Feeling like the “Outsider Parent”


In a recent workshop a mother spoke of the challenges from her own interfaith upbringing and her desire to avoid being the odd-parent-out, as one of her own parents had been.

Being the non-Jewish parent in a Jewish family may feel “other” because you did not have a Jewish childhood, don’t know much about Jewish practice, or feel unsure how to participate in your Jewish child’s life.
LOTS of Jews didn’t have much of a Jewish upbringing, so please don’t worry about that. I know rabbis who had no Jewish upbringing. You will develop your Jewish knowledge along with your child.
Not being Jewish, that is, being “not the same” as your child and spouse is a difference, not a divide. Consider other differences. Possibly you are not the same gender as your child, or prefer sweets to salty foods, don’t really like soccer, are a math gal instead of a literature guy. Tell your children, we are not exactly alike and that makes us a more interesting family.

Now think of what similarities there are between you and your child. Do you both love to make cookies, watch scary movies, prefer beaches vacations over mountain ones? Are you both blonde, or blue eyed, or dancers? Point out what makes you the same.

Think about the ways you, as a parent, participate in your child’s life. You go to ballet recitals even though you’re not a ballerina. You go to soccer or baseball practice and games even if you’re not a sports fan. You go to back to school night simply because it’s your child.

Participating in Jewish activities is about your child, not you. Go to the service where they participate. Meet their Hebrew school teacher. Listen to what they learned about Judaism. Be willing to make challah with them for Shabbat, to help figure out their costume for Purim, paint a shelter for Mitzvah Day. In other words, value them and their activities. You don’t have to be Jewish to be a part of your child’s Jewish life.

Posted in Children
Published on October 20th, 2010