New flicks with celebs in interfaith relationships and from interfaith backgrounds, plus their baby news!Go To Pop Culture
The extreme weather conditions and the long dark nights of the winter months can be harsh for many of us. But from Thanksgiving until around Valentineâs Day, itâs also a popular time when couples get engaged. It can also be a time when couples who are getting married in the spring and summertime are knee-deep in wedding planning. Whether youâre dating, engaged, already married, considering or expecting children, winter can be a good time to hunker down, get cozy and talk about your vision for your partnership.
There have been many articles in recent years about questions for interfaith couples to discuss before getting married, like this one. Sometimes, interfaith or intercultural couples have more considerations. For example, if both partners come from very different cultural or religious families there is a lot to learn. If one is religious and the other isnât, if one has a large family and the other doesnât, or if one has a very tight knit family and the other doesnâtâany of these things can be an adjustment for both partners. There will need to be negotiation around which side of the family you celebrate which holidays with and about making sure everyone feels included, especially if both are religious, have strong cultural ties or close families. But let me be clear, these discussions are good for all couples. For every couple, there are family dynamics and personalities to navigate.
I often suggest to couples I work with that they create a vision for themselvesâa vision for your life together, for the home you want to create, for the family you build together. If youâve never considered creating a vision before, here are some questions to consider. Each partner should write down their own responses before sharing with the other partner.
Questions to Define Your Interfaith Family Vision:
Once each partner has had a chance to think about these questions for themselves, they should discuss with their partner. If you dread these kinds of big conversations or decision making, make this fun by doing it over your favorite meal or as a special date. Bring openness and curiosity to the process. You may surprise yourself or your partner. Be realistic about what your life looks like now but how it may look different in the future. If youâve dropped a lot of your religious practices during your dating years but want your child to have a bar or bat mitzvah down the road, think about what that really meansâlikely getting back into your observance or joining a congregation and providing an education for your kids. If youâre partner has agreed to raise children in a faith different from their own, talk about what entails.
If you find this brings up more issues or your think you might need some help, consider taking the Love and Religion Workshop through InterfaithFamily, doing an Imago Therapy couples workshop or retreat or finding a couples counselor or coach. Any of these resources will give you more tools for your relationship and help in creating your interfaith family vision.
I was almost too old for Harry Potter when JK Rowling introduced her masterpiece to the world in 1997. I may have been almost too old but that didnât stop me from spending the next 10 years voraciously reading, re-reading and waiting impatiently for the next book to arrive. When the final book was finally published, I was visiting my parentsâ house for the weekend. Obviously, I had pre-ordered the book months in advance and I hadnât realized that I wouldnât be home that weekend. Panicked, I went online and changed the delivery location to my parentsâ house, crisis averted. Perhaps I shouldnât admit this, but I met the UPS driver in my parents driveway with unabashed glee and proceeded to ignore my family for the next 24 hours as I made my way through the final book. It was totally worth it.
These days, my love of Harry Potter lives in my heart as quiet embers, easily fanned into a greater flame when JK Rowling tweets something incredible (which is often) or more recently, when something new is announced. Yes, I have already pre-ordered a copy of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, a West End play beginning this summer, telling the story of an adult Harry and company.
Perhaps it is unnecessary at this point to extoll the virtues of the Harry Potter series; the magic of Harry Potter is different for everyone. In the nine years since the final book was published and the 19 years since the first book, entire other books have been written about every possible angle and theme of the series, not to mention countless articles, blog posts and of course memes. If youâre a Harry Potter lover, youâve had ample time to analyze the reasons why, and if you could care less about Harry Potter, thank you for getting this far into this blog post.
JK Rowlingâs genius is making the world of Harry Potter seem almost possible. While I begrudgingly accepted my fate as that of a muggle, I still hope that even if I could not be a witch, somewhere someone is. This epic story speaks to those marginalized by society, those whose dreams seem too big, those who want to change their circumstances, those drawn to making the world a better place, to fighting against injustice.
As my life has changed and evolved since I first picked up Book 1 in 1997, so has my reading of the story. I hear the commentary on human nature more loudly. Not everything is always as it seems and rarely is what we see, what we actually get. We meet a wide swath of characters in Harryâs world, not simply heroes and villains, but complex individuals who make difficult decisions in the face of fear, of change, of darkness. Sometimes, those who come from the most âperfect, pureâ families choose evil and destruction while those from the most humble, diverse rootsâthe âmudbloodsââare the ones who remind us what is truly important and even save our humanity. And sometimes the heroes make the wrong decisions, while the villains find the light.
