Atlanta

WELCOME!

Welcome to IFF/AtlantaAtlanta is constantly growing and moving, and so are we! Join us for meaningful classes, fun events, delightful gatherings and a chance to be part of an inclusive, welcoming Jewish community. Email Rabbi Malka Packer-Monroe at malkap@interfaithfamily.com.

LATEST BLOG POST

The REAL story behind having an orange on the seder plate! 
SEE THE BLOG >>

CONNECT WITH US

c/o Industrious
675 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Suite 8500
Atlanta, GA 30308
404-991-2238

Rabbi Malka Packer-Monroe
 
 
SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER
 

UPCOMING EVENTS
The Well

December 1, 8:30 p.m. IFF/Atlanta at The Well

Join Rabbi Malka Packer-Monroe from IFF/Atlanta and Rabbi David Spinrad from The Temple along with musician Sammy Rosenbaum for a vibrant and welcoming soulful Shabbat gathering for young professionals and interfaith couples. The service will include original music, introspective meditation, and of course, nosh (food)!

Promukkah

December 16, 8 p.m. Promukkah 5778

Grab your bow ties, fancy clothes, and dancing shoes and join us for our annual prom-themed Hanukkah party, Promukkah! Enjoy drinks and noshes, music and dancing, a photo booth (with take-home magnets!), corsage- and boutonniere-making station, vintage prom-themed movies, and live entertainment. This is THE social event of the season... don't miss it!

SEE ALL UPCOMING EVENTS >>


ONGOING PROGRAMS
Family

Starts January 1: Free Email Series for Parents of Young Children 

You will receive eight emails over 4 weeks about how to bring spirituality and traditions to your parenting in realistic and meaningful ways. The email series will be sent four times a year, beginning the first Monday of January, April, July and October. Upcoming series starts January 1.

 

CONNECT TO MORE RESOURCES


Read some of our latest parenting adventures. >>

Need information to help plan for an interfaith wedding? Interfaith marriages bring up many complicated issues, but you've come to the right place to find answers. Visit InterfaithFamily’s wedding resource page.

And there’s more! Cheat sheets for Jewish holidays, food and greetings.


Proud Partner of Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.

 

 

December 1, 8:30 p.m. IFF/Atlanta at The Well. Join Rabbi Malka Packer from IFF/Atlanta and Rabbi David Spinrad from The Temple along with musician Sammy Rosenbaum for a vibrant and welcoming soulful Shabbat gathering for young professionals and interfaith couples. The service will include original music, introspective meditation, and of course, nosh (food)!

December 16, 8 p.m. Promukkah 5778. Grab your bow ties, fancy clothes, and dancing shoes and join us for our annual prom-themed Hanukkah party, Promukkah! Enjoy drinks and noshes, music and dancing, a photo booth (with take-home magnets!), corsage- and boutonniere-making station, vintage prom-themed movies, and live entertainment. This is THE social event of the season... don't miss it!

IFF/Atlanta at The Well

Join Rabbi Malka Packer-Monroe from IFF/Atlanta and Rabbi David Spinrad from The Temple along with musician Sammy Rosenbaum for a vibrant and welcoming soulful Shabbat gathering for young....
December 01 2017
8:30 PM - 10:00 pm
The Temple 1589 Peachtree St. NE
Atlanta, GA 30309

Promukkah 5778

Back by popular demand, join us for the 2nd annual Promukkah party in our funky Ponce City Market office space. We will have music, delicious food and drink, a fabulous photo booth, a....
December 16 2017
8:00 PM - 11:00 PM
C/O Industrious 675 Ponce de Leon Ave., Suite 8500
ATL, GA 30308

Menorah Lighting on Marietta Square Monday, December 18
Celebrate Hanukkah with a Menorah Lighting on the Glover Park Stage at Marietta Square by Congregation Ner Tamid of Marietta/ West Cobb, Monday, December 18 from 6:30-7:30pm, led by Rabbi Joseph....
December 18 2017
6:30 PM - 7:30 PM
50 Park Square
Marietta, GA 30060

Ahavath Achim Synagogue
Synagogue
Atlanta, GA
30327 United States
1 Member
Atlanta
Atlanta

Public
This is an Organization

Atlanta Jewish Film Festival
Arts & Culture -
Atlanta, GA
30339 United States
1 Member
Atlanta
Atlanta

