I recently got an email from a Catholic woman asking for help in navigating her interfaith divorced family. Her ex-husband is Muslim and their two daughters were being raised with both religions until the divorce. Things have reached a very painful state.
I will pause here and ask you to think about this… What do you think is at the heart of this family’s sorrow?

I will tell you the answer. It is the divorce. Dividing a family has a profound impact on everyone, especially the children. Parents can heap a lot of baggage labeled “Religion” onto a divorce, but it’s the divorce that is the real problem.

For that reason my goal in working with couples is to find common ground, throw light on what got you together in the first place and try to work out differences. Parents are responsible for making sacrifices for their children. With religion, often one parent makes the larger sacrifice. That parent deserves many accolades. BUT that parent should also be making a willing sacrifice on behalf of their children, not succumbing to a browbeating.

This time of year can involve a very large sacrifice; the Christian who celebrated Christmas growing up may have decided to give up the holiday. If your partner did that you own them words and acts of gratitude. I suggest that you give them an extra gift – a bouquet of flowers, a hand made card, dinner out. And put your gratitude in words. To the non-Jewish parents who are making sacrifices for their families this month, and any month, I want to say, on behalf of the Jewish people, thank you. Thank you for becoming a part of us, for casting your lot with us. We are stronger and better because of you.

So what did I advise this mother? I suggested that she stop fighting from her side. The children will not profit from being the object of a tug-of-war. As the Christian partner she can know that her children will indeed learn about her culture simply by living in America. Additionally, there is tremendous strength in being the gentle parent, the accepting parent. I suggested that she ask the children to teach her what they are learning about Islam and to embrace the shared values. Find ways to act upon common values, I told her, if they talk about charity, go out and do charity together. Find ways to be comfortable with what the children are being raised with. As time goes by and they are not put on the hot seat, they will be able to think, talk and ask questions about their mother’s background.

Try not to be in a hurry when it comes to this type of situation. You have a lifetime to teach your children but only their childhood years to make them feel strong, supported and secure.

Ganeinu: Parenting My Jewish Baby (Lafayette)
Chopshticks (Palo Alto)
Movie Night! (Berkeley)
Jewish LifeCycles (Berkeley)
Yoga at Temple Sinai (Oakland)
Tot Shabbat (San Francisco)
JCC East Bay Housewarming Party (Oakland)
My Big Fat Jewish Learning (Berkeley)
Interfaith Couples Support Group (Danville)
Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Israel: Then and Now (Lafayette)

Ganeinu: Parenting My Jewish Baby
Join our Friday morning facilitated group for parents and caregivers (we love grandparents at Ganeinu), and their infants (0-18 months) and toddlers (18-30 months). Play, sing, and celebrate Shabbat and holidays with your child and others.
The toddler group meets from 9:15 to 10:45 a.m. and the infant group joins in from 9:45-10:45. Pre-registration is required. Join at any time! http://www.temple-isaiah.org/ganeinu or contact Josie Levi at (925) 284-8453 or ganeinu@temple-isaiah.org.

starring Joel Chasnoff
Help yourself to tasty treats and gut-busting comedy. Author Joel Chasnoff’s mix of personal anecdotes and keen observational humor is centered on the absurdity of modern American life. His book, The 188th Crybaby Brigade: A Skinny Jewish Kid from Chicago Fights Hezbollah, is a hilarious and poignant account of his service in the Israel Defense Forces.
Date: Saturday, December 25
Time: 7:30 pm
Place: Oshman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
Fee: $50 JCC members and students, $55 non-members in advance
Buy tickets online – http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/122062 or by calling (800) 838-3006.
Individual tickets are for open table seating; parties of 10 may reserve a table. Price includes hors d’oeuvres and dessert. Wine bar available.
For more information, please email Jen Landucci at jlanducci@paloaltojcc.org or call (650) 223-8665.
Co-sponsored by the Oshman Family JCC, the Haverim Connection for Jewish Singles, Congregation Beth Jacob, and Congregation Beth Am.

