child-baptism medium

A message from a young woman soon to be a mother sent to my Mixed and Matched column in the J-weekly.

I was raised Catholic but no longer practice. I’m pregnant and happy to raise my children Jewish, and my husband and I belong to a Conservative synagogue. We plan to take our baby to the mikvah. My mom wants the baby to be baptized even though she knows we plan to raise our baby Jewish. Mom says it’s not that big a deal, and why can’t I just do it? Also, I don’t see myself as Jewish now, but what if at some point I do? — Anxious mom-to-be

Dear mom-to-be: If it really weren’t that big a deal, your mother could let go of it. Ask her to tell you why it matters to her.

If your mother fears that your child will not be saved, you should encourage her to speak to her priest, as the Catholic Church has been moving toward accepting the Jews as a covenantal people.

If she fears that Jews go to hell, let me offer a lovely paper written by the Christian Scholars Group on Christian-Jewish Relations. In “A Sacred Obligation: Rethinking Christian Faith in Relation to Judaism and the Jewish People,” the scholars ask whether God would revoke a promise and conclude that the answer is no. Therefore, they determine, the covenant between God and the Jews remains intact, valid and eternal. Because the Jews are in a “saving covenant with God,” it means they are not going to hell. You can find the paper online.

If your mother’s desire is more of a gut reaction because this is how she was raised and how she sees the world, you will need to address her claim that this isn’t a big deal. It is obviously one to her, and she needs to understand that it is also a big deal to you and your husband.

Baptism is the ritual that officially says a person has entered the body of the Catholic Church. It is the wrong ritual for a child who will grow up as a member of the Jewish people.

Try to help your mom see that baptism, circumcision, receiving a Hebrew name and other religious acts performed to welcome a baby are in fact very important. The rituals that parents choose are a declaration of who their child is and the foundation of the child’s religious identity. Birth rituals affirm a baby’s entrance into a spiritual community. In return, that community accepts the responsibility of caring for the child.

Here’s another way to think about it: Is this ritual important enough to take pictures? Typically people have photos of their babies and family at christenings, brises, baptisms and namings. These photos are shown to children as they get older and explained as important moments in their lives. The pictures we use to fill our photo albums or display in our homes reveal what we value. Doing both ceremonies reduces the status of each. Hopefully your mother can see that for your child’s sake, one message is easier.

If she is worried that her grandchild will not understand her and her religion and therefore will not be close to her, please reassure her that this is not the case. Children naturally attach to grandparents based on love. Also, her grandchild will be raised in America, where Christianity is the dominant religion; there is no way the child will not come to know about it.

Additionally, this is a good time to discuss with your husband which holidays your family will share with your parents. I encourage you to include them in all of your Jewish celebrations and to identify elements from their tradition that will be shared with your child.

Finally, you mention that you might someday want to be Jewish. Indeed, that may happen. Have you given your mom subtle messages about this? Could her fear be more about losing you? If so, lavish some extra time on your mother.

If you are simply acknowledging that anything can happen — I say, time will tell. If someday you want to be Jewish, discuss this with your rabbi and other Jews by choice. Those who have chosen this path can help you figure out how and what to say to your mother.

Posted by admin under Mixed & Matched, Non-Jewish family, Parenting
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Religious Action Center

Many synagogue congregants are receiving emails from their clergy about the tragedy in Orlando. I am confident that many church members are getting similar messages. I share with you the one that Peninsula Temple Sholom‘s clergy, Rabbi Dan Feder, Rabbi Lisa Delson, Rabbi Molly Plotnik and Cantor Barry Reich.

****

Over the weekend, the Jewish people celebrated Shavuot, the festival of receiving Torah at Mount Sinai. However, instead of waking to the wholeness and peace that comes with accepting our sacred stories, we awoke to news of devastating human destruction. We mourn the 50 lives that were cut short at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, a place where LGBT folks came to enjoy themselves in a comfortable and life-affirming place. Our thoughts are also with the more than 50 who were injured as well. Just like last week when we mourned the deaths of four people who were killed in Tel Aviv, once again we are reminded that we live in a broken world.

