This booklet explains the history of Hanukkah, the symbolism and significance of lighting candles for eight nights, the blessings that accompany the lighting of the candles, the holiday's foods, the game of dreidels, and more!
Romemu (roh·meh·moo) seeks to integrate body, mind, and soul in Jewish practice. This is a Judaism that will ignite your Spirit. We are a progressive, fully egalitarian community committed to tikkun olam, or social action, and to service that flows from an identification with the sacredness of all life.
Join the San Diego Jewish Film Festival and Jewish Family Service to explore the interfaith family experience, including a screening of the film Out of Faith followed by a facilitated discussion. Out of Faith is a feature-length documentary that follows three generations as they struggle with complex and emotionally-charged conflicts over intermarriage, familial duty, ethnic identity, and cultural continuity and survival.
A great way for Jewish professionals and volunteers who work with and provide programming for people in interfaith relationships to locate resources and trainings to build more welcome into their Jewish communities; connect with and learn from each other; and publicize and enhance their programs and services.
When I first graduated from my MBA program a lot of important things happened in my life.Â I got a new job, I got engaged to a Jewish man and I was called out in a lawsuit for being anti-Semitic.Â This is not something I think about much anymore, but I was specifically named in the lawsuit for my anti-Semitic ways.Â I remember the day I was served I thought, but I am marrying a Jew, how can I possibly be anti-Semitic?Â I am raising my kids as Jews.Â The whole thing didnâ€™t make sense to me.
The woman who served the company with the lawsuit took what I did and said out of context, and the lawsuit was eventually ruled on in my favor.Â But, what she said to me has in some part stuck with me.Â She told me that the numbers of Jews are decreasing.Â By marrying a Jewish man I am in fact aiding in decreasing the number of Jews in the world.Â Her final conclusion was that I was so dedicated to ending the Jewish religion that I was giving my life to marry a Jew in my attempt to lessen the numbers.Â She called me some not to nice names as well, but I wonâ€™t repeat them.Â She was a little crazy.
I have been thinking about this a lot, as I have been trying to formulate a response to Steveâ€™s comment regarding my recent post about not wanting my kids to intermarry.Â Is my reticence to allow my kids to do what I did rooted in my desire to prove her wrong?Â Or at least not let her be right.Â I think that there is more to it than that, but there is probably a small amount of truth there.Â I donâ€™t want to contribute to the decline in numbers.
Being intermarried is not super easy, especially when the spouse does not convert.Â Right, wrong or indifferent, I was inaugurated into the Jewish faith with â€śa donâ€™t ask donâ€™t tell policy.â€ťÂ I look Jewish enough to pass muster at temple.Â No one questions me.Â I donâ€™t correct people.Â While everyone at our temple is really friendly and I doubt any of them care, there is still a sense of not belonging that is hard to shake.Â My peers in this situation have responded by either converting or not being involved.Â There is a small stalwart group of us that is involved and not converted.Â We meet for coffee under the cover of darkness.
Again, the people at our temple are really warm and welcoming.Â What I am talking about is not a specific issue, but rather a general feeling.Â There is so much written and discussed about not wanting Jews to intermarry.Â There is still an underlying current of disapproval for making that choice.Â Just look around and see how easy it is to find a rabbi that will marry an interfaith couple, or a mohel who will perform a bris for a baby born to a non-Jewish mother, even if the non-Jewish partner is fully and wholly committed to raising the children as Jews.
Being a clueless optimist, it really never occurred to me that it might be hard when I made these choices.Â But, I am less pie-eyed about my decision, and I realize that it is not something most people can do.Â I do not want my kids to find themselves in a place where they forced to choose between their religion and their potential spouse.Â One way to eliminate that is to not date out of the faith.Â Old-fashioned, archaic one might say, but also avoids the potential for conflict.
Bottom line, marriage is hard work.Â The fewer areas of potential conflict you have with your spouse the better.Â I want my kids to be happy and successful, and as such, it seems marrying a Jew would be easier.Â That said, my husband and I make a good team.Â I donâ€™t know that I could have found a better partner in my own faith.
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.
