Raising children can be difficult enough, but add in raising children in a different faith than your own, and the task becomes even more trying. This week, Johanna Ginsberg wrote a wonderful article for the New Jersey Jewish News about mothers of other religious backgrounds raising Jewish children, which highlights JOI’s Mothers Circle, a free program for this very demographic.
These mothers, whose backgrounds range from Catholic to Buddhist to non-religious, have not always had an easy path into the Jewish community. Some faced criticism and questions, especially pertaining to why they have chosen not to convert. However, more and more synagogues are making an effort to reach out to non-Jewish mothers raising Jewish children, realizing that they are often the force behind creating a Jewish home.
Tracy Lobel found Temple Shalom, a Reform congregation in Succasunna, welcoming and forthcoming from the outset. In fact, when she walked into the synagogue for the first time several years ago to enroll her oldest son, who is now 12, in religious school, she was greeted warmly and invited to join the religious school committee. She declined, explaining that she isn’t Jewish. “They said, ‘Oh, that’s okay. Maybe it’s even better because you will bring a different opinion from the rest of us,’” she said.
From December Dilemmas to standing on the bimah (raised platform or stage where the Torah is read) at a child’s bar/bat mitzvah, mothers of other religious backgrounds may confront many issues while raising Jewish children. I am excited to work for an organization that offers such a valuable program to these women, through a 16-session course, 3-session mini course, holiday prep classes, and a national listserve. If you are, or know some who is, a woman of another religious background raising Jewish children, please check out The Mothers Circle, and if there is a circle near you!