The first time I remember seeing Shabbat candles being lit I was three and at my grandparents house. I was confused that my grandparents—who my father told me were not religious—were doing something that we didn’t do. My family started lighting Shabbat candles occasionally after that, partially because of the influence of my grandparents. Kerry Olitzky and Paul Golin of JOI are actually writing a book, to be published by Torah Aura entitled Twenty Things for Grandparents of Interfaith Grandchildren To Do (And Not Do) To Nurture Jewish Identity in Their Grandchildren, which discusses ways that grandparents can be a positive Jewish influence on grandchildren whose parents are intermarried. Although my parents are not intermarried, I can see how the observance of my grandparents affected their practice and my own.
There is also a new book for young children that deals with the similarities shared by a Jewish and non-Jewish grandmother, both of whom love their grandchildren “very, very, very, very, very much.” Two Grandmothers to Love, by Harriet Goldner, discusses what the grandmothers share—love for their grandchildren and a desire to share their traditions. The book provides a simple way to explain to children that although different sides of their family may have different traditions, the children are loved by both sides of their family. The two grandmothers in Goldner’s book have different hobbies, live in different places, and celebrate different holidays. But both of them unconditionally love their grandchildren and wish to share their celebrations with them. We think acceptance and support is always a positive thing, and encourages an open door to future Jewish involvement.