Public
This is an Organization

Atlanta Jewish Music Festival
Arts & Culture -
Atlanta, GA
30309 United States
2 Members
Atlanta
Atlanta

Public
This is an Organization

Atlanta Jewish Times
Arts & Culture
ATL, GA
30328 United States
1 Member
Atlanta
Atlanta

Public
This is an Organization

Congregation B'nai Israel
Synagogue
Fayetteville, GA
30215 United States
1 Member
Atlanta
Atlanta

Public
This is an Organization

Congregation B'nai Torah
Synagogue
Sandy Springs, GA
30328 United States
1 Member
Atlanta
Atlanta

Public
This is an Organization

Congregation Bet Haverim
Synagogue
Atlanta, GA
30329 United States
3 Members
Atlanta
Atlanta

Public
This is an Organization

Blogs

Atlanta
Subject
Author Date
 
Becky & Olufemi 10-31-17

Femi at a Waffle HouseIn case you didnÂ’t notice from the pictures, Femi and I are a devilishly handsome, interfaith, interracial couple. We also happen to live in the South. While Atlanta is a shiny blue dot amongst a sea of red, itÂ’s still the South. There are challenges we have down here unique to any other part of the country. Case in point are the reactions we get to being an interracial couple. In the interest of fairness, let me say that not all of them are bad. For instance, people at restaurants remember us because we stand out (which the narcissist in me LOVES). And, when I see other interracial couples out, we give each other a nice smile of solidarity. Plus, itÂ’s scientifically proven that we will make beautiful children.

But then there are the not-so-great reactions. Older, white men, stare incredulously at Femi like he’s committed a crime. While black women stare daggers at me because I’ve “stolen one of the good ones.” That’s tough for me to wrap my head around because my falling in love with Femi wasn’t part of some master plan to undermine the black women of the world. However, I do understand their anger, even though in this case it’s misplaced.

The worst example of this took place in one of the most sacred institutions in the South: Waffle House. Northerners, imagine an IHOP, but better, and you get Waffle House, where the elite meet to eat. Waffle House is supposed to be a judgment-free zone. ItÂ’s like the Statue of Liberty of food joints; give me your tired, your poor, your hungover masses yearning to eat hash browns (scattered, smothered, and covered, in my case). Imagine our surprise when one morning, when Femi and I were sitting on stools at the counter, we shared a quick kiss and a black, female server stopped in her tracks, gave us the ugliest look IÂ’ve ever seen, and kept walking. We were shocked; the questions started flying. Did that just really happen? Maybe we imagined it? Femi, can I finish your cinnamon raisin toast? While this wasnÂ’t the first look we had ever gotten, this was by far the most brazen. Femi is lucky because he can let that kind of thing roll off his back, whereas I know IÂ’ll carry that moment with me the rest of my life.

Becky and Femi

Becky and Femi (at a Waffle House)

One place where we have rarely been judged for being interracial has been the religious community. I have brought Femi to several Jewish events over the course of our relationship; we’ve done Shabbat dinners with friends, attended Atlanta Jewish Music Festival events and he’s done Passover seder at my house twice. Conversely, Femi and I have been to his mother’s church, the Community Church of God, three times. Besides the religious differences between the two communities I should also note that most people at my Jewish events are white, while the Church of God has a mostly black congregation. Yet we’ve felt completely welcome in both situations. I will say I’d love to see more Jews of color at the community events I attend so Femi doesn’t feel so tokenized, and I think conversations are beginning to happen to change that. Meanwhile, the Church of God is such a welcoming and friendly place. Everyone I met seemed genuinely happy to meet me, and didn’t ask me any questions about my faith (which is something I worried about). We sang and clapped along to the beautiful church choir, and even though there were portions of the service that didn’t overlap with my specific religious beliefs, their general mantra is to be a good person and love thy neighbor—who can’t get on board with that?! Really the most awkward moments were of my own doing when I’d feel particularly moved by a song or a passage and I’d say stuff like “hell yeah!” or “damn right!” and Femi would have to nudge me and politely remind me that we were in church. Seriously, sometimes I shouldn’t even be let out of the house.

There are plenty of naĂŻve people out there who think weÂ’re in a post-racial society. Not to burst bubbles, but weÂ’re not. ThatÂ’s going to take many years of open dialogue, and many years of separation from past generations of backward thinkers. But itÂ’s nice to know that Femi and I have access to a few communities who appreciate the depth of our relationship, and donÂ’t just stop at the colors of our skin.


