Lea Khayata and Elettra Fiumi, two students at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, have recently completed a compelling digital masters project on Jewish-Christian interfaith families called “Being Interfaith.” As part of the project, Khayata and Fiumi looked at teenagers who have been raised in two religions through participation in the Interfaith Community, a non-profit organization that supports interfaith families by catering to the spiritual needs of both spouses.
Interfaith Community holds services, celebrations for Jewish and Christian holidays, and classes for children and adults. Two teachers, one Jewish and one Christian, lead classes for children with “each sharing his or her own faith’s history, traditions, and practices, to give the teenagers the tools to make informed decisions regardless of the religious path they choose.” The organization’s focus is on a small segment of the population – intermarried parents who will not or cannot choose just one religion for their children, yet still want to provide their kids with a deep understanding of both. Many more intermarried couples do, in fact, choose one religion (or no religion) on behalf of their children, or do “both” in a very perfunctory way, a little of Hanukkah/Christmas, a little of Passover/Easter, what we at JOI call “American Civil Religion.” For those who choose “both” and still want to provide a deep understanding for their kids, there are few alternatives like the Interfaith Community, which provides children the education and capability to eventually choose for themselves. They make informed decisions, and many choose Judaism, a choice that might not have otherwise happened if their parents had chosen “none” rather than “both.”