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The Best of InterfaithFamily.com: Our Picks

January 2007

Through 200 issues of InterfaithFamily.com, we've published more than 1,500 articles from all kinds of people, on a wide variety of topics, written from many different viewpoints. So many of our articles are deeply personal stories of people's interfaith relationships that it might seem unfair to say which ones are our favorites or "the best." But there have been a number of articles that have stood out over the years for their honesty, good writing, wisdom, practical advice, unique perspective or impact with our readers. No objectivity whatsoever went into the compilation of this list; it is a purely subjective portrait of pieces that left particularly strong impressions with members of our staff.

Also see The Best of InterfaithFamily.com: Your Picks, with selections by seven of our contributors and supporters.

The Best of Pregnancy and Birth Ceremonies

Anita Diamant offers some simple suggestions for interfaith couples who are having a baby, and provides a template for a non-denominational baby-naming ceremony, in Welcoming Babies into Intermarried Families: Choosing Ceremonies. Our second-most popular article is Is Heaven Denied to an Unbaptized Child? Advice and Perspective for Catholic Parents Who Are Raising Their Children within Judaism by Father Walter Cuenin, which gives an informative take on the modern Catholic Church's perspective on baptism; it's especially helpful for Catholic grandparents. "You get the strangest looks when you mention hacking off the tip of your baby's penis," says Amy Dominy in her hilarious look at whether to circumcise her child in The Strangest Looks. And Laura Lipman details the complexity of her interfaith family--and the validity of everyone's choices--in Our Jewish Family: Two Sons, One Circumcized and One Not, A Scottish, Presbyterian Husband (Who is Circumcized), and Me, the Jewish Mother.

For more great articles on Pregnancy and Birth Ceremonies, visit our Pregnancy and Birth Ceremonies Resource Page.

The Best of Bar/Bat Mitzvah

"But I'm not Jewish," Karin Mahony's non-Jewish relatives said when she asked them to participate in her son's Bar Mitzvah in An Intercultural Celebration. Her response? "But, you're family, and you are important to Connor." For a great, brief practical take on how to incorporate your entire interfaith family at the Bar Mitzvah, check out Rabbi Barbara Penzer's Creating a Comfortable Bar or Bat Mitzvah for Intermarried Families: Some Thoughts. One of her many great ideas is to create a supplement that explains what to expect at the ceremony.

For more on great articles on Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah, visit our Bar/Bat Mitzvah Resource Page.

The Best of Weddings

"When we told my parents that we intended to be married, my mother burst into tears and said, 'I just don't want you to forget who you are!'" is how Sarah Callahan's journey to a successful interfaith wedding--and marriage--began in The Wedding: A Mixed Blessing. In "Why Do You Do This?": A Rabbi's Experience with Interfaith Marriage, Rabbi Neil Kominsky thoughtfully explains why he does officiate at interfaith marriages, and what his conditions are. A Sample Interfaith Ceremony, by Rabbi Devon Lerner, is the most popular article on our site.

For more great articles on interfaith weddings, visit our Weddings Resource Page.

The Best of Death and Mourning

In Uniting Family and Friends of Different Religions to Mourn a Beloved Grandmother, Ruth Nemzoff shows how it is possible to be sensitive to the customs of non-Jewish mourners when planning a Jewish funeral. In Jewish Burial and Mourning Practice for Non-Jewish Relatives, Rabbi Paul Citrin answers some of the most common questions that non-Jews have about Jewish mourning, including whether or not they can participate in Jewish funerals.

For more great articles on death and mourning, visit our Death and Mourning Resource Page.

The Best of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

Rabbi Jonathan Kraus explains to non-Jewish partners why their non-religious Jewish partner feels a powerful need to go to temple every fall in Understanding the High Holy Days: A Primer for Non-Jewish Partners. In My Holidays!, Gina Hagler, a Jew-by-choice, details how she finally stopped being afraid of doing the High Holidays wrong and started doing them her way. "It was an incredible feeling," she says. "Sort of like when you reach the summit after a long, arduous hike. The kind of hike where you begin to wonder why you ever thought it would be a good idea to start in the first place."

For more great articles on the High Holidays, visit our Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Resource Page.

The Best of Passover and Easter

In How to Transmit My Greek Orthodox Heritage, without Confusing My Jewish Daughter, Tanya Keith wants her young daughter to share in the joy in Greek culture she had as a child, but not the religious confusion she experienced being raised in two faiths. One of the more unusual interfaith perspectives we've ever published comes from Teresita Levy, who describes how she keeps kosher for her Jewish husband, but still cooks Easter dinner, in Ay Vey! A Kosher-for-Passover Easter… with Recipes. Dr. June Andrews Horowitz explains how the spring holidays can lead to subtle feelings of discomfort, and offers ideas on how to overcome any conflict, in a When a Seder Meets Good Friday: Challenges During the Easter and Passover Holidays.

