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Cokie Roberts, who I love as an ABC News commentator, and her husband Steve Roberts, have published a new “interfaith Haggadah”–Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families.
I have to confess to very mixed feelings about this. I don’t like feeling envy, but I do.
I’m envious because as celebrities, Cokie and Steve Roberts command a lot of attention. Their book is getting pretty extraordinary publicity for a Haggadah – have you ever seen another new Haggadah featured on MSNBC or ABC News? Or the subject of a book tour, with stops in Washington DC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and I’m sure pretty much all over?
Now Steve Roberts is Jewish, Cokie Roberts is Catholic, and they’ve been married for 45 years. Their approach to interfaith family life, as best I understand it, is to observe both of their religions in their home, to expose children (their children are now grown) to both religions, and not to raise children to identify with one religion or the other.
We don’t pass judgment here at InterfaithFamily.com. We don’t say the Roberts’ approach is wrong, or bad. But it’s not the approach that we recommend to interfaith couples, and I’m envious of the publicity their approach is now getting.
In our camp, we think engaging in Jewish life is a wonderful source of meaning and value that is available not just to Jews but to their partners too, and we do what we can to invite interfaith couples to try it in hopes they will like it. We don’t say the religious traditions of the partner who is not Jewish should be hidden or forgotten. But in the surveys we’ve done for the last seven years, interfaith couples raising their children as Jews do participate in Christmas and Easter celebrations, but not in the religious aspects of the holidays. That’s the approach we recommend.
It’s wonderful that Cokie Roberts participates very fully in her family’s seder and appears to have been the driving force in starting the tradition in the first place. But according to ABC News, the Roberts’ Passover traditions “have evolved into a unique multi-cultural celebration that is exclusive to no faiths.” I think that’s sad. The Passover seder is exclusive to one faith — to Judaism.
What our camp needs is an interfaith couple with celebrity on the level of Cokie and Steve Roberts, to write a book about how an interfaith couple experiences Passover as a fundamentally Jewish, not multi-faith, holiday, as the story of the redemption of the Jewish people that is meaningful to both Jews and their partners. And then go on TV and a national book tour. Any takers?
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