Preserving the Jewish faith when your partner is Christian

Monica - posted on 01/07/2009 ( 28 moms have responded )

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When my son Asher was born I was a single mom. My son is now 17 months old and I am engaged to the most amazing man I have ever met in my life. He is a wonderful partner, lover and father to Asher. Plans are in place for him to adopt him once we are married.

The issues is that he was brought up Methodist and his family is very religious. We have agreed to teach our children both religions, but I am already finding that difficult. This year Asher and I both celebrated our first Christmas and while I liked the family aspect of it, something just didn't feel right.

I really, really do not want my son or myself to lose our Jewish identities but I am unsure how to do that. Has anyone overcome this situation or is anyone going through now? I need help!

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User - posted on 01/25/2009

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My husband and I have been married 11+ years and have three awesome boys. (8,6 and 2) My husband is Jewish and I was not when we started dating. Before our engagement, I had researched conversion and decided to follow through with it before our wedding date. I didn't think it would be a problem walking away from Christmas as I knew it because I wanted to have family unity once children came into our lives. My family celebrated Christmas in the commercial sense so I thought it would be easy enough to give that all up. It's been a tough 8 years with the boys not celebrating the way I did as a child. But I've learned to get through the holidays in my own way. If you ask my boys what holiday they celebrate during December, they will proudly tell you Chanukah because they are jewish. But they will also tell you that they share Christmas day with my family. They know it's hard for me to not have Christmas like I remember it but we do it all up for Chanukah and celebrate big as a family and when I lived close to my mom and sister, we shared Christmas dinner with them and my mom and sister gave gifts wrapped in Chanukah paper to the boys. They enjoyed being able to be with my family but knew that is was not their holiday. The decorating of the house is still hard for me in December but I've found a way to decorate a little in a winter theme and as much chanukah as I can find.

I apologize if I've ranted to much. I know how tough it is also to try and get though two totally different holidays that occur so close to each other but still want to include and be part of each other's family's.

[deleted account]

No offense to Carolyn, if that works for you great, but Messianic Judaism is not Judaism. It's like saying a married priest. You can't be married and be a priest and I wouldn't encourage anyone who was Jewish to subscribe to Messianic Judaism unless they minded being Christian.

[deleted account]

I kindly say this - you can not take both a cold and hot bath at the same time; if you try to, you will end up with neither. Please reconsider offering your child two different religions, speaking from my own observations of those like you, it will only leave him confused and without a sense of belonging to either. Because he has a Jewish mother, he is Jewish. Please do the dwindling Jewish population right and bring him up knowing the only religion that he really is, JEWISH! That doesn't mean that he cannot respect his father's family and foster meaningful relationships with them, he just won't participate in their religous holidays. There is a reason that something just didn't feel right to you!

Cathryn - posted on 06/08/2011

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hi there... i know that this is posted very much later than all the other replies, but i wanted to put my two cents in, please.

you and your child, all your children, are jewish. that much is clear. you love your husband, and he you. that's great. i would suggest going to an attorney, and writing up a pre-nup. it doesn't have to deal with money. you can have a prenup drawn up which would obligate both of you to a binding agreement that your children, all of them, present and future, will be brought up jewish. there was an interfaith couple a few years ago who split up and while the child was jewish, the catholic father's family went so far as to have her baptized!! this is something, i assume, that you wouldn't want. so, put it in writing and have both of you sign it, that the children MUST be brought up according to jewish law and tradition.

that they can love their dad, and respect him - that's a given. it should be that way, but you should, if possible leave as little to chance as possible.

wishing you all the best, hatzlacha rabbah!! (good luck!!)

Cara - posted on 03/09/2011

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What about finding a Messianic synagogue where the Jewish aspects of the faith are emphasized, and it also incorporates Jesus, so your partner should be comfortable as well. Perhaps that would be acceptable.

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Advocate For - posted on 02/08/2014

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I have dealt with some very harsh reality re: lack of respect for my religious beliefs and the constant need of Jewish beliefs and family to come first. I do not find any religion that segregates family to be worth having honestly. It comes down to being good people and loving one another, and no religious traditions should exclude other family members, it is discrimination. I understand tradition we all have it, we all have stories, faith, loves, hopes and dreams. None is more important than the other. Teach your children to be good people and you will do them a favor, prejudice against other religions is no better than prejudice against your own. We have all been hurt. Love one another and maybe we will find peace in the world.....especially moms, lead peace not family feuds.

