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Children and a Jewish/Christian home - possible to merge?

April 2007 I have a friend, raised Christian, who is seriously dating a Jewish man. They deeply love each other, and are considering marriage. One of the things she's grappling with is how they would raise their children in a home with two faiths.

This goes beyond having a Christmas tree and a menorah in December. She has a meaningful connection to her faith, finds comfort in it, but also respects and appreciates the traditions of Judaism. She wants to be able to talk about the traditions of both religions, celebrate meaningfully the major holidays for both, and participate in the traditions and rituals of both in a way that does not diminish or de-value the faith of either.

Has anyone out there been able to accomplish this kind of merging? Not just cultural merging, but spiritual. Any experiences, advice, places you think we could find more information would be helpful. Anon


Kehilla Community Synagogue has some great interfaith services. Kehillasynagogue.org
You might want to check out the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco's Interfaith Connection Program (http://www.jccsf.org/content_main.aspx?catid=212) They have ongoing groups and workshops on this topic. One workshop is titled ''Yours, Mine and Ours: Negotiating Interfaith/Intercultural Family Choices.'' Another is called ''Mixed Blessings: The Challenges of Raising Children in a Jewish-Christian Family'' -- and there are others. Linda
I wanted to weigh in. My husband is half Jewish (his father). His dad wasn't really into the spiritual part of Judaism. He went to Jewish school in his early year but was never fully confirmed and because his mother isn't Jewish, there are always those who will say ''he's not really Jewish.'' We got together right when I was re-exlporing my faith, Catholic. I'm a pretty liberal Catholic and at one point we were going to the Late Shabbat services in San Francisco, which I loved and I considered converting. I realized, tho, that it was easier to be a questioner in my own faith, found a Church that was more liberal and have been very happy there. My husband has no desire to become Catholic, but we agreed to baptize our kids. They will get instruction until First Communion. After that, they will decide if they want to be confirmed.

I have reconciled with my faith and am experiencing my journey and sharing it with my children. My husband's connection to his faith is very loose so we try and participate in the Jewish holidays to give our kids a connection.

If both are connected spiritually, as in your friend's case, it's tougher. I think, no matter what, it's best to choose one. There are some fundamental differences between Judaism and Christianity. Whatever you do, it must be honest and sincere or it will not mean anything to your children. I would recommend talking to an interfaith counselor in both faiths to help your decision. I hate to be sexist here, but all my friends who married someone from another faith have followed the faith of the mother. I'm not saying it has to be that way, but that is what I have as evidence, but in all cases, one faith predominates.

Good luck. It's not easy. anon


Husband & wife disagree about exposure to both religions

Oct 2006 Hi- My husband and I are having a real hard time coming up with a working vision of how we are going to raise our kids with exposure to both religions. We are fine with celebrating the recognized holidays of both the jewish faith and the christian faith. Our children our only 3 and 4 mos. I have a much more relaxed approach to the whole idea of a working interfaith family whereas my husband who is jewish feels that we cant teach our kids both because the basic idealogy repels the other. Are there any book recommendations or other sources we can turn to that can help guide us through this stressful time? j
Hi J, I smiled when I read your post because I could use it as a blurb for one of my brochures! I run a program called Building Jewish Bridges: Outreach to Interfaith Couples and one of my workshops is an eight week Interfaith Couples Discussion group about sorting out life in an interfaith home. I think it's the best thing you can do for yourselves. But don't take my word for it. If you like, I can give you names and emails of people who have been thru the workshop. You should ask them. Feel free to contact me: 510-839-2900 x247 or email dawn@jfed.org or look at my website www.jfed.org/interfaith.htm Dawn Kepler
I don't know about books but I bet that Dawn Kepler at the Jewish Federation might. She organizes an interfaith program described here: http://www.jfed.org/interfaith2.htm Good luck - I'm in a similar situation anon
There are inter-faith workshops at various Jewish institutions (you can call the JCC to get some recommendations) where you both can work on these issues in a safe group environment. I was raised Catholic and my husband is Jewish so I completely understand. I think my biggest issue was his resistence to my traditions since I was open to his. After some interfaith exploration, we have it all figured out and are really enjoying all of the holidays together. Good luck! anon
I am Jewish and my husband was brought up in a liberal Christian (Congregational) church. We raised 2 boys (now adults) with both traditions. Though we were raised in different religious faiths, we shared similar beliefs which made the interfaith issues easier. We celebrated both Jewish and Christian holidays at home. These celebrations were of a more secular and cultural nature, but were still meaningful. We also joined a Unitarian church where these holidays (and more) were celebrated with respect. In Sunday School, the boys learned about various world religions and were encouraged to develop their own belief systems. In college, my older son developed a real love for Judaism and now belongs to a Synagogue. He shares his joy in Judaism with his Jewish and non-Jewish friends (and Unitarian wife) through holiday celebrations (building a Sukkot and having a service in it; an annual Seder dinner for a throng, e.g.). My younger son describes himself as Jewish and Unitarian.