View Comments on "A Girl, a Guy and a Waffle House"

 


 
Rabbi Robyn Frisch 09-08-17

By Rabbi Robyn Frisch and Rabbi Malka Packer

Just like the approach of the secular new year, the approach of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, is a great time to reflect on the past year and to make resolutions about how you can be better in the year ahead. (Click here to read how Jewish new year resolutions are different from secular new year resolutions.)

We propose that synagogues use this time to take stock of how they’ve been welcoming and inclusive to interfaith couples and families over the past year, and how they can be even more welcoming and inclusive in the year ahead. One way to do this is to participate in InterfaithFamily’s Interfaith Inclusion Leadership Initiative (IILI). But even for those not participating in IILI, this is a great time of year to come up with an action plan of how they can be more welcoming and inclusive. Below are suggestions based on a webinar on “Language and Optics” that we are presenting to IILI participants. These suggestions are the combined work of a number of InterfaithFamily staff members over the years based on our vast experience working with interfaith couples and families. What is your synagogue’s response to each of the following questions? Based on your responses, you can see where you have work to do.

  • Does your synagogueÂ’s website have photos that present the diversity of your community—including people of color, members of LGBTQ families, mixed-race families, etc.? While presenting diversity, you also want to be sure to be honest and make sure to present your community as it actually is, not how it aspires to be.
  • Are all Hebrew words and Jewish “insider terms” that you use on your website translated and transliterated?
  • Is there an explicit statement on your website letting interfaith couples and families know that you want them to be part of your community?
  • Does your website have resources and links to resources (such as interfaithfamily.com) for interfaith couples and families?
  • Who can be a member of your synagogue? Where are membership policies stated? Are they clearly stated on the website or in a pamphlet/brochure?
  • Who can be on which committees in your synagogue and who can hold leadership roles? Where is this stated? On the website or in a pamphlet/brochure?
  • Are printed ritual policies with explanations accessible? Where are they? On the website? In a pamphlet/brochure? In a b’nai mitzvah manual? Do you also have clearly stated policies on all of the following:
    1. What role can parents and other family members, who are not Jewish, have during a baby naming?
    2. What role can parents and other family members, who are not Jewish, have during a bar/bat mitzvah?
    3. Can members who are not Jewish open the ark?
    4. If there is a synagogue cemetery (or local cemetery), can family members who are not Jewish be buried there?
  • Does your religious school handbook include information about children from interfaith homes?
  • Does your bÂ’nai mitzvah handbook include information about interfaith families and extended family from other backgrounds?
  • Are resources for interfaith families (such as InterfaithFamilyÂ’s booklets on a variety of topics) set out and easily accessible?
  • Is there a guide to your Shabbat service available for those who arenÂ’t comfortable with the service (bÂ’nai mitzvah guests and others)?

 

Hopefully these questions can help guide your synagogue in institutional cheshbon nefesh (accounting of the soul) at this time of the year and encourage an action plan for becoming more welcoming and inclusive of interfaith couples and families in the year ahead.

To learn more about InterfaithFamilyÂ’s Interfaith Inclusion Leadership Initiative click here.


View Comments on "Resolutions Your Synagogue Can Make This Rosh Hashanah"

 


 
Rabbi Malka Packer 03-20-17

Seder plate

Anything boys can doAs a kid, my mother taught us to put an orange on the seder plate as an act of feminism. Around that same time, she gave me a hot pink T-shirt with rainbow sparkle letters that read, “Anything boys can do, girls can do better.” It was the ’80s and my passions for girl power, rainbows and Jewish rituals were ignited.

My mom, and many other feminists, passed on the famous origin story of the orange, that Dr. Susannah Heschel was lecturing in Miami, and, while she was speaking of feminism, an Orthodox man supposedly shouted that “a woman belongs on the bimah [pulpit] as much as an orange belongs on the seder plate.” And so, as feminists, we all added the orange as an act of resistance; a symbol of women’s rights.

But, alas, that story that I had heard and retold for decades was a myth

(IFF/PhiladlephiaÂ’s Rabbi Robyn Frisch discusses the myth here). And while I was studying at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, I was quite surprised as the story was debunked by my rabbi and I learned what REALLY happened.

