Love and Religion

Interfaith Consultation for Jews and their Families

One Couple, Two Faiths, Endless Flavor

Plantain latkes at Chanukah. Arroz y habichuelas (rice and beans) on the Rosh Hashanah table next to Big Mama Tillie’s roast brisket. Flan de queso crema (cream cheese custard) for Shavuot. While those might be run-of-the-mill Jewish holiday dishes in some parts of the world, it was completely unheard of in my Ashkenazi upbringing in Silver Spring, Maryland. Of course, that is before I met Luis. Seventeen years ago, I dragged myself off of my sofa in my apartment on Capitol Hill to go to a party in Ballston. Why? Because a friend told me that a cute Jewish guy was going to be there. I met the Jewish guy. Eh, he wasn’t for me. But the person who really impressed me was his roommate, Luis, a Puerto Rican man who spoke with kindness and humor in heavily accented English. We started dating with few expectations about where the relationship would go, though after a few months, it became clear that this was It. However, Luis wasn’t Jewish, and I wouldn’t ask him to convert. What would this mean for my Jewish identity—and the eventual children I hoped to have and raise as Conservative Jews? Dr. Marion Usher’s new book, […] Read More >

“One Couple, Two Faiths” Book Tour

One Couple, Two Faiths hits the road! Save the date for the following events. We hope to see you! Friday, July 27, 2018 at 6pm: Shabbat Services and Dinner Mad River Jewish Community, The Bridges, Warren, VT Weekend of November 2, 2018: Temple B’nai Israel, 7199 Tristan Drive, Easton, MD Sunday, November 18, 2018: Author Presentation on Parent Education, Temple Beth Israel, Skokie, IL Winter 2019: Hadassah, Neshama Chapter, Besthesda, MD Thursday, March 25, 2019: Charleston Jewish Community Without Walls, Charleston, SC Read More >

Pecan Pie

In 1977, for my first Thanksgiving in the U.S., I served sour coleslaw, baked beans with hot dogs,  Montreal’s famous smoked turkey and a pecan pie. The pie recipe was from my days in Canada and used maple syrup, a Quebec favorite. I really missed the mark with everything that day except this pie that I still make every Thanksgiving. 3 eggs 2/3 cup sugar ½ teaspoon salt 1/3 cup butter, melted ½ cup corn syrup ½ cup maple syrup 1 cup pecan halves 1 9-inch pie shell, unbaked Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat eggs, sugar, salt, butter, corn syrup, and maple syrup together. Put pecans evenly in bottom of pie shell and pour in syrupy mixture. Bake until filling is set and pastry is browned, about 50 minutes. Cool before serving. 10–12 servings Read More >
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CityJews PopUp Shabbat

On May 29, 2015, seventy people—families, couples, young children and babies—all gathered together to celebrate Shabbat. Who are these people and why is this unique? These are “City Jews” who have made a commitment to live in the city, even in parts of the city where none of us veteran Washingtonians would have dared to go five years ago. Did I say five years—how about two years ago? They are committed to city life and urban living including public school education for their children. Many work in the social justice world and want to actively participate in making the world a better place. At 6 pm, the first people begin to arrive. A few kinks had to be resolved, such as getting the people into the locked building! The crowd assembled, and the excitement in the room was electric with children running up and down the halls, parents chatting with each other, and introductions being made. This is exactly the buzz we were hoping for. Some people knew each other; some recognized their neighbors; some didn’t know anyone; and others came out of pure curiosity. But they were all there to have Shabbat dinner with a community of likeminded people. […] Read More >
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Make Room for Latkes, or who says there are no young Jewish families in the city?

When multiple agencies come together to develop a program, wonderful things can happen. On Sunday, over 30 families, many of them interfaith, came together at the DCJCC to celebrate Hanukah. They made dreidels, applesauce, and aromatic sachets for hospice patients. They learned about tzedakah (charity), sang songs, and ate latkes and donuts. It was crowded; the parents chatted up a storm with each other, there was a fabulous vibe, and everyone had a great time. Five stakeholders sponsored the event. With 100 people in attendance, we had double last year’s numbers. Most families live in the area close to the DCJCC. Two families were from Virginia. A few were from Maryland. Many of the children attended, or are presently attending, the preschool program. Others are using the “Jewish content” after-school program and love it. Others send their children to the “Yom Rishon” classes on Sundays. All of these families have Judaism in their lives and were thrilled to be at this Hanukah celebration. I was impressed by the desire for these parents to transmit Judaism to their children. As I walked around the classrooms and listened to their conversations, many told stories to their children describing how they had celebrated […] Read More >
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Thurza’s Baby Naming