I have always cringed at the term, âmudblood.â In college, I identified with it acutely when I was told I wasnât Jewish because my mother wasnât. How could I not belong in the only community I ever truly felt part of? Why didnât it matter how I behaved, the choices I made, the way I lived my life? Why did none of that âcountâ because my motherâs blood ran through my veins? It threw me into an identity crisis that took years to reconcile.
These days, my life and my work at InterfaithFamily reminds me again of the powerful message of Harry Potter, as we strive to teach our beloved community to not only tolerate the diversity among us, but rather embrace it, learn from it and allow it to change us for the better. After all, where would we be without the most famous âmudblood,â Hermione? The more stories I hear, people I meet, families I am honored to learn from, the more I realize that we are all mutts, all a combination of geography, culture, history, and blood. We are all mudbloods. That doesnât mean we are all the same or should be, but it does mean that the humanity we share can be more powerful than all the Voldemorts out there.
I would feel remiss if I didnât end with the powerful and yes, magical, words of Professor Albus Dumbledore: âDifferences of heart and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”
âI feel I’m Jewish not just because I’ve chosen Judaism but because Judaism has chosen me.â
You might recognize David Gregory from his time as NBC newsman or as Meet the Press moderator. But he visited Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the Boston Federation–a supporter of InterfaithFamily/Boston and leader in interfaith issues–this morning in the role of author, husband and father. He was joined by Dr. Erica Brown, an extraordinary Jewish author and teacher. Gregory and Brown were interviewed by CJP President Barry Shrage about interfaith relationships and Jewish life.
Brown made a good point early on in the conversation: So often, itâs not Jewish ritual or prayer or the organized Jewish community that puts off people who are not Jewish. To a newcomer, itâs the inside jokes, that âtribalismâ about Jewish cultureâthe very thing that makes many Jews feel prideâthat can be so isolating.
Many of us have seen this play out, whether you are the Jewish one, joking about a Jewish stereotype or using insider lingo, or youâre the one hearing it and not quite feeling part of the conversation.
Gregory is in a unique position to speak on the pulse of interfaith relationships having felt like bothÂ insider and outsider. He is the product of an interfaith family (he was raised by a Catholic mother and Jewish father) and it was his wifeâs strong Protestant faith that inspired him to explore his own faith and religion. After a great deal of religious and spiritual exploration, he said, âI feel more Jewish than I ever have in my life.â
Itâs time for Jews to change their thinking, Gregory said. As his wife Beth put it: âI know what you are but what do you believe?â
Unfortunately, he points out, the idea of appreciating Judaism for its vibrancy, community and spirituality is an âelective.â The more powerful conversation on the table is still the endurance of Judaism and Jewish peoplehood, so it can be difficult to steer the conversation toward the richness of what Judaism has to offer; the âwhat you believeâ rather than the âwhat you are.â
Gregory is by no means saying that it is futile to embrace and share the notion that Judaism has a great deal to offer those who are not already engaged, however. He challenged those in the room from Jewish organizations to think about creating inroads to the Jewish community that have authenticity for interfaith couples. Brown also pointed out that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work, as every person and couple is unique.
What was most compelling about the conversation was hearing Gregory talk from experience. He does not claim to have the answers for anyone else, but he has been on quite a journey with his personal relationship with Judaism. Its importance has the power to bring him to tears and to propel him forward on this intellectual and heartfelt journey with his family.
I had a very interesting day yesterday.
It started with a phone interview with a graduate student in journalism writing a story about Jewish-Muslim relationships. She had a Jewish parent and a Muslim parent herself, and was involved with a group of young Jewish-Muslim couples. She told me that some of them had decided to raise their children with Judaism and some hadnât decided. I told her that at InterfaithFamily we are always interested in what influences some interfaith couples to get involved in Jewish life or not.
She said she thought that Jews were âexclusivistâ and told me that one couple in the group approached a rabbi, I think she said about conversion, and the rabbi made a comment about Arabs and breeding that was so derogatory I donât want to repeat it here. She couldnât see it, but my jaw dropped, it was such an insulting and ignorant comment.
