality of intermarriage, a good solution is to celebrate Jewish traditions as “a major part of the family.”
But that raised the identity/practice question again. Steve said his goal in writing the book was to provide guidance, models and encouragement to the many young interfaith couples that he encounters among his students. The model the Robertses themselves offer is to embrace both religious traditions. They said that choosing one religion, “ceding” to the other, wouldn’t work for them, because each was so deeply tied to their tradition.
So my identity/practice question is still pending. The Robertses said they don’t talk about their own children’s identity or practice, I assume out of respect for their privacy. It sounds like the Roberts’ seders are so wonderful that their children would want to continue to have them for their families. But I’m left to wonder what will happen down the road if the children of interfaith families aren’t raised as and don’t identify as Jews.
I respect the Roberts’ approach and their integrity. They are very serious about religion. Steve said he felt that couples getting married who decide to “just get a judge” because they have difficulty finding clergy “in most cases do a disservice to themselves.” He asks those couples to consider that they come from traditions and can find a way to reflect them – and not pretend they are neutral characters. He clearly feels that religious traditions can enrich young couples’ lives.
The Robertses are not directive when interfaith couples ask their advice, either. There say there is no necessarily right way for anyone and they don’t push their model on anyone. They readily acknowledge that choosing one religion for a family and children is one way that interfaith couples can go. That is what InterfaithFamily.com has always recommended, although we hasten to add that children should learn about the other religious tradition represented in their family, and participate in it to the extent parents want them to.
We talked about other subjects and we clearly had common ground in many areas, especially the need for the Jewish community to be more welcoming to interfaith couples. Both Cokie and Steve are incredibly smart and articulate – they are great spokespersons for their approach to interfaith family life. Which leaves me, in the end, still wishing that Cokie and Steve Roberts were in IFF’s camp.
We spend a lot of time talking, writing, thinking about the whole “who is a Jew” debate around here.
It’s important, in the context of an organization that welcomes and advocates for interfaith families in the Jewish community, to encourage inclusivity in the definition.
Because when a Jewish person chooses to marry someone who is not Jewish, it does not mean they are less of a Jew. Let me repeat that: who we marry does not add or detract from our Jewishness. Converting to Catholicism detracts from one’s Jewishness. Marrying a Catholic does not.
So when I read in publications that I like (did you see The Unlikely Emissary or The Other Rosenbergs? They were really good!), a comment that is hateful, exclusionary and promulgating of the view that doing something can make one less of (or not at all) a Jew, it annoys me.
In the most recent issue of Moment Magazine, they published a comment about a previous article. The article, “The Best Jewish TV Shows of All Time,” January/February 2011, included The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Should The Daily Show with Jon Stewart have made the list? He is married to a non-Jew, doesn’t belong to a synagogue and doesn’t affiliate with the Jewish community or any Jewish organization. And, as I’m given to understand, his children are not being raised as Jews.
Last time I checked, belonging to a synagogue wasn’t criteria for being a Jew. (If it were, we’d hardly have any Jews in our midst under the age of 40.) And how does the writer know with whom Stewart affiliates?
Allow me to fully own my bias: I’ve been a regular viewer since the early double naughts; there are few episodes I’ve missed. And one of the things I enjoy are Stewart’s Yiddishisms, Jewish jokes and occasional confessions that he doesn’t know much about his religion. (Though his writers clearly do.) His made up Hebrew is fantastic and uber-gutteral. Regardless of the choices he and his wife have made, he is still as much a Jew as any other Jew. And his show certainly deserves to be on a list of great Jewish shows.
But that’s not really the point (or, at least, the main point). My main point is this: The Jewish community owes it to all of us to be welcoming and inclusive, not to belittle or shame another for how they’ve chosen to practice their religion, and certainly not to claim that folks lose their Jew card if they’re “bad.”
I’d like to see the community working together to squash these views, educating one another on just “who is a Jew,” rather than publishing them.