I strongly disagree with your husband that the two religions ''repel'' each other. Look at the moral and ethical teachings of both and try not to get bogged down in details. Bringing up children to honor, respect, and enjoy different faiths is a gift -- and a powerful way to change the world. I wish you both good luck.

You asked about books. I highly recommend ''Mrs. Katz and Tush'' (and others) by Patricia Polacco. She does a wonderful job of exploring common themes in various religions and cultures.

By the way, there are 16 Unitarian churches in the Bay area (www.uuba.org). We love the one in Oakland. Experience Interfaith Mom


To the family struggling with a vision for interfaith family life, I understand your dilemma. We have an interfaith family (Christian/Buddhist), and it is a discussion that continues and evolves as your children get older. It is understandably more difficult for the Jewish partner to envision a ''dual-faith'' scenario - Christianity essentially incorporates both the holy text and many of the traditions of Judaism, so it is not a conflict from the Christian point of view. On the flip side, Christianity has a long history of persecuting Jews and others who refuse to accept Jesus Christ as the Saviour, etc., making it difficult for a Jewish person to be comfortable with that set of beliefs.

One of the most important things you can do is find leaders and congregations, both Jewish and Christian, who will support your journey as an interfaith family. This requires respect for other traditions, and an ability to remain flexible rather than dogmatic about beliefs. I know there are many congregations in the area that might fit this bill, and I would suggest on the Christian end of things that you check out First Congregational Church of Berkeley. There are many interfaith families there, and they are held and supported by the community. The church has no ''creed'' or required set of beliefs, and indeed you will find a wide range of beliefs within the congregation. The emphasis is on tending to our spiritual side, creating community, and doing justice in the world. It is a place where you could comfortably celebrate the Christian holidays, attend the wonderful youth programs if your children want to, and not feel like anything was being shoved down anyone's throat. It is also a place that would support and celebrate your family's membership in another faith community as an equally important place in your family's spiritual life.

Wherever you wind up, best of luck with your journey. It requires lots of listening, enormous respect, and thoughtful participation in other traditions, and in the end your family will be the richer for it. Know that whatever path you choose, a faith community or communities(of whatever sort) will be essential to making it work - it isn't something you can do alone! Interfaith Mom


What a timely question with the holidays coming up.

We have an interfaith family (dad Jewish, mom lapsed Catholic, raising our girls Jewish but celebrating Christmas and Easter). There are no easy answers to the question, and we had to find our own path. Most of the people out there will tell you that you need to pick one or the other, lest you confuse your kids to much. We did an interfaith group through the Jewish Federation of the East Bay, and liked the other families we met. The downside was that the non-Jewish half of us felt that the whole program was designed to make the entire family Jewish rather than to find a way to navigate the issues.

You don't say how religious either of you are. If either/both of you are firm adherents to your religion, then the doctrinal issues can get in the way. Neither of us is in our case, so we're able to let the doctrinal issues slide and focus on the cultural aspects of it. hope this helps. Been there...


My husband and I are interfaith and, yes, there are many resources out there for interfaith families. Here are some connecting points: In Oakland Building Jewish Bridges: Outreach to Interfaith Couples (510) 839-2900 x347 or see the website www.jfed.org/interfaith.htm. In San Francisco The Interfaith Connection (415) 292-1252 or see the website www.intfaith.org

There is also a national group, which puts out a monthly newsletter, called Dovetail: http://www.dovetailinstitute.org/ It is a wonderful institution solely devoted to interfaith families and helping them find the choice that's right for them. It is the only organization I know of for interfaith issues not connected to a religious organization.

I hope that helps you start off on the right foot!

In our family, I am Jewish and my husband is Catholic. What we are doing, after much discussion about what was important to us and what we felt was the most consistent way to be respectful of each other's traditions, is to raise the children Jewish but also celebrate Christmas in a non-religious, winter solstice kind of way. We agreed that raising the kids in both traditions was (a) confusing to them and (b) incompatible with each other. But everyone finds their own comfort zone with this big issue and I wish you luck in finding yours! Jennifer


My wife and I attended Dawn Kepler's interfaith couples group a few years ago. Pam is Methodist and I am Jewish. The course helped provide a lot of clarity on issues. While we knew we wanted to raise our yet-to-be-born children Jewish, there still were many areas to work out. And it was really helpful to hear how other couples were struggling with these issues. Dawn runs Building Jewish Bridges, a program sponsored by the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay. For more information about her programs, please see http://www.jfed.org/interfaith2.htm Joel
You ask a very heartfelt question... I don't know of any books about the subject, but I do care about it. The single best bit of advice I can offer is to find a support group of parents who are working through the same question. Maybe other couples will respond to your question.

