In a few short weeks, JOI will be piloting two new programs in New Jersey designed for men in Jewish interfaith relationships. One, called “Answering your Jewish Children,” is for fathers of another religious background raising Jewish children. Much like our Mothers Circle program, “Answering Your Jewish Children” will offer practical advice for fathers who have married into the Jewish community on how to help raise a Jewish family.
The other program is called “How Should I Know?” In a three session course, this program will provide strategies for Jewish men in interfaith relationships to better explain their traditions and expectations to their spouse. It will offer specific answers to a wide variety of questions a non-Jewish spouse or partner might have about raising a Jewish family.
In anticipation of the programs, which were made possible by a Berrie Innovation Grant from the Berrie Fellows Leadership Program, JOI’s associate executive director Paul Golin published an op-ed in the (New Jersey) Jewish Standard. He writes:
I’m Jewish and my wife Yurika, born and raised in Japan, is not. Like many intermarried couples, our engagement lasted longer than average, and we are enjoying an even longer-than-average married life before children.
Still, we do plan on having kids, and I’ve always made clear my requirement to raise them Jewish. That’s fine with Yurika as long as they also grow up steeped in Japanese culture and language.
Problem solved, right? Not exactly. There are still a few little details to work out, like what it actually means to be Jewish. And determining “how Jewish” our family will be. And which parts of Judaism will we observe, which will we forgo, and which of us will do what. And so on.
In-married Jews end up answering the same questions, but for them it can happen more organically; for intermarried parents who want their children to identify as Jews, it requires out-loud and ongoing deliberation.
In intermarriage, we realize it can be hard for the Jewish partner to clearly articulate just what it is that’s so important about raising Jewish children. It’s also hard for the non-Jewish partner to anticipate and respond to their children’s questions about Judaism. These programs are not support groups or discussion groups, though. They will go beyond “deliberation” and help men in Jewish interfaith relationships develop concrete answers.
We are excited to work with the men of the Jewish community to help secure a vibrant Jewish future. If you live in the northern New Jersey are and could benefit from being part of either group, we invite you to visit the programs on the web to learn more. We also encourage you to pass the information along to anyone you think would be interested. We look forward to hearing from you!