one-Jewish-child

Kveller, an online magazine published the first person story of a woman whose eldest daughter from her first marriage is not Jewish and her second daughter from a Jewish marriage, is Jewish.

How this woman got to this place in life is interesting and is the result of being alive in a time when many things are possible. You might read her story and think that she should have done things differently. Or you may believe you know how she should handle things with her ex. In my work I see the bottom line being the daughter who wants to be included. Mom has her hands tied in a number of ways but there are things she can do to create work-arounds that will help her older child to feel part of the family.

Read Rita’s story.

Here’s my advice to her.

Rita, I’m betting that there is a lot more to this than can be put in a single article. If it is possible, I would suggest broaching the subject with your ex. Can you figure out some cultural things that our new family does that could include your daughter without upsetting him? When non-Jewish kids in my family visit us, we include them in holiday activities – decorating the sukkah, making charoses pyramids, picking flowers for the Shabbat table. Have a list of potential activities and see if he can OK them. I am guessing that she will decorate a Christmas tree, dye eggs, dress up for Halloween while with her dad. These are all Christian cultural activities. It is reasonable that raising her as a culturally aware individual that she learn about other cultures. You could include some of the Jewish traditions from Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews so that both girls have a richer understanding of the practices of others around the globe. (My sister-in-law is from Tunisia. Their dress, food, dance, music and language are all different from my Ashkenazi family.)

Also, sit down and explain to your daughter that her dad loves her and that the two of you have agreed on some special things in her life. Point out the things that she will be doing at each home and explain that this is what you both have decided to give her.

One very important thing that parents in your situation frequently fail to do is decide WHAT AGE is it that you will let your child make her choice. Will it be a particular year – age 12? 16? 18? Or will it be after a particular accomplishment? Since this is now an important time in her life, the two of you need to be clear about when it is. Then going forward you can say, “Honey, you’re learning about the different cultures that your dad and I practice so that you’ll be ready to decide when you are…”

See if there are some things around the house right now that she can do to feel included. Can she help set the table? Help make her sister’s Purim costume? Hold the poles up as you put up the sukkah? Find ways that she is essential to your family activities so you can honestly say, “You are important. You do …”

Surely your ex wants his child to feel good about herself. Approach this topic not as a conflict but as a solution that the two of you will solve together. Good luck!

Posted by admin under Conversion, Divorce, Parenting
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Michella Ore wrote a wonderful article for JVibe, a now out-of-print Jewish teen magazine, back in the spring of 2009. I contacted her recently to ask if I could reprint her article. I also asked her to give us an update on how her decisions were turning out for her. As a biracial daughter of interfaith parents she had decided to officially convert. First, here’s her 2009 story.

Catholic to Kugel
I had always thought about going to synagogue. But it wasn’t until a year-and-a-half ago that I stepped foot in one for the first time. I was 12. Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, Calif., was warm and spacious–not like the cold pews I was used to sitting in during services. That night I stayed for the Shabbat service, and when it ended, my dad introduced me to the congregation. We joined them for Kiddush, and met some of the kids.
Being in a new environment was a scary thing. Everyone had obviously known one another for a long time, and I was just meeting them for the first time. I was shy about starting new chapter in my life, but I decided that I would come back and give it a try.
You see, I’m Catholic. My mom is an African-American Christian, and my dad is a mixture of Nigerian, Native American, Russian and German–and is Jewish by birthright. After years of attending a Catholic school, I realized that Judaism allowed me to question things in ways that Catholicism did not. Judaism offered me the opportunity to learn from the Scripture but also to question it. During my elementary years in Catholic school, I had always questioned whether Jesus was the son of God. I felt that we are children of God and that no one person should be singled out as more God-given than the rest.

Learn Fast
After more than a year, I still learn new things at synagogue every week. When I’m not able to go to services, I read the weekly Torah portion. I have also been attending a bat mitzvah prep class on Sundays in which we discuss Jewish women and their influences on the Torah.
In the beginning of my process of conversion, I had to learn how to read Hebrew. It was tough at first, but not being able to sing along in services was motivation to learn. I got help from a friend at Netivot Shalom, who taught me the basics. I also studied on my own, and now I can keep up with services and sing the psalms and prayers myself. But the most difficult thing has been studying religious texts and balancing my regular schoolwork. Add to that my extracurriculars and social life, and you have a pretty busy 14-year-old!
There were times when I was frustrated with Hebrew and days of religious observance when I had to decide whether to go to school or to synagogue. When I decided to go to school, I was questioned about what’s more important. I have since learned that religion and education are equally important, and I need to find a balance so I can get what I need from both.

