Interfaith Families

With intermarriage an acknowledged part of the American landscape, the only remaining debate is how to respond to interfaith unions.

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"There is some mourning that has to go on," Kushner warns. "The initial response is anxiety, fear, guilt and a sense that their particular genes are not going forward in the Jewish community. [They ask] 'What did I do wrong?' And even though they know the world is diverse, that kids go away to college and meet all kinds of people, parents have fantasies." 

Fear that thousands of years of Jewish heritage will stop short with their children can trigger a surge of Jewish identity within a grandparent. What may follow is competition with gentile grandparents for the affections and affiliations of the child. 

Instead, bubbes and zeides should invite the in-laws to join in Jewish customs or meals. All competition accomplishes, Kushner says, is kids running from religion because they don't want to hurt anyone by choosing sides. 

If history serves as a guide, it is extremely unlikely that there will ever be unanimity among the various Jewish movements regarding interfaith marriage. But if our population continues to decline, even at a rate of 5 percent each decade, all will certainly agree that the issue of continuity must be addressed carefully and swiftly. The clock is ticking.

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Amy Blumenfeld is a freelance writer and a former editor of George magazine. Her articles have appeared in various magazines, including People, Self, and Fitness.