The Best Program Ideas Come from Participants!

I find that YOU ALL come up with terrific ideas for topics and events. I’m asking each of you to share your thoughts on questions you’d like to have answered, Jewish skills you’d like to learn, topics you want to explore, events you’d like to attend together. The sky’s the limit; suggest anything that moves you.  Here are suggestions that I’ve received to date. I’ve added my comment in italics so that we can start the conversation. (I’ll keep adding to the list.)

Let me know what YOU think by emailing me at If one of the topics listed below appeals to you, tell me that too.

I’d like discussion tips for talking with in-laws of a different religion/background, and maybe even a video chat kind of thing where adult children and in-laws could participate from a distance. My Jewish father-in-law has big concerns about me being non Jewish. We can’t force him to attend events, and he lives outside the Bay Area, so maybe the focus is on how to handle relatives who are at different stages/levels of acceptance?
Great suggestion. Looks like we should also talk about how to handle long distance relationships too.


What does genetic testing mean in terms of identity for people who may have Jewish heritage?  Why is it a topic of interest in Jewish and interfaith communities?This may surprise you, but this requires a complicated answer. It involved the dissonance between American cultural thinking and Jewish culture/theological thinking. Terrific topic to address at greater length.


How can an interfaith couple build a community that isn’t a synagogue? Can we join a synagogue? Is it the only way to be Jewish?
Like so many things in our conversations, the answer to this question is another question – what do you want from a community? How would you describe what you are seeking? Yes, an interfaith couple certainly can join a synagogue. Are there other ways to be Jewish? Again, what do you mean by “be Jewish”? I’m sorry to be so vague, but no two people want exactly the same thing. It is important to know what you are looking for – how else can we find it? This is a critical topic for discussion.


What if I don’t feel comfortable being a minority in a Jewish environment as a non-Jew?
You are certainly not alone. The awareness of being a minority can be a surprising and new experience for many Americans. Your discomfort makes sense. Here’s the great thing about drilling down on this topic – it will give you the startling gift of experiencing life as so many other people do – Muslims, Hispanics, Sufis, disabled, etc. There are ways to alleviate feelings of discomfort AND to gain insight into the lives of others. Great subject.


I’d like to talk about end-of-life choices for interfaith couples, for the non-Jewish spouse and for patrilineal Jews. What about the Jewish rituals like taharah? What are the options for being buried?
Great question. There are many options and I’d want to hear your desires on these subjects. But, yes, a conversation outlining what is possible in terms of burial and Jewish practices for the dead and for mourning is a very useful suggestion.


How does a Conservative conversion compare to a Reform one? Is it “better”? How is it different?
I love that you asked this flat out; is one better. Let’s face it, people do say that one or the other is “better” and what you really need to know is, how are they different? Then you can determine which is “better” for you.


Can secular Jews find ways to feel a stronger Jewish identity that doesn’t include religion? I’m thinking of people who express their identity through art, music, food, philosophy. Can any of this exist without religion?
Yes, secular Jews can certainly “do Jewish” through cultural rather than religious expression. Would all of this exist without the religion? In my opinion, no. But there are people maintaining the religion. Not everyone has to do that. Of the two, cultural and religious expressions of Judaism, the one that is more likely to continue into the next generation is religious. But not everyone wants to raise their children to observe Judaism. This would be a dynamic discussion.


I’d like to see you address interfaith couples where one partner is atheist. Leaving the faith of Christianity doesn’t mean that a person is interested in any other religion.  My partner left Christianity and to my surprise, he is resistant to the idea of us raising children as Jews. Both of us want to protect any children we have from pain that we suffered as children–mine from feeling like an outsider and his from separating from the foundation of his family/community/identity. I imagine we are not the first couple to wrestle with this.
You sure aren’t. People often assume that leaving the religion of one’s family makes a person open to a new religion. But, as with your partner, it may mean leaving religion entirely. This is a very layered conversation because it involves the two of you, future children and the child inside each of you that has left you with pain. I’d love to have this topic discussed.