It is becoming clear that it is not only enough to pray. We must speak out against extremism and join together with the vast majority of our Muslim brothers and sisters who reject violence in the name of their religion. We must speak out against homophobia and spread the message that love is love. And finally, we must join together and advocate against gun violence and promote gun control laws to keep guns out of the hands of those who wish to cause harm.

Tzedek, tzedek tirdof – Justice, justice you shall pursue (Deuteronomy 16:20). Judaism offers us a framework for how we should act in the world. Prayer and study are important, but so is action. Let us cry and mourn over the lives lost and then transform our tears and fear into creating a more just and peaceful world.

To take action, visit rac.org/gvp and share your thoughts with our elected officials.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Community, In the News
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LGBT Safe Zone

LGBT Safe Zone

Thanks to Keshet for this lovely sign.

I don’t have a huge amount of data about LGBT Jewish couples, but I do have the results of a survey done a few years ago of the East Bay LGBT Jewish population. Of the LGBT Jews in relationships 89% were in an interfaith relationship. If you didn’t think interfaith programming was important for the LGBT community before, I hope this changes your view.

Building Jewish Bridges is here to help ALL interfaith couples and families figure out their strategy for their family’s religious life. Please don’t hesitate to contact Dawn Kepler if you want to talk about the options you and your partner are exploring.

Happy Pride Month!

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Shavuot

Shavuot begins Saturday evening, June 11. Some people will stay up all night, others will choose to so some study in the evening and get to bed by midnight. It’s entirely up to you. Take a look at the variety of Shavuot celebrations below and see if any one of them fits you.

EVENTS
Friday Night Lights-The Shavuot Torah (Palo Alto)
Tikkun Leil Shavuot (Berkeley)
Tikkun Leil Shavuot (Redwood City)
Reimagining Sinai: Opening to Revelation in Each Moment (Tiburon)
Shavuot Shul Crawl (San Francisco)
Shavuot 2016 (Foster City)
South Peninsula Tikkun Leil Shavuot (Palo Alto)
Pizza Shabbat (Walnut Creek)
Outdoor Sanctuary (Larkspur)
Shabbat Under the Stars (Pleasanton)
Tot Shabbat and Picnic in the Park (San Mateo)

Friday Night Lights-The Shavuot Torah
A free Shabbat experience for children six and under and their families (parents, grandparents & siblings all welcome).
Featuring our special FNL scavenger hunt, Shabbat blessings, singing, and dancing, child-friendly light dinner, and time for children to learn and play while the grownups relax and chat with Rabbi Chaim and the parents of other young children.

Date: Friday, June 10
Time: 5:45 pm
Place: Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma, Palo Alto
Register here
www.etzchayim.org

Tikkun Leil Shavuot
Join hundreds of curious folks for an exciting night of meaningful Jewish learning. Choose from over 50 teachers, from secular to Orthodox, on topics of all sorts.
No experience or RSVP necessary. All are welcome.
Stay for an hour … a few … or all night. Food will be served throughout.
Childcare available with preregistration.

Dates & time: Saturday, June 11, 6pm – Sunday, June 12, 7am
Place: Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut Street, Berkeley
More info here and here

Tikkun Leil Shavuot
We will celebrate Shavuot with a Tikkun Leil Shavuot, a night of learning led by some of our fellow members as well as the clergy. Of course there will be cheese cake and ice cream as well. Rabbi Ilana will lead a “Family Debate: Is Vegetarianism a Jewish Value” beginning at 6:30 p.m.

There will be a Havdallah and festival service at 7:30 p.m. followed by classes.

Date: June 11
Place: Congregation Beth Jacob, 1550 Alameda de las Pulgas, Redwood City
http://bethjacobrwc.org

Reimagining Sinai: Opening to Revelation in Each Moment
On Shavuot, we remember what it was like to be at Mount Sinai and to receive whatever divine inspiration we received there. Celebrate Shavuot this year with world-renowned artist-in-residence Rabbi Shefa Gold as she offers an evening of mystical music and learning. Rabbi Gold will be joined by Sylvia Boorstein and Rabbis Friedman, Lezak, Leider and Levy, who will each offer a unique Shavuot learning opportunity. Cheesecake and other delicious nosh will accompany this magical evening.