But sadly I shouldnât have been surprised. I immediately thought of a good friend in the San Francisco Bay Area, not Jewish herself but active in her Reform synagogue, who reported last year that a woman at the synagogue said in her presence âwe Jews are dumbing ourselves down by intermarrying.â My friend â herself at the highest level of anyoneâs intelligence scale — was so shocked at how insulting the comment was that she couldnât immediately respond. And then I thought of a survey that a major city federation asked me to analyze a year or two ago in which one couple said that at a Reform synagogue someone who learned they were interfaith said âmaybe people like you would be more comfortableâ at some other synagogue. Itâs hard to believe that these comments are true â yet they keep on happening.
After the phone call I went to a terrific event at the Brown-RISD Hillel co-sponsored by the Genesis Prize, Hillel International and the Jewish Agency for Israel that featured Michael Douglas and Natan Sharansky talking about their Jewish journeys. I sat next to a man who asked me what I did and then told me his story. He grew up Orthodox, had a child with his first wife, got divorced, and then married a woman who is not Jewish. His wife doesnât intend to convert but she keeps a strictly kosher home and his grandchildren call her âbubbe.â But after he re-married his synagogue told him he couldnât have an aliyah (recite blessings before and after the Torah is read) any longer, so he left the synagogue.
This morning the Good Morning America team was talking about new variations of the Barbie doll and one of the correspondents said that her young children âdonât see colorâ meaning they donât distinguish other children based on race. Iâm not sure how widespread it is that people see people of other races as ânormal.â I do think that young children see different constellations of parents as ânormal;â I recently asked my 5-year-old grandson if one of âJoeâsâ two mothers wasnât a police officer, and I am quite sure he doesnât think twice about his classmates who have two mothers or two fathers.
All of this made me wonder if Jews will ever see ânon-Jewsâ and Jews marrying ânon-Jewsâ as ânormal.â At InterfaithFamily we try very hard not to use the term ânon-Jewâ which is why I put it in quotes; itâs off-putting and people donât identify as ânon-â anything. We prefer to say âpartners from different faith traditions.â But we keep on hearing people say ânon-Jewâ and itâs very use appears to support viewing the other as not ânormalâ â an Arab who breeds âŚ or ânon-Jewsâ who arenât smart â as well as penalizing Jews who marry them.
The last thing that happened yesterday was hearing Michael Douglas tell his story again. As he said last night, and in a great story in the Jewish Week last week, Michael Douglas was told his whole life that he wasnât Jewish because his mother wasnât Jewish. When the people from the Genesis Prize came to him and said they wanted to award him the Genesis Prize as an outstanding Jew, he said âthis is a mistake, Iâm not Jewish.â But his son has gotten the family interested, and became bar mitzvah, and they traveled to Israel, and the Genesis Prize people very wisely recognized the importance of making a statement that the Jewish community needs to recognize and welcome people who are the children of intermarriage or are intermarried themselves but engaging in Jewish life.
Dare I say that the Genesis Prize being awarded to Michael Douglas is a statement that Jews need to not only recognize and welcome, but normalize intermarriage, the children of intermarriage, Jews who intermarry and most important, the partners from different faith traditions married to Jews? It was a ray of hope to end a very interesting day.
I know this will embarrass you (and definitely make you cry) because thatâs who you are, but in the spirit of this month of Thanksgiving, I wanted to say thank you.
Thank you forâŚ
âŚsaying yes when I was 7 and came home from a visit to Hebrew School and declared that I wanted to go back and learn Hebrew. I often imagine what the conversation was like between you and Dad that evening, but you had the courage to let me follow my heart and we joined a synagogue so that I could. Thereâs no way you or anyone could have known the impact that decision would have on all of our lives. Since you were never really moved by your familyâs Catholicism or any sense of religion, I bet it was scary and uncomfortable at first, but you put me first and have always encouraged me to follow my passions.
âŚparticipating in my Jewish life, learning the prayers and the music the best you could, showing up for everything, being so proud of me at my bat mitzvah and then confirmation and encouraging me to make every Jewish choice I wanted. Not only did I want to learn Hebrew, but I also wanted to belong to a community and I wanted you and Dad and my sister, Evyn, to belong too. We were lucky to find a community that embraced us all, found committees for you to add your voice to, made sure you felt comfortable and allowed us to find meaning and make life long friends.