Sally - posted on 03/09/2011

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I would definitely talk to your prospective husband about your feelings ASAP! Your son, being the child of a Jewish mother, is a Jew by Jewish Law. Any future children you have will also be Jewish according to Jewish Law. As others have said, it's fine to show respect for and even honor your new family's religion without becoming that religion. The important thing is that you and your fiance get the details worked out BEFORE you marry. Trying to combine 2 such different religions is very confusing for a child and as others have said, leads your child to feeling no secure belief in either.

Sally - posted on 07/24/2009

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I'd just like to point out one thing here. While Christmas is a very major Christian holiday, Chanukkah is a relatively minor Jewish holiday. Because we live in the US (most of us who have posted here I believe), we are inundated with Christmas whether we want it or not. You can't watch TV from the end of October thru New Years without watching some kind of Christmas special. At best, all you'll see in the media is a boring documentary on PBS for Chanukkah or Passover. Other than that, you really don't see anything about any Jewish holiday.
So, concentrate on including Judaism in your everyday life. Light candles on Friday night, get involved in the fall holidays...they go on for a whole month, you know. When your child is very young start incorporating the things that stir the senses...the taste of apples dipped in honey, the smell of chicken soup cooking. Build a Sukkah in the fall. I guarantee, all the non-Jewish kids in the neighborhood will be curious and want to join you and your child for a meal or even snack out there. Once your child has all the richness of Jewish life, Christmas and Easter will pale in comparison.

As for non-Jewish family...teach your child that those holidays are THEIRS. You can and should respect them. You can even share them, just not in your home. At one point when my son was quite young...probably 4 or 5, he wanted a Christmas tree. We bought a small potted pine tree for his Christian grandmother and together he and I made decorations for it. He had the fun and experience of decorating a tree and the pride of doing something for someone else. His grandmother loved the tree and I believe it ended up planted in her yard and grew into a lush full pine.

My son, now grown, is respectful of all religions and very secure in his own Jewishness.

Candise - posted on 04/18/2009

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Hi, My husband is also methodist and Iam Jewish, before getting married we agreed the children will be brought up Jewish, hey go to a Jewish daycare and will be going to a jewish school, but this does not stop us from celebrating christmas and sharing eggs at easter with his family, on his side it is a family gathering and the gift are a bonus. We try bring our children up with the belief to do whats right and to be kind and treat people equally, our oldest is 2 and 8mths but these days religion is important but respect for others and tolerance is important in all faiths. Hope this helps its working for us as a couple and as a family

Gabrielle - posted on 04/01/2009

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I'm going to copy over most of my post from another conversation in this group:



My dad is Jewish and my mom was raised Catholic. She has never "officially" converted, but she stopped believing in Catholicism at about 13, but still believed in G-d. So, we were exposed to both religions and holidays growing up. When my younger brother decided to be bar mitzvah, we became a Jewish household. I never felt religious enough to have a bat mitzvah, but I have always identified Jewish.



I was motivated by my family and the casual spirituality of our family celebrations. I am drawn to the history of Judaism, and ability to question and argue about beliefs. My grandparents left Germany in 1939, so I am also determined to defeat the Nazi's by continuing the Jewish tradition. Christianity and Catholicism made no sense to me and even though the majority of American claims to be Christian, I have never wanted to "be like everyone else".



I also have friends whose father is very Catholic and whose mother is Jewish, and both kids were b'nai mitzvah. So, it's possible to be exposed to both and choose Judaism. You just have to ensure that the kids learn the right things about Judaism. That's why, since I married a Christian who is unlikely to convert (although he has the highest respect for Judaism), when it's time for my daughter's religious education, she's going to a Jewish school. We have a ketubah from our wedding on our wall and we danced the hora.