I wanted to address your husband's concern that Judaism and Christianity are theologically at odds with each other. Certainly some forms of conservative or even traditional Christianity are at odds with Judaism; orthodox Christianity makes truth claims about the identity of Jesus of Nazareth that conflict with Jewish sensibilities. Those truth claims also conflict, I believe, with how Jesus would have thought of himself.

The good news is, there are some progressive Christians (and congregations) that have a much more inclusive view of Jesus. I understand Jesus as a first century rabbi who interpreted the Torah in a way that eventually found expression in rabbinic Judaism. In my view, the early church turned ''the religion of Jesus'' into ''a religion about Jesus.'' The key, I think, is to focus on Jesus' ethics as found in the Sermon on the Mount and the spirituality that emerges from his parables. It's all very Jewish.

You might find Epworth United Methodist Church in Berkeley to be very supportive in your family's spiritual journey. If you'd like to talk further, please feel free to contact me by email. David


I am Jewish and my husband is not. I was raised with very little cultural or religious traditions, so I don't have a particular attachment to specific holidays. However, once I decided to have children, I felt it important to raise them with a sence of Jewish identity- whether that was religious or not was to be determined. What I have found is that it has been an evolution- a process that gets refined each winter season and one that my husband and I discuss when needed. Originally, I was afraid that if we had a tree, I would not be seen as ''Jewish enough.'' I have had to let go of what I perceive other's might think of me and do what feels right. I have found though, that if I don't plan a bit, the holidays will be around the corner and I won't know what I am doing ''this year'' and feel overwhelmed. It has taken about 5-6 years, but I think I am at peace. We have a christmas tree and will go to an occasional Easter-egg party, but my husband's parents know that we identify the children as Jewish, so they don't push any specific agenda re: the role of Jesus.

My advice is to talk to your husband about what he feels is important and look to how you would like to celebrate your heritage/tradition. I am finding you can create it in any fashion you like, and there will always be some folks who dissaprove or judge. Just so long as you and your husband reach a common understanding. I have had great support and info from Dawn Kepler at Building Jewish Bridges: Outreach to Interfaith Couples. www.jfed.org/interfaith.htm anon


You will find a lot of resources for interfaith families on an email newsletter put out by Dawn Kepler of Building Jewish Bridges: Outreach to Interfaith Couples. For more info, contact her at (510) 839-2900 x347 or (925) 943-1484. Good luck Lisa
Get in touch with Dawn Kepler at Building Jewish Bridges, Outreach to Interfaith Couples (510-839-2900, ext. 347)! She can direct you to all kinds of wonderful programs and discussion groups. I attended several before my husband and I got married (he's Jewish, I was raised as a Catholic) and it was a tremendous support and help to me. You'll meet so many people grappling with the same issues that you are. Good luck! anon
I am Catholic. My husband is quasi Jewish in that his dad was Jewish and his mother was not Jewish. He went to Jewish school but he never had a bah mitzvah. I was not into my religion when I met my husband. We actually attended a synagogue for awhile and it drew me back to my faith. While I love the beauty of the Jewish faith, I just didn't feel comfortable converting. I'm a doubting thomas kind and there was no way I could fully state a belief in another faith. Plus, there were things I missed about my own faith. I found a very liberal Catholic Church and started attending services. My husband was interested in his Judaism in theory but not really committed enough to go regularly, join a community, etc.

Because I was participating in my faith more than he was that we'd raise them in my faith. Our kids have been baptized and we plan to take them through their first communion. Confirmation will be up to them.

Because my husband's side has very loose attachment to tradition (Jewish or otherwise), it's kind of up to us to carry on any and all relgious or cultural traditions. My family is Catholic and Cajun and are very close-knit and tradition oriented. I really like the food, the rituals and the closeness that my family holds dear. I am not local so I can only provide a mere shadow of this.

My husband's father, who was Jewish, basically rejected all of that, so his upbringing didn't have all the family traditions that mine did. His mother rejected her side (Irish) as well. They made their own way. I don't condemn it at all, but I really want my kids to have some traditions to grab hold of or reject if they choose to.

I think this is a very personal decision that you and your husband need to agree on and work toward and I don't think there is any right or wrong answer. I do think though, that whatever you do has to be sincere and supportive. While I don't think Christianity and Judaism ''repel'' each other, I do believe that it's less confusing to pick one. Faith questions are complicated. I do think teaching them about the similarities and differences of both are important to help them make their own choices in the future.