Date: Saturday, June 11
Time: 7:30 pm
Place: Congregation Kol Shofar, 215 Blackfield Drive, Tiburon
For more information call Kol Shofar at 415.388.1818

Shavuot Shul Crawl
This year’s Shavuot Shul Crawl has been dubbed Sensual Torah 5776. Each stop along the crawl’s route will feature a teaching that relates to our senses.

As in years prior, participants will start the evening at Sherith Israel, then move on to the San Francisco JCC, and Congregation Emanu-el, before settling in at Beth Sholom to participate in a Tikkun Leil Shavuot, an all-night Torah study session established by Jewish mystics. In addition to the traditional stops, Richmond District staple Toy Boat Dessert Cafe is also an important way station! Please join us for some or all of what promises to be an edifying and magical night!

Read the entire schedule here.

Date: Saturday, June 11 and Sunday, June 12
Place: Jewish sites in San Francisco

Shavuot 2016
Come join us as we celebrate the holiday of Shavuot and once again renew our commitment to Torah and tradition! There will be family programming beginning at 6:15 pm and a late night study-a-thon starting at 8:45 pm.
Schedule:
6:15-7:00 pm: Free Dinner (Please RSVP to Marylou)
7:00-7:45 pm: Touring the Torah Unscrolled
7:45-8:15 pm: Story, singing with Rabbi Corey and Cantor Doron
8:15-8:45 pm: Ice cream sundaes, Cheesecake, and more dairy
9:00 pm to 9:30 pm
Our first every PSC Torah Slam
Join us for a creative look at a Torah of justice, compassion, kindness and mercy through poetry, creative writing, singing and more!
9:30 pm: The Learning Continues–Tikkun Leyl Shavuot
Join us for inspiring learning, discussion and more. Teachers include Rabbi Corey Helfand, Cantor Doron Shapira, Dr. Joel Gereboff, Dr. Yedida Kanfer, Rabbi Marv Goodman, Rabbi Jay Miller, Dr. Eric Livak Hale and more.

Date: Saturday, June 11
Place: Peninsula Sinai, 499 Boothbay Avenue, Foster City

South Peninsula Tikkun Leil Shavuot
Congregations Kol Emeth, Beth Am, Etz Chayim, and Keddem, together with the Oshman Family JCC, Jewish LearningWorks, and Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, invite you to an all-night experience of learning and prayer as we celebrate the gift of Torah. View the full schedule here

Date: Saturday, June 11
Time: 8:00 pm
Place: Kol Emeth, 4175 Manuela, Palo Alto
www.kolemeth.org

Pizza Shabbat
Join us for a gourmet pizza dinner from Jules Thin Crust before services! This will be a family friendly evening. Come get to know us.

Friday, June 17
Time: 6:30 pm dinner and services at 7:30
Place: B’nai Tikvah, 25 Hillcroft Way, Walnut Creek
Cost is $18 for adults, $9 for children 13 and under, sign up here and bring a friend!
www.tikvah.org

Outdoor Sanctuary
The Outdoor Sanctuary is back!
Join us for the first of three outdoor Shabbat services this summer! Many of us feel spiritually rejuvenated when we’re drinking in the natural beauty that surrounds us in Marin County, and Outdoor Sanctuary offers a perfect opportunity to commune with God while connecting with nature. Bring a blanket or some lawn chairs, a picnic dinner, and a dessert to share. We’ll bring the challah. Feel free to invite your friends and neighbors – Outdoor Sanctuary services are extremely kid-friendly!

Date: Friday, June 17
Time: 6:00pm
Place: Piper Park in Larkspur
Info at www.rodefsholom.org

Shabbat Under the Stars
Mark your calendars for our annual Shabbat Under the Stars service, one of Beth Emek’s most popular events!
Our weekly Shabbat observance will move outside to the Beth Emek courtyard. We’ll revel in the summertime weather, relax and reconnect with friends, and make new ones. It’s all about community, and celebrating Shabbat together, under the stars!
Join us for a family-friendly and musical Shabbat service. Stick around after the service and Oneg Shabbat for a Kumzitz (song session), campfire, and s’mores! Your musical instruments are welcome. Invite your family, friends, neighbors, CBE buddies, and any other community members who would enjoy observing Shabbat outdoors on a warm summer evening.

