KIm Carter Martinez, our speaker

KIm Carter Martinez, our speaker

It is not unusual for a Jew of color to be asked, “How did you get to be Jewish?” Quite simply the question stems from their appearance, “You don’t look Jewish.”
There are a number of ways that an adult from a biracial Jewish or interfaith family can arm themselves for these micro-aggressions. Join Kim Carter Martinez, the biracial daughter of an African American father and a white Ashkenazi mother. Kim has spent years honing her skills and is pleased to teach others how to own your identity in spite of the doubts of others.

Date: Sunday, Dec. 17
Time: 10am to 11:30am
Place: Temple Beth Abraham, 327 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland
Free, but preregistration is required.
Sign up here.

Posted by admin under Current Programs, Jews of Color, Parenting
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(from Pixabay)

(from Pixabay)

This mom wrote to my Mixed and Matched column about her desire for her child to have God in their life.

One of the things I felt strongly about was having God in my home. I agreed to raise my kids as Jews as long as we really practiced Judaism. Now my 12-year-old middle son says he doesn’t believe in God and doesn’t want a bar mitzvah. He has educational disabilities and I feel he needs the extra support of a faith in God. My husband doesn’t feel as I do and is willing to let him drop out. I’m furious with my husband and upset about my son. Where can I get some help?
— A Believer

Dear Believer: My heart goes out to you as you traverse this challenging time. Preadolescents and teens can be quite difficult to parent. It makes sense that you would want to offer your son comfort and support for his educational struggles.

It is also understandable that you want to give that support in the way that has worked for you. As hard as this is to swallow, your son may not be similar to you and may never feel close to God, or even have a God belief. Some kids, as one Jewish educator put it, are “organically spiritual,” and I’m guessing that applied to you as a kid and does so now.

As a believer myself I share your experience of being comforted by faith and prayer. But not everyone is like us. Many people — especially in the Jewish community— don’t believe in God and yet are quite content.

At age 12, your son is still a literal thinker. So while there are interesting writings about God’s existence penned by scientists, I wouldn’t suggest pushing them at this time. Your son is looking for tangible, provable facts.

Think about what it is that you believe a faith in God provides. Is it a strength beyond yourself? A great love? Someone who has your back? Proof that good will win out in the end? Some of this you yourself can give to your son.

Listen to his struggles. Point out the things you admire about him. Remind him that he is part of the Jewish community of your synagogue and beyond. Invite over adults who think well of your son and share some of his interests. Consider having a talk with him and the rabbi together. You and your community are the most solid provable support he has.

At the same time, you have a right to the comfort that you derive from your belief. You should continue to pray, go to synagogue — or church— as you normally do. Just as you are not telling your son what to say or believe, he must respect that you have your own belief system and intend to live by it.

Make an appointment to talk to your rabbi. He or she has experienced this issue so many times. Your rabbi can talk to you about the value of living a good life even without a God belief. That is what you are trying to give your son — an upbringing to become a mensch.

Having a bar mitzvah is about accepting responsibility in the Jewish community for your own actions. Discuss the ethical meaning of this public demonstration with your rabbi. Perhaps he or she can help you talk to your husband and son about having the bar mitzvah as a statement of his attaining the Jewish age of responsibility.

Do you think that your son’s educational difficulty is part of what makes him want to forgo a bar mitzvah? Could he feel like it is just too much to tackle? Many rabbis and congregations will adjust a bar mitzvah to fit the abilities of the child. If he is feeling overwhelmed by school and homework, it may be too much for him to add this time-consuming responsibility. Maybe scheduling a bar mitzvah for late next summer would allow him to practice and prepare during the summer rather than during the school year.

As for your husband, the two of you need to talk. He needs to grasp how important this is to you, and you need to understand why it is not the same for him. The two of you are a team. If your conversations have taken a downturn, consider seeing a therapist or going in to talk to your rabbi together.
Finally, let me give you a mantra: However things are going, good or bad, don’t get too attached because it will change.

There is no age limit to having a bar mitzvah. Your son may have his at age 18 or 35. Time changes all of us, and your son will mature. If he comes to you at age 21 and says, “Mom, why didn’t you make me have a bar mitzvah?!” Just be ready to say, “You had to come to it in your own time.”

