(page 2 of 3)
“We’re willing, happy and even eager to present the Jewish side of things to couples that want to do both,” Case told JTA.
Groups that cater to dual-faith families say they are respectful of religious differences, offering classes jointly taught by Jewish and Christian instructors. They say the children who complete their programming have the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about the role of faith in their lives.
Sheila Gordon, founder and director of New York’s Interfaith Community, said that while the established Jewish community remains wary of raising children in both faiths – her group has had difficulty raising money from Jewish sources, she said – the idea has become more acceptable among individuals.
“We do workshops for couples, and 10-12 years ago we spent all the time talking about the angst of the [couples’] parents; now that doesn’t exist as much,” Gordon said. “Many of the couples are themselves children of intermarriage and they’re different because of that. It’s changing right under our feet.”
Just as many Jewish leaders have concluded that they are powerless to stop intermarriage and should focus instead on welcoming the intermarried, some are now arguing they can’t turn back the tide of dual-faith families and should direct their energies toward offering such families positive Jewish experiences.
A number of mainstream Jewish leaders are on Gordon’s advisory board, including Rabbi Marcelo Bronstein of Manhattan’s Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, and Carol Ingall, an education professor at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary. The group also has recruited rabbinical students from the liberal Orthodox Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and JTS to teach in its Sunday school.
Bronstein acknowledged that raising children in two religions is controversial, but insisted that it’s nevertheless a reality that demands a response.
“It’s a new landscape,” he said. “My response is we should reinforce as much as we can the Jewish identity wherever the Jews are.”