Our schedule is crazy lately. I know, I know, whose isnâ€™t? My two big boys are both playing baseball this spring, and will soon be starting up select basketball. Both sports run concurrently (so, 2 boys playing 2 sports = NO free time, really) through early July. This schedule, plus a 30-minute drive to synagogue means we donâ€™t get to services nearly as often as Iâ€™d like. And while there are nights I could go on my own, or just the baby and I could go, it just doesnâ€™t happen. Much as I love our congregation and rabbi, Iâ€™m not sure Iâ€™m brave enough to go (and wrestle my munchkin into some form of quiet-ness for an hour) on my own.
Lately, with some stuff thatâ€™s been going on, Iâ€™ve NEEDED a reconnection with something bigger than myself. Iâ€™ve needed something to remind me that some of the pettiness and general sometimes-it-stinks-to-be-a-grown-up crud Iâ€™ve been dealing with is, really and truly, small potatoes. I donâ€™t really have a church home anymore, and, honestly, Sunday mornings are one of our FEW quiet times as a family, so I enjoy them at home. So, whatâ€™s a (gentile) girl to do?
Iâ€™ve found great comfort in us lighting the Shabbat candles lately. Itâ€™s not always right at sundown, and I donâ€™t always get to rest or study or simply enjoy their gentle glow. But I do get the reminder that thereâ€™s something bigger out there than me and my daily struggles and joys. I get to share the blessing with my boys. Most times, Daddy lights the candles and says the blessing. One week, I did it. I loved doing it. Bubba found one of the babyâ€™s books that has the transliteration of several Shabbat prayers (Iâ€™ve mentioned it here, before, My Shabbat) and pulled it out on his own to try to sound through some of the other simple blessings. Bear got in on that, too. Itâ€™s still all â€śfunâ€ť for them, but I like that theyâ€™re curious enough to try, and to ask.
More recently, Iâ€™ve lit the candles on my own, when Daddy and the big boys were out, and it was just Baby Boy and me. I even braved last weekâ€™s Tot Shabbat (once a month at our synagogue) â€“ just Baby and me. (He loved it, by the way, danced and sang and wanted to go â€śup dereâ€ť on the bimah, and cried and cried when it was time to go home.)
So, while I continue to work on my own spiritual journey, I hope to continue at least lighting the candles on Friday nights to bring me back out of myself and the myopic view of life I tend to develop during our hectic weekdays. And even if my journey doesnâ€™t lead me to any kind of conversion, I think I probably will always need Shabbat.
I just read Teaching the Why? by Rabbi Ari Moffic, which appears on the Networking Blog here at InterfaithFamily.com, an intriguing piece posing some very interesting questions. Is it possible to teach culture and meaning? As we teach the â€śwhatâ€ťâ€”make challah, make latkes, create the most beautiful tzedekah boxesâ€”when does the â€śwhy,â€ť the deep-rooted meaning come in? Do we take for granted that it is there? Do we take for granted that personal connections are being made?
I want my children to make those personal connections and integrate what they do Jewishly with who they are as people. As their mother, I take responsibility for making the connections possible and supporting their success. I do not believe this can be outsourced by sending William and Sarah to Hebrew school and Jewish day camp and other Jewish activities. I do send them to Hebrew school and Jewish day camp as wonderful supplements for Jewish infusion, but I donâ€™t rely solely on them to make them feel Jewish. My children feel Jewish because of the home we have created. Mezuzahs don our doors. The Sabbath bride is a welcome guest in our home each week. We sing songs and pray together at religious services in our synagogue each week. In other words, we live Jewish lives.
When I made the commitment to raise our children in the Jewish tradition, I realized that I would be making a commitment to live a Jewish life. Not knowing exactly how that would play out at the time, it was a pretty big leap of faith. One that meant I would look pretty Jewish for a long time. I do this to support Jewish fluency in my children, as Rabbi Moffic talks about in her piece.
I think about the mitzvah in Judaism that commands you to teach your child to swim. On a practical level, it is a good skill to have. But I think its deeper meaning calls parents to do everything they can to make sure their children can swim on their own and lead responsible, productive lives. Ensuring our children are well-equipped to go out on their own takes a great deal of personal commitment over many years. We donâ€™t just throw them in the deep end and hope for the best. Learning anythingâ€”riding a bike, playing the pianoâ€”requires dedication and practice, lots of practice. Supporting my childrenâ€™s spiritual development goes hand in hand with teaching them how to take care of themselves and others.