Posted by admin under Mixed & Matched, Parenting, Spirituality
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Carly and her mom

Parenting and Grandparenting in an Interfaith Family
Techniques for listening and talking to adult children

Your child has married a non-Jewish person, maybe a Christian. Possibly they have not yet determined whether to have a Jewish home. The question of children may also be up in the air. You know that any children they have are THEIR children but you hope to impart some of your Jewish identity to your grandchildren. How can you talk to your own child and child-in-law about your desire while respecting them as parents? What is reasonable to say or request? How do you open the conversation?

Join other grandparents and Dawn Kepler to discuss this delicate conversation and come away with ideas for being the fabulous grandparent you know you can be!

Date: Monday, Oct. 30
Time: 7 – 9pm
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
Free, preregistration required.
Please register here.

Posted by admin under Current Programs, Grandparents, Parenting
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sarah as Shabbat star

Raising Kids in an Interfaith Family
As partners and parents we want the best for each member of our family. Does that mean putting our relationship before the children? Can’t we give equally to our partner and our kids?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to love and parenting in any family, including interfaith families. Together we will look at balancing competing needs and how to sketch out a plan for your family’s choices. We’ll touch on the December holidays too.

Date: Dec. 10
Time: 10:30am to 12noon
Place: Temple Israel, 3183 Mecartney Rd, Alameda
Free, but please RSVP to dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org so that I’ll know how many to expect. Thanks!
https://templeisraelalameda.org

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Rebecca Gutterman's family

The number of Jewish and interfaith families who are adopting children is significant. Often these children are not Caucasian. As one very sweet Catholic social worker put it, “Jews don’t seem to mind what color their children are.” We take that as a big compliment!

How do parents give their adopted child a feeling of wholeness, helping them integrate their story of origin with the religion and culture they are being raised in? Adoptive parents raising Jewish children have this and unique questions to answer depending on their family situation, such as:

Will we formally convert our child to Judaism?
Will we have some kind of Jewish welcoming ceremony?
How will we honor their culture of origin and give them a rich, secure Jewish identity?
If our child is a different race from us, how will we handle it? How will we respond to his/her questions at different stages, as well as questions or reactions from people outside of our family?
Join adoptive parents and adoption professional, Susan Romer, for a warm and supportive discussion.

April 20
7:30 to 9pm
Congregation B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek
Free, but an RSVP would be most appreciated. You can sign up here.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Children, Parenting, Programs archive
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family

The email from this Jewish Dad is a pretty common view for men from Reform congregations. For that matter, it’s a pretty common view period. But what do you do when your opinion differs from that of others? I replied to him in my Mixed and Matched column in the J-weekly.

My wife is not Jewish but is totally on-board with raising our kids as Jews. We belong to a Reform synagogue that is wonderful to our entire family. Our children go to preschool there and are being raised with all the Jewish holidays. My concern is that Conservative and Orthodox Jews don’t see my kids as Jewish. I don’t see any reason to have our kids go to the mikvah, but I know that in my parents’ Conservative congregation, my kids can’t have an aliyah. Why can’t they understand that in today’s world we are all post-denominational Jews?
— Dad of Two Great Kids

Dear Dad: You have raised a very important point — whose rules are we going by? You and your wife have decided to do things in a way that meets your needs and your view of a shared Jewish American life. You may think the Jewish world should change and reshape itself to better match your view. The trouble is that Jews who adhere to traditional Jewish law feel you should see things their way. In fact, every other Jew out there has an opinion and is as unlikely to modify it to match yours as you are to match theirs. Thus, we are at a standstill.

Too often, an interfaith family has that very American belief that they should be able to have things as they wish. We are all vulnerable to thinking within our own paradigm. One of the most beautiful things about Judaism is that many opinions can be held or at least listened to and validated, even if they are contradictory.

Learn more. I invite you to learn about the views of non-Reform Judaism. Take a class, possibly with a rabbi, from another stream of Judaism. You can check out the Lehrhaus Judaica catalog to find classes and teachers from all backgrounds offered all around the Bay Area. Additionally, you can go online to see what adult education classes are offered at synagogues near you.

Suspend judgment. Go into the class with the mindset of an explorer — what do the Jews at this shul teach and believe? Note that they don’t all agree with each other, but it is likely that they hold certain views across the congregation. Just as your Reform synagogue believes that the child of a Jewish man can and should have a bar or bat mitzvah right there on their bimah, the members of other shuls will have different shared views. A common Reconstructionist saying — followed by the more liberal streams — is that the past (i.e., tradition or halachah) has a vote, not a veto. However, in other movements halachah has a great deal more than a vote.