It was the 1980s, and Heschel was speaking at the Hillel Jewish student group at Oberlin College. While there, she came across a Haggadah written by a student that included a story of a young girl who asks her rabbi if there is room in Judaism for a lesbian. The rabbi in the story replies in anger, “There’s as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the seder plate!”—implying that lesbians are impure and are a violation of Judaism.

The next year, Heschel put an orange on her seder plate and shared that she chose the orange “because it suggests the fruitfulness for all Jews when lesbians and gay men are contributing and active members of Jewish life.”

The seeds of the orange, like other items on the seder plate, symbolize rebirth and renewal. And some folks have taken on the tradition of spitting the seeds to remind us to spit out the hatred experienced by all marginalized members of our communities.

Since the addition of the orange, other symbols have been added to the traditional seder plate (watch our fun video guide for what to put on a seder plate). Some vegetarians and vegans have added a “paschal yam,” in place of the shank bone, which traditionally represents the paschal lamb. Others have included olives for peace in the Middle East. And some have placed potato peels on their plates to commemorate Jews who starved during the Holocaust.

Most recently I learned that members of Rabbis For Human Rights, who work to support the under-paid and over-worked tomato pickers in Florida, have included a tomato as a symbol of contemporary slavery.

“We who believe in FREEDOM, cannot rest until it comes.” This year, as I prepare to lead the Passover seder for my family and friends, I am emboldened to add these various symbols to our plate as reminders of who is not free. What segments of my community are still enslaved? What human rights issues must be addressed?

I am empowered to take action and commit to do the social justice work to bring equality and dignity to everyone. In the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “No one is free until we are all free.”


View Comments on "Why Is There an Orange on the Seder Plate?"

 


 
Rabbi Malka Packer 12-28-16

Promukkah

This year InterfaithFamily/Atlanta hosted our first annual Promukkah: Prom-themed Hannukah party in our Ponce City Market office! The evening was a blast with rockin’ dance music spun by Russell Gotchalk of the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival, delicious nosh, a corsage/boutonniere making station and a very popular photobooth.

Highlights include dancing the hora as we celebrated the recent marriage of Baca Holohan and Kai Murga, some incredibly creative outfits with lights, wigs and glowing shoes, as well as enormous jelly filled doughnuts.

We celebrated the festival of lights with members of the greater Atlanta community including our co-sponsors: Moishe House-Inman Park, SOJOURN, the Sixth Point, Limmud Atlanta + Southeast, AAspire, Bechol Lashon, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and Honeymoon Israel.  Plans for next year’s gathering have already begun!

promukkah couple

promukkah

promukkah couple

the hora

promukkah dreidel

malka at proumukkah

dancing at promukkah


View Comments on "Promukkah: A PromThemed Hannukah Party"

 


 
Rabbi Malka Packer 07-22-16
Black Lives Matter rally in Atlanta

Rabbi Malka (left) at a Black Lives Matter rally in Atlanta

My face lit up as we entered the room full of glittery drag queens prancing around the stage, singing cheesy, campy songs. Sally Struthers was relaxing in the audience after her performance at the local theater (don’t worry, we got a photo with her); dozens of queers were laughing and holding hands and flirting and drinking. It was our first time at a gay bar since the shooting in Orlando and we felt at home. My partner and I have been shaken up after recent events and were thrilled to be surrounded by “family.” My heart was soaring as we arrived on the dance floor full of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming folks. We felt free in our bodies. We felt safe as a queer couple. I looked around the room and saw beautiful loving souls celebrating life, celebrating love.

So, it surprised me when tears suddenly came rolling down my face. In that moment I truly, deeply knew what it meant to say, “We Are Orlando.” This tragedy could have happened anywhere at any time. Anyone could have been the victims. I hugged my partner close and sobbed on her shoulder. “This could have been us,” I thought.

As we left the nightclub that evening, I grabbed my sweetieÂ’s hand tight.

That night I felt heartbreak and pain, but it felt good to be with my community. And while I didnÂ’t feel safe, exactly, I felt at home with my people. Happy.

Like everyone I know, IÂ’d been shattered by the shootings at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Like everyone in my community, I voiced my outrage, marched, cried. Being surrounded by my queer community and loving allies filled me with hope and connection. Connection to everyone around me. Connection to the Source of Healing.

Only days later, the world was rocked by violence, once again. Only this time it wasnÂ’t my people. This time, black men were killed in the streets. This time felt different. While I grieved with my Black friends and community, this wasnÂ’t my community. This was not my family. I cried tears for those who suffered from trauma, who were scared, who were victims of individual and institutionalized White Supremacy.