My job is to provide the context for the content. Sometimes I am a student. I read a lot. I have taken classes in Judaism and attend seminars and workshops. Sometimes I am an educator. I have taught two challah-making events at our synagogue. (The irony of a Catholic teaching Jewish people how to bake their special bread is lost on no one.) Something that I always do at my challah-making events while the dough is resting is to give a talk about the wonderful gift of Shabbat and how leading a Jewish life translates into leading a balanced life. I always tell the story of the book. Jewish people are sometimes referred to as the People of the Book. How many sides does a book have? You may say sixâ€”a front, back, top, bottom, and two sides. But there is one more side, the inside, where the important information for the book lives. We spend all week being busy, living our lives on the outside of the book. On Shabbat, we are called to go inside.
When I started my Jewish journey, I felt it was important. Growing up Catholic, I was taught that the Jewish people have a special covenant with God that will never be broken. I was impressed that my husband is part of this historic tradition. Abraham was the first Jewish person, and here is my husband 5,000+ years later keeping that tradition alive. Wow. It is amazing to think about. But it doesnâ€™t mean I think less of the tradition I was raised in. So why did I make that leap of faith? Because I was raised by a mother who dedicated her life to make sure her children had a developed spiritual maturity as adults. She knew we would be swimming on our own one day and making our own choices. She gave me the skills to learn another language.
Our Passover Seders are typically enjoyed at the home of one of Hubbyâ€™s Aunts and Uncles. They always do an incredible job, and are some of the few people we know who are equipped to handle 20+ people for dinner (and make it look pretty darn easy, even though I KNOW itâ€™s not). Last year, I have to admit, I was dreading the Passover Seder. Baby boy was almost 1, he was mobile, and I just KNEW he was going to be a handful. I was pleasantly surprised at pesach/">how well it all went.
Of course, that doesnâ€™t mean that I WASNâ€™T worried about this Passover… on the contrary. Baby boy is now almost 2, and all that goes along with that. His big brothers, while typically well-behaved, have a penchant for egging him on (mainly because heâ€™s so darn cute, but also because, well, theyâ€™re big brothers). Add to that the fact that I realized about half an hour before we needed to leave that I never procured a travel high chair. I had no way of strapping him down ensuring he could sit safely at the table.
Again, my fears were *mostly* unfounded this year. As he climbed the front steps, Baby boy excitedly called out â€śAunt Su-san house! See. Aunt Su-San!â€ť (Try to read that in your best squeaky-toddler voice.) Baby boy was pretty good, if somewhat restless. He mostly sat in my lap, until he realized that Zayde was at the next table, and then heâ€™d sort of roam between Mommy, Daddy, and â€śZalieâ€™sâ€ť lap. He didnâ€™t eat much dinner (not that I expected otherwise; heâ€™s definitely in the â€śpickyâ€ť stage of toddler eating), though he did ask for more and more â€śapple-cinn-monâ€ť (charoses). He wore his kippah, (he kept calling it his â€śhehmetâ€ť because anything that goes on oneâ€™s head right now MUST be a baseball helmet) except for when he shared it with me or Daddy. (Even showing him that his big brothers were quietly and calmly wearing their â€śhehmetsâ€ť didnâ€™t persuade him to keep his on.)
There were a couple â€śextraâ€ť (i.e., not related to us) kiddos at this yearâ€™s Seder, which made the hunt for the Afikomen even more exciting! Bear found it this year, and after some pretty intense negotiations for its ransom, we had to have a little â€ślessonâ€ť with Bear about the ransomâ€™s fair division between his co-searchers. All the kids did GREAT on their reading (and considering the youngest reader is only in kindergarten, Iâ€™m SO, SO impressed), and they all (with the exception of Baby boy) behaved very well at the table. It was a late night, as usual, and maybe a little wilder than in years past, but Iâ€™d still say it was a very successful Seder. Maybe one year Hubs and I will be brave enough to have our own familylittle Seder.