Meet other Jews. Make an appointment with a Conservative and an Orthodox rabbi. There are many friendly ones in the Bay Area and I’d be happy to help you identify someone with whom you could speak.

What am I hoping for you? Well, there are several possible outcomes.

One, you would come away with a clear understanding of the halachic reasons for your children’s status and you will agree to disagree. In this case, you will need to develop a message that you will give to your children, and wife, about their status. The message should be honest and supportive of your children’s identity as Jews. You will also want to develop a message for the community at large for times when your children’s Jewish identity is questioned.

Two, you may decide that you want your children to be recognized by your parents’ Conservative congregation and therefore you want to take them to the mikvah. Here you’ll need to explain this to your wife without insulting her. Arranging the details will require talking to your rabbi.

Three, and this is the one I hope you avoid, you may simply be upset and do nothing.

Many members of our community want to be angry and sullen toward the Jews who don’t agree with their views of patrilineal descent. Please don’t get lost in this dead-end position. Discuss things with your wife and your rabbi. Make some affirmative decisions.

Finally, Dad, you have time, but not forever. Call me if you want to discuss your options. I can help you find a class and/or a rabbi for an informational interview.

Posted by admin under Children, Mixed & Matched, Parenting
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jewsandchristmas

You may want to decorate a Christmas tree while your partner wants to make latkes. What will work for you as a family? Whether December is your favorite month – full of Christmas cookies and chocolate gelt – or your most dreaded month – material surfeit and cultural overwhelm – you are invited to join this open and supportive discussion on how to handle the December dash.

This year will be especially interesting because the first night of Hanukkah falls on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 4
Time: 10:30 – 12:00
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
Cost: Free to Beth Emek members, $8 public. No one turned away!
Sign up here or just show up.
www.bethemek.org

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Children, Christmas, Holidays, Parenting
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patricia-l-with-cousins

A wonderful couple I know have five grown children who are interracial, intercultural and sort of interfaith. The Chinese mom converted before marriage and is now trained as a mohel. The couple raised their children Jewish and Chinese. Yup, they got asked questions like, “Are you adopted?” “Is your mother Jewish?” “How come you’re in a synagogue; do you want to convert?”

But this wise couple knew what was in store for their kids and they prepared them. They knew the kids would be asked questions when the parents were not around to step in. They wanted their kids to feel strong ownership of their Jewish identities.

Their family is interfaith in that all of mom’s side of the family is not Jewish. Some of the 5 kids have married non-Jewish spouses and are raising Jewish kids – just like Mom and Dad did.

The systematic teaching of the children to be confident and comfortable as Chinese Jews was brilliant. It reminded me of some of my African American friends who said, “I’ll teach my kids what to expect in the white world. I’LL be the voice they hear, they’ll be ready for racist ignorance.”

On November 10, I will be sharing the strategies that this couple – and many adults who grew up in interfaith families – advocate doing to help kids in interfaith families grow up confident and comfortable with who they are.
Raising a Confident Child in an Interfaith Family

I hope to see you on the tenth.

EVENTS
How Jesus Became God (Alameda)
Or HaLev – Jewish Meditation (San Mateo)
Dispelling (Religious) Myths (Pleasanton)
Raising a Confident Child in an Interfaith Family (Berkeley)
Preschool Science Fair! (Foster City)
Mourning and Grief: After Death (Walnut Creek)
Fourth Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service (Livermore)
Klezmer Shabbat (San Francisco)
Chanukah Festival (Redwood City)

How Jesus Became God
How did the radical Jewish learner, Jesus, change Judaism and the World?
Rabbi Brickner will lead a discussion, following a DVD screening that traces one of history’s most significant movements led by a world-changing Jew: Jesus. The radical Jew? Prophetic Jew? The promised Messiah?
The series will discuss issues such as the historic, scientific, cultural and spiritual context of Israel and the Mid-East during the Roman era, key events and personalities, different perceptions of Jesus.

Dates: Sundays, Nov. 6 and 13
Time: 10:30am to noon
Place: Temple Israel, 3183 Mecartney Rd., Alameda
http://templeisraelalameda.org

Or HaLev – Jewish Meditation
For the last 14 years, Or HaLev (Light of the Heart) – the Center for Jewish Spirituality at PTBE – has provided the opportunity for one of our meditation teachers to teach about a different Jewish topic related to mindfulness meditation along with one or two short sits. Whether you are an experienced meditator or have never meditated before, please join us!

