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Who will officiate at our wedding ceremony? How should we raise our children? How are they going to raise our grandchildren? What is the best way to keep connections with our extended families and minimize potential conflicts about religion? How do we keep family traditions that may conflict religiously? Should we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah? And how do we explain all of this to our children? These are some of the perplexing questions that face interfaith couples and families.
In the 11th century, the Sephardic philosopher Bahya Ibn Paquda offered this sage comment, "Knowledge: A little light expels much darkness." But where does one find that knowledge?
In 2001 the newly organized outreach committee at Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, realized that finding relevant, authoritative, and supportive information was important for interfaith families. One of its goals was to establish an outreach section in the library with relevant resources for interfaith couples and families.
As a university librarian, I eagerly took on the task of compiling an annotated list of the best materials that would help couples, families, children, and grandparents work through sensitive interfaith issues. I selected sources that would shed light on the complexities that face interfaith families, helping them to dispel the darkness of confusion, misunderstanding, and indecision.
The following sources are gleaned from materials suggested by UAHC's Outreach Division, InterfaithFamily.com, the Jewish Outreach Institute, and members of our outreach committee. The committee used this list to purchase books for the congregation library, and decided that it would make a useful handout. It is distributed at the committee's outreach programs and meetings. The list is also included in a compilation of topical readings from journals and newspapers kept in the congregation library.
Ready to get started on your journey out of darkness? Wondering how and where to find these books? First, try your temple's library. Many congregations have good collections of books on interfaith issues. You may also find them at your local public library--and if they don't have the titles you want, they will be happy to borrow them from another library or purchase them for the collection.
What if you want to purchase a copy of your own? Some of the more recent titles may be in stock at larger bookstores. Even books no longer in print can be located by contacting out-of-print book dealers (often listed in publications like the New York Times Book Review) or by checking online. Alibris is a popular and trusted online source for out-of-print books.
Once you're finished with the books, consider donating them to your congregation's library or to your local public library so that others may benefit from the information. Don't forget to check out the recommended websites at the end of the list. All of them contain a wealth of excellent information from trusted sources.
Start reading and surfing and discover that spark of knowledge that will lead you out of darkness and open up a world of new ideas and possibilities for living Jewishly and happily in an interfaith family.
Cowan, Paul, with Cowan, Rachel. Mixed Blessings: Marriage Between Jews and Christians. Doubleday, 1987 (Also in paperback as Mixed Blessings: Overcoming the Stumbling Blocks in an Interfaith Marriage. Penguin Books, 1988)
Drawn from the experiences of an intermarried couple, from interviews they conducted and from their interfaith marriage workshops. Looks at the complexities of intermarriage and discusses religious identity and observance.
Crohn, Joel. Mixed Matches: How to Create Successful Interracial, Interethnic, and Interfaith Relationships Fawcett, 1995.
Covers how to understand differing cultural and religious viewpoints, how to successfully work through these differences in raising children and interacting with extended family.
Friedland, Ronnie and Case, Ed, eds. The Guide to Jewish Interfaith Family Life: An InterfaithFamily.com Handbook. Jewish Lights Publishing, 2001
One of the newest. Edited by the creators of InterfaithFamily.com.
Contributors include members of interfaith families, rabbis, cantors and outreach professionals. Very positively reviewed.
Gertz, Susan Enid. Hanukkah and Christmas at My House. Willow & Laurel Press, 1992
A wonderful book for pre-school children to learn about their parent's religious upbringing. Sensitive and respectful explanation of both religions and holidays.
Glaser, Gabrielle. Strangers to the Tribe: Portraits of Interfaith Marriage. Houghton Mifflin, 1997
Personal portraits of a culturally and age diverse group of interfaith couples and their families. Based on interviews with hundreds of couples nationwide. Discusses realities, joys and struggles of interfaith relationships. Non-judgmental.
Goodman-Malamuth, Leslie and Margolis, Robin. Between Two Worlds: Choices for Grown Children of Jewish-Christian Parents. Pocket Books, 1992
Based on hundreds of interviews with children of interfaith marriages. Discusses identity conflict and issues resulting from mixed heritage.
Jacobs, Sidney J. and Betty. 122 Clues for Jews Whose Children Intermarry. Jacobs Ladder Publications, 1988
Practical suggestions for dealing with the complex feelings and experiences in a multi-generational context.
Levin, Sunie. Mingled Roots: A Guide for Jewish Grandparents of Interfaith Grandchildren. B'nai B'rith Women, 1991
Offers ideas for strengthening bonds and keeping grandparents and grandchildren connected.
McClain, Ellen Jaffe. Embracing the Stranger. Basic Books, 1995
Encourages the Jewish community to reach out to intermarried families.
Older, Effin and Nancy Hayashi (Illustrator). My Two Grandmothers. Harcourt. 2000
Great picture book for ages 4-8. Written from the point of view of a grandchild who loves celebrating family traditions with her Jewish and Christian grandmothers.
Olitzky, Kerry and Joan Littman. Making a Successful Jewish Interfaith Marriage: The Jewish Outreach Institute Guide to Opportunities, Challenges and Resources. Jewish Lights. 2002
Olitzky, Executive Director of the Jewish Outreach, is an expert on adult Jewish learning.
Petsonk, Judy and Remsen, Jim. The Intermarriage Handbook : A Guide for Jews & Christians. Quill, 1991
Discusses dilemmas faced by intermarried couples and offers variety of solutions. Thought provoking and practical advice.
Reuben, Steven Carr. A Nonjudgmental Guide to Interfaith Marriage: Making Interfaith Marriage Work. Prima, 1994
Title speaks for itself.
Dubner, Stephen. Turbulent Souls: A Catholic Son's Return to His Jewish Family, Morrow.1998
Former New York Times journalist's story of his parents' conversion from Judaism to Catholicism and his journey back to his religious roots.
Kushner, Harold. To Life! A Celebration of Jewish Being and Thinking. Little, Brown. 1993
Insightful, accessible, and joyful introduction to Judaism by best-selling rabbi. A good starting place for