For more great articles on Passover and Easter, visit our Passover and Easter Resource Page.

The Best of December Holidays

In article after article, our writers point out how compromise is the key to success in an interfaith marriage. Rena Mello relates a vivid example in Negotiating Christmas: once her Jewish husband acceded to her request to have a Christmas tree, she realized it was no longer important. In On the Doorposts of Our House, Ellen Glazer, a divorced Jewish woman, tells the moving story of how she came to accept her non-Jewish boyfriend's desire to have Christmas--and how he used the holiday to show his support of her religious choices. While people often obsess over the December Dilemma, in Happy Holidays? Understanding December Dilemmas in the Context of Jewish Family Memories, Paula Brody points out that it's most important how you behave religiously the whole year, not just for one month. And in Exotic Latke Recipes for Celebrating Eight Days of Hanukkah, Jayne Cohen shares a series of delicious variations on the traditional potato pancake.

For more great articles on Hanukkah and Christmas, vist our December Holidays Resource Page.

The Best of Shabbat and Other Holidays

We're always impressed with the creative ways interfaith families find to celebrate and honor their religious and cultural backgrounds. In How I Used My Christmas Tree Decorations to Light Up My Sukkah, Paula C. Yablonsky, a Jew-by-choice, discusses how recycling her Christmas lights for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot helped her overcome her sense of loss over missing Christmas. Cheryl Coon eloquently describes the peace and joy of Shabbat in her interfaith family in Shabbat Brought Us Together.

For more great articles on Shabbat and other holidays, visit our Shabbat and Other Holidays Resource Page.

The Best of Marriage and Relationships

Paula Brody offers her typically excellent advice on how to discuss religious differences in a non-threatening way in Opening Up Communication in an Interfaith Relationship. A piece of uncommon honesty about the difficulties of choosing one religion in an interfaith home is Sheila McIntosh's Our Interfaith Dialogue Evolves, but Never Ends. "Seasonal holiday nostalgia, as well as the sight of families worshiping together whenever I went to church, led me to brood over the sacrifice I was making. I looked to Dan to "make it up to me" in ways he couldn't guess at, and I couldn't clearly explain," she says. In In A Heartbeat, Jeri Zeder eloquently--and amusingly--shares some wisdom she's learned from 17 years of marriage: "We love each other, but we'll never be each other."

For more great articles on interfaith marriage and relationships, visit our Marriage and Relationships Resource Page.

The Best of Parenting

So much of good parenting in interfaith marriages is prepwork: figuring out how you feel about an issue before you address it with your children. Jeri Zeder recalls how she had to get over her own prejudices before talking to her children, in How I Prepared My Kids for Their First Mass and Their Aunt's Catholic Wedding. Christian Pertus-Hendelman details the contours of her family's religious journey, through arguments and revelations, in When Children Raise Jewish Parents. In The Best Gift for Your Unborn Children, Rabbi Julie Greenberg makes the important point that deciding on a religion for your children isn't just about placating your parents, it's about what matters to you and your partner.

For more great articles on Parenting, visit our Parenting Resource Page.

The Best of Growing Up in an Interfaith Family

Growing up in an interfaith family without a strong religious identity can be confusing as an adult--especially if you're interested in exploring religion. In My Glass House, Johanna Karasik poignantly shares the confusion, uniqueness, joy and alienation she feels as the daughter of an interfaith family that practiced no religion. Growing up in a home that didn't talk about God, Jason Bortnick still found a moral compass in What Would Superman Do?. One of the most important points of all our work is that raising children Jewish doesn't mean sacrificing the non-Jewish parent's heritage. Charlotte Honigman-Smith shares her pride in both her Jewish and her Irish heritages in Growing Up Jewish, with an Irish-Catholic Father.

For more great articles on growing up in an interfaith family, visit our Growing Up in an Interfaith Family Resource Page.

The Best of Interdating

Even among secular Jews, there's always the worry, the little kernel of doubt, that religious differences might be a source of conflict down the road. Sarah Smith, a Conservative Jew, honestly shares the worries she has about the future of her relationship with her committed Catholic boyfriend in We Have Similar Personalities, Passions and Beliefs, but Different Religions. Amy Elkes demonstrates how our expectations of who we will date and marry are often different from the reality, in Grown Up Love Is Complicated.

For more great articles on interdating, visit our Interdating Resource Page.

The Best of Grandparenting

Paula Lee Hellman explains, from her own experience, how coming to terms with your children's religious choices for themselves and your grandchildren means acceptance and sensitivity, in Jacob's Family and Ours. Karen Kushner offers compassionate advice to grandparents adjusting to their children's decisions, in Being Great Grandparents to Children of Interfaith Couples.

For more great articles on grandparenting, visit our Grandparenting Resource Page.