I think one of the most joyful celebrations in Jewish life is the naming of a little Jewish girl. There is no pain, only sweetness and love. Let’s start from the beginning. Thurza’s father, Josh, is my husband’s first cousin, once removed, or another way of saying this is that Josh’s father John and my husband Michael are first cousins. This is my mother-in-law’s side of the family who are fifth-generation Milwaukee American Jews. They prided themselves on minimal ritual practice and maximum identity as assimilated Jews. Somehow, our home in Washington, DC, became the gathering place for many of these cousins. How lucky are we?! Another cousin, who moved to Washington decades ago, and whose husband is of another faith, has given her children both a strong Jewish identity, a full Hebrew education, and Bar and Bat mitzvahs, and they have joined us in celebrating all the Jewish holidays. She raised her children as practicing Jews with great intentionality. Back to Josh, his wife Gugu, and baby Thurza. As you can see from this narrative, when Josh, who was raised in an interfaith family with Jewish identity and little ritual, and Gugu arrived in Washington, it was only natural […] Read More >

Honoring Christmas as an Interfaith Family

This year the Jewish holiday season is unique. Chanukah and Thanksgiving fell together and we celebrated Thanksgiving on the second night of Chanukah. How did you honor both these wonderful holidays? For me, it conjured up all my culinary creativity. Should I make only sweet potato latkes? What about a sweet potato kugel? Brisket will really not do for Thanksgiving. My son suggested a turkey with 7 extra legs attached so we could have a turkey menorah! Oh, the possibilities! It turned out to be a very special night that my family will remember for the rest of our lives. It is usually Christmas and Chanukah that fall together resulting in a multitude of problems for interfaith families to work through. This comes up regularly in workshop, “Love and Religion: An Interfaith Workshop for Jews and Their Partners.” The couples worry about offending their parents, they are concerned what impact this will have on their children, and they express feelings of loss around the holiday season. There are many possible solutions to this dilemma, and each couple has to work out what is best for them. One solution often used by interfaith couples that have decided to raise Jewish children, […] Read More >
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Happy Thanksgivukkah…Recipes Pt. 3

It seemed fitting that the final recipe in my Thanksgivukkah installment be a dessert. I hope you enjoy my pecan pie, and have a very happy Thanksgivukkah! Marion’s Pecan Pie:  3 eggs 2/3 cup sugar ½ tsp salt 1/3 cup better, melted ½ cup corn syrup ½ cup maple syrup 1 cup pecan halves 9 inch unbaked pie shell Heat oven to 350 degrees Combine and beat eggs, sugar, salt, butter, corn syrup, and maple syrup. Place the pecans in the bottom of an unbaked pie shell and pour the syrupy mixture over them. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until filling is set and pastry is browned. Let cool and enjoy! Read More >
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I’ve Become Obsessed…

It’s true. I’ve become obsessed with the Pew Research Center’s study on American Jews. For the past month, I have tried to read as many of the responses as I can. Everyone is getting into the game, including me! There are those who have been ringing their hands in worry, while others are saying it is a wake-up call (as if those in the field are not aware of the declining rate of Jews who are religiously affiliated.) Then there are those that have taken the study and have directly refuted the data, and an even more important group, are those that are sharing their narratives describing a multitude of other ways that people can express their Jewish identification. I fall into this category, as a responder who realizes that the Jewish community demographically and religiously looks different than it did 50 or even 20 years ago. Yes, the Jewish community might not be as religious as it was. But, Jews are expressing their identification through different and exciting avenues. Six and a half million Jews in America, up from six million a decade ago, sounds like good news to me! My response, “Religion is Only One Way to Identify […] Read More >
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PRESENT TENSE: A successful way to enrich Jewish identity and attachment to the Jewish community

Sometimes you go to an event really not knowing what to expect but then you have an experience that is not at all what you anticipated. In fact, it turns out to be something different; actually the event turns out to be a totally incredible experience and you are beyond thrilled that you decided to go in the first place. Read More >