Grandparents Circle in Hartford, CT

As we already know, interfaith marriages can put quite a strain on the relationship between parents and the children getting married. But when those parents become grandparents, the conversation takes on a new dimension – Jewish grandparents are now seeking ways to help their interfaith grandchildren find meaning in a Jewish life.

That’s why JOI has started a program called The Grandparents Circle, which is based on the book “Twenty Things for Grandparents of Interfaith Grandchildren to Do (And Not Do) to Nurture Jewish Identity in Their Grandchildren,” by our own Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and Paul Golin. The program offers grandparents skills and techniques to nurture, and in some cases help establish, their interfaith grandchildren’s Jewish identities. It was piloted in Los Angeles in January, and is now starting in Hartford, Connecticut, where it was recently featured in The Hartford Courant.

Writer Elizabeth Hamilton talked to a few sets of grandparents to find out how they reacted to the news their children were going to marry someone of a different faith. One couple said they were in mourning, another said they embraced the idea because “we felt we had no choice. We didn’t want to alienate our son.”

But all the grandparents interviewed want the same thing – they want to create and maintain a close knit “cultural and religious relationship with their grandchildren.” For some, that means inviting their family over for Shabbat dinner. For others whose grandchildren live out of town, it’s giving Jewish-themed presents on holidays and birthdays. What’s most important is that the grandparents respect the decisions their children have made and stay involved, not grieve over what they might perceive as a loss. One of the grandparents interviewed, Rona Gelber, summed it up nicely: “There’s never a ‘no.’ There’s always an opening.”

The Grandparents Circle provides participants with a supportive and open-minded environment to share their achievements, express their frustrations, and acknowledge their challenges. For more information, or if you would like to bring the Grandparents Circle to your area, please contact


  1. i can only imagine the shock the Bacalls felt when not one, but both of their daughters announced plans to marry non-Jewish men within the span of a week!

    with that said, i understand the Bacalls’ sadness towards the news. but i do think their reaction of being “in mourning” is a bit extreme. Jewish education, summer camps, and trips to Israel certainly have a powerful effect on young people. but these don’t always guarantee that they will marry other Jews. when an intermarriage occurs, the parents often cling to a sense that all those years of Jewish education went to waste. this is the wrong attitude to have, and will only create more problems in the end.

    despite the Bacalls sense of loss and “mourning”, it would be almost certain that their daughters would turn away from Judaism if they were disowned, and the Bacalls’ grandchildren would not be raised as Jews. they viewed their daughters’ marriages to non-Jews as a personal challenge, but also as an opportunity to shape the future of their grandchildren. grandparents can play vital roles in transmitting Jewish identity. in the context of an intermarriage, they must not focus on who their son or daughter married, but instead on how to present a nurturing Jewish environment to their grandkids. with supportive grandparents, it’s possible those grandkids might wind up marrying Jews in the future.

    Comment by h. — April 10, 2008 @ 11:33 am

  2. We raise our children to be free and independant thinkers. To make their own decisons in life. Then when they make a decsion we don’t like ( marrying out of the faith ) we get all bent out of shape. As a parent, and now a grand parent, I know exactly how that feels. Skipping past the not talking stage, my grand daughter who is now 4, knows that Shabbos is a special day for Grandma & Grandpa, they don’t drive on that day. If they travel down for a visit ( they live in a nearby state ) my little Molly knows - we light candles and we sing songs because it’s Shabbos. Is it they way we planned our lives to be? No. Is it the way it is? Yes and we have to learn to live with it, because life goes on. We have two choices, learn to live with what we have and make the best of it, teach by example to our grand children or be unhappy and ” mourn ” forever. It is our choice.


    Comment by Ell — April 11, 2008 @ 6:19 am

  3. I remain an optimist and refuse to give up on the future. Molly’s parents made choices and so will she.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — April 11, 2008 @ 9:22 am

  4. Their grandchildren aren’t Jewish so what’s to celebrate? They have to accept it because they can’t change it. intermarriage destroys Judaism.

    By the time these non-Jewish children with Jewish grandparents grow up they won’t be any Jews left to marry. Well, only the Orthodox will beleft but they wouldn’t accept them anyway.

    Intermarriage is ruining the Jewish community.

    Comment by anti-intermarriage — July 11, 2008 @ 6:16 pm

  5. I am the grandchild of a Jewish Grandmother. I was never told I had Jewish heritage until I was 26 and even then my father wanted to keep it secret. At the age of 50, I decided to take back my Jewish heritage. I converted. My son married a woman with the same Jewish heritage as he has. When my grandson was a child, we used to have Shabbat at my home every Friday. He said it was favorite day of the week. My other grandson also claims his Jewishness. The Jewish heart doesn’t die. Have faith. It will all work out.

    Comment by Jeudi Carr — April 14, 2009 @ 12:51 pm

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