Faking It
The process has not been smooth sailing. People have sometimes called me a “fake Jew.” Because of my mixed heritage, I’ve been told I don’t look Jewish–I’ve even been questioned about how I could possibly be Jewish. To me, stating that I’m a Jew should be enough information. I believe there’s no such thing as a fake Jew. The term is usually directed toward converts and those whose mothers aren’t Jewish, but I feel as much of a Jew as anyone. If you are a Jew at heart, you’re Jewish–period. As future generations are born, fewer Jews will still look like the “stereotypical” Jew.
Converting is important to me because I want to officially be confirmed as a Jew. I want to be acknowledged throughout the world as a Jew, without a doubt from anyone. Converting will state on paper what I have felt all along. Being Jewish is more than a religion to me; it’s a way of life. People say that being Jewish is just a religion, but it’s more than that. I know atheistic Jews who don’t believe in God but still consider themselves Jews. I have learned that Jews don’t just read the Torah, they live by it. And this is one of the reasons I was drawn closer to the religion and the culture.

It’s My Life
I hope the conversion process teaches me what it means to be a Jew, including the many devastating events Jews have experienced so I can share that pain and support with those who need help. I want to have a Jewish household when I grow up and pass along the teachings to my children. Along the way, I may even gain a thicker skin–after hearing that I don’t “look” Jewish, I hope to learn how to ignore negative comments and instead focus on my goals.
In January, I flew to Boston (my first time on an airplane!) for an event run by The Curriculum Initiative –a Jewish educational organization serving independent high schools. I was uneasy about the people I was going to meet during the weekend. From what little I had heard, East Coast Jews aren’t that tolerant of “diverse” Jews. So when I arrived and saw that the event was being led by an African-American Jew, I was pleasantly surprised. While I was in Boston, I met many types of Jews from different ethnicities who had diverse views on politics. The trip stripped me of my ignorance and reinforced my decision to convert.
Throughout this intense process I have learned that we must follow what we know is best for ourselves, even if other people don’t see it that way. I haven’t had everyone’s support, but I know it’s the right answer for me.

* * *
I asked Michella how life has been in the past 5 years. She replied:

I completed my conversion in 2009. I had my bat mitzvah when I was 16. I’ve felt pretty great since then and I’m almost 20. My school doesn’t have a huge Jewish presence on campus but I try to attend events when I can. While, I was in high school I attended Berkeley Midrasha for four years and went to shul at least once a month.

Being a multiracial Jew doesn’t really impact my activities. People seem positively intrigued when they find out I’m Jewish and I don’t feel the need to explain how – as I thought I would years ago.

In regards to words of wisdom, I would say follow what you feel is right. I chose to learn more about Judaism because of my dad’s lineage but that isn’t what compelled me to go through the conversion. I did it because I felt a personal connection to Judaism (the appreciation of questioning and digging beneath the surface in particular attracted me) and wanted to continue along that path.

Hope this helps!
Michella

Michella Ore

Now a student at Williams College in MA, Michella told me she hopes her story will support other young people who are curious and want to explore Judaism.

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Children, Conversion, In their own words, Jews of Color, Spirituality
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Happy-New-Year

Did you make a New Year’s Resolution to learn more about Judaism? Intro to Judaism classes are great for interfaith couples — take the class together –they stimulate good discussions, answer questions and you’ll get to know other interesting people. Jump in!

Exploring Judaism
This course is a year-long exploration of the history, beliefs, traditions, and practices of the Jewish people. “Exploring Judaism” will be interesting and meaningful whether you are becoming an adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah, you are just beginning to explore Jewish studies, you are considering choosing Judaism, you are in an interfaith relationship, or you are simply looking for a deeper and more mature understanding of Jewish history and tradition. Winter term covers Jewish Text & History. Taught by Rabbi Ruth Adar.
(Students may expand their Jewish literacy by taking this course in conjunction with Beginning Hebrew.)

Dates: Sundays, 1/5, 1/12, 1/26, 2/2, 2/9, 2/23, 2014
Time: 9 to 10am
Place: Temple Isaiah, 945 Risa Rd., Lafayette
Cost: $65 public; $30 for members of Temple Isaiah
Register here

Jewishing: An On-Going Conversation about Doing and Being Jewish
Join fellow travelers and guides, JCCSF Chief Jewish Officer Rachel Brodie and Rabbi Batshir Torchio, on a wandering journey through Jewish history and culture. We will be “Jewishing,” exploring Judaism not as a monolith of static concepts and practices but as a dynamic system of choices and questions. Listen and talk, read and write, sing and eat your way into questions of Jewish identity, seeing through a Jewish lens, and living among Jews in the Bay Area in the twenty-first century.
Whether you are Jewishly literate or beginning your exploration, if you’re interested in learning more about your Jewish heritage, if you are coupled with or parented by someone who is Jewish, if you are thinking about conversion, or if you are just plain curious, we hope that you will consider joining us.

