pollyanna-top-done1

I was delighted to receive this letter from an annoyed reader! They wrote:

Your column is always suggesting convoluted ways that interfaith couples can deal with more traditional Jewish views. Why bother? Why don’t you just tell them to join a Reform synagogue and be done with the people who don’t agree with their life choices or see their kids as Jewish? — Annoyed with Traditional Jews

So I answered —

Dear Annoyed: I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that you asked this question! I’ve been wanting to discuss this topic since I started writing the column. Read on here.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Community, Couples, Relationships
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Shabbat candles

A Jew may ask their spouse to agree to have a “Jewish” home. But what does that mean?
To a non-Jewish loved one it may mean simply that some of the people in the house say they are Jews. But our partners deserve a more in-depth answer. One Jew may say, a Jewish home has Jewish ritual objects – a menorah, Shabbos candlesticks, a ketubah on the wall. Another may add, but you need to do Jewish things in a Jewish home like observe Shabbat weekly or build a sukkah on Sukkot or recite the Shema before bedtime. Yet another will say we must act like Jews, give tzadakah, attend synagogue, refrain from eating pork.

Each Jewish partner will have their own ideas about what they need in order to feel that their home is “Jewish.” Or, they may have no clear idea at all! Every non-Jewish spouse deserves a clear statement as to what they are signing up for.

Join Rabbi Glazer, Dawn Kepler and other curious couples for an enlightening discussion and go home with your own individualized plan.

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Beth Sholom, 301 14th Avenue (near the corner of Clement Street), San Francisco
Cost: Free to members of Beth Sholom, $8 for a non-member individual, $12 for a non-member couple.

Register here.

Posted by admin under Couples, Jewish holidays at home, Programs archive
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Interfaith Couples Raising Children:
Identity for Your Child & Your Home

Three Workshops, come to one or come to all of them

Choosing a religious identity for your child is often feels like the hardest decision an interfaith couple faces. If both of you are attached to your religious/cultural heritage you may have gotten stuck in a circular conversation that nobody wins. How can you get free and make a decision?
Or, perhaps you have made a decision, Christian or Jewish.* If only one of you is attached to your faith tradition it may be easy to pick that tradition. But having done so, what comes next?

What Religion Will We Pick for our Child? We Can’t Decide
Couples want to be fair to each other, but what if both feel strongly about their own tradition? What about doing both? How would that work? In this workshop we’ll discuss tools for making a decision, key elements to consider and how to test out your choice.

One of Us is Jewish but We’ve Chosen Christianity, Now What?
The Christian spouse knows how to ‘do’ Christianity and is supported in this by our American Christian culture, but you may still want to introduce a concept of Jewish heritage to your child. We’ll discuss how to offer the concept of Jewish roots without disrupting your child’s Christian identity.

Raising a Jewish Child in an Interfaith Home
You’ve made the big decision – we’ll raise our child(ren) as Jews. Now what? Does this mean no Christmas or Easter? How do we interact with our non-Jewish family’s holidays? What synagogue should we join and how can we ask for specific support in our process? Is a lot of the effort falling on a non-Jewish woman who doesn’t have a gut feeling for Judaism; how can she be supported? Let’s talk about how to integrate non-Jewish family and their holiday expectations, what to say to parents and siblings, what you can expect from a synagogue community and how to support the non-Jewish parent.

*If the non-Jewish spouse is not Christian but a different minority religion like Hindi or Buddhist, a different set of issues arise. Living with two minority religions in America presents its own challenges.

Come to one or the entire series.
Sundays, Nov. 2, 9, 16
3pm to 4:30pm
Peninsula JCC, 800 Foster City Blvd, Foster City
Cost: Series of three sessions: $25 for members of the sponsoring organizations; $30 for the public
Individual session: $10 to members of the sponsoring organizations; $12 to the public.
Register here.

Co-sponsored by Peninsula Jewish Community Center, Peninsula Temple Beth El, Peninsula Sinai Congregation, Peninsula Temple Sholom.