Malka at a walk against discrimination

Rabbi Malka (bottom left) with other local rabbis at a protest this winter at the capital against a homophobic “religious freedom” bill

My heart sank when I learned of the retaliation attacks against police officers. My head has been spinning. The world I live in has been feeling shattered, broken and in need of mending.

ItÂ’s been a painful month.

And itÂ’s easy to feel powerless. Scared. Angry. ItÂ’s easy to point fingers and blame and stomp and run away.

Part of me wants to run and hide and ignore the world around me and wrap myself up in the safety of my White Privilege. WouldnÂ’t that be easy? When I drive down the street, I donÂ’t have to worry about being pulled over. When I peruse through the grocery store, no one assumes that I am shoplifting as I carefully place produce into my canvas shopping bags. I donÂ’t worry for my brotherÂ’s safety when he is out in the world. IÂ’m not fearful for my nephewÂ’s life. It would be so easy, so simple to just check out and ignore the horrific news stories and be silent.

And part of me wants to hide in my femme, cis-gendered privilege. I can easily pass as a straight woman, avoid gay bars, use the women’s bathroom without being questioned or harassed and feel “safe.”

But I can’t hide behind my many layers of privilege. I can’t just run away. The tug is too strong. As a Jew, as a queer female identified cis-woman, as a feminist, as a white person and as a rabbi, I know that it is my obligation, my duty and my responsibility to work toward radical inclusion and social justice.  It is my duty to work toward tikkun olam, healing the world.

Today, I choose to be loud. To be a part of the solution. To take a stand.

And this is complicated. What does it mean to be an advocate for the queer community, a group of people of whom I am a part? My people. My precious loved ones.

And what does it mean to be an advocate for the Black community, a group of people of whom I am not a part? My friends. My allies. My precious loved ones.

How can I use my power and privilege to create change in the world? Not as a savior, not as a hero, but as an ally. As a fellow human being.

Today, I choose to take action. Today, I choose to:

*  Educate myself and my community about racism, about micro-aggressions, about White Supremacy and about White Privilege. About homophobia, transphobia and the bathroom laws.

*  Donate to advocacy groups like Black Lives Matter, Atlanta Movement for Black Lives Reparations Fund, Help Queer&Trans Women and Femmes of Color Heal, SOJOURN (Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity), Georgia Equality and Equality Federation.

*  Participate in rallies, protests, marches, vigils and spiritual gatherings.

*  Volunteer to engage local residents in community conversations about why updating our non-discrimination laws to include gay and transgender people is vital.

Today, I will challenge narratives. I will listen actively. I will love deeply. In the words of Abraham Joshua Heshel, today I will “pray with my feet.”


View Comments on "Why I am Not Hiding After Orlando"

 


 
Laurel Snyder 04-29-16

boys licking chocolate off their messy facesI remember standing with a few friends after my oldest son was born. We were talking, as new mothers do, about how hard parenting can be, how scary. We were comparing neurotic-helicopter-mom moments, laughing at ourselves.

I shared a story about taking my son to the doctor when he seemed to have a fever. “His temperature is high!” I’d cried to the pediatrician, who only chuckled knowingly and said, “Well, maybe you want to unwrap some of these blankets when he’s indoors.” Of course my son was fine, just overheated.

I blushed telling this story. My friends grinned. They had the same stories, of course.  About cutting food up (choking hazards!) into tiny bits too small for the kids to actually pick up. About perceived rare (thanks, WebMD!) skin conditions that turned out to only be heat rash.

But I remember, in the middle of all the laughter that day, someone said, “Well, who can blame us? It’s the ‘Jewish Mother Thing.’ We’re supposed to be anxious and neurotic!  It’s in our DNA!” The laughter continued, and then we probably all had some coffee, or wine.

As the years have passed (10 of them), IÂ’ve gone back to that moment a lot. Because it turns out that as a parent, IÂ’m not especially neurotic. IÂ’m the mom who often shows up with junky snacks, when other people have baked gluten-free, organic muffins. IÂ’m the mom whose kids shower once a week. My boys walk around the neighborhood unattended, own pocketknives and occasionally we forget to eat dinner.

Do these things mean IÂ’m not a Jewish mother? Of course stereotypes are flawed, inexact, problematic. But when I joined a Jewish Mom group on Facebook and saw the effort other Jewish parents put into the details of summer camp selection, perfect birthday cupcakes and finding the best specialists, I found myself wondering, and feeling a littleÂ… different. Outside the norm.