Dates: Wednesdays, January 8 – February 19
Time: 6:30 – 8:30 pm
Place: JCC of San Francisco, 3200 California St., San Francisco
Cost: $125 for the public; $100 for members of the JCC
Register here

The Building Blocks of Judaism
This course is for those who wish to learn (or re-learn) Judaism. All are welcome: non-Jews, Jews, interfaith couples, those considering conversion, and anyone who is interested in learning more about Judaism. Students will learn the basics of Judaism in a friendly and informal atmosphere. We’ll explore fundamental aspects of Jewish practices such as holiday observance and life-cycle celebrations. We’ll also cover Jewish understandings of God and religious beliefs, essential Jewish texts, Jewish history, music and literature, and the significance of Israel in Judaism today.
These eight classes cover Part 2 of the class. The topics we’ll explore include liturgy, Jewish history, the Holocaust, and the Modern State of Israel. Students may continue with Part 1 of the class, which will begin in Fall 2014.

Dates: Thursdays, January 16 – March 20, 2014 (no class 2/13, 3/13)
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Includes a Friday evening Shabbat experience March 7, 2014 at 6:15 pm
Place: Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd., Los Altos Hills
Cost: $125 for the public, $115 for Beth Am members; $65 for Émigrés & Full-time students
Register here

Introduction to the Jewish Experience: Israel & Texts
The land of Israel has been central to Jewish history, both ancient and modern. Even during the years of galut (exile) the Jewish heart was “in the east,” in the words of medieval poet Yehudah HaLevy. This class will examine the history of ancient Israel, the beginnings of rabbinic Judaism, and the modern return to the land. With that history as a backdrop, we will learn about the great texts of Judaism: Tanach (Bible), Midrash, Talmud, the Prayer Book, and the Codes of Jewish Law.
This class is part of a three-unit series.
See the full series here: http://catalog.lehrhaus.org/series/2013/fall/I150-TS/
Cosponsored by Temple Sinai, Beth El and Building Jewish Bridges.

Date: Wednesdays, January 15 – March 5
Time: 7:30 – 9:00 pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Cost: $105 for the public; $90 for members of Temple Sinai or Beth El
Register here

An Introduction to Judaism
Learn about Judaism Exploring Jewish Beliefs and Practices
With Rabbi Larry Raphael, Rabbi Julie Saxe-Taller, Lisa Erdberg
Get an in-depth look at the basics of Jewish thought and practice. Engage in a mix of study, discussion and hands-on experiences. Topics include:
* Jewish beliefs and values
* Holidays and the Jewish calendar
* Prayer and liturgy
* Lifecycle events
Date: Sundays January 26 – May 18 (except holiday weekends)
Time: 10 am
Place: Sherith Israel, 2266 California St., San Francisco
Free
Information & registration: Eric Drucker, 415.346.1720, x24, or email Eric at edrucker@sherithisrael.org.

Posted by admin under Conversion, Introduction to Judaism, Jewish Learning, Past Programs
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Everything You Always Wanted to Know but had No One to Ask

Nzinga at Beth Sholom

Conversion can be a difficult conversation for an interfaith couple. The non-Jewish partner may want to learn about it without committing to anything or getting their partner’s hopes up. The Jewish partner can want to ask whether the non-Jew is open to discussing it but be afraid of offending.

For those reasons I suggest that the curious partner come alone to this discussion. Don’t bring your spouse if, as much as you love them, you think they will just make you uncomfortable. If you’re the partner being left at home, don’t fuss or worry. Just go to a movie or take a walk with a friend.

On this evening in Oakland I will have a panel of people who have converted – black and white, straight and gay – they will share their personal decisions and journeys. All you have to do is listen. You’ll have an opportunity to ask questions too.

It is a topic that floats around in the Jewish world so let’s talk about it.

Here’s the description I’ve put in various places (like the Lehrhaus catalog).