We have a Hanukkah celebration with my parents, a secular Protestant Xmas family gathering with his parents, and a secular Mexican/Catholic Xmas family gathering with my mom's family. I have always loved all the family get-togethers, with all their own traditions, and I'm still Jewish. During December, we have a small tree with no cross or star on it and an electric menorah in the window (with dogs and a toddler, that seemed safest). We go to my parents for Passover and she loves matzah. It's not always easy, but it's doable. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

Rivka - posted on 03/29/2009

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One of the things that people think about when they are looking for a spouse is what kind of home they would like to build together. If it's important to you to build a Jewish home, why would you even consider marrying a non-Jewish man?

[deleted account]

I think it's like everything else. You'll have some people who will be nice and a small minority might not be. I know for me personally, I look at people who conform with so much more respect than those of us born into Judaism. Those of us who are born Jewish can sometimes take for granted our heritage and I think people who knowingly chose this path are much more appreciative of what the religion and culture have to offer. You just need to find the synagogue that is the right fit for you. My husband is an atheist, no desire to convert, but he participates in all the synagogue activities involving our kids and he is treated no differently than anyone else.

Erin - posted on 01/28/2009

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Thanks Lisa! I am looking into conversion classes and we're taking a trip to Israel in March so we can see his mother & Grandma. Converting is something I have been intrigued by before I met my husband as I attended a public school with a large Jewish population and have a wide circle of Jewish friends apart from my husband. I guess I'm just a little nervous about being rejected, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. I feel this is very much what I want on many levels.

User - posted on 01/28/2009

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If I were you, I would look at some intro to judaisim classes.  I think it would be a great idea but be sure you know what you are in for.  An intro to Judaisim class would not mean you have to convert but would give you useful informartion.  I have a lot of friends who have converted and have found communities who accept them from reform to Orthodox.  Also it will make it easier on your son depending on whoo he might marry later in life (he looks pretty small but we often think ahead!:)  I think you can find a comfortable community if you are comfortable converting.  Good luck!:)

Erin - posted on 01/28/2009

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My spouse and I have decided to raise our son in the Jewish faith. I have not yet converted, but we do not recognize the Christian holidays in our home and I have learned a great deal about the high holidays which we celebrate with friends even before our son was born. We went to synagogue for a candle ceremony for Channukah and only celebrated Christmas at my sister's house. On Christmas Day we volunteered serving a holiday meal to give back to our community - we found there were many other Jewish people involved in this event.

My husband says he doesn't feel I need to convert but I would like to be a united family in this respect. I also want my son to be accepted as a Jewish man. I worry about how others will see my wish to convert. Dan says it will be made too difficult on me, perhaps I'll be unwelcome and that he doesn't want to see me go through this ...does anyone have experience or thoughts on this.

Carolyn - posted on 01/26/2009

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What about Messianic Judism or as I call myself a Messianic Gentile (as I will never be Jewish, but subscribe to a very Judaic life style while still practicing seeing Yeshua as the promised Messiah).



 



First Fruits of Zoin is a great place to start to see how the ideas blend together. However, the biggest divide will be deciding if Messiah has come or is still promised to come. I hope you find the peace you are looking for.



Blessings,



Carolyn

User - posted on 01/25/2009

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While I have not personally been involved in this situation, I think it is very hard to raise a child with both religions. I think the child then ends up believing in nothing. I think before you get married, you need to discuss your feelings with your fiance and make sure he understands how Christmas effected you.Be honest-if he is truly a wonderful man, he will work with you to find a way to make you feel comfortable. If he does not understand your feelings about the situation, you need to reconsider whether you should marry this man. I don't mean to sound blunt but don't marry a man just so your child will have a father. Marry him because it is best for both of you. If you need to, also, have you fiance go to an intro to Judaisim class so that he might get a better understanding of what is important to you and what it means to be Jewish. I hope this helps!:)

Suzanna - posted on 01/25/2009

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We live in a small town without a synagogue and very few Jews. Our daughter who is three identifies strongly as Jewish and I believe the primary reason is that we celebrate Shabbat on Friday nights. It is a holiday that occurs frequently enough that she doesn't forget it from year to year.

Kari - posted on 01/25/2009

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I am so glad I read the post responses... my family and I joke that we celebrate Chrismukkah... I am in process of conversion to Judaism, and my husband has chosen to remain Christian. I think that our spiritual journeys, while they are deeply personal and individual, create a wonderfully merged experience for our children. Shalom to you and your family!