Good luck anon


Secular Jew married to atheist wants ''religious'' framework for kids

April 2006 Secular Jewish mother married to atheist, wanting ''religious'' framework for kids

My husband has left it up to me and will support my decision as to how to give our kids (preschool age) a sense of their religious backgrounds. We both have the same set of ethics and principles etc., but I am struggling with wanting to give my kids a sense of their Jewish heritage in a supportive setting without the danger of any strong religious dogma. Are there any religious establishments out there that don't ram it down kids' throats? Do they get a balanced perspective that there are other faiths, and that no one religion is better than the next?

I want to do something but I am afraid of the traditional Sunday school approach, and don't want a new age thing either.

Any ideas? anon


I don't know if this might be what you seek, but in my opinion the First Unitarian Church of Oakland provides a great non-religious religious environment. It embraces all spiritual beliefs and provides a setting for respecting and sharing different peoples' approaches to praciting their ''faith.'' And, it is extremenly child/family friendly. I would highly recommend you explore it. It is located at 685 14th Street. Anon
I was raised by agnostic parents and converted to Judaism a few years ago; I'm married to a Reform Jew, and we're raising our kids Jewish, but with awareness and acceptance of many other religions, holidays, etc. We do this without going to any synagogue or church services.

Every Friday night we light candles, eat challah bread, and sing prayers. We have Passover and Hanukkah celebrations with friends, and build a sukkah in our backyard. We also go to Christmas parties, have Easter egg hunts, and join in other celebrations with friends and family.

Our kids know they are Jewish, yet embrace Santa, the Easter Bunny, etc.. On the Jewish holidays we pull out kids' books about them, and a general ''Children's Bible'' and read that holiday's story to them. We talk about Israel, and will talk about the Holocaust in more detail when they're older. They're young still (3 kids under 7) but already have a religious identity, and awareness of others' religions. We're pretty anti-established-religion, and on a tight budget...this is working out great for us so far.

We hope they'll be bat/bar mitzvahed in the future--maybe we'll join a synagogue; maybe we'll hire someone to study with them and have the ceremony in the backyard. Since Judaism is a home-based religion, we feel we have many options. Mazel Tov!


Have you thought about a Unitarian Universalist church? We've been members for years and particular appreciate it now that we are parents. From the UUA website (www.uua.org): ''With its historical roots in the Jewish and Christian traditions, Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion -- that is, a religion that keeps an open mind to the religious questions people have struggled with in all times and places. We believe that personal experience, conscience and reason should be the final authorities in religion, and that in the end religious authority lies not in a book or person or institution, but in ourselves. We are a ''non-creedal'' religion: we do not ask anyone to subscribe to a creed.''

Many interfaith families have found a place in a UU church, as have many others, like us, who discovered the Christian churches we grew up didn't speak to the adults we became. UU's seek truth and meaning in the texts and traditions of many religions, including Judaism, and offer a place and a community where you can forge your own spiritual path. For children, it offers not ''Sunday School,'' but ''Religious Education,'' oriented toward learning about religion and spirituality without indoctrination in a particular faith. The church is also strongly oriented to social justice work, and has a long history of putting faith into action dating back to abolition, and including the modern civil rights movement and the current drive for marriage equality.

We happily attend First Unitarian Church in downtown Oakland, which has a great intergenerational service and a strong music program (uuoakland.org), but there are many others to choose from around the Bay Area (www.uuba.org).

Good luck with your search! Happy to be UU


You might find a Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregation right for you and your family. Religious education in UU churches helps children develop their own systems of belief and teaches them ethics and justice. Children are introduced to the values and beliefs of many religions (eastern and western) and taught to respect and gather wisdom from all. Most UUs started out Jewish, Catholic or Protestant. Some are still Christian or Jewish. Some are agnostics or atheists. Some believe in an earth- based spirituality. Some are Buddhists. Some are humanists. Some are theists. We all believe in the search for truth and a deeper meaning in life. It's a great place for children to learn to appreciate themselves and others -- and to find there are others around them with similar beliefs. I was raised in a very Reformed Temple and this has been a good fit for me. I belong to the UU church in Oakland (uuoakland.org). There are many more UU congregations in the bay area. (You can find them at uuba.org). Good luck with your search. Lisa
I was raised a secular Jew. I joined a synagogue because, like you, I wanted to give my daughter a sense of her Jewish heritage. One of the primary reasons I chose Kehilla Community Synagogue (www.kehillasynagogue.org) was because it is a place where you can believe in God in whatever way is comfortable for you, including, not believing in God. It is absolutely a place where other faiths are respected. There are many interfaith families who are members. Here's a comment a friend made regarding my daughters Bat Mitzvah service -- ''I found the service to be a celebration of good living rather than instilling fear of the consequences of bad living...'' A Spiritual Jew
Also received 4 reviews of Tehiyah School

Non-practicing husband wants to learn more about his heritage

April 2004

I am an African-American mother about to give birth to a biracial child very soon. My partner is half Anglo and half Jewish. I am very knowledgable about and have strong ties to my family and ethnic heritage. However, my partner grew up in a situation where his Jewish heritage was ''not really discussed''. His mother's family immigrated here from Russia two generations ago. Unfortunately, his aunt, who was very knowledgable about their Jewish family's history, passed on before he had a chance to record anything (She was the last living relative from that side of the family!)