Are you curious about converting to Judaism — for yourself or someone you love? Perhaps you know someone who is converting and wonder why anyone would make that choice. Maybe this is the first time you heard that Jews believe in conversion. Curious? Confused?
Join Jews by choice, born Jews and non-Jews to discuss a subject more awkward than sex. Yes, we’re going to answer all your questions about conversion!

Date: Thursday, Oct. 10
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Temple Beth Abraham, 327 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland
Cost: $7 for the public, free to Beth Abraham members
Register here

Posted by admin under Conversion, Past Programs
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Mitzvah of circumcision

When a man converts to Judaism he must consider whether he will have a ritual circumcision or the ceremony of Hatafat Dam (the ritual drawing of a drop of blood). These procedures bring up a lot of confusion, concern, and even fear.

This program will clear up myths and answer questions such as: Why does Judaism require circumcision? How is a mohel trained? Is he a doctor? What happens when you are with the mohel? What exactly happens at an adult circumcision? What about with hatafat dam? Is anesthesia used? Does it hurt? How long does it take? Where does it take place? How long is recovery? Does it change the sexual experience?
The first 30 minutes of the program we welcome women to come and ask their questions. Then all females will move into the social hall for refreshments while the men have an all male discussion. A man who has experienced adult circumcision will describe the experience and answer questions, as well as a mohel, Dr. Joel Piser and Rabbi Andrew Straus.

Date: Thursday, February 28
Time: 7:30 – 9:15 pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Free

This workshop is taking place because guys have questions! I get emails and it is clear to me that this information is not readily available, so it is needed. Both Rabbi Straus and Dr. Piser are nice guys. They are happy to answer whatever questions you have. If you want to submit a private question you can email or mail it to me and I’ll give it to them on a 3×5 card to answer at the program — after the women have exited.

My goal is to make you comfortable getting the details you desire.
Call or email Dawn at Building Jewish Bridges.

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Conversion, Jewish Learning, Past Programs
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Secrets of the (Synagogue) Sanctuary
Most Americans have never been inside a synagogue. Those that have may not know the parts of the sanctuary and their meaning. What is the bema? What’s the Eternal Light and is it really eternal? Do Jews kneel? Where should you sit? Should visitors wear head coverings? What about prayer shawls? Why do some people sit up in front, not with the rest of the congregation? Where is the Torah scroll kept and what does a Torah scroll actually look like? Do Jews use prayer books or hymnals? Where does the rabbi stand and what exactly is a cantor? Join Rabbi Andrew Straus and other inquisitive people to learn the secrets of the synagogue sanctuary.

Date: Feb. 7, 2013
Time: 7:30pm to 9pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Free, please RSVP so we’ll get enough snacks. Email dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org with the number in your party. See you there!

Posted by admin under Conversion, Finding a Synagogue, High Holidays, Jewish Culture, Past Programs, Prayer, Spirituality
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Oakland Mikvah

When people convert to Judaism they ‘go to the mikvah.’ What does that mean? The mikvah is a ritual pool where one immerses oneself in a spiritual ceremony that makes one a Jew. But what happens exactly? Will you be naked in front of people of the opposite sex? Join our own delightful Rabbi Dardik and other curious individuals to see a real mikvah and find out what happens there. Rabbi Dardik will cover other uses of the mikvah like koshering dishes, preparing for significant events and the traditional Jewish ritual of family purity. You can ask anything, so come on over!

Date: Thursday, Jan. 24
Time: 7:30pm
Place: Beth Jacob, 3778 Park Blvd., Oakland
Cost: $7
Register here: http://catalog.lehrhaus.org/course/2013/winter/P150-CBJ/

Posted by admin under Conversion, Jewish Culture, Past Programs
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Start 2013 off with some learning! Did you know that more Americans start a new class in January than any other month of the year? Including September. It is a time for fresh starts. I’m going to start listing the class options so you can find one near you. Check back to see what’s been added. Also, send me any classes you think should be on this list.

Foundations of Judaism – Holidays
Taught by Rabbi George Schlesinger
Tour the Jewish world through an investigation of the holiday cycle. Beginning with the fall High Holy Days, continuing through the 3 Pilgrimage Festivals (Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot), looking at Chanukah, and concluding with the minor holidays of the Jewish Calendar, this course will investigate the what, how, and why of each holiday.