âŚinfluencing the person and the rabbi I am today. The odd rude person has asked me through the years if I ever was frustrated that you hadnât converted or even that you werenât Jewish. Once I got over my offense at the question, I always answered that so much of who I am is due to the person you are and I wouldnât change that even if I could. When I became a rabbi, I made sure that your name was on my ordination certificate, transliterated into Hebrew because both you and Dad created me and saw me through those many years of study, struggle and triumph in order for me to reach that particular life long dream. You are the calm voice in my head, reminding me of what I can achieve, telling me sometimes to relax, urging me to stand up for myself, reminding me how proud I make you.
âŚenduring any ignorance that might have come your way: the people who didnât understand how you could have a daughter who is a rabbi or those who simply didnât include you, or even ignored you. You never let it bother you because you knew who you were and you showed me by your example how to be strong in a world where not everyone is accepting or kind.
Thank you for all the ways you choose love, by loving me, accepting me and always being my champion and my most fervent supporter (along with Dad, of course). I wouldnât be who I am; wouldnât be doing the work I love; couldnât live the happy life I doâwithout your example of a strong woman, your humor, your quiet confidence, your effortless style and your soft heart. There will never be enough words to express how grateful I am for all that you are.
So thanks Mom, for being you.
P.S. Â Writing this made me cryâthanks for that too!
Theodore Sasson and his colleagues at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis released this week an important new study, Millennial Children of Intermarriage, funded by the Alan B. Slifka Foundation.
The study reports that millennial children of intermarriage â born between 1981 and 1995 â are less likely than children of inmarriage to have had a range of Jewish experiences in childhood; as a result, they are less likely to engage in Jewish experiences (Birthright, Hillel, etc.) in college; and currently they are less likely to exhibit Jewish behaviors and attitudes as young adults.
The study reports that for the most part, the fact that their parents are intermarried does not have direct impact on their current behaviors and attitudes â but Jewish experiences in childhood do: If their parents expose them to Jewish experiences in childhood, then they are much more comparable to the children of intermarriage. This confirms previous research by Len Saxe that Jewish education, not parental intermarriage, is the key determinant of later Jewish engagement. Itâs something weâve also been saying for years in response to the studies that have found low Jewish engagement among interfaith families; if Jewishly-engaged interfaith families werenât lumped in with all interfaith families, but evaluated separately, they would look much more like inmarried families, which makes the important policy question how to get interfaith families Jewishly engaged.
The main focus of the study is to show the positive impact of participation in Jewish activities in collegeÂ on children of intermarriage.Â Indeed, college Jewish experiences âfor the most part were more influential for children of intermarriage, nearly closing the gap on many measures of Jewish engagement.â We wholeheartedly support efforts to increase participation in Birthright, Hillel and other Jewish groups and experiences for children of intermarriage in college. This appears to be the trend. Since 1999, 300,000 North American young adults have gone on Birthright trips, of whom 75,000 are children of intermarriage; the percentage has increased from 20% in the early years to over 30% recently. Children of intermarriage are still underrepresented — half of all Millennial Jews are children of intermarriage, partly as a result of the high rate at which millennial children of intermarriage identify as Jewish. Weâd like to see many more of them participate.
Some of the interesting statistical comparisons from the study are:
The study includes important observations about the Christian experiences of children of intermarriage. The main point made is that Christian experiences in childhood were not indicators of participation in Jewish college activities. With respect to celebrating Christmas or Easter, âHome observance of holidays from multiple faith traditions did not seem to confuse these children of intermarriageâ â another point we have been making for over the years with our annual December Holidays and Passover/Easter surveys. They recall holiday celebrations as âdesacralizedâ â family events without religious content, special as occasions for the gathering of extended family. âSome indicated that celebration of major Christian holidays felt much more like an American tradition than tied to religion.â
Another important observation concerns how children of intermarriage react when their Jewish identify and authenticity is questioned. The study reports that children of intermarriage who identify as Jewish reject the idea that their Jewish identity is diluted or inferior and view their multicultural background as enriching, enabling an appreciation of diverse cultures and practices. âIn interviews, children of intermarriage described being offended by reference to matrilineal heritage as necessary for Jewish identity. In many cases it was peers with two Jewish parents who challenged them. Even some with a Jewish mother reacted to this as an exclusionary boundary that has little to do with their experience of Jewish identity and living.â Interestingly, 40% of children of inmarriage described themselves as multicultural, compared to 52% of children of intermarriage.