We celebrate Passover to commemorate the Jewish people’s redemption from Egypt – Mitzrayim in Hebrew. The root of the Hebrew word for Egypt refers to that which is constricting, perhaps even slows us down and prevents us from moving forward.
As a parent, what is your Mitzrayim?
I have much to learn as a parent. My person Mitzrayim is to overcome the personal issues so that I can be a better role model to my son. One specific example I can think of is that of charity. I didn’t grow up in an overly generous home. In fact, I can’t recall a single time I saw my parents sign over a check to help someone in need. Money in my parents house was something to save for a rainy day. It certainly wasn’t for sharing.
As I started my spiritual journey and learned more about the Mitzvah of Tzedakah (charity), I had to work hard to break from that monetary mold. I found myself open to giving away money, but I was very untrusting. Who were these organizations? Was it just a scam? I forced myself to write the check without questioning the recipient’s motives.
Now that I am a parent, I continue to work on my Mitzrayim and I have a game plan so that my son is raised with generosity as a value.
Tonight was the first time my family â€“ my husband, me and my two boys â€“ said the Hamotzi (blessing over the bread) at home â€“ outside a Jewish holiday. It’s not that I am opposed to giving thanks before my meals â€“ I know how many blessings I have and am thankful for them daily â€“ I just don’t express my thanks to G-d on a daily basis. But maybe I should.
At Thanksgiving and Christmas, my father-in-law, who’s Episcopalian, always leads the Grace before dinner. This year our very chatty two-year-old thought that Grace was the greatest thing ever â€“ getting to hold everyone’s hands before dinner. And his way of saying Grace was by saying “I love my family” â€“ what could be better than that. My father-in-law’s version of Grace is also very universal â€“ thanking G-d for our many blessings, for the meal we are about to enjoy, thankful to the family we are gathered with and also thankful for those who are not able to be with there. Then it’s chow time.
Tonight however, my in-laws were not having dinner with us, it wasn’t a special meal or holiday. It was just a regular Monday night. Just after we all sat down, our seven-year-old asks, “Can we say the blessing?” And I respond that there are different ways â€“ Grace is what Christian people say, the Hamotzi is what Jewish people say and then our younger son’s version â€“ I love my family. He immediately picked the Hamotzi, as if that was what he was trying to think of on his own, which we then all sang together. Even his little brother joined in â€“ he has lots of practice from weekly Shabbat celebrations at the JCC pre-school.
Just a little story about how a regular Monday night turned into a really sweet moment for our family who might consider saying some form of thanks on a nightly basis.
Hamotzi lechem min haaretz,
We give thanks to God for bread.
Our voices rise in song together as our joyful prayer is said,
“Baruch atah adonai, eloheinu melech haolam, hamotzi lechem min haaretz. Amen.”
I was set to write a post about how Baby Boy is turning 2 in just a couple months, and how that meant Hubby and I needed to revisit the discussion of a possible conversion for him. But something happened at work this week that has taken over my thoughts. I won’t go into details out of professional courtesy, but suffice it to say that at the root of the situation is intolerance. Intolerance, possibly bigotry thinly veiled as religious sensibilities. And of course, there’s the sting of this all happening with people I’ve known and worked with for nearly 11 years. Now, to be clear, this situation wasn’t aimed at me or my interfaith family. This situation actually doesn’t have anything to do with Judaism. So why blog about it here?
Because I’m so disheartened. Selfishly, I wonder how the people in question would react if they realized that I am raising a Jewish son. On a larger scale, I wonder how I’m supposed to raise caring, tolerant, inclusive boys when it feels like intolerance surrounds us.
I want my boys to have their own convictions and identities – religious and non-religious – but I don’t want them to feel the need to force those convictions onto anyone they deem as less than them. Scratch that – I don’t want them to see anyone as “less than” them. I want them to have a voice, and to use it when they need to, but I donâ€™t want them to use it to silence other voices.
But how do you teach those values when it feels like home is one of the few places that behavior is modeled? How do you teach those values when weâ€™re daily bombarded with stories of the loud, radical or extremely intolerant voices drowning out the reasonable, more tolerant voices? How do you teach the right balance of taking the high road whenever possible, but not just always â€śtaking itâ€ť? Is it possible?