The Best of Spirituality

In Personal View: Feeling at Home, Jeanne Blasberg explains that she and her husband "were each raised without any religious or spiritual sense and realized we didn't like it…. We embraced his religion, Judaism, as the right path for us…. [and] discovered a spiritual side to our lives. This has fostered an awe I feel in the world everyday and the thankfulness and love I feel for my family and friends." It's important for each partner to appreciate the religious background of the other, says Rabbi Bruce Kadden, and it's not unusual for both Jews and Christians to have misconceptions and harbor stereotypes. He explains some important and subtle differences in What Jews and Christians Should Know about Each Other: An Important Primer on the Two Religions.

For more great articles on spirituality, visit our Spirituality Resource Page.

The Best of Conversion

InterfaithFamily.com's position on conversion is often misunderstood. We think that conversion is a wonderful personal choice, and we are delighted if any of our resources help people on that journey. But our first goal is to encourage interfaith families to make Jewish choices for themselves and their children, and promoting conversion must be done very carefully to avoid turning people away. That being said, we are pleased to have offered so many helpful viewpoints on conversion. Among our favorites: Becoming Jewish in the Eyes of My Parents, Cathy Rein's story of telling her mother, but not her father, about her decision to convert, and the consequences; Mourner's Kaddish, Andi Rosenthal's moving experience with the complexities of mourning as a Jew-by-choice; Rabbi Helen Cohn's essay The Household of Israel is Built Up by Jews-by-Choice, extolling the valuable contributions Jews-by-choice make to the Jewish community; and Waiting Outside the Promised Land, where Lesley Williams shares her eye-opening perspective about being a black Jew in a synagogue full of white faces.

For more great articles on conversion, visit our Conversion Resource Page.

The Best of Synagogues and the Jewish Community

Teresa McMahon, a Catholic, brings home the impact that a truly welcoming synagogue can have on an interfaith family in Home for the Holidays. Having lived through one unsuccessful attempt to find a synagogue, and faced with the prospect of moving to a new city, she and her husband decided not to leave the community and congregation "that accepted and welcomed us as worthy participants." Marion Usher offers the perspective of a psychologist with extensive experience working with young interfaith couples, in explaining What Interfaith Families Want from the Established Jewish Community: "acceptance, respect for both religious backgrounds, and information. These couples are tired of being excluded and want to be part of the ongoing communal process."

For more great articles on synagogues, outreach and intermarriage in the Jewish community, visit our Synagogues and the Jewish Community Resource Page.

The Best of Israel and Interfaith Families

Israel can be a sensitive subject for interfaith couples. Edie Aronowitz Mueller tells about the difficulties she and her husband have in How to Talk about Israel When the Other is One of Them. But Jim Keen gives one good example of a non-Jewish partner coming to understand the importance of Israel to Jews, and coming to support Israel himself, in A Michigan Yankee in Israel's Court. For helpful advice for couples grappling with the issue, Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff offers Israel: Yours, Mine… or Ours?.

For more great articles on Israel, visit our Israel and Interfaith Families Resource Page.

Hebrew for "Head of the Year," the Jewish New Year. With Yom Kippur, known as the High Holy Days. Hebrew for "son of the commandments." In modern Jewish practice, Jewish boys come of age at 13. When a boy comes of age, he is officially a bar mitzvah and considered an adult. The term is commonly used as a short-hand for the bar mitzvah's coming-of-age ceremony and/or celebration. The female equivalent is "bat mitzvah." Hebrew for "daughter of the commandments." In modern Jewish practice, Jewish girls come of age at 12 or 13. When a girl comes of age, she is officially a bat mitzvah and considered an adult. The term is commonly used as a short-hand for the bat mitzvah's coming-of-age ceremony and/or celebration. The male equivalent is "bar mitzvah." Hebrew for "Day of Atonement," the final of ten Days of Awe that begin with Rosh Hashanah. Occurs during the fall and is marked by a 24-hour fast. One of the most important Jewish holidays. The spring holiday commemorating the Exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The Hebrew name is "Pesach." The Jewish Sabbath, from sunset on Friday to nightfall on Saturday. Hebrew for "fit" (as in, "fit for consumption"), the Jewish dietary laws. Hebrew for "Booths," it's a fall holiday marking the harvest, like a Jewish Thanksgiving, complete with opportunities for dining and sleeping under the stars. Reform synagogues are often called "temple." "The Temple" refers to either the First Temple, built by King Solomon in 957 BCE in Jerusalem, or the Second Temple, which replaced the First Temple and stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem from 516 BCE to 70 CE. Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation.
InterfaithFamily

InterfaithFamily is the premier resource supporting interfaith couples exploring Jewish life and inclusive Jewish communities. We offer educational content; connections to welcoming organizations, professionals and programs; resources and trainings for organizations, clergy and other program providers; and our new InterfaithFamily/Your Community initiative providing coordinated comprehensive offerings in local communities.

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