Date: Friday, June 24
Time: 7pm
Place: Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Court, Pleasanton
Contact Liz Sufit, religious@bethemek.org, for more details
www.bethemek.org

Tot Shabbat and Picnic in the Park
Come celebrate Shabbat with the Jewish Baby Network and Congregation Peninsula Temple Beth El. Join JBN Director Carol Booth, Rabbi Sara Mason-Barkin, and Cantor Elana Jagoda in Casanova Park for a short musical service and story. Bring your own blanket and picnic and stay for dinner. Music and schmoozing starts at 5 pm, service and story at 5:30, picnic dinner at 6 pm.
Spend time with old friends and meet new ones! Everyone is welcome, and no RSVP is necessary. You do not need to be a member of PTBE or any congregation to attend, so please come and bring your friends! Get there when you can (we know Friday traffic is tough!) and enjoy some relaxing Shabbat fun.
This event is free, and we will provide challah, grape juice, beverages and dessert.

Date: Friday, June 24
Time: 5pm
Place: Casanova Park is located at 4012 Casanova Dr. San Mateo
Details here

Posted by admin under Community Activities, Shavuot
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Growing Up Interfaith Panel

Growing Up Interfaith Panel

The speakers were fantastic and voices of adults raised in interfaith families were HEARD. So goal accomplished.

Some comments:

*It was therapeutic. It was interesting to hear a variety of people’s experiences in a safe place. Usually there’s one person that tries to give explanations or invalidate others experiences but in this setting, people can state the facts and uplift each other.

*I found the panelists’ stories familiar and I felt empathy, camaraderie, and a wish to explore further with other people in the same boat (one Jewish parent).

*I was surprised to learn about the challenge of not knowing about Judaism and looking to learn, and knowing so little that you don’t feel comfortable in a Jewish environment.

*Heartfelt, informative, and no punches pulled. Really valuable.

*Found it interesting how many different people had their identity questioned just by appearance.

*It helped to hear what others in the room shared about their experiences. The need to really think about/work out how to raise kids. Belonging vs. fitting in.

*I felt that the people who grew up in a liberal synagogue had received nurturing but were not prepared for the rest of the Jewish world. Putting a face to the struggles that people who are plainly, if not halachically, Jewish, is very powerful.

*I appreciate your advocacy in giving adult children a voice. Especially when it has been an uphill battle. The afternoon brought together interesting and diverse perspectives and the panel was stunning. The depth and quality of their reflection was very moving.

*As a whole, the community is a large family and we all have an obligation to take care of one another.

*I very much appreciated Dawn Kepler’s call to action, for kind, respectful communication to and about the adult children of interfaith families.

I end with the quote about my message because I was truly surprised by how many people mentioned it to me. It seems so common sense – be polite – it’s what your parents, teachers, aunties, coaches, etc. always told you. But it’s clearly not happening. Three adults from interfaith families were in a circle with me in the parking lot – you know the phenomenon. One of them said, “We would have to get everyone to change the way they talk.” A second said, “That would be so huge.” I replied, “So we better get started right away.” They all smiled and immediately agreed. Now I am enlisting ALL of you:

You have a right to demand courteous treatment. You are obligated to give it.

Let’s get going! Contact me if you need help.

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family
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Jew-ish horizontal

A couple years ago I heard a mother interviewed on NPR. She was talking about her son, now a young adult, who had overcome serious learning disabilities. She said that her son had told her that despite all that he had gone through he would not wish away his condition because it had made him who he was. But, she said, as his mother, “I would wish he had not had these difficulties. I believe that he would still be a terrific person without the suffering.”

Often when I read stories written by young people about overcoming adversity, I think of that mother. Would the parents of these individuals want them to have endured their hard times? Are there not enough difficulties in life already, so that one need not add another “special” thing?