I want to raise Mensches. I do. And right now I think weâ€™re on the right track with that. But the influences on the boys are increasingly wider than just what Dad and I (and other family) show them at home. And right now, I feel so beaten down by those influences that Iâ€™m not sure itâ€™s possible to overcome them. Please, if youâ€™ve struggled with this, Iâ€™d love suggestions on ways to do it right. Itâ€™s about so much more than just me or my family; doesnâ€™t this really affect us all, as humans?
Shabbat meals are ready. The house is far from clean. I have pretty much given up on preparing the whole house for Shabbat now that we have a baby. Once a month, we have budgeted in for a cleaning lady. I will have to wait one more week until the entire house will feel sparking and beautiful for the Shabbat Queen.
My husband has learned to enjoy the holiness of Shabbat. He comes home from work, and the Shabbat candles are lit, there is a beautiful meal ready to be served, and his wife seems a bit more relaxed than other days.
In recent years I have increased my level of Shabbat observance. I don’t drive, I don’t answer the phone or use electricity. I want the same thing for my son. My husband, who is not Jewish, isn’t required to keep the laws of Shabbat. I know he isn’t really interested in fully observing anyway. I worry sometimes, though, how that will affect my son.
Before I go on, I want to say my husband is 100% supportive of my Jewish spirituality. There are just certain things he can’t or won’t do himself though. I get it.
I know my husband likes his Saturdays for his man-cave time. He tinkers on whatever needs to be worked on. For him, Saturday is catch up day. Or a day to run off with the boys for a mountain bike ride or a ski.
I have discussed with him on many occasions that right now, while our son is still young and mostly unaware, he can do what he wants. But soon, probably way too soon, our son will be more in tune with what is going on in his house. No doubt, he will want to be with Daddy, do what Daddy does. Why would he want to stay home with Mommy and go to shul if Daddy is running off doing something fun like biking?
I think about these kinds of things a lot. I want my son to appreciate and enjoy his Jewish spirituality. I wonder how to balance all of this. Let my husband keep his cave time while educating our son.
As a parent, you never know the unintended benefits of signing your kids up for extra-curricular activities like sports, dance, gymnastics, etc. In our case, we sign our boys up for things we think they will like, things that fit into our budget and our schedule. My 7-year-old who is a sports fanatic â€“ thanks in part to me and my husband â€“ usually likes to do things that are sports related. This fall we signed him up for a floor hockey class at the JCC. He loves ice hockey and follows the Bruins obsessively â€“ we DVR the games for him at night and then he watches them when he wakes up in the morning – he is a very early riser. The floor hockey class fit our budget and it was at the JCC on one of the days he goes there for the after-school program. The unintended benefit of this hockey class is that he met three adorable Jewish boys who all go to Jewish day school. Three more Jewish friends to have playdates with and to identify Jewishly with.
On Martin Luther King Day, he was invited by these three boys to â€śbring a friend to school dayâ€ť at their Jewish day school. It is a great marketing tool for the school because all the public schools are closed and families who might be thinking about sending their kids to the school get a day to see what it’s all about. It was also great for me because I didnâ€™t have to arrange for childcare or take the day off from work!
All kidding aside, I went to Jewish day school from 4 â€“ 6th grade. Jewish day schools typically do half the day in Hebrew (prayer, Hebrew, Torah study, holidays, etc.) and half the day in English (math, science, language arts, social studies, etc.). To this day, any prayer that I sing in services or any blessing that I know by heart and certainly any Hebrew that I can read, are all due to my days at Jewish day school. I donâ€™t think my husband and I ever considered it for our kids for a few reasons: cost is one and another is that the public schools in our area happen to be pretty good. Additionally, since my husband isnâ€™t Jewish I didnâ€™t think he would be comfortable with that kind of school â€“ although I know that many intermarried couples choose Jewish day school in part to educate their kids as well as themselves.
There were many positive takeaways of â€śbring a friend to school day.â€ť Our son tried something totally new, with new friends, in a new environment, with not a lot of advanced knowledge about what to expect that day. My husband and I were so proud of him for trying all of these new things and he was also very proud of himself â€“ the best unintended benefit by far.
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