Interfaith Parenting Support Group

I have a confession.  I love the events posted on InterfaithFamily.com’s Network.

I am jealous.  I wish we had similar events here.  So I went on a mission.  I wanted to find some kind of local support group for interfaith families with one Jewish parent. 

I didn’t have any success finding anything established locally.  The programs I found were beginner level designed to teach basic concepts of Jewish spirituality and culture, which wasn’t what I was looking for. 

Naaleh offers a series of lectures on making Jewish holidays and life events meaningful to children.  I have listened to a couple and Rebbetzin Tzipporah Heller does present some great ideas for making Jewish spirituality come alive to children of all ages.  I am looking for the ideas but put into the context of an interfaith family — when one parent isn’t Jewish. 

Thankfully, Benjamin from right here on IFF helped me get some things rolling.  He met up with some of the local Jewish Federation people at TribeFest.  He pitched my idea and they loved it.  He got me in touch with the right person and we’re trying to set up an introductory event, mostly to get people in the room and figure out where to go with this idea.   

Benjamin suggested I work on articulating the goal of this support group:  The goal is to help parents of interfaith families with parenting skills and decisions within a partial or fully Jewish household.  For example, there are the winter holidays — do you celebrate one or both and how would you explain it to the kids? 

Here are some of the questions that have crossed my mind:

– How do we keep the non-Jewish parent involved and not let them feel like the odd wheel? 
– How do we answer questions the children might have about the non-Jewish parent’s religion? 
– How do we answer the in-laws questions about Jewish practices like keeping Kosher (“what do you mean Junior can’t eat here?”)? 
– How do I choose a synagogue?  Does it have to be Reform just because my husband isn’t Jewish?   

I am trying to find practical answers to these questions.  How do you answer the questions without sounding like you have joined some kind of cult?  (“Yeah and then on Yom Kippur we swing a chicken around our heads…”)

I know there is no right answer, and in fact it’s the mixture of answers I would love to hear. 

They say that it takes a village to raise a child, and I am trying to find a village!  I keep hearing about the 50% interfaith marriage rate and assume some of these people have children — where is everybody? 

Do you have any experience with a similar kind of support network?  Do you just rely on your local shul for support or do you have a parent group you meet with regularly?  What do you talk about? 

I would really appreciate if you would share your experiences or even what you would look for in a support group. 

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13 thoughts on “Interfaith Parenting Support Group

  1. Thanks, Kate.

    To clarify: Chana-Esther is looking to start a group for interfaith families raising their children with Judaism, not both religions.

  2. Thanks Benjamin,

    I’ll also add, that if someone wanted to join who was doing both, they are certainly more than welcome. 

  3. As the non-Jewish partner in such a marriage, I have a lot of opinions about that topic.  If you are interested I would be happy to provide input in what you are trying to create.  I have always felt that the community does not do enough to support me in my decision to raise my kids as Jews.  I feel that the non-Jewish partner makes a huge sacrafice to make that happen and deserves a bit more respect and support.

  4. SLP, you are so right about the non Jewish partner, and that is why i really try my best to make my husband feel a part of everything and it is important that we are part of a community that does the same.  Can you message me through IFF? 

  5. Yes, I would love to be a part of this.  My husband is on board with our kids being raised Jewish, and we’re even starting our daughter at a Jewish day school for kindergarten but man, it is hard! I have all of the same questions that you do!!

  6. You ask a lot of great, hard questions.  And I’ve seen lots of families struggle with the same ones.  There are no easy, for-everyone answers, for sure, which is why a face-to-face support group is such a good idea.

    When we put together our Hanukkah Kits (http://www.JewishHolidaysInABox.com) one of our goals was to help non-Jewish partners (or parents who need a refresher) feel confident about the celebrations, precisely so that they don’t feel like outsiders.  

    When I go to synagogue and hear one non-Jewish parent (who is a practicing Catholic) rock out the blessings with his son, I know that they’re both loving it and creating a great experience for them both.

    If it would be helpful, I can share more about our approach, especially our CD tutorials which are designed to help make home celebrations more joyful.  

    Best of luck putting together a new group,
    Ellen Zimmerman

  7. Theres nothing like this near me that I know of. In fact even introductory Judaism classes are in the next county over and very expensive. I think your idea is great.

  8. Wow looks like there is a strong need for something like this.  I have received about 6 responses locally, all from different moms saying they would love some extra support in this journey.  thanks for  commenting! 

  9. Chana – We have a group at my synagogue that is 5 year-old called Interfaith Moms, I am an initial member, former chair and now oversee the group as part of my role as Outreach Chair. Interfaith Moms is for Jewish and non-Jewish women, as well as Jews-by-Choice. It coordinates education as well as holiday and social experiences. It was created to help women navigate the joys and challenges of an interfaith relationship and as a way for us to support each other. While many of the non-Jewish moms also attend The Mother’s Circle in Dallas, they actively participate in IF Moms as well. The benefit of IF Moms is that the perspectives of the Jewish and non-Jewish female partner are represented helping us see different sides of an issue and enabling us to learn together. It is one of the most successful groups at our temple. Please let me know if you have any questions. I’d be happy to share with you what has worked, what hasn’t, program ideas, etc.

    Jane Larkin

  10. I would definitely be interested in this group. I knew it would be hard in an interfaith relationship but not this hard! Let me know what’s going on with the progress of this group.

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