Posted by admin under Children, Couples, Parenting, Past Programs, Spirituality
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Discussion Series for Interfaith/Intercultural Couples

Sharon  Peter ok for publicity

Interfaith couples get it – this is going to take some discussion, some compromise. But what exactly is ‘fair’? Can each of us get what we want and that will be OK for our kids? Then there’s our parents, grandparents, and siblings – how do we get them on board with our choices?

There’s a step-by-step process of breaking down the parts of this puzzle and finding out what you want and how to go about getting it. Join us! This may surprise you but it will actually be enjoyable! Groups form year round.

Exchange ideas about such issues as:

 Holiday Observances – Which holidays will be celebrated in our home?

 Dealing With Our Families – How will we talk to our parents about our choices?

 Raising Children – How can we make sure our child is “part” of each of us?

 Spiritual Concerns – How do we satisfy our needs and recognize our Partner’s?

 Cultural Differences – How do communication styles and familial expectations impact our relationship?

This is one of the most meaningful and powerful things you can do for your relationship. I encourage every couple to participate in a couples group.

Cost: $120/couple
There is a sliding scale. NO ONE turned away. Tell me you work evenings, tell me you can’t get a baby sitter, but don’t tell me it’s the money because we can make it work.

6 sessions, Tuesdays, October 14 – November 18 (plus one social gathering to be arranged with the group)
7:30 – 9:00 pm
Lehrhaus Judaica, 2736 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
$120 per couple

Sign up here.

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Navigating the Interfaith Elements of the Holiday

Pesach at Lauries

Grab a frozen yogurt at Menchie’s and join other Jewish spouses as we discuss the challenges of observing Passover while being sensitive to your non-Jewish spouse’s needs & wishes.

Will this be a week-long observance or just one night? Will there be bread in your home? Will your spouse be expected to participate in a Seder? Should you modify the Seder to soften the focus on the ‘Chosen people’? What Haggadah should you use and how long should the Seder be? Is your spouse comfortable with you setting the tone for the holiday? Does he or she follow willingly or is it a tug of war? Do you include your spouse’s extended family?

We’ll discuss plans and strategies to harmoniously celebrate the holiday for your family and bring more unity and enjoyment for everyone.

Date: Sunday, March 23
Time: 3:00 – 4:30 pm
Place: Menchie’s, 1862 Euclid Ave., Berkeley
Cost: $10, Cost includes yogurt/sorbet

Sign up here.

Posted by admin under Couples, Passover, Past Programs, Programs archive, Relationships
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xmas jumble wikipedia

Christmas is magical. The mystic that has been built around it in America is demonstrated in every store and television special. What we expect to feel – and what many do feel – about the entire Christmas season is a sense of elation.

If you have loved Christmas all your life then there are many reasons that make it remarkable for you. Here are three powerful aspects of Christmas.

1. Family – this is one of the two most family-oriented holidays in America. (The other being Thanksgiving.) Everyone gets together; everyone makes an effort to get along. Even cynical Uncle Fred wears a Santa hat and gets into the spirit of family rituals – games, meals, decorating, etc.

2. Ritual – the repetition of words and actions is tremendously powerful. Even two Christians getting married can have conflict over doing it “my” way vs. “yours.” Buying the tree, making Grandma’s special cookies, decorating together – all the things that you did for year after year are rituals that you simply see as a part of you. What you did as a child has, by this time, become a core part of you.

3. Cultural affirmation – the entire country is doing this together. I remember a woman, not religiously Christian, but what I would call American Folkloric Christian, saying, “I love Christmas; it’s the only time of year that everyone is together.” What she meant was during the Christmas season postal workers, BART riders, retail sales people, courthouse clerks, are all more cheerful, wish you a Merry Christmas, wear a Christmas pin and have a small bowl of peppermints on their desk; these a national sense of togetherness.

If you are the non-Jewish partner you ‘get’ what I am saying here. I hope if you are the Jewish partner you can now better understand why you may feel so threatened by the massive event that is Christmas.

If you do not yet have children, experiment with Christmas. Together, practice some or all of the Christmas activities of the non-Jewish partner. Each of you should make note of what you feel about each of activity. BE HONEST with your self and each other. Don’t make excuses like, the Christmas tree is really pagan. NO ONE is putting up a tree because they are pagan.