He would like to learn more about his Jewish heritage but is at a lost about how to exactly do that. We both think that it would be positive for our daughter to have a strong sense of the rich cultural heritage and traditions of both of our backgrounds. Any ideas or recommendations about what my partner can do to learn more about his Jewish heritage? He's not interested in converting per se...but we would welcome any advice concerning books or cultural centers that might help him reconnect to his lost roots! Thanks!


There are many congregations in the Bay Area that would welcome your family - whether you want to join or not - to come to events, services, Torah study, etc. Our multi-racial family goes to Beth El, in Berkeley. While there aren't LOTS of multi- racial families, there are some and there are lots of inter- faith families, atheists and agnostics. We have a wide vaiety of programming for adults, all of which everyone is welcome to attend. You could call or drop by and get a schedule and our clergy is very open to talking to people who want to connect/reconnect with Judaism. Beth El is at Arch and Vine, in North Berkeley. The number is 848-3988. I'm sure you would find other great resources at a number of other congregations. And of course there's the Jewish Community Center, also in North Berkeley. Feel free to call or email if you'd like to talk more. Good luck! Amy
Congratulations on your upcoming baby! Congregation Beth El is having a class right now called Baby is a Blessing. It is on Tuesday's at 10 am. It explores many of the things you and your partner are interested in learning more about. By the time you read this there will be only one class left on May 4 but you might want to check it out. Rabbi Jane Litman is the Rabbi Educator at Beth El. She would be a good resource to find out more. The number there is 510-848-3988. I went through the same process and questioning when our daughter was born and we found Beth El to be a wonderful community and have since joined the congregation. Julie
There are many, many books about Jewish history and cultural heritage. I can recommend a few that are also fun to read. Yesterday; a memoir of a Russian Jewish Family by Miriam Shomer Zunser is a great read. It was written by a mother for her children, so that they would know something about their roots. I know it is in the library at UCB I'm not sure where else you can find it (out of print). Beyond The Pale by Elana Dykewoman is historical fiction about a Jewish woman who emmigrates from Russia at the turn of the 20th century. Fiction, but carefully researched and a fun read. I would also reccommend stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer. I think the JCC on Rose at Shattuck has many family programs and is not too religious. Best Wishes Tamar
There are lots of things your husband can do in the Bay Area to get better in touch with his Jewish roots. One thing he can do is visit the Judah L. Magnes Museum on Russell Street in Berkeley, near the Claremont. The Magnes is the third largest Jewish museum in the US and has an amazing collection of Judaica and Jewish art. Its exhibits are stimulating for Jews and non-Jews alike. There are even kid programs. Its website is www.magnes.org.

The Chabad house in Berkeley is a traditional Hasidic community but they do great children's programs. When your child is born, check them out. I took my daughters to a matzoh making demonstration once. The Traveling Jewish Theater performs at Julia Morgan theater and is a great acting group. There is also the Jewish Film Festival which has great movies by Jews, about Jews, and about issues affecting Jews. He could learn a lot about his heritage that way.

Lehrhaus Judaica has many classes, as does the Berkeley- Richmond Jewish Community Center. All those places have web sites, as does the East Bay Jewish Federation. The new Jewish Community Center in San Francisco has music recitals, plays, kids programs, etc.

As you see, there are many programs that are not centered on synagogues and religious life. Frances


