We have added exciting new resources to the Passover section of the Grandparents Circle website. The goal of Grandparents Circle is to provide Jewish grandparents whose adult children have intermarried with tools they can use to help nurture – and in some cases establish – the Jewish identity of their grandchildren. This new section of the website provides specific tools that grandparents can use to connect their grandchildren to Passover.
We have added exciting new resources to the Hanukkah section of the Grandparents Circle website. The goal of Grandparents Circle is to provide tools that Jewish grandparents whose adult children have intermarried can use to help nurture – and in some cases establish – the Jewish identity of their grandchildren. This new section of the website provides specific tools for grandparents who want to help connect their grandchildren to Hanukkah.
The Hanukkah resources are grouped in four main sections: Tell the Story, Games and Gifts, Make and Eat Food, and Arts and Crafts Projects. Each section offers advice for implementing a specific activity while also addressing issues that grandparents with grandchildren from intermarried/interpartnered homes might need to pay particular attention to. In the Arts and Crafts section, for example, grandparents can read instructions for making a hanukkiah (candelabra) and homemade dreidel (spinning top). The section includes an introduction to the hanukkiah, sample holiday cards, talking points, and more!
We invite you to check out our website and take advantage of these free resources. If you know of any grandparents who might benefit from the content, please send them to Grandparentscircle.org.
If your grandchildren are being raised in an interfaith home, have you ever tried these types of activities for Hanukkah? If so, what activities did your grandchildren particularly enjoy? We look forward to hearing from you!
Recently, JOI Associate Executive Director Paul Golin traveled to Dayton, Ohio to speak about being a grandparent with grandchildren being raised in an interfaith household as part of the Dayton Jewish Cultural Arts and 13th Annual Book Festival. In advance of the event, the Dayton Daily News featured an article on the presentation. In the article, Paul offered advice for grandparents who want to share their Jewish heritage with their grandchildren being raised in an interfaith household. For example:
Grandparents should wear their own identity proudly; if your son-in-law or daughter-in-law is helping to raise a child in your religion, celebrate those actions; share stories and mementos from your own background and heritage; throw the best holiday parties ever; keep the holidays focused on celebration, not confrontation; and make sure that your home reflects your heritage.
Of course, each family will have a different set of challenges and opportunities. Rather than express disappointment or disapproval of their adult children’s religious choices, Paul suggested each set of grandparents look at the bigger picture and “try to be in their children’s and grandchildren’s lives as much as possible, in a loving and supportive way.” That’s one of the best ways to ensure a healthy relationship.
Paul’s tips come from his book “Twenty Things for Grandparents of Interfaith Grandchildren to Do”, co-authored with JOI Executive Director Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky. His presentation at the book fair was also used to kick-off recruitment for Dayton’s second Grandparents Circle, a free education and support group for Jewish grandparents whose adult children have intermarried. I invite you to click here if you are interested in learning more about the upcoming circle in Dayton, or you know someone who would be interested. If you live in another city, check out the Local Circle page to search circles starting up all over the country and find the one nearest you.
Rabbi Craig Axler of Congregation Beth Or in Maple Glen, PA gave a sermon about passing along values from generation to generation (L’Dor VaDor) at his synagogue’s Yom Kippur Yizkor (memorial) service. Rabbi Axler is going to be facilitating a local Grandparents Circle, a JOI program for Jewish grandparents with interfaith grandchildren, and in his sermon he talked about the unique role that interfaith grandparents have in passing along Jewish values. He said:
[Grandparents Circle] acknowledges that there are significant numbers within our synagogues and the Jewish community in general who are looking for positive ways to share their Judaism with their grandchildren being raised in interfaith homes, but often are unsure of just how proactive they can be.
Through the course of five sessions, Rabbi Axler plans on working with these grandparents to help them identify all those moments where they can, with respect to how their grandchildren are being raised, convey their Jewish heritage. He went on to explain:
Grandparents Circle is structured to be a…group for mutual support, study and strategies to help in sharing one’s Jewish identity with one’s grandchildren; to approach one’s children in the healthiest, most positive manner; to be able to pass on L’Dor VaDor - from one generation to the next the values, experiences and customs that define our own Judaism, knowing that they will be renewed and often reinterpreted by each successive generation.
