Recently, in the New York Times, there was an article featured by travel writer Jennifer Conlin about her family’s experiences celebrating Rosh Hashanah in Cairo. The article is a poignant one, describing the family’s disorientation at trying to pray in a country where there are few or no Jews. But there is an added twist to this story: Ms. Conlin has an Irish Catholic heritage, and is mourning the loss of the support network in her British Jewish community which helped her raise her children as Jews.
Intermarriage and interfaith families are hardly unique to America. The Jewish Outreach Institute implements Mothers Circles and Grandparents Circles in Canada and the United States, and we will be starting our first Australian Grandparents Circle later this month. However, there are many Jews around the world, especially living in small communities, who lack an institutional support structure. When Conlin speaks of the difficulty giving up a strong, vibrant Jewish community by moving to a place where there are almost no Jews at all, it emphasizes the difficulty of living a Jewish life without any external support. And this problem can be especially painful for interfaith families, especially when the family is committed to Judaism.
When we at JOI speak about making the Jewish community a more accepting place for interfaith families, we are speaking about the global Jewish community, wherever Jews and their loved ones may live. For those who do not have a “bricks and mortar” community, it is important that Jews from around the world reach out. Online resources, like our Mothers Circle and Grandparents Circle listserves, can provide resources and support to interfaith families wherever they are. No matter where they live, we would like to tell all Jewish families, particularly those that are interfaith, that they are not alone.