Dates: Mondays, November 7, 14, 21, 28
Time: 7:00 to 8:15 pm
Place: Peninsula Temple Beth El, 1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo
www.ptbe.org

Dispelling (Religious) Myths
Our topic will be “What myths would you like to dispel about your religion or religious practice? What are frequent misconceptions?” The speakers will be Imam Tahir Anwar of the Muslim Community Center and Robin Wood, Jewish Educator. Religion Chat is sponsored by Interfaith Interconnect the second Wednesday of every month.

Date: Wednesday, November 9
Time: 5:00 – 6:00 pm
Place: Muslim Community Center, 5724 West Las Positas Blvd., Pleasanton.
(Please enter from the school side of the building, Suite 100.)
Free
For more information contact the Interfaith Interconnect by emailing to: interfaith.interconnect@gmail.com

Raising a Confident Child in an Interfaith Family
A child needs happy, loving parents more than anything else. They also deserve to feel comfortable with their own identity. We’ll come together to discuss what parents are currently doing, what they may want to alter and to talk about planning for your child’s religious traditions.

Date: Thursday, November 10
Time: 7:30 – 9:00 pm
Place: Lehrhaus Judaica, 2736 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
Cost: $12 per couple; $8 per person; no one turned away for lack of funds
Register here

Preschool Science Fair!
Wornick Jewish Day School and PJ Library invite you to a morning of science exploration especially for children ages 3 to 5 and their families.

Date: Sunday, November 13
Time: 10 am to Noon
Place: Wornick Jewish Day School, 800 Foster City Boulevard, Foster City
Admission is free. Lunch will be served.
Advanced registration is required at their website.

Mourning and Grief: After Death
In this essential session we will address Kaddish basics, what the Jewish tradition says about mourning and grief and memory, and how to gather community support. We will create a safe place to share special cases such as stillbirth and neonatal death; sudden, and traumatic death. We will explore the customs of the first year and talk about “When does grief really end?”

Date: Nov. 13
Time: 10:30am to noon
Place: B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek
Cost: $10
Register here.

Fourth Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service
All are invited to attend this year’s Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, ‘Our Common Humanity.’ The service is free, but space is limited, so please register on Eventbrite.
Through readings, music, and reflections, our many faith communities will explore the common ground that unites us all. During the service an offering will be accepted; donations will go to Big Heart Wellness Center after minimal event costs are covered.

Interfaith Interconnect comprises sixteen Tri-Valley congregations. Its mission is, “To enrich, inform and educate ourselves and others about the great diversity of faiths and cultures in our valley.”

Date: Sunday, November 20
Time: 5:30–6:30pm
Place: St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, 678 Enos Way, Livermore
Simple reception in the church hall immediately following the service.
www.interfaithinterconnect.weebly.com
interfaith.interconnect@gmail.com

Klezmer Shabbat
Come light candles, sing songs, delight in familiar prayers melded with klezmer rhythms and melodies, dance, and of course, eat and drink!

Cantor Sharon Bernstein will be joined by master klezmorim Stu Brotman on bass, Sheldon Brown on clarinet, and Ilana Sherer on violin, and Josh Horowitz on accordian. And, the magnetic Bruce Bierman will provide dance support and instruction.

Date: December 2
Time: 7:30pm
Place: Sha’ar Zahav, 290 Dolores St (@16th St), San Francisco
www.shaarzahav.org

Chanukah Festival
Come eat some latkes, buy your presents from our vendors, enjoy our Preschoolers in Concert, and of course see friends.

Date: Sunday, December 11
Time: 11:00am – 2:30pm
Place: Congregation Beth Jacob, 1550 Alameda de las Pulgas, Redwood City
www.bethjacobrwc.org

Posted by admin under Chanukah, Children, Community Activities, Death & Mourning, Parenting
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3generations-at-temple-israel

A child needs happy, loving parents more than anything else. They also deserve to feel comfortable with their own identity. We’ll come together to discuss what parents are currently doing, what they may want to alter and to talk about planning for your child’s religious traditions.

Date: Thursday, November 10
Time: 7:30 – 9:00 pm
Lehrhaus Judaica, 2736 Bancroft Way, Berkeley

Cost: $12 per couple; $8 per person. No one turned away for lack of funds.
Register here.