Dates: Sundays, January 6 – February 17
Time: 10 to 11am
Place: Kol Emeth, 4175 Manuella, Palo Alto
There is an $18 fee for non-members.
Please bring a check made out to Congregation Kol Emeth to the first class.
www.kolemeth.org

Introduction to the Jewish Experience: Israel and Texts
The land of Israel has been central to Jewish history, both ancient and modern. Even during the years of galut (exile) the Jewish heart was “in the east,” in the words of medieval poet Yehudah HaLevy. This class will examine the history ancient Israel, the beginnings of rabbinic Judaism, and the modern return to the land. With that history as a backdrop, we will learn about the great texts of Judaism: Tanach (Bible), Midrash, Talmud, the Prayer Book, and the Codes of Jewish Law.

Dates: Wednesdays, January 16 – March 6 (8 sessions)
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Beth El, 1301 Oxford Street, Berkeley
Cost: $95 public and $80 for Beth El members
Register here: http://bit.ly/Xchm8y

Exploring Jewish Beliefs & Practices: An Introduction to Judaism
Explore the basics of Jewish thought and practice. Engage in a mix of study, discussion and hands-on experiences. Topics include:
• Jewish beliefs & values
• Holidays & the Jewish calendar
• Prayer & liturgy
• Lifecycle events

Dates: Sundays, Jan. 27, Feb. 3, 10, March 3, 10, 17, 21
Time: 10am to noon
Place: Sherith Israel, 2266 California St., San Francisco
Cost: The class is free but there is a materials fee of $5 and the text for the class, Living Judaism by Rabbi Wayne Dosick, will be available for purchase at the first class for $15.
Taught by Rabbi Larry Raphael, Rabbi Julie Saxe-Taller and Lisa Erdberg.
For information and registration contact Eric Drucker at 415-346-1720 x24 or email him at edrucker@sherithisrael.org

More Jewish Experience
Prayer: Erev Shabbat
There is an internal logic to the order in which Jews say the prayers in the service, but it is not always easy to see. Have you ever wished that you understood what we are doing in the service? This class will examine the Friday evening Erev Shabbat service as well as some of the key prayers. No Hebrew is required.
More Jewish Experience is a new series, designed to expand one’s Jewish knowledge beyond the basics in the areas of Jewish prayer, Jewish texts, and Jewish ethics. While it is designed as a follow-up to Introduction to the Jewish Experience, all interested students are welcome.

Dates: Thursdays, February 7 – February 28 (4 sessions)
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Cost: $50 public and $40 for members of Temple Sinai
Register here: http://bit.ly/UNLXsI

Posted by admin under Conversion, Introduction to Judaism, Jewish Learning
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When you consider conversion to Judaism the theological issues may come easily. But what about the personal and interpersonal? What will change in one’s relationships? Can I still go to church with Mom when I visit her? Will co-workers see me differently? What will I do about Christmas? Will I be miserable giving up bacon? If I’m married to a Jew, with my spouse expect a lot more from me? If I’m married to a non-Jew, will my spouse feel alienated?
Bring your curiosity and hear from a panel of Jews by Choice about the personal and interpersonal changes that they experienced. Questions are welcome!

Date: Friday night, October 19, 2012
Time: After the 6:30pm service – Come for the service + program, or just show up for the program (probably around 8pm) in Stern Hall.
Location: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland, CA
Cost: FREE
Questions? Contact Linda at catattack77@yahoo.com or call Dawn at 510-845-6420 x11

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Sometimes after living a Jewish life, with a Jewish spouse, a person begins to think of conversion. But they may worry that converting with upset the apple cart. Maybe my spouse will see me differently or suddenly expect more from me. Or will they even accept that I can become what they are?

Sometimes a person converts all on their own – their non-Jewish spouse remains not Jewish and conversion would mean creating an interfaith couple. What would that be like? Am I expected to tell my partner to give up the Christmas tree? What about extended family? Can I really be Jewish if I’m the only Jewish person in the family?

It’s fine to have questions! That’s one of the things that Judaism prides itself on — QUESTIONS. So bring yours!

If I Convert, What Will Change?

When you consider conversion to Judaism the theological issues may come easily. But what about the personal and interpersonal? What will change in one’s relationships? Can I still go to church with Mom when I visit her? Will co-workers see me differently? What will I do about Christmas? Will I be miserable giving up bacon? If I’m married to a Jew, with my spouse expect a lot more from me? If I’m married to a non-Jew, will my spouse feel alienated?
Bring your curiosity and hear from a panel of Jews by choice about the personal and interpersonal changes that they experienced. Questions are welcome!

Date: Friday, October 19
Time: Services are at 7:30pm; the panel will follow services at approximately 8:30pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 288 Summit St., Oakland
FREE
For more information, contact Dawn Kepler, dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org

Posted by admin under Community, Conversion, Past Programs, Relationships
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