I felt this again when I hear some of the stories of adults of interfaith families. They had taken long and sometimes, trying, journeys to find their Jewish identities. In fact, some are still at it.

There are two groups that can make a difference to these individuals.

One is their own parents. Parents can shoulder the lion’s share of sorting out what a child will be taught, choosing an identity and giving it freely to the child, developing a spiritual community that will support that identity, sacrifice personal wants in order to give the child a strong foundation. The parents can be willing to hear hard questions, make tough decisions, determine when it is time for a course correction. They can tell the truth, admit error, try again. They can demonstrate strength, commitment, faith in the child, and an equilibrium in the family choices. They can be ready to change what isn’t working and they can be firm about parental responsibilities that don’t please a child’s passing whim.

Two is the Jewish community. Jews in every part of the community can be willing to accept a seeking child/young adult. We can have no age limit, a seeker may be 70 and still be a beginner at Judaism. We can be willing to teach, to befriend, to answer. Slow to judge. Ready to embrace. Jews can, as one rabbi put it, “cross the bridge into their world to be with them for a moment as a person.” We can be patient, we can believe in a process over an instant fix. We can allow time for these individuals to figure out what they want. We can remember that, “It is not our task to complete the work, nor are we free to desist from it.”

What have we got to lose? Our angst or our children?

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, Parenting
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thank you god book65-8_LRG

An Early Childhood Educator once told me, “Children are organically spiritual.” Children naturally explore the non-physical world. They wonder about it. For children, the whole world is new. They are curious and will hear from friends, TV, the internet, commercials, etc. about God. They will wonder about God. Is God really a man? Does he have a beard? Can you see God? Have you seen God, Mom? Whether you personally have a God concept or not, chances are that our society will give your children one – an American, socially appropriate concept. However, that concept may not sit well with you. So how CAN we talk to our children about God?

Begin by asking your child what they believe. Do they believe in “God”? If so, what is God like? See what things they say that you can affirm.

Working with your spouse or a good friend, try to articulate your own God concept – or your reason for disbelief. Put words to it. Make it real to you. Then listen to their beliefs and interpretations. I hope that you pick someone with whom you do not entirely agree; because, believe me, neither you nor I actually know what God is. Once you have a way to describe what you believe, you have something tangible to tell your child. You may express some doubt too, like “no one has ever seen God so no one knows exactly what God is like.” You may tell your child, “When you said X it made me really think.” Children can have some pretty profound ideas.

Then there is the challenge of sharing your ideas, plus those of your child’s other parent, into age appropriate words. What if the two of you disagree? Do you have to have an agreed upon message for your child? What if your child is going to Hebrew school and bringing home bible stories that anthropomorphize God and it’s driving you mad? What do you say to your child, your spouse, the clergy?

Rabbis have amazing conversations about God with children. They are pretty used to it and can help you sort out what you want to say to your child. In fact, all clergy are confronted with this task daily. Go talk to your rabbi, minister or priest. Share your awkward, unrealistic, doubting thoughts. Trust me, they won’t be surprised. Go as a couple.

Do you need to be on the same page as parents? Yes, it is best if you are. But you don’t have to believe the same thing. Perhaps what you’ll both be telling your child is, “Mommy believes in God, but Daddy doesn’t. Here’s why we each think as we do. No one knows for sure about God so we all are just trying to figure it out. We have decided to raise you Jewish/Christian/Hindu so you’ll get to learn from rabbi/minister/priest how Judaism/Christianity/Hinduism understands God. As you get older you’ll keep thinking and you’ll be able to tell us what ideas have come to you.”

This is a time when your interfaith family can come in quite handy. You can point out that Grandma doesn’t believe in God but she always goes to synagogue because she believes in keeping the Jewish people together. Grandpa believes in Jesus but doesn’t really like to go to church so he prays at home. Aunt Julie is an atheist; she can’t decide whether there’s a God or not, but she believes in being a good person so she chose to be a doctor.

