Reform Judaism Magazine’s winter 2007 issue looks at the so-called “outreach revolution” through the eyes of children of interfaith households and their parents. The term “outreach revolution” is never precisely defined but I assume it is referring to the gradual change in the atmosphere, programming, outreach and membership of Reform synagogues that has changed the movement to the point that a near-majority of its members are from interfaith families. Given that the change did not happen abruptly, and significant outreach programming didn’t start until the early ’80s, it hardly qualifies as a “revolution”–more of an “evolution” really–but what’s an extra r between friends?
The issue has a nice symmetrical feel to it. It includes perspectives from three children of interfaith marriages as well as essays from the non-Jewish parent of each child. Lucas McMahon, a 17-year-old from Marblehead, Mass., talks about what it’s like to have red hair, green eyes and be Jewish and how his mother initially didn’t invite his Catholic grandmother to his bar mitzvah–only to be rebuked by grandma, who said, “Of course I am going to come… I would not miss this for the world.” Meanwhile, Lucas’ father Tim recounts his and his wife’s decision to raise their children Jewish:
In the end our decision to raise our children as Jews came out of a simple realization: I would be more comfortable having my children be Jewish than Mindy would be having hers be Catholic. If we tried to debate which religion was “better” we would have failed.
Tim also offers some salient advice for those who are wavering over their choice to raise their children Jewishly.
Rachel Flynn, a 25-year-old living in Washington, D.C., writes about her family’s engagement with Jewish ritual, her adoption by her ex-Jesuit stepfather and her mother’s “private and mysterious” relationship to Judaism. Her stepfather, John Tibbetts, writes about his journey from entering a Catholic religious order to embracing Judaism passionately.
Joelle Asaro Berman, a 23-year-old former editor for JVibe, the magazine for Jewish teens, writes about her bewilderment at being told as an adult that she wasn’t Jewish because her dad’s not Jewish, as well as her family’s melding of its Italian and Jewish sides. Her mother Beverly writes about falling in love with Joelle’s father and how involved she has been in her children’s Jewish upbringing–despite never considering conversion.
Not part of the “Focus on Outreach,” but sticking with the theme, there is also an essay in the issue by William Squier, who writes about the tug-of-war over the family’s Christmas tree with his wife.
For synagogues on interfaith discussion groups, there is also a useful discussion guide and bibliography.
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