I received a video of a former YU student teaching a class in Judaism in an after school program that teaches both Judaism and Christianity. The program describes itself as follows:
The Interfaith Community’s bi-religious curriculum, simultaneously taught by a Christian educator and a Jewish one…In 2010, a two-year class for teenagers was launched in the Westchester and Orange/Rockland chapters that caters to children from 12 to 14 years old. It helps them grapple with identity questions specific to that age, regarding who they are and who they want to become. The program educators, however, stress that no decision needs to be made, that identity is something that builds over time and that it can change at any time.
I am not sure what to make of it. The program started at Trinity day school (Upper West Side) that has at least half of its students with at least one Jewish parent. This class was in Rockland. In general, the word among sociologists of the Jewish community is that zip code is destiny. In Bergen or Brooklyn counties, most Jews marry other Jews and when they intermarry the likelihood is that the kids will consider themselves Jewish. It is actually upwardly mobile for many Christians to marry Jews here in NJ and gain Jewish family life. On the other hand, traditional Jews in the certain parts of the south or west will intermarry and not raise their kids as Jewish. So I can have sympathy for this here in the East coast where even a secular Jew who intermarried and sent his or her kids to Trinity, will likely produce Jews. But what of Portland? Sante Fe? Watch the video.
Judaism and Christianity are not seen as opposites anymore. I know people who kasher their kitchen for Passover and also celebrate Easter. It is a world of multiple identities—racial, religious, ethnic. Nothing contradicts. Even Hebrew schools which officially can’t welcome interfaith children because of Halakha (Jewish law), have started applying a “ ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.” As long as the rabbis are not informed that the child is being raised in two religions, they can teach, and hopefully attract, this growing population. When we first started working on this 25 years ago, there was a tremendous amount of resistance,” “Most clergy would say you simply could not do this, this will confuse the children and it’s bad for the marriage – they just could not begin to conceptualize it.”
The Interfaith Community first started in 1987 with informal gatherings of about 20 families whose children attended the Trinity School in New York. By 2011, it counted nearly 150 families as members. Its activities include high holiday celebrations. “Our goal is not to replace the church and synagogue, but to provide a safe space for families who might feel uncomfortable or intimidated in those places,” said Sheila Gordon, co-founder and director of the organization. For more info- see here.
1. Give children permission to explore and connect with all sides of their heritage.
2. Avoid setting up an expectation that the child will “choose” an identity someday.
3. Understand that those who are not born into bothness, even those who are intermarried, may never fully appreciate the idea of being both.
4. Insist on the joy of being both. In the face of skepticism…Communicate to your children that they represent hope for the future, bridges of peace and understanding, crucial new connections across rigid, deteriorating barriers.
5. Seek and develop communities that share your bothness.