Being both: raising an interfaith family


Susan Katz Miller, a former neighbor of mine, writes as clearly as anyone I know about raising an interfaith family. In a recent piece for The New York Times she wrote:

My husband was raised Episcopalian. He is the great-grandson of an Episcopal bishop. I was raised Reform Jewish by my Episcopalian mother and my Jewish father. I am a great-granddaughter of a New Orleans rabbi. Growing up, I experienced both the benefits and the drawbacks of being raised in one religion. Often, I felt marginalized as an interfaith child and had to fight to defend my claim to Judaism. For our son and daughter, now teenagers, my husband and I decided that we wanted them to feel that they could be at the center of an interfaith-families community, surrounded by other interfaith children, rather than trying to conform to a single religion in which they might, or might not, be accepted. And we wanted them to feel equally connected to both sides of their religious ancestry.

Why are other parents choosing this controversial pathway when most rabbis, ministers, and priests urge families to pick one religion? In researching my book on interfaith families, I surveyed more than 250 parents like me who had enrolled children in interfaith education programs. Parents told me they wanted their children to be “bilingual” in two religious languages, and to feel positive and self-confident about being part of an interfaith family, rather than tolerated or on the periphery in a single-faith context. They also did not want one spouse to feel left out — to feel like an “out-parent” or guest in a church or synagogue, even as many religious institutions have become more welcoming to interfaith families.

Sue is the author of Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family. What do you think about the idea of raising children who are religiously “bilingual”?

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Paul Woodrum
Paul Woodrum

Roses may all seem the same -- "a rose is a rose is a rose" -- though to a horticulturist the are not. Nor are religions alike and capable of being compounded into a common cure-all. If one insists on combining Christianity and Judaism, they might as well become Muslim as that combo, highly purified, of course, was part of Mohammed's goal.

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