With each activity consider these things:
*How do I feel? – Elated? Anxious? I would be embarrassed for my parents/friends/ clergy person to see me doing this.
*How does my partner feel? Listen to each other describing how they feel. Take it in.
*Is this OK for us as a couple but I worry about how a child will perceive this? – I worry that this will make any child turn Christian, or at least less Jewish.
*I’m afraid doing ‘this’ will lead to my giving in about something else.
*How would we explain this to our children? – Write down some possible explanations and feel free to run them by me.

Also consider, how long does Christmas last for us? Is it one week, we dash out get a tree, decorate, shop, and celebrate and take down the tree and clean up all in 7 days? Or does it begin sometime in October and last through early January?

If you don’t have kids, or the kids are pretty young, you can do a lot of experimenting with no need for explanation. Go for it.

Have many conversations. Be completely honest with your self. If you are the Christmas lover, let it in that Christmas is not a pagan ritual or we wouldn’t be celebrating it in this country. This holiday is Christian at its heart and in the eyes of other religious minorities – Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc. That may not be what it means to you, but that is how the others view it. Understand that your Jewish partner has every right to be anxious, unhappy and uncomfortable. He or she may not have the experience of ‘losing’ a family tradition but he has lived in a subordinate culture all his life – frankly, that is hard for a lot of people. Show some sympathy and try to understand what he/she is going through in a Christian country day and especially from October to January.

If you are the Jew, own your discomfort, don’t just act it out. Talk about your feelings; your partner can’t read your mind. If you are having a hard time articulating what you feel, call me and we can sort it out. Notice what it is your partner loves at its core – is it being with family? Creating a fantasy wonderland? Having a buzzing social life? Baking all day? Ask your self, in what ways have I (or could I) offer them Jewishly based activities that would help to meet this need? I’m not saying you will be able to replace Christmas, I am saying that if there is very little fun in your Jewish life you aren’t offering much and shouldn’t expect Judaism to look very attractive to them.

Each of you should mentally step back and try to see Christmas through your partner’s eyes. You don’t have to take on their view, but you should understand it.

Now, Christmas is next week, so embrace whatever it is that the two of you have decided to do. If Christmas is going to be a part of your lives and you want to raise your children Jewish, you have some work ahead of you. But remember, no one said raising children would be easy no matter what you choose for your home observance.

Posted by admin under Christmas, Couples
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Discussion Series for Interfaith/Intercultural Couples

Gabby s wedding small

Interfaith couples get it – this is going to take some discussion, some compromise. But what exactly is ‘fair’? Can each of us get what we want and that will be OK for our kids? Then there’s our parents, grandparents, and siblings – how do we get them on board with our choices?

There’s a step-by-step process of breaking down the parts of this puzzle and finding out what you want and how to go about getting it. Join us! This may surprise you but it will actually be enjoyable! Groups form year round.

8 Sessions
Exchange ideas about such issues as:

 Holiday Observances – Which holidays will be celebrated in our home?

 Dealing With Our Families – How will we talk to our parents about our choices?

 Raising Children – How can we make sure our child is “part” of each of us?

 Spiritual Concerns – How do we satisfy our needs and recognize our Partner’s?

 Cultural Differences – How do communication styles and familial expectations impact our relationship?

This is one of the most meaningful and powerful things you can do for your relationship. I encourage every couple to participate in a couples group.

Cost: $120/couple
There is a sliding scale. NO ONE turned away. Tell me you work evenings, tell me you can’t get a babysitter, but don’t tell me it’s the money because we can make it work.

7 sessions, Feb. 12 to March 26

call Dawn at 510-845-6420 x11or e-mail Dawn to register or receive more information.
More information here

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Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Couples, Non-Jewish family, Past Programs, Relationships
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Bridezilla

Current culture seems determined to make weddings hellish. Bridezilla anyone? Add an interfaith component and you can make things confusing and difficult. But it doesn’t need to be that way. NOT AT ALL.

If you are marrying someone from a different religion and background there are some steps you can take to get off on the right foot.

1. Discuss what you want your home to be like after you’re married. If you have agreed that you’ll have a Jewish (or Christian) home it can be easier to concede some wedding traditions from the dominant faith for the sake of family peace in your ceremony.