The Beth Or Grandparents Circle will be meeting on Sundays in November and December. If you live in the greater Philadelphia area and would like more information on the circle, you can check out the Maple Glen page on the Grandparents Circle website or read the full text of the sermon. If you don’t but would like to participate in a circle or learn more, you can check out the website for information on other local circles.
We look forward to your participation!
Earlier this year, First Hebrew Congregation of Peekskill offered two parenting workshops at a local Barnes & Noble. One of the workshops focused on making Passover meaningful for young children, while the other looked at bedtime and the early morning through the lens of traditional Jewish prayer.
The two programs were part of a recent initiative called “Building Our Jewish Home” that was launched last year by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s New York Metropolitan Region. In a recent article in the (New York) Jewish Week, Rabbi Cara Rosenthal, the education coordinator for this two-year program, said the purpose of the program is “to reach people where they are and fill needs that are not being met.”
Rosenthal explained that one of the benefits of having programming outside the synagogue is that there may be people who are “intrigued by Jewish topics, but not comfortable with them.” This approach respects the various levels of affiliation among individuals and families in the area without pressuring them to join a congregation. Instead, the initiative helps encourage participation on a more personal level. She continued:
“A neutral location helps. These are bright and well-educated people who are used to feeling mastery. They’re not feeling that kind of mastery in the Jewish setting. We also want to make people feel comfortable with their level of Jewish knowledge, not like they’re behind the eight ball.”
Here at JOI, we couldn’t agree more. In our work with organizations around the country, we often advise holding programming in secular neutral spaces like bookstores, grocery stores, and community fairs - what we call Public Space Judaism. People may feel uncomfortable in a Jewish setting, and holding the program in a different space helps remove a potential barrier to participation: location. By addressing this issue, First Hebrew Congregation of Peekskill is trying to “lower barriers to participation,” one of the principles of our Big Tent Judaism Coalition. We look forward to hearing more about the programming that is a part of the “Building Our Jewish Home” initiative, and we hope that many of the events continue to remove barriers that prevent individuals from participating fully in Jewish life.
As synagogues prepare for the High Holidays, many face challenges that come from the large number of people who walk through their doors. They have to balance accessibility with security, space, and cost. But are those the only areas to look at?
Bnai Keshet, a congregation in Montclair, NJ, is addressing accessibility from another angle – they are offering High Holiday services that are accessible to individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or hearing impaired. According to an article in the New Jersey Jewish News, the Reconstructionist synagogue will use an open captioning system known as Communication Access Real-Time Translation (or CART) which translates (via a stenographer) the spoken word into text on a screen.
The assistant rabbi, Rabbi Darby Leigh, said the decision to offer services that are accessible to the deaf is about becoming a “whole community.”
“The mainstream Jewish community is not whole, full or complete, if we do not give every Jew who wants to be here the ability to be here,” he said. “While we say we want to have an open door, we do not have it if we are not making it possible for Jews of varying abilities and disabilities to come” to services.
Rabbi Darby’s comments fit nicely within the principles of our Big Tent Judaism Coalition. Big Tent Judaism organizations, of which Bnai Keshet is a member, strive to remove any barriers that prevent individuals from participating fully in Jewish life. For some organizations, that could be offering open captioning. For others, that might be something different. What are you doing to help make sure your institution is open and accessible for all who approach?
Grandparents Day is on Sunday, and here at JOI we would like to take a moment to acknowledge the important role grandparents can play in nurturing the Jewish identity of their grandchildren, including grandchildren that are being raised in intermarried/interpartnered households. Whether it’s hosting a festive meal for the Jewish New Year, sending grandchildren current events about Israel, helping grandchildren build a Hanukkah menorah, or any other Jewish activity, we created an e-card to say “Thank you” for all that you do to help strengthen the Jewish community.
Please feel free to pass the card along to any grandparents that you think might enjoy it. Happy Grandparents Day!