Still another important observation is that for children of intermarriage, being very close to Jewish grandparents had a positive impact on many Jewish attitudes and behaviors in young adulthood. However, children of intermarriage by definition can have only one set of Jewish grandparents and as a result were less likely to have had a close relationship to Jewish grandparents; this was especially the case where their father was Jewish.
Finally, the study reports that Jewish experiences in childhood matter a great deal, and college experiences, especially Birthright, have a large impact on thinking it is important to raise children as Jews. In interviews, few children of intermarriage seemed to view being Jewish as a critical characteristic for their future spouse; the see themselves as proof that inmarriage is not a necessary ingredient for having a Jewish home or raising children as Jews. Many expressed a commitment to raising future children Jewish, or in some instance with exposure to Jewish traditions, regardless of whether they married someone who is Jewish. They often discussed the importance of giving children multicultural experiences and to sharing in cultural/religious tradition of their spouse.
The study includes a set of policy implications that for the most part emphasize the importance of increasing the exposure of children of intermarriage to Jewish college experiences. They also note that Jewish grandparents should be viewed as a critical resource, and programs should be designed to leverage their influence; that attention should be paid to providing alternative forms of preparation for bar or bat mitzvah; and that initiatives should reflect the sensibilities of contemporary children of intermarriage who view their mixed heritage as an asset and react negatively to ethnocentrism. âJewish organizations can continue to adopt different approaches on patrilineality, but all Jewish organizations can encourage awareness of the strong feelings of Jewish identity and authenticity felt by many individuals who claim Jewish status by paternity alone.â We agree completely with all of these suggestions.
We believe that one key policy implication of the study fully supports InterfaithFamilyâs work in particular with our InterfaithFamily/Your Community model providing services and programs in local communities. The study stresses that âreaching more intermarried families with formal and informal educational opportunities for their children should be a priority. Such experiences launch children on a pathway to Jewish involvement in college and beyond.â Our services and programs are designed to foster a process starting with helping couples find Jewish clergy officiants for their life cycle events, offering workshops for new couples and new parents on how to make decisions about religious traditions and then offering educational programs for parents on raising young children with Judaism in interfaith families, among other things. While this is happening, the Directors of the InterfaithFamily/Your Community projects, who are rabbis, are building relationships with couples and recommending that they get involved with synagogues and other Jewish groups. If this process works â and our efforts at program evaluation are starting to show that it does â by the time the children of interfaith families are ready for formal and informal education, their parents will be much more likely to choose Jewish education for them.
For reasons not clear to us, the study questions whether it is possible to dramatically alter the status quo regarding the childhood religious socialization of children of intermarriage. At InterfaithFamily, we are committed to working toward that end.
By Jacob Weis
Being raised interfaith (as I was, truly, with both Jewish and Catholic traditions and holidays) and observing two religionsÂ will inevitably lead to some confrontation with others. For me, the first time this happened was in elementary school, at the lunch table.
For some reason, the kids that I have seen talk about religion other than around holidays or in passing have been Jews. For better or worse, I have noticed that there can be an air of exclusivity amongst some Jewish peopleâeven in young children. Surely this exclusivity can be part of the reason that the Jewish people remain alive and well as a culture and religion, but it can also be to our detriment.
As I sat across from a kid who seemed to be the elementary school dictionary of all things Jewish, it appeared the attention at the table was all his. I donât remember how it all came up and I donât know how it came back around to me but all of the sudden he called me in for questioning: âIs your mom or your dad Jewish?â he asked with his head cocked to the side, and a bit of a bobble to it. I answered him, and finished with, âBut I am half-Jewish.â He looked smug. âThat means that youâre Jewish. You canât be both.â He said this with a professorial smirk.
I know he sounds a little devilish for an elementary school kid, but he was just proud of where he came from and of the knowledge he had acquired. If it helps to imagine him spewing crumbs of a peanut butter sandwich out of his mouth as he talks, then I recommend that you do that. I always do, and it helps diffuse the bits of white hot childhood rage that I still have left from the incident.
No matter how hard I tried to convince him of my dual faith identity he just came back with smart remarks.Â The whole table was on his side, and now they were laying into me too.Â Even the Rice Krispy treat that my mom packed me that day wasnât going to cheer me up after that.
