When Being in an Interfaith Family Hurts

By Tookapic on Pixabay
By Tookapic on Pixabay

The HARD side of interfaith relationships and the Jewish world
A member of this list asked me to pass along to you his painful experience. His wife is not Jewish and his brother has rejected his family – both JB’s wife and son. JB feels that he has lost his own brother and his nephew. Additionally he has felt judged by other Jews around him because of his interfaith family. He acknowledges that the Bay Area is a more welcoming environment than the East coast but he still suffers from bad experiences.

In the Community
Bad things happen. People are cruel. I cannot change that. But I can equip you to deal with it. First, always feel free to contact me. We can talk about what YOU are dealing with, what you want and how to move forward.

Let’s start at the traditional end of the spectrum. Yes, traditional Jewish law traces Jewish identity by the mother. So you were either born to a Jewish woman or you converted. Yes, you can convert a child. This is your decision. If you want to have your child converted, I can help you do that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with conversion, nor is there anything wrong with choosing a Conservative or Orthodox community for you and your family. There are people on this list who have done that.

If converting your child makes you angry then you need to seek out a Jewish community that accepts patrilineal descent. The Reform movement accepted this in 1983. The Renewal, Reconstructionist and Humanist movements also follow this tradition. The caveat is that all Jewishly identified children in these synagogues/movements must be raised Jewish. That means you can’t be passive, you must give your child a Jewish education and they must celebrate Jewish lifecycle events. You can go to any synagogue from these movements and raise your child as a Jew.

Will random Jews – and even non-Jews make comments that you find offensive? Of course. Rude people exist everywhere. Try to keep it in perspective. If you don’t have a snappy comeback (we’ve all thought up great comebacks once we get home) then in the moment you can simply say, “That was unkind and hurtful.” A simple, true statement. Then turn and walk away.

Make an effort to put comments in perspective; don’t give cruel people control of your self esteem or your life choices!

In the Family
Family is another issue. Their hurtful statements go deep. The situation above needs therapy. No healthy person, Jewish or not, would suggest cutting off family members so summarily. My heart goes out to JB and his loss. Truthfully, I find that people who behave like this are not reacting about religion. Something more troubling is under the surface. I have told troubled families to go to therapy; I have given referrals; I have advised family members to take a break from each other until some counseling has been done. Do not remain in the same room with someone who is mistreating you or your family members.

All religions with which I am familiar teach people to seek a thoughtful and caring resolution to conflict. You deserve kindness. Find the people and the places where you get it. Call me and we’ll find the place that is right for you.