In preparation for the High Holidays, we have just put up some exciting new content for Rosh Hashanah on our Grandparents Circle website. The new (and free!) materials provide Jewish grandparents whose adult children have intermarried with tools they can use to help nurture – and in some cases establish – the Jewish identity of their grandchildren. Grandparents, whether program participants or not, can access all of these resources by checking out the Grandparents Circle website.
The Rosh Hashanah resources are grouped in four main sections: Make and Send Cards, Arts and Crafts Projects, Fun Food Ideas, and Other Resources/Links. Each section offers advice for implementing a specific activity in addition to addressing issues that grandparents with grandchildren from intermarried/interpartnered homes might need to pay particular attention to. In the arts and crafts section, for example, grandparents learn about how to introduce the shofar to their grandchildren in a kid-friendly way. The activity includes a description of the ram horn’s sounds, talking points, a video, options for creating homemade shofars and more.
Please check out our website and take advantage of these free resources. And if you know of any grandparents who might benefit from the content, please send them to Grandparentscircle.org. Happy Holidays!
On our Grandparents Circle National Listserve, an e-mail discussion group for Jewish grandparents whose adult children have intermarried, participants are discussing whether there are any “laws” of interfaith grandparenting. The conversation started when I emailed out an article from Grandparents.com entitled “Seven Laws of Grandparenting you Can’t Break.” These laws include “You may love thy grandchild as thine own — but never forget that he or she is not thine own,” and “Let go of all expectations.”
In the email, I asked the grandparents if there was a different set of “laws” or guidelines for grandparents with interfaith grandchildren. Numerous participants have weighed into the discussion. Carolyn, one of our listserve participants, responded with the following:
- Respect your children and their spouses and their choices.
- Revel in the glory of each of your children’s spouses and their heritages and traditions.
- Value diversity of thought and opinion.
- Bless the children for they have given you the most precious thing ever…GRANDCHILDREN!
- Always tell the grandchildren how much you respect their parents and value them in all that they do.
- Love your children’s in-laws…at least like them enough to enjoy their company.
- Love yourself enough to know that you raised your children the best way you knew how….and now they are doing the same. They will never forget what they learned at your knee. This is a promise.
- When all else fails… try laughter!
What do you think? Feel free to post a comment on whether you think there are any “laws” of being an interfaith grandparent. And if you are a Jewish grandparent, click here to join the listserve. It’s an opportunity to connect with other grandparents across the country, share stories and offer support. We invite you to be a part of the discussion!
Jewish grandparents with interfaith grandchildren often feel unsure of how they can cultivate the Jewish identity of their grandchildren. That’s one of the reasons JOI created the Grandparents Circle, an education and support program for Jewish grandparents whose adult children have intermarried. Now, there is another resource available: the newly launched Grandparents Circle website.
The website includes information about the program, a sign-up sheet that allows grandparents to join our listserve (an online discussion group), and a press section featuring recent articles on the Grandparents Circle. The site also has individual pages for communities sponsoring circles. For example, you can read about a circle in West Hartford where Grandparents Circle participants created edible seder (Passover dinner) plates out of kosher-for-Passover materials. Or a session in Atlanta where grandparents gathered to listen to a local rabbi who grew up in an interfaith household.
We invite you to explore our newest addition to the JOI family of websites!
Here at JOI, we were excited to read Barbara Rudnick’s article in Minneapolis’ American Jewish World on things she has learned from interfaith families. As the program manager of Family Life Education at Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JFCS) of Minneapolis, she often writes about interfaith issues. But in this piece she decided to “give a voice to the interfaith families themselves.” She discusses the “gift” that non-Jewish parents who decide to raise Jewish children give to the Jewish community, and emphasizes the importance of appreciating and honoring their decision. She writes:
In recent years we have made wonderful progress by being more welcoming to interfaith families. But we can do more. It is important to continue to look for new ways to open our minds, hearts and doors. Open communication, patience and understanding not only help interfaith families but also strengthen and enrich our community.
One interesting point that jumped out at us was that she learned interfaith issues spread beyond parents and children. Barbara recognized that grandparents of interfaith families play an important role in maintaining strong family ties. We couldn’t agree more. That’s why we have started the Grandparents Circle, an education and support program for Jewish grandparents with interfaith grandchildren. Barbara is currently leading a Grandparents Circle at the St. Paul JCC.