Movie Night!
Join us for dinner and international, award-winning movie,”Little Heroes”(Geborim Kitanim) (2006)
Four kids set on a rescue mission after one of them, gifted with an especially good ear, discerns distant cries for help while returning from a field trip. Come join us for a viewing one of the first Israeli films made for children, which features a group of diverse children who have to form a heroic team from a warrior, a magician, a good-hearted giant and a thief, in time to try to save a group of injured people. On their heroic adventure, they wrestle to come to terms with life-defining questions of: Who we are? Can we face what makes us different from others and embrace it wholeheartedly?
Director, Itai Lev

Date: Sunday, December 26
Time: 6:00 pm dinner, 7:00 pm movie
Place: Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave., Berkeley
Cost: Dinner Adults $7, $4 for children under 18 and family maximum of $18 (sliding scale).
E-mail our office at office@netivotshalom.org with your reservation by December 21st

Jewish LifeCycles
with Rabbi Shalom Bochner
The rhythm of a Jewish life is based on recognizing the sacred in moments of transition from one phase to the next. This class will explore the prayers and rituals that have developed around birth, covenanting, coming of age, partnering, separation, and death. Text-study and discussion will be the basis for these conversations directed toward adding meaning to our understandings of the passage of time. No Hebrew is required for this class.

Dates: Tuesdays, Jan. 4, 11, 18, 25
Time: 7:30 to 9pm
Place: Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave., Berkeley
Class fee: $40-$60—(sliding scale, no one turned away for lack of funds)
Please email Rachel at office@netivotshalom.org to register.

Yoga at Temple Sinai
Start the New Year off right! We will offer a 6 week beginner yoga course, taught by one of our own congregants, Trang Pham-Robinson, who is a 200hr certified yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance. This class is appropriate for beginners and those who have done yoga before. All are welcome!

Thursdays, January 6 through February 10 at 9:30am
Classes will be held in the Albers Chapel, and the cost for the series is $25 for all 6 classes or $5 per session. Please contact Gabby to RSVP or for any questions.

Tot Shabbat
Tot Shabbat brings families with younger children together to celebrate Shabbat in an informal atmosphere with songs and stories. Rabbi Mark and his family lead the festivities. We gather together and sit on the bimah for songs, stories, and ark opening, with Rabbi Mark from 5:30-6:00. Challah, grape juice and blessings plus light nosh from 6:00-6:30.

Date: Jan. 7, the first Friday of every month
Time: 5:30
Place: B’nai Emunah, 3595 Taraval St., San Francisco

JCC East Bay Housewarming Party
Come celebrate the grand opening of our new Oakland site with snacks, tours, entertainment, and fun for all. Please join us for a mezuzah hanging at 3:30pm. Help us make this space a home for the whole community.

Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011
2 to 5pm
New Oakland JCC site, 5811 Racine St., Oakland at Telegraph
For parking, directions or to RSVP, please call 510-848-0237 x148

My Big Fat Jewish Learning
With Josh Kornbluth and Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Ok, this is weird but it’s with Josh Kornbluth, what did you expect? Josh is studying with a rabbi and the schedule is all crazy and erratic. But doesn’t that sound fun? They will begin in Afikomen with a public event, they will read different interesting books and then talk. There will be some arguing, I trust. But I think we should go to the first gathering to see how it is.

Date for the first meeting is Sunday, Jan. 16
Time: 11 am
Place: Afikomen Judaica bookstore, 3042 Claremont Ave., Berkeley
Books: Biblical Prophets, The Prophet’s Wife by Milton Steinberg, text from the book of Hosea.
For more info: http://joshkornbluth.com/wordpress/?p=704

Interfaith Couples Support Group
Co-led by Rabbi Dan and Yael Lieberman-Goldblatt, Ph.D., clinical psychology
This is a group designed for interfaith couples that are exploring how to navigate through issues such as child rearing, conflicts with family of origin, holiday dilemmas, and split loyalties.

Dates: Sundays, January 23, February 6, 13, 27
Time: 7:00-8:30 p.m.
Place: Beth Chaim, 1800 Holdbrook Dr. Danville
Members free; Non-Members $100/couple
Registration Deadline: January 10
Info: 925-736-7146

Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Israel: Then and Now
With the Bring a Friend Discount*
This course will take you to the formative period of early Jewish and Christian attitudes toward Israel dating back nearly 2,000 years. We will also chronicle the rise of Islam and how its love for the land interacted with the Jewish and Christian communities already there. From there, we’ll move to the modern world to see how the rise of the predominantly Christian West and the rebirth of the state of Israel have made this long relationship both more fascinating and frustrating.

Dates: Wednesdays, January 26 – February 16
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Place: In the Adult Lounge at Temple Isaiah, 3800 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette
Tuition: $55/members; $65/non-members
*Bring a Friend Discount: Students who register for “Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Israel: Then and Now” with a friend are entitled to 50% off of one registrants’ course fee.

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