When I came home from school that day it turned out my parents had the same reaction I did. âHow dare that child tell my child who he is or isnât.â They essentially told me to not engage with him anymore. So I did exactly that, and he and I never really had any problems after that. The four other lunch tables were more than welcoming. To this day, he is still the same little know-it-all that I remember, and we are able to respectfully disagree without any mention of the old incident.Â In fact, I should thank him.Â This first confrontation prepared me for the many more to come in my life.
A message to parents who plan on raising their kids in more than one religion: Your child will not come out of this situation unscathed. But the emotional scars that come from it will heal and lead to a strong sense in character and identity.Â Without this instance and a handful of others, who knows where my tolerance level would be for people who donât accept my Judaism.Â Not to mention, there are beautiful things that can come from being interfaith.
By Jacob Weis
A new college student just began his summer internship at InterfaithFamily/Chicago. Curious what he’ll be writing about? Iâm here toÂ introduce you to theÂ blogging that youâll see from him this summer.
Â âOMG there is a new intern at InterfaithFamily. I wonder what heâs likeâŚâ
Thatâs right, and my name is Jake Weis. I am an incoming junior at the University of Iowa and I am also a resident of Deerfield, IL. My two majors are English and Communication Studies and I was raised in an interfaith family. I hope to bring my unique religious experience and my (green) skills as a writer together in order to provide helpful insight, information and advice on all things InterfaithFamily related.
âDoes this mean every blog from here on out is going to be written by some kid?â
I wish I could write them all, but you probably donât. Expect to see other authors writing on a variety of topics just as before. I will mainly be writing about the experience of growing up in an interfaith family.
âI donât even know this person. Why would I listen to the intern when I could hear it from the Rabbi? Millennials these days!â
I was too busy snapchatting and texting to read the whole question but I think you asked if you could get to know me. I am 20 years old, soon to be 21. (Is Manischewitz good by the way?) My older sisterâs name is Sarah and she is 26. My older brotherâs name is Ben, and he is 23. I have two loving parents by the names of Hope and Dan. One of them is Jewish. The other is Catholic.
âWhich one is Jewish?â
Thanks for asking. Sorry everyone, but I donât feel too comfortable answering such a loaded question. If my mother is Jewish then some Jewish readers will consider me a true Jew. But if my mother is Catholic, then I am not a true Jew to some people who do not accept patrilineal descent. I will tell you this much though, both religions claim me as part of their group in many cases, and both shun me in many other cases.
âOK sassypants, what else can we expect from you?â
Whatever my bosses tell me to write about I will write about. I am not a good liar so expect the wholehearted truth in everything I write. If you disagree with what I write feel free to comment, but remember to be nice. Think of what I say as more of a suggestion and if you donât like it, toss it. But donât hurt my feelings: You wouldnât want to make the new intern cry on his first day, would you?
Today on eJewishPhilanthropy, Allison McMillan wrote an important piece, “Intermarried, Not Interfaith.” Her husband was an atheist when they met, had no religious connection to any holidays, is exploring Jewish traditions quite extensively, and has decided not to convert, in her words, âat least not right now.â She says their biggest issue is that they are labeled an âinterfaith couple,â a term which âdoes not describe who or what we are. We are not trying to join two faiths together in our relationship. He is not halachically Jewish but he is also not anything else.â
I posted a response that Iâd like to expand on here. For us at InterfaithFamily, the term âinterfaithâ does not connote anything about religious practice. It does not mean a couple that is practicing two faiths or trying to join two faiths together, or a couple where one partner is practicing one faith and the other is practicing no faith. It doesnât mean a couple that is raising children âbothâ or in two faiths. âInterfaithâ in the context of a couple simply means that one partner comes from one faith tradition or background, and one comes from another faith tradition or background. In the context of a family it simply means a family that includes one or more Jews and one or more people from different faith traditions.
We think that the term âinterfaithâ has become what in the legal field would be called a âterm of art,â meaning a word that has an acquired meaning that may not be clear from the term itself. We think that most people coming from the Jewish world understand the term âinterfaithâ the way we do. And we hope that people like Allison could come to understand the term in that way, and not be bothered or offended by it.