2. Discuss how you want any potential children raised. Remember that this conversation is intended to develop a road map. No one truly knows how they will raise their child until that child is in their arms. And sometimes not even then.

3. With a picture of the future, now you can face the present challenge: the wedding.

4. Read one or more wedding books. I suggest these

5. Ask yourselves what you each want. Divide those items into 3 lists:
a) MUST HAVE or I’ll die
b) would like to have but I can negotiate
c) it’s a thought but I’m not attached to it.
Compare lists. Are you able to find common ground?

6. What are the things that feel like wedding custom to you and you want it – jump the broom? Break the glass? Light a candle? These are customs, not laws. See how many of these feel just fine to both of you.

7. Now is a good time to call me, Dawn, to discuss your MUST HAVES and we can see if they are do-able. If one of your must-haves is a rabbi to officiate, we need to discuss things like the time and day of your wedding. (Most rabbis will not officiate on the Jewish Sabbath.)

8. What are the hardest things to accomplish in an interfaith wedding with one Jewish partner?
a. Getting a rabbi to perform your wedding on the Jewish Sabbath (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday)
b. Marrying in a church.
c. Co-officiation between Jewish and Christian clergy.
Are they impossible? No. But they do require more time to plan and I’m going to want you to be sure you know what you’re getting.

Call me! 510-845-6420 x11

Posted by admin under Books, Couples, Weddings
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What is it like to participant in an interfaith/intercultural couples discussion group? Here’s one couples’ response.

Juliet and Birger

I am a practicing Orthodox Jew, and Birger is a Norwegian-heritage agnostic. We got engaged in August 2006 after a whirlwind courtship, and we planned to be married the following January. It was very important to me that we have an observant Jewish home, but we also really wanted to do it in a way that both allowed Birger to be a full participant in the decision making process and honored his Norwegian heritage. I still think that was a very noble goal but at the time, we really had no tools to make that goal a reality.

We took Dawn’s (Kepler, director of Building Jewish Bridges) interfaith couples class during the fall between our engagement and our wedding. I was more than a little scared about my choice to marry someone who wasn’t Jewish. I was also a little apprehensive of the class because it seemed unlikely that the other couples would be similar to us. But, it turned out that our stories and our challenges did not have to be similar for us to benefit from the experiences, questions, and ideas that the couples brought to the class.

Dawn is an incredibly gifted facilitator. She created a safe space for us to explore what it meant to be an interfaith couple. She put together a series of very thoughtful sessions that helped us think about our values and the traditions that we wanted in our own home. By the end of the class, Birger and I had come to understand that despite our different heritages, our values were very similar. We learned how to articulate what made our different family traditions special to us. These conversations reinforced our commitment to raise our son within the Orthodox community but with extensive exposure to his Norwegian heritage. These discussions also enabled us to do some very creative mash-ups, such as choosing our Passover china based on some key characteristics of the Christmas china of Birger’s childhood.

It is not that there haven’t been any challenges for us being an interfaith couple. It is more that the couples class helped us develop the tools to successfully navigate those challenges. I cannot imagine a better ally to interfaith couples than Dawn Kepler.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Couples, In their own words, Relationships
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Interfaith/Intercultural couples have unique questions and needs. They may know they need to ask questions but not be sure just what those questions should be.

Make the process easier by joining other couples negotiating similar concerns. Create an outline of how to approach a conversation with your partner that is honest, caring, and supportive. This discussion series will get the conversations rolling!

Exchange ideas about such issues as:
Holiday Observances – Which holidays will be celebrated in our home?
Dealing With Our Families – How will we talk to our parents about our choices?
Raising Children – How can we make sure our child is “part” of each of us?
Spiritual Concerns – How do we satisfy our needs and recognize our partner’s?
Cultural Differences – How do communication styles and familial expectations impact our relationship?

This is one of the most meaningful and powerful things you can do for your relationship. I encourage every couple to participate in a couples group.

7 sessions
$120/couple
Register HERE
No one will be turned away for lack of funds. Call Dawn at 510-845-6420 x 11.

Posted by admin under Couples, Past Programs, Relationships
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