Your core message about God will reflect those things that you want to see in your own and your child’s life. Is that kindness, service to others, patience, acceptance of the ideas of others? You will tie these actions/values to the way you speak of the BIG things in life: God, Purpose, Meaning.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, God, Parenting, Spirituality
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In her own words

One of the speakers at this Sunday’s Growing Up Interfaith Conference is Zoe Francesca. Zoe agreed to write an op-ed for the Jweekly. Here is her beautiful, heartfelt article.

I’m looking forward to the “Growing Up Interfaith” conference coming up this weekend in Oakland. It’s still a bit uncomfortable to reveal that I am a so-called patrilineal Jew, but maybe it’s time for more of us to come out. I’m turning 50 this year, and it took about 40 years for me to comfortably identify as Jewish. I know what it means to wander the desert for 40 years.

First came the half-and-half identity: half-Jewish on my father’s side, half-ex-Catholic on my mother’s side. But this, I was told by my peers, meant I was really nothing, because Judaism holds that the mother must be Jewish. (I was also repeatedly told that Hitler would have killed me anyway, an interesting, but not unheard of, way to be included.) My parents were fine with nothing because they had both decided to reject religion in light of the fact that “there is no God,” and “religion is the root cause of all wars” — and probably some other factors. My grandparents on both sides wished their son and daughter had married in, not out — causing another type of war.
But I wasn’t OK with nothing. I wanted to be something. I was a spiritual soul. I reached out again and again. My greatest sorrow and stumbling block to joining a church or synagogue service was that I didn’t know what to do in those services.
One time, my mother agreed to let me accompany a classmate to religious school. It happened to be near Rosh Hashanah, and the teacher was comparing the Jewish New Year to the Christian one. “The difference is,” he said, “the Christians have a party and get drunk on New Year’s Eve. We Jews fast and ask forgiveness for our mistakes.” It made me feel like if I chose Judaism, it would be tantamount to denigrating my Christian heritage. I never wanted to disparage my mother’s cultural gifts that way. I didn’t want to be a football between two religions, the same way children of divorce don’t want to be a football between their two parents. I didn’t go back to the religious school.
Each time I made a tentative step toward Judaism, I was told by various Israelis, rabbis and Jewish teachers that I wasn’t Jewish.
I sat before them, asking to be validated and accepted as a Jew-in-training. Why didn’t those rabbis and teachers explain the semantics to me? Offer conversion? Discuss halachah? Explain my options? I’ll never know. Each time, I walked away feeling rejected.
My mother taught me that churches could be sanctuaries of peace and beauty — though she never brought me to a church service, she sometimes brought me to sit in empty churches when no one was there — and that Christmas could be the same. My Jewish grandmother taught me that Israel was a place of profound hope for the Jewish people, and she nurtured my Jewish soul with her food, her Yiddish expressions and her humor. I could have gone either way, but I fell in love with the Hebrew language, the land of Israel/Palestine, and I even lived in Israel for a while.
I joined first one synagogue and then another. And still I would go to the rabbis and teachers with the speech about “Am I Jewish?” Then, finally, on my 35th birthday, I gave myself permission to start practicing Judaism as a religion. Soon afterward, my husband and I decided to raise our newborn children Jewish. After 35 years on this earth, I decided that I was a Jew, and that was that. Even if you still think I’m not really Jewish, I do.
Please don’t let my story scare you away from marrying a non-Jewish person that you love. Don’t let it stop you from giving your children your blessing if they marry a non-Jew. Instead, embrace patrilineal Jews and anyone who comes to you asking, “Can I join your tribe?” Find out what to do in a synagogue, and make sure your children know what to do. If your children ask for a spiritual education, please give it to them. It will save them from wandering in the desert for too many years.

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, In their own words
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Marty-Ross-199x300

My parents (especially my mother) thought it important to raise me as a member of “the human religion.” The mantra: “I am not a this or a that – I am a human” rings as a distant memory in my ears when recalling that fundamental message.

I think my father, a child prodigy violinist raised in a first-generation immigrant Jewish home, came to view Judaism as a narrow-minded and limited world view. He would hold up his hands to the sides of his head when describing how their Judaism was worn by his parents like “blinders on a horse.”