It never occurred to me until I saw so many Jewish Mothers all in one place that I might not be one, in the traditional sense. But of course this is absolutely logical, because I never had a Jewish Mother. My own overworked mom, raised Catholic in California—regularly left me at the library until after the doors were locked (it was fine, I sat and read on the steps). She didn’t make kugel and she didn’t speak in Yiddishisms. I rode public buses and did my homework (or didn’t) without anyone ever looking at it. I survived, and learned, I guess, how to parent a little haphazardly, with spit and tape. I learned how fine things usually are, in the end. I learned to avoid stress whenever possible.

But does this mode of parenting make me somehow less Jewish?

Here’s the thing—I am a Jewish mother. I know I am. Because I’m raising Jewish sons. And maybe what the rising intermarriage rates suggest is that we’re going to see a shift in the “Jewish Mother Thing” in the near future. Maybe the next generation of Jewish mothers, raised themselves by women from a more diverse array of religions, regions and cultures, will be less similar, less careful, a little less neurotic. Because they don’t have this “Jewish Mother” stereotype in their heads.

Or maybe not! Maybe all mothers are anxious sometimes and the “Jewish Mother Thing” is a fiction, a narrative we’ve crafted as a culture, a way of embracing and forgiving ourselves for our neurotic maternal impulses; a myth we perpetuate.

In any case, I want to take a moment today to honor us all.. This week, for MothersÂ’ Day, I want to say to ALL the Jewish Mothers of the world, Yasher Koach! Good job on your perfectionism, or your relaxed attitude. Good job on the homemade cupcakes, or the Ho-Ho you stuck a candle in at the last minute. Good job on remembering the dental appointment, or forgetting and rescheduling it because you took the kids for a hike that day instead. Good job on raising a diverse world of wonderful Jewish kids who will strengthen and alter and carry on our tradition. IÂ’m proud of us all.


View Comments on "The Jewish Mother Thing"

 


 
Rabbi Malka Packer 01-25-16

On Sunday, January 10, 2016, InterfaithFamily/Atlanta hosted a fabulous open house at our new office space in Ponce City Market. Over 100 Atlantans celebrated with us as we blessed our new home. After reciting the Shehecheyanu prayer, guests shared their blessings for IFF/ATL and our board member, Rebecca Hoelting, hung our new mezuzah from AtlantaÂ’s own Modern Tribe Jewish gift shop. We enjoyed music from the Pussywillows, thanks to the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival, ate delicious food from the markets in PCM, and hung out in our cool new gathering spaces like the meditation room, the green room with picnic tables, and a secret room that looks like the inside of JeanieÂ’s bottle. Everyone left with a florescent green Shalom YÂ’all tote bag full of goodies and IFF resources.

We are looking forward to more exciting events in 2016!!

IFF/Atlanta's blessing space

Shalom Y'all bag

Mezuzah hanging

Picnic area space in new offices

Rabbi Malka Packer & Laurel Snyder

 

Kids holding hands

 

The Pussy Willows performing


View Comments on "InterfaithFamily/Atlanta's Housewarming Party Photo Gallery"

 


 
Cassie Morgenstern 10-26-11

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 weÂ’re okay with that… heÂ’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.  WeÂ’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 weÂ’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 havenÂ’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 IÂ’m not looking for easy.  IÂ’m not looking for practicality when it comes to my spiritual needs.  IÂ’m looking for a relationship with G-d.  My own faith fulfills that need and until it doesnÂ’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 donÂ’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 canÂ’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 heÂ’d see us in services very soon.  I think he just may.


View Comments on "Our Date with the Rabbi"

 


 
Cassie Morgenstern 10-03-11

From Tel Aviv to Atlanta: After our goodbyes were said, a few tears, a 12 hour flight and 16 hour unexpected roadtrip down the Eastern seaboard, my husband, baby and I are officially ex-expats.  The move from Israel back to the United States was a little tougher on me physically than I expected.  Sometimes I do forget I have to slow down a bit more than usual as I have hit my final trimester, but we are finally settling in nicely.  With cars purchased, house rented and boxes unpacked, we are now focusing on everything we have to do to prepare for our son.