Barbara says in her piece that she is proud of what her community has done to welcome interfaith families, but “we can do more.” She points out that in addition to continuing counseling and education workshops for interfaith families, the JFCS of Minneapolis will be running JOI’s Mother’s Circle program this year for the first time. We are confident these steps will lead to even greater inclusion and increased participation, and we hope Minneapolis continues to share the lessons they have learned with the broader Jewish community.
At JOI, we were thrilled to read Rabbi Charles Sherman’s pulpit review of Twenty Things for Grandparents of Interfaith Grandchildren To Do (And Not Do) To Nurture Interfaith Jewish Identity in Their Grandchildren, which he calls “a very sensitive guide which does not pull punches or try to disguise threats and challenges. I believe it is as valuable for parents in an interfaith family as for grandparents to whom the advice is most directed.” You can read the full text of his sermon below.
JOI’s programs like The Mothers Circle and the Grandparents Circle help to build more welcoming communities. But JOI does not work alone; we are supported in our work by communities across the country — communities like Rabbi Sherman’s Temple Israel of Tulsa. There is still a lot to be done to make all of our communities more welcoming. Rabbi Sherman’s community is clearly on that path. We at JOI hope that other communities also start along that path.
Pulpit Review by Rabbi Charles P. Sherman
September 26, 2008Twenty Things for Grandparents of Interfaith Grandchildren To Do (And Not Do) To Nurture Jewish Identity in Their Grandchildren
By Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky and Paul Golin
The Jewish Outreach Institute (JOI) is a national independent, non-denominational organization dedicated to creating a more inclusive Jewish community. The Schusterman Family Foundation has been a major supporter of JOI. JOI works especially with interfaith families by creating new programs to help such families, to change the culture of the Jewish community, and even to transform the institutions in our Jewish communities where necessary. Its Executive Director is Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, a Reform colleague. JOI’s Assistant Executive Director is Paul Golin. Together Olitzky and Golin have written this short volume with the long title — Twenty Things for Grandparents of Interfaith Grandchildren To Do (And Not Do) To Nurture Jewish Identity in Their Grandchildren. It was published last year.
Friends, there is an important distinction between simple and simplistic. As I began this book I thought it was simplistic—and I was wrong. It offers direct, straight-forward, tachlis—which means “nuts and bolts,” down-to-earth—advice. But it is not simplistic. It is not, as I even wrote in the margin of one page, simply “a pep talk for readers.” Rather it is a very sensitive guide which does not pull punches or try to disguise threats and challenges. I believe it is as valuable for parents in an interfaith family as for the grandparents to whom the advice is mostly directed.
In my new position as program officer at the Jewish Outreach Institute, I will be serving as the national coordinator for the Grandparents Circle. The Grandparents Circle is an educational and support program for Jewish grandparents whose adult children have intermarried. The program offers grandparents, through courses and a national e-mail listserve, skills and techniques to nurture the Jewish identity of their grandchildren who are being raised in an interfaith family.
As a child of intermarriage myself, I know the important role grandparents can play in fostering a Jewish identity. A lot of my vivid Jewish memories are of doing Jewish activities with my grandparents. I loved our family Shabbat and holiday dinners, getting phone calls before the Yom Kippur fast day, and lighting candles together on Hanukkah. On Rosh Hashanah (New Year), I remember being so proud of being given the all-important task of plating the gefilte fish for our family dinner at my Grandma and Grandpie’s house. I remember helping my grandparents count the money in their tzedekah (charity) box, and having a discussion about where to send the money.
These are just a few of the ways that my grandparents nurtured my Jewish identity. The Grandparents Circle program has many others. I am excited about the opportunity to work with the Grandparents Circle which will be more than 20 circles across North America by summer 2009. If you would like more information about bringing the Grandparents Circle to your community or joining our free listserve, which is open to any grandparents with adult children who have intermarried, I invite you to email me. You can also learn more about the program by reading the following article from the Forward. As the Grandparents Circle program expands into new communities, I look forward to helping grandparents learn innovative ways to share Judaism with their grandchildren and develop fun, vivid, and lasting Jewish memories like the ones that I have.