Rabbi Sarah Weissman of Beth Am, Los Altos

Rabbi Sarah Weissman of Beth Am, Los Altos

Have you wondered what happens at some of the workshops that you missed? It’s a pretty common question I get – so what happened? Here is one of the topics that came up in Interlove Story:

What is the position of the Reform movement regarding kids with a Jewish dad (patralineal descent)? There we were in a Reform shul, Beth Am, and Rabbi Weissman explained the Reform policy that states that any child with one Jewish parent, whether the father or the mother, must be raised observing Jewish holidays and lifecycle events in order to be affirmed as Jewish. So bottomline, for the Reform movement, the mother doesn’t have to be the Jewish parent.

This looks in one way, stricter than the other movements, you have to DO something to make your child officially Jewish.

In practice, I mentioned to Rabbi Weissman, I have yet to find a rabbi of ANY denomination that does not accept matrilineal descent as affirming Jewish identity in the children. She smiled and said quite honestly, “there is policy and there is practice.” Well, I just fell more in love with her at that moment because she was totally honest. I believe that all of YOU are intelligent adults in the midst of making thoughtful decisions. What you deserve is not the party line, rather you should be given as many facts as can be assembled.

Rabbi Weissman went on to articulate some of the options that a family with a Jewish father has – such as staying within the Reform community or taking your child to the mikvah. But very important, let the information regarding Jewish identity come from you, the child’s parents.

I feel strongly that you can handle such comments with a matter-of-fact tone and with age appropriate terms. The particular non-Jewish mom in this workshop was concerned that a little girl had told her child that he “was not Jewish and never would be.” Well, “not Jewish” is based on one’s belief system and “never would be” is quite simply 100% wrong. It is essential that the parents be ready to handle comments like this without the charge of negative feelings. Don’t give the topic more weight than necessary for your child. Let them come away from the conversation with a light heart and a confident sense of self.

If you want to talk this through with me, I’m happy to do so. Just email or call.

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