Dec 5, 2007

Is there something wrong with me? I just don't get it.

As I was stumbling around getting dressed this morning, the Today Show had this little piece on Interfaith families during the holidays. One family was Jewish-Catholic, and chose to raise their kids Jewish so as to not confuse them. The other family was Jewish-Catholic and what do they do? Take their kids to shul on Friday and mass on Sunday.

Whoa whoa whoa -- what?

Now, the funny thing about that second family is that they were showing a church and a synagogue -- not sure if they're the ones these folks go to, but I can only assume that they'd use the ones they went to (they showed them inside the church, but not the synagogue). The synagogue turned out to be that one I wrote about a few weeks ago that caused a huge ruckus over on Yes, the synagogue that I felt was too light on its ritual and tradition -- even for a Reform convert from Nebraska like myself. Coincidence? I think not. But maybe that is the type of family it caters to -- those on the fringe, raising kids as Christian Jews? I don't meant to sound so harsh, and if I come across as harsh, forgive me. But I just do not get it.

My beef with interfaith families has nothing to do with holding on to the beliefs you hold fast to. After all, people are usually shocked to find out that I didn't convert for some Yeshiveh boy I wanted to marry (a la Sex and the City's Charlotte converting to marry Harry Goldenblatt). No, I converted for me, myself, and I. No outside influence, not even a really close Jewish friend to call my own. I did it to fulfill my own prophecy, not someone else's. So I applaud the couples for sticking to their religious guns and making it work in the ceremony, with a rabbi and a priest, etc. I always wonder how these folks choose the synagogue over the church (I'd think synagogue since the church is an evolvement of the synagogue, right?).

Would I ever hold such a wedding? No way, sir. The confusion, oy!

My beef with these couples comes when it's time to have and raise kids. I applaud the first family for settling into raising their kids Jewish. Typically these kind of situations arise when one of the individuals isn't as devout or religious as the other, and I think that more often than not the kids end up getting raised Jewish. But that second family ... how can you seriously take your kids to both services? How can you cause such confusion, such ridiculousness. I don't understand the logic behind such things. It's a proven fact that kids raised in those situations often grow up without any faith or religious beliefs at all, driven away from both faiths instead. I just don't get it! Pick one, stick to it, teach your kids softly about the other, and just go with it! In these cases I have to wonder if the parents agreed to disagree and put their kids out on the plank because they couldn't go one way or the other. Why punish the kids with confusion and distress?

Of course, this means I intend to raise my kids Jewishly ,and I fully intend on marrying someone who also intends to do so. It was a vow I took when I chose to become a Jew, and it is a vow that holds fast to my heart. No, I don't intend to live vicariously through their bar and bat mitzvahs and Hebrew school and other life moments because I did not have the chance to experience those as a child. I simply want my children to grow up with an understanding of Judaism, the people and the culture and tradition and religion that I fell so deeply into. I would rather have children completely cognizant of one of the world's religions than none at all. My children will have full right to choose what they want to do when they reach adulthood, and I rue the day that I raise a child driven away from Judaism because of my actions or the way that I raised him or her.


lxr23g56 said...

LOL, nice post! Are you feeling a little vindicated?

I agree with you 100% on the best of both worlds crap. I say pick a team and commit! Now I'm not suggesting that intermarriage is always a bad thing, especially when the parents,choose to raise their children, in only one religious tradition. But I (like you??) just don't get trying to raise kids as both Jews and Christians.

How can you be a Jew and also accept JC? It just doesn't work IMO and will only serve to mess up the kinds somewhere down the road.

Nice post! I wont make any suggestions here but i'm sure you can figure out what I'm thinking!

I mean it's not like anyone (at least not over at has beaten on you this week, Well, not yet anyways!

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

I feel *totally* vindicated! EEEK! I've been laying low on JBC ... have you noticed? ;)

lxr23g56 said...

To be honest not I hadn't and that's all the more reason to cross post this. Just kidding I think things have a little too negative on our JBC blog. Unfortunately, much of it is my doing.

Maybe a few happy posts are in order over there. Feel free to be one of the first!

Gorski said...

Yeah, you and I never did find a combination Catholic Church and synagogue, did we?

I'd suppose it's theoretically possible to be Jewish and Christian. There was a thriving community of them--in the first couple hundred years of Christianity. (Cf. the Epistle to the Hebrews--and the ongoing debate in the very first years of the Christian Church as to whether Christian converts had to become Jewish first.) I don't remember around when the Christian Hebrew community 'dried up', and I can't find it in a quick glance at the book I thought it was in right now...

I don't think Christianity would mesh too well with modern synagogue Judaism, but I like to hope (and knowing you through your conversion and everything has led me to believe) that Judaism is about the actual study and worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and not simply defined in terms of dismissing the acceptance of Jesus of Nazareth. It would seem a little silly anyways for an ancient religion to, after thousands of years, reject its identifying characteristics and redefine itself not in terms of its history or its worship or its theology but in terms of its rejection of a later religion.

so having said all that: these folks in particular might have been hitting the Chanukah ham a little hard. A. and I have some work to do in terms of figuring out how we'll raise our still-hypothetical kids, but you're either in the Roman Catholic Church or not, and likewise you're either in the Eastern Orthodox Church or not--they'll only be receiving the Sacraments from one or the other. And an Eastern Orthodox Christian friend of mine was recently nanny for an Orthodox Jewish family, and they had quite a few ongoing jokes about 'too many Orthodox in one house'--even figuring out each others's rules was a bit of a challenge.

Peace to you, kiddo. Hope to catch up with you sometime soon.


Unknown said...

I felt this was an appropriate topic for me, since I'm one of those folks raising kids with a non-Jewish spouse. And i've only been a Jew for about 2 months.

But my wife is non-religious and we're raising our kids Jewish. And I agree more--what a horrible, confusing, mixed-up message to send to kids. I think even the most liberal of liberals would agree with that.

And as far as our kids ever attending a Christian church, even if it's just a day with grandparents, is completely out of the question. And our family knows that.

I'll admit, this time of year can be rough for Jews By Choice. But whatever "interfaith" compromises are made to get through December with non-Jewish relatives, it should never involve religious confusion for the kids...

(Aside: my wife corrects be when I mention the word "interfaith" to describe our situation-- because she says there's only one faith in our family. Non-faith doesn't count as interfaith for her, I guess...

Unknown said...

I am the child of an intermarriage, raised Catholic exclusively but I am in the process of converting to Judaism and I could not agree with this more!! Raising children in two faiths, two faiths which, IMO, are completely incompatible is absolutely ridiculous! Fortunately for me, my parents allowed my siblings and I to choose our religious paths in adulthood while also giving us a sense of faith. I do not categorically condemn intermarriage but on the other hand it is absolutely incumbent upon the interfaith couple to have a candid discussion about religion and frankly, if they cannot come to some kind of agreement, they really shouldn't be marrying. Not to sound harsher than I probably already am, but those families who choose to raise their kids in both faiths I would argue probably lack education in both and I have to wonder, how do clergy who are put in the situation of having a congregant or congregant's child attending one religious service one day and another the next react to this? If I was ever in that position, I would step in and try to rectify it.

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

Lauren, WOW! Straight from the mouths of babes. This was really great to read, and I have to say I'm stoked you're officially joining the tribe :D

Ger Toshav: Very nice response. My boyfriend is of no faith, and while I do not foresee it being a problem to raise Jewish children, I also worry about the involvement of the spousal figure in any case. Interfaith is so curious! How old are your children, by the way?

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