In America, much of the conversation about interfaith marriage focuses exclusively on the two people entering into the marriage. However, many interfaith families grow beyond two partners to include children. And there is a dearth of resources devoted to interfaith parenting. However, two new resources will soon fill the gap; one will be released soon, and one is in the planning stages.
JOI Executive Director Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and Associate Executive Director Paul Golin’s new book, How to Raise Jewish Children…Even When You’re Not Jewish Yourself will be on the shelves starting November 1. Kerry and Paul have more than twenty years of combined experience between them working with interfaith families and addressing their unique concerns. They hope to provide a hands-on guide that will “open up the code of Jewish living” and make partners of other backgrounds feel comfortable providing a strong Jewish identity to their children.
And we recently learned that Donna Cephas and Alicia Scotti, who have facilitated a Mothers Circle Associated Program in New York, are at the beginning stages of a project that will also spread awareness about the joys and challenges of parenting in an interfaith household.
Both Cephas and Scotti are in interfaith marriages, and will share their firsthand knowledge of interfaith parenting. Says Scotti, “A tremendous number of these families, led by the non-Jewish adult, exemplify the best Jewish traditions and instill in their children strong Jewish identities… Our goal is to promote understanding and education within the Jewish community about the important contributions that non-Jews raising Jewish children provide in developing their child(ren)’s and family’s Jewish identity.” They are currently looking for additional first-hand accounts from parents, lay leaders, and clergy to include in this important project.
A common thread in conversations with Mothers Circle facilitators and participants is that the course not only provides the educational tools necessary for good Jewish parenting, but also builds a sense of community. The participants have a chance to share with others like them, and they feel less alone. While it is important for interfaith families to feel welcomed and a part of any Jewish community that they may choose to join, part of that welcome is making it clear that interfaith families are a common part of the Jewish landscape. Providing books, classes, and having visible and engaged interfaith families in your community will help to show other families that the Jewish community accepts and embraces them exactly as they are.
For more information about how to contribute to Donna Cephas and Alicia Scotti’s project, please email me at MWeiner@joi.org or leave a comment on this blog post.