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So Iâ€™m at Thanksgiving last night with my husbandâ€™s family and religion somehow came up (does it come up as much with families that are all one religion, or do I just notice it more being from an interfaith family?).Â I was discussing how my daughters actually like going to temple (have no idea what Iâ€™m doing right there) and my husbandâ€™s uncle mentioned that they are half-Jewish.Â That got the hairs on the back of my neck to rise like a disturbed cat.Â I donâ€™t know about you, but my kids arenâ€™t â€śhalfâ€ť anything.Â They have a Jewish mother and a Catholic father but they arenâ€™t half Catholic; they are 100% Jewish.Â I didnâ€™t even know how to respond without offending him (and more importantly my mother-in-law) and to top it off my mother was sitting right there too but thankfully it either went over her head, she didnâ€™t hear it, or the filter between her brain and mouth was working (it doesnâ€™t always work) and she kept quiet.Â If she did hear I canâ€™t wait to see if she comments next time we are together without my husband around, that’ll be a hoot.
It bothers me that I didnâ€™t know how to respond.Â I am so grateful that my mother-in-law is cool (or at least an academy award winning actress) about my girls being brought up Jewish and no one else from my husbandâ€™s family has ever said anything negative about it, but the 50-50 comments bother me.Â Is there a way to address it or do I just let it go, knowing that my girls view everything correctly and that it will all get sorted out as they get older?
So I just read the post from Benjamin Maron about â€śWhen is a Christmas Tree Just a Christmas Tree?â€ť I can say that I totally relate to this. My daughters are being raised Jewish and their father/my husband, Alex, is Catholic and yes, we do have the Christmas tree and stockings and decorations. We donâ€™t go to Christmas Mass though (or any mass really except if itâ€™s for a family event on Alexâ€™s side) and we donâ€™t tell the Christmas story. We do have Christmas dinner with my husbandâ€™s family and there have been times my Jewish family has joined in as my daughter Kaitlynâ€™s birthday is Christmas Eve and my family rightfully wants to see her. We also do Chanukah, visit with my family, have latkes, play dreidel, watch the Maccabeats on You Tube (and we are seeing them in concert during Chanukah this year, how cool is that?) and listen to Adam Sandlerâ€™s Chanukah songs(although the first version is the best!).
My daughters identify as Jewish and respecting their dadâ€™s and his familyâ€™s religion is not going to make them any less Jewish. My older daughter last December actually announced it in the middle of class. Her teacher had given out a work sheet to play a game to fill in the missing letters of Christmas carols and my daughter got up and said â€śMr. Galvin, I donâ€™t know this because I am JEWISH.â€ť She then had me come in to her class that spring and do a lesson on Passover so her friends would understand her holidays. Celebrating another religionâ€™s holiday doesnâ€™t make you less; it makes you bigger than the sum of your parts. I am so proud of my girls and how they understand that what they are is not necessarily the same as everyone else and that thatâ€™s ok.
Do your children understand the differences and how do you explain it to them? I am still working on my five year old Megan understanding that men and women can be Jewish since she thinks that because her dad is Catholic all men must be Catholic and since mom is Jewish that all women must be Jewish.
Shalom. I struggled with that salutation — Iâ€™m a Jew by choice and converted 4 and a half years ago, and the language can still feel clunky at times. I should be able to write that salutation without it raising the hair on my neck, but it does make me feel like an impostor sometimes.
My son, Oliver, is also 4 and a half, and my daughter, Esther, is 2 and a half. They attend a preschool/daycare program at a Jewish Community Center, and last week one of the teachers asked if we were Jewish or not. To be fair, not that many of the kids who attend our JCC seem to be Jewish. So it was kind of the teacher to ask rather than assume. However, I suspected the teacher had made an assumption that we werenâ€™t Jewish becauseâ€¦ well, I could come up with a list of reasons why my family of four is not passing as Jews. But most of those reasons have less to do with other peopleâ€™s perceptions than with my own struggle to assert my place in this faith.
The reason Iâ€™ve decided to become a blogger on the InterfaithFamily Parenting Blog is because I felt confidant in my Jewish faith, in my Jewish marriage, in my Jewish parenting, and in my Jewish practice until my kids started becoming talkative Jewish know-a-lots. Then I realized that there is a major difference between converting to a faith as an adult and being raised in it. That shouldnâ€™t be some huge revelation, I realize, and if my beit dein (rabbinic court) had asked me, â€śWhatâ€™s the difference between converting to a faith and being raised in it?â€ť before my mikveh, I probably could have responded confidently. But as with most things, children make you question a lot of your assumptions, and they keep you honest. This morning my kids were chasing each other around the breakfast table singing the motzi (blessing over bread) at the top of their lungs. In that moment I realized (1) their Jewish experience is going to be different from mine, and (2) we are not imposters. Iâ€™m excited by all the things Iâ€™m learning from these little Jewish know-a-lots, and Iâ€™m glad youâ€™ll come along with me on this journey. Shalom.