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A Christian Mother's Jewish Prayers for Her Unborn Son

August 26, 2011

Before my husband and I began trying to conceive our first child, I thought I had this whole interfaith deal figured out. After all, I'd spent nearly ten years living in a Jewish household, ten years celebrating Jewish holidays and ten years in interfaith dialogue, making decisions to fall back on. But when I saw those two pink lines staring back at me on that early Saturday morning, I realized my ten years of preparation might not necessarily apply to my son.

As every mother knows, when a child comes into your life it forever and irrevocably changes you. I became a mother when I found out I was pregnant. Both my worries and dreams for my child were limitless. And as we started planning our son's religious path, from brit milah to bar mitzvah and beyond, emotions and decisions I thought were cemented suddenly began to fracture. Don't get me wrong. I am still firmly committed to raising this child and any future children in the Jewish faith. That decision has not wavered. But doubts and questions about the process and the journey have seeped into those ever widening cracks.

From specially inserted lines during the bris to indicate that this baby is not quite yet a Jew, to his conversion in the mikvah, to the specially added readings for a converted baby to affirm his conversion at his bar mitzvah, I find myself fearing for my child's spiritual journey. I fear the decisions we have made as an interfaith couple will hinder him at best.

We have committed to raising our son in a Jewish home, teaching him Hebrew, visiting Israel, attending synagogue and celebrating only the Jewish holidays. He will continually be reminded, however, that he won't ever really be Jewish because his mother isn't Jewish. After all the hoop jumping, will he always have one more step, one more hurdle, one more person to convince, to prove himself a real Jew?

Questions swirl. Will we choose the "right" rabbi to perform the conversion? Will he be Jewish enough for our Orthodox family? Will he feel ostracized in his Jewish community? Will his non-Jewish mother and grandparents be recognized during his lifecycle events as a vital and integral part of his spiritual upbringing?

As his mother, I pray for him every night. I pray he grows healthy and strong. I pray he finds the right path in his faith. I pray I plant the seeds for him to build a beautiful relationship with G-d. I pray he will not be excluded by his community or his family for my choices. I pray he finds peace and fulfillment in Judaism. I pray he appreciates Israel as G-d's gift to the Jewish people. I pray he finds someone to share love and happiness in his life.

I imagine a Jewish woman's prayers for her child aren't any different.

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 "covenant of circumcision," a ritual for Jewish boys when they are 8 days old. It is commonly known as "bris," which is the Ashkenazi or Yiddish pronunciation of "brit." 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." 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 "collection," referring to the "collection of water," is a bath used for the purpose of ritual immersion in Judaism. Today it is used as part of the traditional procedure for converting to Judaism, by Jews who follow the laws of ritual (body) purity, and sometimes for making kitchen utensils kosher. 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." God. In traditional Jewish circles, it is forbidden to write or say God's full Hebrew name. This custom has carried over into English by some, who write "God" without the vowel (o) and replace it with a hyphen. Some use variations of this, such as G!d or G@d.
Cassie Havel Morgenstern

Cassie Havel Morgenstern is a freelance writer, currently living in Tel Aviv, Israel with her husband, and is happily expecting her first child in January, 2012.

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