This is a true story.
A Jewish man called me because he was worried that his Christian wife couldn’t raise their kids as Jews. He told me that she had promised to do so before they got married but she just doesn’t really know how. He sighed and said, “I guess when I married someone not Jewish I knew my kids wouldn’t actually be Jews.”
I said, “Hold on, let’s review the situation. If you are THE JEW in the family, the really-o, truly-o born Jewish Jew then the rest of your nuclear family is looking to you for what is authentic. If YOU don’t believe that your children are Jewish they will certainly pick up on it. Your wife will feel hopeless and your kids will feel like frauds.
I don’t care with which branch of Judaism you affiliate, my question is, what would make you personally believe that your children are Jewish? Would a trip to the mikvah do it? Because if that’s what it takes, do it. Don’t shift the responsibility from your own shoulders. You are the Jew, your wife has agreed to raise the kids Jewish and she can’t read your mind and know what it is you need in order to believe in your children’s Jewish-ness.”
He proceeded, “Well, here’s the thing, she doesn’t know how to raise the kids Jewish. She doesn’t know what to do to make a Jewish home.”
I asked, “What are you doing to help her learn about Judaism?”
“I read Jewish books in front of her every weekend,” he replied.
“Well, Bob,” I said, “It seems to me that you’re not sure how to help her. I don’t think seeing you reading Jewish books really gives her the knowledge she needs to create a Jewish home. She needs support and guidance. So do you. What about joining a synagogue where she could meet other women – Jewish and not – raising kids as Jews?”
“I would love to join a synagogue but I’m waiting for her to do it.”
I asked, “Why are you waiting for her?”
“Well, I want to be sure it is what she wants. So I figured if she picked a shul and joined it that would really be what she wanted.”
“Have you discussed this idea with her?”
“Bob, to be fair, you are the Jew. She knows nothing about synagogues. She doesn’t know what to say or how to approach them. You need to do your part and that includes joining the synagogue on behalf of your family. She has agreed to raise the kids Jewish; that’s huge. You need to step up and help guide the process.”
Now some people will laugh reading this. Some will cry because they feel equally helpless as the Jew or without help as the non-Jew. But I’m neither laughing nor crying. What I hear daily is people who don’t know what their options are. Believe me, you have lots and lots of options. Call me and I will walk you through them. I’m on your side.