Contact Dawn with cost questions dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org

Posted by admin under Children, Non-Jewish family, Parenting
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emanu-els-dome-horizontal

Here’s autumn! Time to consider what we want to do in the upcoming Jewish year of 5777. Here are all the workshops and classes scheduled from Building Jewish Bridges. I hope you’ll find something you like. As always, feel free to email me (dawn@buildingjewishbridges.org) if you have a topic that you’d like to see offered.

Dawn

The High Holidays…
Do I Want to or Do I Have to?

What is it about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that pulls Jews into the synagogue by the droves? Obligation? Faith? Remembrance? What do these holidays mean? What part do they play in our lives? Should our children miss school to observe these holidays? Join us in a discussion of history and meaning.

Date: Sunday, September 18
Time: 10:30 – 12:00
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
www.bethemek.org
Register here

Adults from Interfaith Families: A Roundtable Discussion
Join other adults who grew up in an interfaith family to discuss how that went for you and to consider challenges and desires. Do you think of yourself as Jewish? Half Jewish? Jew-ish? Does it annoy you that other Jews want to put their own label on you? Do you have a comfortable relationship with your Jewish community or not? Come share your insights and suggestions with others who have dealt with similar life situations.

Thursday, September 22
7:30 – 9:00 pm
Lehrhaus Judaica, 2736 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
Free, please sign up here as we have limited space.

Kim Carter Martinez

Kim Carter Martinez

Being Black, Asian, Danish…and Jewish: Taking Charge of Your Jewish Identity
Adults from interfaith families often have their Jewish identity challenged by both Jews and non-Jews. Having a name that is not perceived as Jewish, like Anderson, Christiansen, O’Toole, or Wong, can lead to questions like, “How did you get to be Jewish?” For biracial Jews the question stems from their appearance, “You don’t look Jewish.”
There are a number of ways that an adult from a biracial or interfaith family can arm themselves for these micro-aggressions. Join Kim Carter Martinez, the biracial daughter of an African American father and a white Ashkenazi mother. Kim has spent years honing her skills and is pleased to teach others how to own your identity in spite of the doubts of others.

Date: Sunday, October 9
Time: 3:00 – 4:30 pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
Free, but space is limited so reserve your spot here.

Making Shabbat Your Own
Would you like to start doing Shabbat? Do you need an easy way to start or do you want to take your current observance up a notch? Come learn easy steps to create “your” Shabbat. We’ll tell you how to have warm, homemade challah even if you work until 6pm. How to engage children of all ages. Ways to approach teens or other skeptics in your family. As a bonus, we’ll tell you how one simple ritual can improve your child’s and your health, happiness and wellbeing. No kidding!

Date: Sunday, October 30
Time: 10:30 – 12:00
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
www.bethemek.org
Register here.

2gens-cropped

Raising a Confident Child in an Interfaith Family
A child needs happy, loving parents more than anything else. They also deserve to feel comfortable with their own identity. We’ll come together to discuss what parents are currently doing, what they may want to alter and to talk about planning for your child’s religious traditions.

Date: Thursday, November 10
Time: 7:30 – 9:00 pm
Lehrhaus Judaica, 2736 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
Cost: $12 per couple, $8 per person
Register here.

Double Roots: A Film and Discussion
A young woman with a Jewish mother and a Christian father was raised religiously “nothing.” She was told that “if the Nazis were here, they’d kill you” and that was the extent of her Jewish education. Decades later she went out to learn what others with one Jewish parent had been taught and how their lives were similar or different from her own. When asked, “Why did you make this film of interviews with adults from interfaith families she replied, “I wanted our voices to be heard.”
Please join us to hear these voices as they were interviewed and to hear from some of the interviewees about their lives today.

Date: Thursday, December 1
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Place: Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont
Free, please sign up here.

To Tree or Not to Tree: What Will We do for the Holidays?
You may want to decorate a Christmas tree while your partner wants to make latkes. What will work for you as a family? Whether December is your favorite month – full of Christmas cookies and chocolate gelt – or your most dreaded month – material surfeit and cultural overwhelm – you are invited to join this open and supportive discussion on how to handle the December dash.

This year will be especially interesting because the first night of Hanukkah falls on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 4
Time: 10:30 – 12:00
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Ct, Pleasanton
www.bethemek.org
Register here

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Chanukah, Children, Christmas, High Holidays, Jewish holidays at home, Jews of Color, Parenting, Programs archive, Shabbat
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