Rita - posted on 01/21/2009

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I definitely agree with avoiding confusion... however, it is different for me since my husband has rejected his family's christian views and doesn't want to incorporate them in any way. If I thought that his family could handle Christmas in a more family centered way, I wouldn't mind visiting for the holiday - but his mother is one of the "put the Christ back in Xmas" people. They are very overbearing with it, and his mother has gone so far as to say that if we do not teach them christianity, we are denying them knowing her, etc., etc. You just never know when it'll tip over from them acting polite and "understanding" to righteousness and even spite. Don't get me wrong, I am happy for those of you who have made it work, but heed the warning of the past: you are Jewish, and don't forget it. It wouldn't be the first time that Jews made a "comfortable" home amongst non-Jews, only to be stabbed in the back.. and remember that I say this as a woman who married a non-Jew, accepting that risk as well.

On a brighter note, the Rabbi I turned to for counsel says to do three main things starting at your child's young age:

1. Jewish Education - preserves our knowledge, traditions, including the value of education, and of course, allows children to be amongst other Jews.
2. Kosher - the choice to eat at the most basic level of Kashreut is a sign of self control, separating us from the animals (much like meditation and other forms of self-control practiced by other cultures)
3. Lighting Shabbat Candles - light the candles and sit down for a family meal. This brings the family together, is a stamp of Judaism in children's memory, and is a special tradition for women.

I hope this helps.. I wish I didn't have to sound so doomy-gloomy in the first part, but just because it isn't what you may want to hear doesn't mean you won't find out it's true (if you haven't already).

[deleted account]

Besides the PJ library, Amazon has some great books for kids on Judaism in their 4-3 section. We get the PJ library too but this is just a way for me to get additional books for them in the house on Judaism.

Kimberly - posted on 01/17/2009

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Yes, I agree about not confusing them.  We plan to do the same in our home.  We will not be celebrating christmas in our home, but we will with his family.  I think hebrew school is also a good plan! Thanks for the comment.

Risa - posted on 01/15/2009

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I am Jewish and my husband is Catholic also.  Before we were married, we agreed that our children would be raised Jewish.   When they were little, around 2 and 4, we were celebrating both holidays and had a Christmas tree.  But them my husband decided that we shouldn't confuse them and that we would only celebrate Hanukkah at our house.  We celebrate Christmas with his family.  I take my older children to Hebrew school also.  It seems to be working out well for us.

Kimberly - posted on 01/13/2009

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I can relate.  My daughter is only 7 weeks old, and my husband is catholic, while I am jewish.  I am the one who will have to teach her our jewish faith.  While my husband agrees to raise her jewish, he continues to be religious in his catholic faith. It is going to be challenging..  At this time, we are celebrating both holidays of christmas and hanukkah.  

Emily - posted on 01/13/2009

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I would agree with Tara; I think that often children who aren't raised with a clear religious identity wind up not identifying with either religion and feel like they don't belong in either faith.  You're Jewish, therefore halachichly your son is Jewish.  I'm a convert and we celebrate Christmas with my parents but it's at THEIR house and those are THEIR traditions - there's a clear distinction between what they do and what we do.  I don't know if you've read Anita Dimant's books (ex: How to be a Jewish Parent: A Handbook for Family Life) but she has some great information about balancing life in an inter-faith family.



Good luck!

Jennifer - posted on 01/07/2009

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My husband is Methodist, and I try to reinforce that while we do things one way, Daddy (and his family) do things a different way, but that both are acceptable. I buy my kids age appropriate books for each Jewish holiday and try to incorporate little traditions for each. It is definitely hard. My mom signed up my kids for the PJ Library, which sends a book or CD each month, and I find that it keeps my kids interested in their Jewish faith and traditions. I agree, I like the family-togetherness of Christmas with my inlaws, but I get uncomfortable with some of the overbearing nature of the Christmas season. If they are open to it, find ways to involve his family in some of your Jewish traditions and introduce them to the holidays and why you celebrate them the way you do. Your child will pick up on your love for the traditions as well. Hope this helps.

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