Allison writes that there are âplenty of different phrases that can and should be used in place of interfaith,â but doesnât say what phrase she would prefer. Over the past fourteen years Iâve heard many unsatisfactory suggestions. âIntermarriedâ doesnât work because not everyone is, or, sadly, can be married. âMixedâ as in âmixed-marriedâ or âmixed-faithâ is old fashioned, âmixedâ has a negative tone, and itâs not more clear or precise than âinterfaith.â âInterculturalâ or âinter-heritagedâ (if thatâs even a term) doesnât work because Judaism is or certainly can be more than a culture or a heritage. No term is perfect to describe couples and families with members that come from Jewish background and another faith tradition â and we say that no term is better to describe such couples and families than âinterfaith.â
Allison writes in her article that her and her husbandâs situation is not black and white, and we certainly agree with her that there are âmany shades of gray.â But as we use the term, âinterfaith familyâ is very inclusive, of both immediate and extended families â interfaith couples where one person comes from a Jewish background and one come from another background, couples that include converts to Judaism who still have relatives who are not Jewish, people with one Jewish parent, parents of intermarried children, grandparents of children being raised by intermarried parents, etc.
Interfaith families may include those who identify their family as Jewish, as more than one religion, or who are unsure of how they identify. Our organizationâs goal â which we are working to make the goal of many more Jews and Jewish organizations â is to meet these families where they are and facilitate deeper connection to Jewish life. Hopefully we can live with the limitations of terminology and all work toward that important goal.
Iâve been reading a lot these days about âthe Millennials,â the oft-described scary generation who came of age as the millennium marker came and went. I was surprised to find out in my reading that I am in fact considered to be a part of this generation, albeit one of the founding members having been born in the early â80s. So I find myself in a tenuous balance between the desire to defend my own Millennial nature and that of my peers; and trying to figure out the age-old question of what does this new generation want and need?
It is a difficult task, to pin point the soul of a generation. The advertising agencies of the world seem to be doing a better job at it than anyone else, but thatâs nothing new. There are studies both within and especially outside of the Jewish world aimed at understanding what makes us different from previous generations, what makes us tick, how do we spend our money, what are our goals, etc.
The Millenial conversation seems to center around integration of technology, somewhat questionable values and very high expectations concerning money, both wanting to make a lot and adversely, not wanting to pay a lot. This seems like a fantastic generation with which to identify!
I must confess, sometimes I find myself acting like a millennial; I textâŚa lot, I rely heavily on the Internet and am somewhat of a savant at locating anything on the great Google. I watch TV shows on my computer and I donât have a landline.Â I am more inclined to attend an event if itâs free and I love having lots of choices for everything I could possibly want.Â I have big goals for myself professionally and I expect and demand that my gender, sexuality, politics or ideology will help not hurt me as I go through life.
On the other hand, I have the heart of an historian. I have been accused many a time of knowing more than anyone else my age does about a variety of topics from pop culture of an age long gone to lyrics of obscure songs recorded decades before my birth. I have a reverence for the past as it informs the future that many think is missing from my generation. I even took a How Millennial Are You quiz (online, of course) and as I suspected, scored 50 percent: six of one, half dozen of the other.
But thatâs just who I am. Like a good millennial, I straddle a variety of identities and I am comfortable in them all. But statistics and studies cannot tell my story completely.
The first time I confronted statistics was not as a member of a generation but rather as the child of interfaith parents. Statistically, as the child of a Catholic mother and Jewish father, there was little chance that I would end up identifying as Jewish. I love this statistic, this tiny percentage, because I was always so proud that despite the odds stacked against me, not only do I identify as Jewish but I became a rabbi: I center my life around Judaism. While I fully understand the importance of these studies and these numbers, I know first hand that they never tell everyoneâs story. My story will be different from yours even if we share a percentage.
The great cycle of generations always seems to contain a smattering of confusion and frustration coupled with a yearning for youth and the promise it brings. The Millenials are certainly not the first nor will be the last to feel the pressure from previous generations to conform just a little bit more. But rather than bemoan how left behind we all inevitably feel as a new generation takes its place, letâs keep listening to peoplesâ stories and keep telling our own.
While each of us are irrevocably tied to the time and space in which we were born and raised, it is how we live our lives and the choices that we make that define us far beyond statistics. There are always those who define the trend as well as those who buck it and it will continue to be far more important to me to ask why and listen to the answers rather than assume that I already know because I read a study or an article in The New York Times.
No matter your generational identity, I think we all want the same things at the end of the day: some happiness, love and community, and to leave the world better than we found it, despite how differently we may express it or how differently that might look.
Hopefully, with a bit of luck, we will all figure out the wants and needs of this Millenial generation just in time for the next generation to confound us once again.