I would suggest checking out Lehrhaus Judaica which is the adult school for Jewish studies. They are located in Berkeley but they offer courses throughout the Bay Area. (www.lehrhaus.org). They have a class titled: ''Essentials of Judaism: A Beginner's Basics Course'' that offers both Jews and non-Jews an opportunity to enrich their basic knowledge of Judaism and is open to all. Another source is the Community Rabbi Program. This program ''helps Jews find their spiritual roots within the Greater East Bay Jewish community, through pastoral care, spiritual counseling, and community connections.'' Community Rabbi of the Greater East Bay http://www.jfed.org/communityrabbi.htm Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay 300 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610 (510) 839-2900 x212 Helena
I'm sure you will get a ton of advice from the large and welcoming Jewish community here in Berkeley. I just thought I would give a non-Jewish perspective. I was raised Christian and now just consider myself ''spiritual'', but not necessarily religious. I am drawn to and intrigued by study of different religious beliefs. My next-door Neighbor is a long-time Jewish educator who used to teach at Beth El in Berkeley on Vine Street. I recently (Saturday last) attended a Bar Mitzvah at Beth El and found the Cantor and the Rabbi both to be splendidly friendly and welcoming people, as much interested in teaching about Judaism as I was in hearing what they had to say. Therefore, from my own experience as a Goya (Non-Jewish girl) (probably spelled wrong?) asking about Judaism at Beth El, I can highly recommend doing the same. Even if you, like me, pick and choose what you do and do not believe, Judaism has a wonderful history and heritage and is very fascinating to learn about. Karin
Hi! There is a wonderful interfaith newsletter that provides lots of resources. Here is the info: It is a joint project of Building Jewish Bridges in Oakland and The Interfaith Connection in San Francisco. If you have friends who would like to subscribe, have them send an email to dawn[AT]jfed.org mailto:dawn[AT]jfed.org with the subject line ''subscribe-interfaith. Nancy
Well...this may be more than you are interested in, but have you thought about joining a temple? Temple Sinai, in Oakland, is very welcoming to mixed-faith families and there are several other biracial families with very young children there as well. They offer adult education classes as well as Tot Shabbat, a nice way to get your toddlers involved in some of the rituals. The temple offers a sliding scale as well if membership fees are an issue. I was dubious about joining a temple but I have felt really at home in this community. Getting in touch with roots
Wow, there are so many answers. There are tons of good books on Judiasm covering all aspects. For your situation I'd recommend The New Jewish Baby Book by Anita Diamant and Jewish Literacy by Joseph Telushkin. Both are at Berkeley Public Libary. For other suggestions, check out the outstanding list, organized by topic (spirituality, history, holidays, cooksbooks, philosophy, etc.) at http://netivotshalom.org/library/homelibrary.htm. Or visit Afikomen (the Jewish bookstore in Berkeley, 510-655-1977) and ask any of the knowledgable salespeople for recommendations. A second suggestion is an Introduction to Judiasm class. These are offered at Lehrhaus (http://lehrhaus.org, 510-845-6420) and occassionally some synagogues. I wasn't impressed with the class I took a few years ago, but chances are your instructor(s) will be better. David, Berkeley
I took a wonderful survey course on Judaism taught at the Lehrhaus Judaica in Berkeley. There were Jews and non-Jews in the class, including several people who were considering converting. I also took a beginning Hebrew class there. They have lots of classes and great teachers, in my experience. Here's their website: http://www.lehrhaus.org/
I recommend attending a festival in Berkeley celebrating multi- cultural and multi-racial Jewish families on Sunday, May 23rd 1- 4 pm. Multicultural Shavuot Festival Join Black, Asian, Latino, and mixed-race Jews to celebrate Shavuot (the celebration of the giving of the Torah) and the inclusiveness of Judaism. Activities for all ages including: food, workshops, crafts, book fair, music and dancing. FREE: Open to the public
BRJCC
1414 Walnut ST
Berkeley,CA
For information call: 
(510) 848-0237x112or www.brjcc.org
IJCR 415.386.2604
joelb
I just remembered this announcement: A group of 16 congregations/synagogues in the SF Bay area are offering a three-session workshop for those who are curious about Jewish rituals and traditions that welcome a new child. Attendees will create a customized baby blessing, learn about birth ceremonies for girls and boys, and Jewish naming traditions. This program invites all that are interested: Jewish, intermarried, single or couples, gay or straight especially those who are not yet in a synagogue community. Call Project Welcome to register: 415 392 7080 x 16 or 18. Workshops will be June 9, 16, & 23-7:00 pm-9:00 pm. David, Berkeley

Not Jewish but husband is; want more spirituality in my children's lives January 2003

Hi, I looked on the website but couldn't find an answer for this particular question. I am not Jewish and my husband is. We celebrate Hanukah and Passover with my husband's family (I actually hosted my first Seder last year!) I want my girls to have more of a connection with Judaism, however, my husband isn't very concerned about this. He wants them raised with a knowledge of the religion, but since it's not my religion, how are they going to get this knowledge? I guess what I'm trying to say is I want more spirituality in my and my children's lives and I'm willing to get that from Judaism but I don't know where to begin. What is the best way to go about joining a temple? How do I find the best temple for an interfaith and sometimes ambiguous family? Thanks for your help! jl


Hi there, I was born Jewish and I'm still trying to figure out how to be Jewish! An excellent resource is Dawn Kepler of Building Jewish Bridges,email: dawn at jfed.org, (510) 839-2900 x347. She is the interfaith outreach person for Temple Sinai and is wonderful. I have gone to several of her interfaith workshops. anon
Hi, The first question you'll need to tackle is which movement within Judaism you'd like to get involved with. Since you are not Jewish and your husband is not observant, Orthodox and Modern Orthodox are probably out of the running. Conservative (a movement which emerged as a reaction to the perceived excesses of the reform movement -- it's more liberal than Orthodox, however) is a possibility if you're looking for a connection to traditional Judaism in an environment that is egalitarian (women rabbis, among other things). Reform and Reconstructionist are also candidates.

