Our Date with the Rabbi

  

Since moving back to Atlanta, my husband and I have been running around like madmen buying furniture, reconnecting with old friends, traveling to see family, settling into our jobs and new house and preparing for the kid-to-be.

Hectic is the theme of our life right now. Between CPR classes, baby showers, doctor appointments and pediatrician interviews, this tiny little baby in my belly has already squarely established himself as center of our attention.  But we’re okay with that… he’s just so darn cute.

This morning was no different as it was our first meeting with a rabbi of a local synagogue to discuss joining the temple and his views on intermarriage and conversion.  We’ve attended services at this synagogue a few times and both felt very comfortable, not an easy task for a family quite like ours.

After the usual formalities, our discussions varied from homosexuality and Hebrew school philosophies to Israeli politics and what makes someone Jewish.  It was not exactly what I expected, but I enjoyed the conversation immensely.  He shared personal stories of his own interfaith family (he is married to a Jew-by-choice) and inquired about our experience. His views on intermarriage and conversion meshed well with our own and his questions for us even made us stop and think about issues we’ve never considered… Again, not an easy task when it comes to two people who have had nearly 10 years to discuss everything under the sun (and believe me we both are known to be quite the talkers).

The rabbi, of course, asked me why I haven’t considered conversion and listened without judgment or interruption as I explained my personal decision not to convert.  Yes, my conversion would make everything easier and on the practical level makes complete sense.  I mean, I already live in a Jewish household, keep kosher, celebrate Jewish holidays, attend synagogue, know Hebrew and even lived in Israel for a year.  Come on, it is all right there!

But I’m not looking for easy.  I’m not looking for practicality when it comes to my spiritual needs.  I’m looking for a relationship with G-d.  My own faith fulfills that need and until it doesn’t and until I find I am fulfilled by Judaism, I have no plans to convert.  He accepted my reasoning under the caveat that the discussion, not only for conversion purposes, but for the overall role of religion and spirituality in our lives between us as a couple, our families, our community and internally never be over.  As a true believer in the art of good communication and continued personally growth, I fully agreed.  I don’t expect us to know the answers to every hurdle we may face as a family and I want someone in our religious community I can trust to help us navigate the path ahead.

I hope we have found a home temple where we both feel comfortable, where my husband and our children can grow in their Judaism, where we can find a community of acceptance and support and leaders who guide us to better ourselves as a family.

Having a baby has flipped our world upside down in hundreds of ways already and I can’t wait to see what this little guy has in store for us next.  He is making us better and opening our eyes to our greater potential every single day.

Before leaving us with a firm handshake, another date to discuss a mohel, a few booklets and a membership packet, the rabbi said he hoped he’d see us in services very soon.  I think he just may.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

  

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – no – not Christmas and not back to school – but back to Hebrew School.  Remember that amazing Staples commercial from a few years back with the dad dancing through the store while tossing school supplies into the cart with the song playing in the background?  Well that’s how I feel now that it’s back to Hebrew School for my almost 7-year-old first grader.  My family joined a wonderful Reform synagogue in our area last year, just before my son started Kindergarten.  He had been at the JCC for daycare and preschool since he was 10 months old, so on a weekly and daily basis he got all of the loveliness of being at a Jewish school – Shabbat, challah, Jewish holidays, songs, crafts, PJ library books, Shabbat box, etc. I also work at that JCC so we got plenty of opportunities to participate in Jewish activities.   So when he wasn’t going to be getting that from school we felt we needed to step up to the plate and choose a synagogue and choose to send him to Hebrew School on Sunday mornings.

I don’t have particularly strong or happy feelings about my own Hebrew school days and my husband is Episcopalian so his Sunday school was completely different – although probably similar in many ways – holidays, bible stories, music, prayers.  We both wanted our son to enjoy his time at Hebrew School but wasn’t sure that was going to happen based on our own experiences.  Many people I know have said, “Well, I went to Hebrew School, so now my son/daughter is going to go – whether they like it or not”.  In our case, I think the “liking it” factor has definitely gone beyond my son – I actually like it.

I like it because he gets to spend time with other Jewish kids on a weekly basis – solely for the purpose that they are all Jewish and that their families think it’s important to have a Jewish education.  I like it because he gets to learn more about the holidays, prayers and Hebrew than I am able teach him.  I like it because it gives my husband and me another Jewish community to belong to.  I like it because the families there are all Jewish, yet all different in their own way – whether the parents are both Jewish, intermarried, gay, single parents or adoptive parents.  I also like it because our temple invites the parents to join the service every Sunday at 11 am.  I am able to see my son listening to the rabbi, going up on the bimah to lead songs and see his Jewish education in action. 

The best part for me is that I really enjoy the service myself – and I am not one to go to temple on a weekly basis on my own – no regular temple go-er here.  I love the songs and the sign language that the rabbi and cantor teach the kids.  I love connecting to Judaism through music and the absolute best part is the last song of the service.  It’s Tefilat Haderech by Debbie Friedman z”l and the rabbi asks everyone to “hold someone close to you” – and simultaneously all the kids put their arms around their friend’s shoulders and join in singing.  It brings me to tears – almost every time – to see this and to see my son grab his friends swaying in song.  It brings me back to my days at Jewish sleep away camp – which hold a special place in my heart.  It also brings to mind my dad, who passed away 2 years ago, and how proud he would be of me and my husband for choosing this kind of education and Jewish path for our family.