Besides the usual, like the bi-monthly prenatal appointments, showers, birthing classes and decorating the nursery, we are beginning to research mohels to perform the circumsicion, a rabbi to perform the conversion and local synagogues to find the perfect fit for our growing interfaith family (in the middle of the High Holidays mind you!).  There is a lot to do in the next three months, but I think weÂ’re up for the challenge. 

I have already noticed little differences with being pregnant in the States than in Israel.  Because the birth rate in Israel is higher than in the U.S., I would see pregnant women everywhere and now I feel as if I rarely see another pregnant woman on any given day. In Israel, my OB was very dependent on technology and genetic testing to track the progress of my pregnancy.  I had an ultrasound and a blood or genetic test at nearly every appointment while in Israel, while my new OB in the States will only perform one ultrasound and will rely primarily on tracking my symptoms, weight and growth for the rest of my pregnancy. 

Oh and of course, Americans are far more aware of personal space than Israelis so the belly rubbing and uninvited advice from strangers has slowed quite a bit since moving back.  I have to tell you, I actually kind of miss it!


View Comments on "And Now the Real Work Begins"

 


 
Cassie Morgenstern 09-06-11

Deciding upon a name for your child can be one of the most fun and most stressful experiences parents-to-be can face during nine months of pregnancy.   Honoring family members, naming after favorite authors or television characters and the age old close-your-eyes-spin-three-times-and-point-to-a-name-in-the-baby-book are all perfectly good methods of deciding on the name of your child.

Even after all those discussions, you have to go through the obligatory fail-safe name rules:

“Nope, canÂ’t use that as the middle nameÂ… look what the initials spell.”

“No, that name rhymes with a part of the anatomy I do not want associated with my sweet child.”

“Hannah Hannah Bo Bana… Fi Fy Fo Fanna, Hannah!”

On top of all this, we, as an interfaith couple, have had extra “rules” to follow. 

First, of course, our Jewish child should have a Hebrew name. Per my husbandÂ’s Ashkenazi side, the baby cannot be named after a living relative, but should honor a relative that has passed on.  Per my husbandÂ’s Sephardic side, we should name after a living relative so that person may enjoy the honor.  Per my husbandÂ’s Israeli family, our child should have a modern Israeli name.  Per my husband’s Orthodox family, only traditional names from the Torah are acceptable. 

WaitÂ… what?!

Confused yet?  Then we have to take into account my husbandÂ’s particular sensitivity to names since he grew up with a very traditional Israeli name in the United States that turned out to be the name of a Disney character while he was in third gradeÂ… a girl Disney character. Poor guy. So since we plan on living in Israel and the United States during the childÂ’s life, the name has to work in both Hebrew in English (sorry: Nimrod, Dudu and Moron are out!). 

Plus, my American family has to be able to pronounce this Hebrew name (not an easy task with Southern accents).

After months of searching, throwing out names, rediscussing names, arguing and maybe just a few pregnancy hormone induced tears, we finally have a name for our child!!  Baruch Hashem!  We happily share the name with our family. Yes, sharing the name before the brit milah is a big no-no, but I think we deserve a break on this one.  What do you know?  They hate it. 

Oy vey, whatÂ’s an interfaith family to do?


View Comments on "The Great CrossCultural Interfaith Baby Name Divide"

 


 
Cassie Morgenstern 08-24-11

Hello readers and fellow parenting bloggers!  I am excited to begin sharing our story with you and learning a lot more along the way.

First, a little about me:  I am an Evangelical Christian woman married to my wonderful Jewish husband for nearly 3 years.  Our interfaith journey together has stretched nearly a decade and has even brought us to live in Israel for a year!  Being pregnant in a foreign country has been quite the adventure in itself.  Did you know your pregnant belly is public property in Israel?  It has taken some getting used to random strangers rubbing my belly and exclaiming a hearty “BÂ’shaÂ’a tova” [in good time] or “Mazel tov” [congratulations], but I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed the attention.

Although I have no plans to convert and am very strong in my faith, I am very committed to my raising my piece of the Jewish family.  I am actually a parent-in-training as I am due with our first child in January of next year.  We canÂ’t wait to meet our little boy and begin this new chapter of our lives together.

I hope you enjoy reading my blog posts and of course I always welcome advice, comments and questions.  Until next time, IÂ’m off to pack for our second international move back home to AtlantaÂ…while 6 months pregnant!


View Comments on "Introducing Cassie"

 


 

Discussions

There are currently no discussions for the community.