Interfaith families bringing new realities to Jewish communal life

I’m a big fan of Julie Weiner’s blog at The Jewish Week.  It’s one of those blogs that I read fairly regularly, not because I find myself agreeing with everything she writes (and I’ll admit that I, like many, tend to read people with whom I agree). Rather, I read her blog because I find that she challenges many of my borders as a rabbi in ways that are intelligently and often compellingly stated.

This week she brings our attention to a new feature at another site that provides an incredible resource to interfaith families – interfaithfamily.com. They are now hosting a parenting blog where non-Jewish parents raising Jewish kids, and Jewish parents in interfaith households, are writing and reflecting on their experiences in Jewish life, family, and community.

The presence of these multi-varied families in our communities is raising new questions and challenges that rabbis must respond to. And different rabbis will respond in very different ways, based on a range of factors that include halachic frameworks, pragmatic considerations, pastoral support, educational opportunity, and sociological reality.

In this area of my professional life, I find that I am still learning. My borders, so to speak, are shifting. Some of the kinds of questions and situations I find myself challenged to consider:

  1. A convert to Judaism wishes to name their baby daughter after her deceased, Christian mother in a Jewish baby-naming ceremony.
  2. A non-Jewish parent who has lived in the Jewish community and participated actively for over 10 years wishes to recite the blessings for an aliyah at their son’s bar mitzvah.
  3. A parent of a bar mitzvah student who, themselves, was raised with “both.” As an adult, they have been living a Jewish life, learning Hebrew, and studying Judaism. Can they participate in the bar mitzvah as a Jewish parent?
  4. A young adult was raised with “both.” They have decided to affirm Judaism as their sole religious identity, and go through the process of conversion. Now they are marrying a Christian and would like a rabbi and a minister to be part of the wedding ceremony.