I also have to be honest and say that I also like having two hours to clean the house, go to Trader Joe’s and Target, go to the gym or spend quality time with our 2-year-old son.  I’m not going to lie – its pretty great.  But I mostly look forward to the 11:00 hour when I can be in the sanctuary and be an active participant in the Hebrew school service.

Introducing Susanna

  

HI!  Welcome to the Interfaith Parenting blog.  Since we are starting with introductions, I will take a moment to introduce myself and my brood.  I am the non-Jewish partner in an interfaith family.  When my husband and I got married, we were told:  It will never last, you will get divorced, it is doomed, interfaith marriages never work out, don’t get married unless you convert.  Having just celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary, I want to say pppbbbttt to all the nay-sayers!  We are still going strong and I would be very surprised if we divorced because he is Jewish and I am not.

I am still not Jewish.  I really don’t plan to become Jewish.  It isn’t part of what I want to do for me.  It isn’t part of my reality.  That does not mean that I don’t drive the kids to Religious School every week, make challah for Shabbat, take them to temple… alone, and do what a “real” Jewish mother would do.  My relationship with G-d is mine, and it isn’t Jewish.

We have three wonderful, Jewish children, two boys (11 and 8) and a girl (5, almost 6 (she wanted me to say that)).  They are more than Jewish, but living in what seems to be the epicenter of Christianity, I find that describing them as Jewish happens more often than not.  Oh the looks I get when I tell people that our babysitter is going to Israel for a semester and wants to be a rabbi

As a family we struggle to educate people that Christmas is a Christian holiday, that Santa Claus does not go to shul and that Easter is not for everyone.  One of my biggest surprises was going into my son’s kindergarten class and asking how many of them had heard of Hanukkah.  It was shocking how many really didn’t know anything about it.  Our challenge is to teach people about tolerance, and we believe that education is the route to that.

We are also embarking on many life cycle events: our oldest started middle school and is preparing for a bar mitzvah, our middle son is starting Hebrew school on Wednesdays, and our baby is going to kindergarten.  We are experiencing a great deal of change.  How that impacts our family and our sense of who we are, well, I guess you will have to keep reading to find out. 

Hope you take some time to put us in your RSS reader and keep coming back.  It is a great group of bloggers.

Introducing Hannah

  

Shalom!

I am another one of the fab parenting bloggers.  I am actually a parent in waiting… due in 3 days!  (Will baby be on time? That’s a different story.)

I am Jewish and grew up mostly culturally Jewish.  We had three sets of dishes in the house, milk, meat and treif.  We went to my grandparents’ for Shabbos (by car) and the synagogue was reserved for High Holidays. 

My husband is not Jewish.  He grew up… well, kind of non-denominational.  Technically Catholic, his parents forced Sunday school on him in his early years but then they weren’t committed to any religion. 

After much research and discussion, my husband and I have decided to raise our little guy as a Jew.  Add to this journey, that I have been growing more observant, in that I have been actually keeping Shabbat (no driving, no electricity).  My husband has agreed to follow suit once the little one is here (to avoid confusion).

How will this all work out?  Don’t know.  But I do have a lot of questions! 

P.S.  You can read some of my articles describing my spiritual journey on InterfaithFamily.com

Introducing Julie

  

Well, hello! I wanted to take a couple quick minutes to introduce myself as one of the Parenting bloggers. First, I suppose, I should cover the basics. I’m a non-Jew (Christian, United Methodist) married to a Jewish man (Bryan). We actually blogged here together on the Weddings blog a few years ago. We have three boys; for now I’ll call them Bubba, Bear, and Baby. (English major nerd alert; I like alliteration.)

Here’s where it gets complicated… Baby is Jewish, Bubba and Bear are not. How is this, you ask? Well, Bubba and Bear are my stepsons. (Believe me, I’d love to claim them fully as my own because they are truly that wonderful!) Their mother is not Jewish, and she and Bryan decided that they would expose the boys to both religions and let them decide when they were old enough. How we came to the decision (okay, really, how I came to the decision, and yes, it really was my decision) for Baby to be Jewish really could be a post by itself; in fact, I think it will be!

To make our lives even more fun, we have a large extended family. My side is Christian: United Methodist and Catholic. Bryan’s parents are divorced and both remarried. His dad’s side is Jewish (his step-mom converted from United Methodist before she and my FIL married). His mom converted to Judaism before marrying my FIL, but was then re-baptized before she married Bryan’s step-dad. Did you follow all that? And that’s the “simplified” version.

So, you can see I have LOTS of interfaith learning experiences coming my way. In fact, I imagine I’ll gain more wisdom from my Parenting co-bloggers (is that a word?) and our readers than I impart. I hope to at least make it an even trade. So, with that, what’s on your mind?