My mother, raised as a southern Baptist during the depression, developed an early disgust for the bigotry, prejudice and negativism she observed in her environment and in her church. She often recalled her distress witnessing unfair actions against neighbors of color, of “fire and brimstone” sermons and of the shaming and humiliation of church congregants – with the preacher banging a loud gavel while admonishing: “you sinners, you’re going to hell!”

With the benefit of 9 years of parental experience considering the question of what religious upbringing or exposure they want for their kids prior to my arrival, my parents basically decided they would let nature take its course with me – to not try to provide me any specific religious exposure or training as they had done with my older siblings. An interesting side note is that neither of my siblings has chosen the “Jewish” path, as I have.

I’ve always embraced my parents’ humanistic view pretty deeply, but I also envied that sense of “belonging” and “rooted-ness” I perceived my Jewish friends as having. That feeling grew, and upon entering college I joined a Jewish fraternity, developed an interest in Zionism, enrolled in some courses in Hebrew and Jewish studies at UCLA and the University of Judaism (including a Reconstructionist conversion program there that I did not go through with), and generally began to surround myself in a Jewish environment.

Several years later, I made good on a suggestion I saw on the cover of my fraternity’s newsletter, which read: “if you’ve been waiting for an invitation to visit Israel, you’ve got it!”, and signed up for the WUJS (World Union of Jewish Students) – a year abroad program in the Negev desert. I loved it so much that I stayed another 7 years in Israel, working in my field (software development)! While there, I met someone who told me about a cheap way to learn about Judaism more deeply, sponsored by the rabbinate: the conversion program. I entered it, specifically not committing to convert, although at the end it felt like the right thing to do, so I moved through it becoming officially Jewish.

Upon returning to the United States, it’s been a struggle for me to find a comfortable convergence of religious practices. I currently hold my “Jewish training” a bit – as my father said – limiting in its proscriptions, although I struggle with it as defining my Jewish identity and understanding. I haven’t lived according to the orthodox interpretations of Halacha for many years now, yet still struggle with a dissonance – of a feeling that the “authenticity” of my Jewish-ness is brought into question, given the tenants of my conversion. Also, I do believe deep down to some extent that “it’s the traditions (law?) which have (has) kept the Jewish people”, which makes me feel a bit of a hypocrite. One thing I’m very happy about and comfortable with is that I have given myself enough of a context to help give my kids a decent chance at feeling a “belonging” and a “rooted-ness” that I never had.

Together with my loving and supportive wife Renee (who grew up in a reform Jewish environment), and with the help of our affiliation and participation in our Conservative synagogue (Netivot Shalom) and a Jewish after-school program named Edah, we are helping to keep the metaphorical leaf from my father’s ancestral branch of the Hebrew tree from falling off.

Posted by admin under Adult Child of an Interfaith Family, In their own words
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Mizmor Shir musicians

Mizmor Shir musicians

I’ve often told you to look for musical services, outdoor services, and that sort of twist on a regular synagogue service to expand your own idea of what Jewish prayer can be like and to give your non-Jewish family members another way to access Jewish liturgy.

Mizmor Shir is a good example of a Musical service. It is held every 3rd Friday at Temple Sinai, a Reform congregation in Oakland. Here’s their description:

Mizmor Shir!
Mizmor Shir! is a popular phrase found in the Book of Psalms which means ‘Sing a Song,’ and was used during ancient times to direct the Levites, the musicians in the Temple in Jerusalem. Psalm 150 lists the many instruments the Levites played in the Temple as they sang the liturgy during worship. Some of these instruments include: cymbals, harp, lyre, drums, strings and shofar.
In the spirit of the Levites and our ancient heritage, we have created our own Mizmor Shir!Shabbat service featureing guitar, mandolin, percussion, piano, clarinet and flute.
Time: 7:30pm
Place: Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit St., Oakland
www.oaklandsinai.org

How do children learn the words and tune? They listen over and over again to the same music. You can do that. Go every month for a year and see if that was new becomes familiar.

Posted by admin under Music, Synagogues
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