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May 23, 2006 eNewsletter


 Web Magazine

May 23, 2006

Dear friend,

When interfaith couples have children, they often face a series of tough questions: How will the child be raised? Will he/she be baptized? Will he/she have a bris or a baby-naming? Will the child be sent to Hebrew school or Christian school? Will the family join a synagogue or a church? In this issue of our Web Magazine , we share a variety of perspectives from interfaith parents who have faced--or are facing--these issues.

In Parenting for a Positive Jewish Identity, Josh Segal says there's a simple way to have your kids grow up Jewish: show them how.

"We joined Beth Hillel a year and a half ago. Three months later, I attended my first Jewish memorial service. It was for our stillborn twin sons," says Pam Chernoff in the moving At Last Becoming a Parent, with the Support of My Congregation .

In an era of Protestant Goldsteins and Jewish O'Sullivans, does having a Jewish-sounding name matter? Julie Wiener thinks it does, and named her daughter accordingly, in "In the Mix": A Rosenblum by Any Other Name...

Twenty-two years ago, Dan Pine and his non-Jewish wife couldn't find a mohel who would circumcise their son Aaron. "According to Jewish law, my son was no more Jewish than the Pope," he says. But six years later, Aaron knew he didn't look like the other boys--and he wanted to do something about it. Read In This "Opt in, Opt out" World, It's Hard to Remain a Jew .

Sometimes it takes Friday night concerts on the beach, crab-hunting and Vietnamese shrimp rolls to make an interfaith family feel connected to Judaism. Read Joanne Catz Hartman's Joys of Chavurah (AKA, "The Jewish Party Thing") .

"I am not sure down the road if my children will grow up and marry Jewish spouses," says Sallie W. Gotoff, who's close to converting. "I do know, however, that tonight we will light the Shabbat candles together." Read A Journey of Faith: Step by Step, Beginning with the Birth of Our First Child .

Andi L. Rosenthal was always different from her sister. Andi's tall; Laura's short. Andi's single; Laura's married with two children. Now Andi's Jewish, and Laura's Catholic. Laura's come to terms with that, but what about the nephew Andi godmothered before she converted? Read more in Star/Crossed: Jewish Stories from an Interfaith Life: Sisters, Set in Stone .

For twenty years, Anita Diamant's The Jewish Baby Book has helped parents navigate the often complicated waters of Jewish birth ceremonies and baby-naming traditions. Now she's come out with a new edition--which is even more helpful for interfaith, gay/lesbian and other non-traditional Jewish families. Read Cheryl F. Coon's review .

What do you think? Please join our online discussion  on the topic: Was it important that your child have a bris? Why or why not?

Also check out our resource for interfaith families planning a birth ceremony for their child, Tips for Including Non-Jewish Family Members in Birth Ceremonies .

Also in This Issue

When we published our editorial Enough is Enough, we suspected we weren't alone in our concern over the recent Jewish communal campaign to convert non-Jewish spouses. Now Rabbi David Ellenson, head of the Reform movement's rabbinical school, and Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, head of the Jewish Outreach Institute, are adding their voices to the conversion debate in Conversion Is Not an Outreach Strategy .

Meanwhile, the Conservative movement continues to take steps to open up to interfaith families. In Reaching Out to the Intermarried, Rabbi David Booth says Conservative synagogues should welcome--and start learning about--interfaith families. Rabbi Dr. Barry Leff agrees... but still finds intermarriage "scary." See Lessons on Intermarriage from Abraham .

Coming Next

Don't miss our issue on Multicultural Interfaith Families on June 6.


Micah Sachs, Online Managing Editor

Write for Us!

We're looking for writers on the following topics:

1) Do you feel that the most difficult obstacle between you and a stronger Jewish identity comes from your interfaith background/relationship, or do you not have a strong Jewish identity because the Jewish community doesn't adequately recognize your situation and needs?

2) Tell us about what your interfaith family does for the High Holidays, and if you are in a Muslim-Jewish relationship, tell us about the High Holidays and Ramadan in your family.

If you want to write on these topics, please send an email to .

Connections In Your Area--Featured Event  

Reclaiming Mikveh is the first conference of its kind, focusing on a remarkable phenomenon in contemporary Jewish life: the growing number of Jewish men and women who are finding deep meaning in the ancient wellspring of mikveh. Reclaiming Mikveh brings together clergy, educators, academics and Jewish leadership from across the country in a revolutionary exploration on immersion as a source of spiritual renewal and understanding. Nationally renowned keynote speakers, workshop leaders and leading thinkers will gather for a lively, in-depth examination of mikveh and its possibilities, including new uses and rituals. The sponsor is the Outreach Training Institute of the Union of Reform Judaism-Northeast Region .

The conference takes place June 4-6 in Newton, MA. For registration, visit the Mayyim Hayyim website .


Network News

Help Us Reach More Interfaith Families has been presented with a great opportunity: the Children of Harvey and Lyn Meyerhoff Philanthropic Fund will give us $25,000 to get the word out if we can raise a matching amount. We're asking for your help: any contribution made by June 1 will count towards the $25,000 goal. In effect, every $1 you give is worth $2! To participate, go to .

Thank you!

Congratulations, Pam Saeks!

We'd like to thank everyone who contributed ideas for our Bar/Bat Mitzvah Ideas and Primer for Interfaith Families. Pam Saeks of Cincinnati, Ohio, was the lucky winner of a $100 giftcard from Barnes & Noble.


We're a national partner and will participate in a "Meet the Author" session at the Reclaiming Mikveh conference in Boston June 4-6. For more information, click here .

For our Reform rabbi friends, please visit our booth at the Central Conference of American Rabbis Convention in San Diego June 18-21.

We will also be a co-presenter of La Petite Jerusalem at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival later this summer.

Ways You Can Get Involved

Join Our Discussions.  We want to know what you think--and it's easy to tell us!

Spread the Word.  Ask your friends to subscribe to The eConnection --the more people we reach, the better!




Derived from the Greek word for "assembly," a Jewish house of prayer. Synagogue refers to both the room where prayer services are held and the building where it occurs. In Yiddish, "shul." Reform synagogues are often called "temple." The Jewish Sabbath, from sunset on Friday to nightfall on Saturday. A language of West Semitic origins, culturally considered to be the language of the Jewish people. Ancient or Classical Hebrew is the language of Jewish prayer or study. Modern Hebrew was developed in the late-19th and early 20th centuries as a revival language; today it is spoken by most Israelis.
Hebrew for "circumciser" (Yiddish term is "moyel"), the person who performs a ritual circumcision. The feminine form is "mohelet." 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. Hebrew for "covenant," often referring to the ritual for Jewish boys when they are 8 days old ("brit milah" - "covenant of circumcision"). It is commonly known as "bris," which is the Ashkenazi or Yiddish pronunciation of "brit."
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