Being Partners in Interfaith Parenting

Are you on the same page with your partner when it comes to doing & being Jewish?


“From Generation to Generation”
This quote is repeated often in Jewish liturgy and conversation. The idea is that Judaism is passed from generation to generation. But in today’s world it is not so certain that Judaism will be passed on. Historically, the dominate non-Jewish cultures rejected Jews and built the walls that kept Jews separate. Today’s America is much more open and embracing of Jews and Judaism than any previous country or culture. I am not saying that anti-Semitism is not on the rise, it is. But even with that, most Americans do not view Jews as just this side of devils.

What does that mean for interfaith families today? On one hand there is a good likelihood that the non-Jewish side of the family will be warm and welcoming to the Jewish side. For the Jewish side this embrace may feel like it is snuffing out Judaism. How does that work?  Judaism is embraced as a little brother, a guest, a minor variation on the major culture. Not surprisingly Judaism often simply disappears in a family that turns towards the practice of the majority culture. It is best to face this possibility with your eyes open. Each of you is surrounded by Americanism, and that Americanism is Christian. It is simply easier and more natural to behave as an American than not to. So if you want to perpetuate Judaism in your own family you need to think about it.

Questions to ask your self as the Jew are:

  1. What exactly do I want to pass on? Holidays? Foods? Beliefs? Behaviors?
  2. Am I currently practicing the things I want to pass on?
  3. How much money and effort am I willing to expend on Judaism?
  4. Am I really attracted to Judaism enough to do all that will be demanded of me?
  5. Is it sufficient that just I myself identify as Jewish? Do I really need for my children to do so?

Questions to ask your self as the non-Jewish partner:

  1. Do I know exactly what my partner loves about being Jewish? Has he or she clearly articulated it?
  2. How do I feel about his/her interests? Do I like them? Do they feel comfortable?
  3. Am I willing to spend time and money on doing Jewish?
  4. Do I care how my children self identify? Do I want them to be “my” religion? Will it be OK if they are different from me?
  5. Would I prefer that the kids be Christian – or just American – with Jewish heritage?

Now compare your answers. How close are your answers to each other’s? I hope that these questions will stimulate a discussion. If the discussion feels difficult, give me a call. We can talk together. Let’s find a common ground so that your children know that the two of you are on the same page emotionally.

 PLEASE NOTE: The programs *starred* below are ones that I’m be running. Try to join me for one of them. I’d love to see you!


Ruach Dance (Palo Alto)
The Feast of Jewish Learning (Los Altos)
Family Fun and Free Community Concert (Foster City)
This is Bay Area Jewry Photo Exhibit & Reception (Lafayette)*
ETZ Talk: Probing the Purim Puzzle (Palo Alto)
What do Rabbis REALLY Believe About God? (Lafayette)*


Ruach Dance
Join us as we engage in prayer and experience community — through free-form movement, guided meditation/ecstatic dance (the kind you’d do when no one is watching). Have fun and find something greater than yourself through movement to beautiful music, with kavannah (intention) that draws on Jewish texts and ideas.

Drop-ins welcome.

Date:   Saturday, January 26
Time:   3:00 pm
Place:   Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma, Palo Alto

The Feast of Jewish Learning
This year our theme will address an issue many of us are grappling with: Citizenship.
How do we exercise our rights and obligations as citizens? When and how are we obligated to speak out when we believe Jewish values are violated? Is democracy a Jewish value?

Date:   Saturday, January 26
Time:   7:00 pm
Place:   Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Rd, Los Altos Hills
Details here

Family Fun and Free Community Concert 
with Nava Tehila
Come get to know more about the Wornick Jewish Day School. For families with children ages 3-10. Light snacks will be served.
Presented in partnership with PSC, PJCC, PJ Library and PJ Our Way.

Date:   January 27
Time:   10am – 12:00pm
Place:   Peninsula Sinai Congregation, 499 Boothbay Ave, Foster City
Free admission. Advance registration required.

***This is Bay Area Jewry:
Photo Essays on the Changing Nature of our Community
Lehrhaus Judaica and Building Jewish Bridges present a photo essay exhibition showcasing the range of diversity in our community. The exhibition features 21 intimate portraits of individuals and families from a variety of backgrounds and levels of religious observance — from the North and South Peninsulas, San Francisco, Oakland/Berkeley, Contra Costa, and Marin. The project is a combination of photographs and written profiles, shedding light on the unparalleled Bay Area Jewish community. We invite you to meet these individuals – born Jewish and converts, LGBT Jews, and multicultural Jews – all take center stage. Their paths to Judaism and spiritual connections may differ, but they are all Jews of the Bay Area.

Opening Event —
Date:   Thursday, Jan. 31 at 7pm
Temple Isaiah, 925 Risa Rd., Lafayette

Please join us for a reception with refreshments. There will be a tour of the exhibit at 7:15 pm. At 7:45, four of the exhibit participants will be in conversation with Dawn Kepler, discussing why they participated and what they hope to communicate to the Jewish community. There will be time to mingle and talk.

ETZ Talk: Probing the Purim Puzzle
with Rabbi Jane Litman
Purim is more than a children’s holiday. In addition to its ironic commentary on gender roles, it is a complex theological commentary on the nature of good and evil in Jewish thought. Purim also explores core questions of Jewish life in the Diaspora, and is one of the earliest texts about Anti-Semitism and Jewish resistance. Join us as we explore how the Purim narrative uses dramatic tension to explain abstract principles of Jewish morality.

Date:   Sunday, February 3
Time:   10:00 am
Place:   Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma, Palo Alto
Click here for more information.

What do Rabbis REALLY Believe About God?
God Talk with Rabbis from Across the Jewish Denominations
Rabbis talk about God quite a bit. But what role does God plays in the lives of our rabbis? Are they adhering, or deviating, from a specific “God Belief” that their movement holds as correct?

Join rabbis from the major Jewish movements to learn their personal God beliefs.

Rabbi Yonatan Cohen, Congregation Beth Israel, Berkeley (Orthodox)
Rabbi Daniel Stein, Congregation B’nai Shalom, Walnut Creek (Conservative)
Rabbi Rebecca Gutterman, Congregation B’nai Tikvah, Walnut Creek (Reform)
Rabbi Steven Chester, Temple Isaiah, Lafayette (Reform)
Rabbi Chaya Gusfield, Kaiser Palliative Care Chaplain (Renewal)

Moderated by Dawn Kepler, there will be time to ask your own questions of our panel.

Date:   Sunday, Feb. 10
Time:   7 to 9pm
Place:   Temple Isaiah, 925 Risa Rd., Lafayette

Posted in Parenting
Published on January 24th, 2019