I hope I'm not the first person to point this out, but your children are not Jewish according to Jewish law. Judaism follows matrilineal descent, and so you (as their mother) would need to have been Jewish at their birth. This will be an issue in Orthodox and Conservative shuls (== ''schools'' == synagogues). Your kids would need to go through a conversion ceremony, which involves a visit to a ritual bath (mikvah) and possibly circumcision for males.

You really should speak with a rabbi if you want authoritative information on points like this. As luck would have it, my shul (Netivot Shalom, in Berkeley -- Conservative movement) is in the process of drafting a policy on ''the role of the non-jew,'' since there are plenty of families in situations similar to yours. Rabbi Kelman would be a good person to for you to speak with.

If you're inclined, there are some excellent intro to judaism books you could look at. One of the best, in my opinion, is Donin's ''To be a Jew'' http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0465086322/104-5982538-9291903?vi=glance

Also, the Lehrhaus Judaica, in Berkeley, near Cal, has a very fine ''intro to judaism class'' that might appeal to you. I believe the teacher is Jehon Grist, who is wonderful.

I hope this helps. Eric Friedman


Here is a great resource: http://www.jfed.org/interfaith2.htm

Building Jewish Bridges: Outreach to Interfaith Couples and Families

Overview: While interfaith couples address their differences throughout the year, the occurence of lifecycle events can raise new questions -- planning a wedding, welcoming a baby, facing the death of a parent or deciding about the religious orientation of a household may illicit deep feelings for both partners. Couples need a safe place to explore their choices.

Building Jewish Bridges groups offer a process of self-examination that leads to better understanding of your own and your partner's beliefs and attitudes. Listening to others in your group will stimulate ideas that will help you shape your own decisions.

Building Jewish Bridges also offers educational and supportive workshops for parents and adult children of interfaith families who are seeking to develop skills in family interaction. All workshops offer opportunities to explore Jewish life.

Worshops can provide a fun and comfortable environment in which Jews and non-Jews can learn about the traditions and rituals of Jewish life. From holiday how-to workshops to workshops on lifecycle rituals (bris/ritual circumcision, bar/bat mitzvah, weddings, sitting shiva in the house of mourning), anyone can learn the many forms of Jewish observance. Helena


I suggest you go to www.jfed.org and click on Discover Interfaith options. That will take you to the web page for Building Jewish Bridges, an outreach program to interfaith families in the East Bay. Sign up to be on the email list, and you will get announcements about educational programs, holiday celebrations and other events. Dawn Kepler, who runs the program, is lovely and knowledgeable about the various Temples in the area and could probable give you great advice on how to ''Temple-shop.'' Alice
Check out Lehrhaus Judaica. They have a really interesting range of classes, including some that address issues of interfaith families, introduce Judaism, and explore the meaning of different holidays and festivals. Classes are held around the Bay Area, including Berkeley (where they are based), Marin, SF, Contra Costa, & the Peninsula. http://www.lehrhaus.org/ Ilana
Though not Jewish myself, as a young girl I learned a great deal about and became enchanted by the Jewish faith by reading a series of CHARMING fictional books by Sydney Taylor.

''All of a Kind Family'' and the subsequent books in the series made this Irish Catholic girl yearn to be Jewish. Though I haven't read them in, ahem, 25ish years -- I remember a world of wonderfully close family ties, delicious sounding food and beautiful fun religious customs.

I have always enthusiastically recommended these books to anyone with kids... and especially to those of the Jewish faith. You'll Love These Books!


Temple Beth Hillel in Richmond (off of the Hilltop exit) is a small reform temple with many interfaith families. TBH has a warm and friendly atmosphere. Newcomers are welcomed without any pressure to join or do or be anything. I suggest you come to a Friday evening Shabbat service. We sing a lot, there is a small choir that often sings at the services. The number for the temple is 223-2560. We have a great religious school which happens at 9:30 on Sunday mornings. Many of our congregation are families of interfaith, interrace or intergender relationships. If you would like to ask more questions you can all Arlene, the temple secretary at the above number. June
One low key way to start with your children would be Temple beth abraham's kindergym friday program for 17 mo-3yrs that concludes w/ a mini-shabbat. for older children JCC camps and holiday family workshops would be another way. Many congregations are now composed of interfaith couples. There are interfaith holiday workshops offered by the Berkeley/Richmond JCC. adult child of interfaith couple
I know there are many different Jewish organizations in this area and can't really advise on which is best, but I can tell you what has worked for our interfaith family.

We are members of Kehila Synagogue which is a very welcoming comunity for interfaith families. In fact, the High Holydays theme a couple years ago centered around how to both encourage and nourish the diversity (of faith, race, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual preference) of the Kehila community while maintaining our identity as a Jewish organization.

Kehila has a wonderful Jewish education program for children and also periodically offers adult classes. The congregation is part of the ''Jewish renewal'' movement and has both a spiritual and social/political focus.

Services in many ways depart from ''traditional'' Jewish practice (We actually have a Rabbi who while clearly ''a man of faith'' and an active and founding member of the congregation, identified himself as a person who does not believe in God). Some people, particularly those with a more traditional backgroup can find this disturbing. I generally find it refreshing and more inclusive without being drained of sprituality; because the rabbis and lay leadership are very knowledgable about traditional practice, their departures from it are made through concsious deliberation, reflection, and discussion.

Whatever congregation you join, I highly recommend becoming a part of a havurah--a group of families or individuals that meets monthly to have a shabbat dinner. It's an excellent and comfortable way to participate in Jewish culture and build Jewish identity that isn't all about doctrine. julie


You are not alone. The scenerio you describe is common - Jewish husbands who are lukewarm about religion, including their own, and non-Jewish wives who want a spiritual component to their family. It doesn't mean the husband is bad, or even that he is a bad Jew, Jewish atheists are quite common. It just means the wife often takes up the job of religion in the family.

Here are some connecting points: In Oakland Building Jewish Bridges: Outreach to Interfaith Couples (510) 839-2900 x347 or see the website www.jfed.org/interfaith.htm

In San Francisco The Interfaith Connection (415) 292-1252 or see the website www.intfaith.org

If you want to receive a weekly e-mail about interfaith programs around the bay area, email to dawn AT jfed DOT org and put "subscribe interfaith" in the subject line. You can get referrals to synagogues from both of these places. Once you are ''inside'' the Jewish community, you will be completely enfolded in Jewish life if you want that. Synagogues are very embracing communities. Being in an interfaith family is pretty common these days so you will find many other families that look like yours. Best wishes! dckepler


I was born Jewish but never taught what it meant. My husband is not Jewish but I wanted to expose my children to Judiasm. Here is what I have tried so far. There is a Sunday school at the Berkely Richmond JCC every other Sunday for pre-school and grade school children. Focus is on Judiasm as culture not religion. They teach about holiday meanings, customs, foods, and songs. Have a Hanukkah and Passover celebration. Contact Gerry Tenney at gtenney AT earthlink DOT com. The BRJCC also has a preschool and maybe a grade school.

Temple Sinai has a Tot Shabbot the 3rd Friday of every month. This is for kids 6 and under. Definitely religious and great for kids. Lots of music and humor and tolerance for babies.

The Oakland JCS has a fabulous afterschool program that teaches a little Judiasm. It is definitely interfaith. Any of these places can also tell you about interfaith groups. sorta Jewish


Some more input on getting in touch with Judaism - you might want to try this great free program, called Partners in Torah. I've been doing it for almost a year and have gotten SO much out of it, even my non-Jewish partner has really enjoyed the learning. How it works is, you call their office (1-800-STUDY-4-2) and answer some questions about who you are and what you want to learn. Then, similar to a match-making service, they partner you with an appropriate Jewish mentor who will call you once a week at a time you both agree upon. You talk about whatever your specific interests are.

For example, I'm interested in the role of women in traditional Judaism, and how to be Jewish on a daily basis instead of just 'identifying' as a Jew. They matched me up with a woman my age, also a mom, and we just clicked right away. I recently flew out to NY to meet her.

A caveat, fyi, whatever - this group is organized by the Lubavitchers, who I think are absolutely wonderful people, but other folks might have some political differences with them. They don't necessarily match you up with a Lubavitch partner. They're not out to convert non-Jews certainly, but it sounds like you're interested in raising Jewish children and I'm sure they'd love to help you.

Good luck! Also, you might want to try Congregation Beth El (Reform) in Berkeley. Rabbi Jane Litman and Rabbi Ferenc Raj are both very welcoming to interfaith families with children and they have a recurring program throughout the year called 'Being Jewish 101' where you learn about the holidays, etc.

Not the typical Jewish Mother


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