Love and Religion

Interfaith Consultation for Jews and their Families

New Workshop! Interfaith Families: Creating New Traditions

I am excited to announce that I will be running a new workshop at Adas Israel in December 2014, “Interfaith Families: Creating New Traditions.” This workshop will be three sessions, and each session will feature discussion topics that are relevant to interfaith families. Topics will include: Gains and Losses: In every interfaith family, whether the person of another faith converts or not, there are feelings of loss related to one’s family of origin. You are raising your children different from them. On the other hand, there are gains. You are being welcomed into a new community, your spouse is appreciative for what you are doing for him or her and the children, and you are helping to bring more Jews into the world. You are carrying out one of the basic principles of Judaism, a mitzvah, and a good deed!  Awkward Situations: What do you do when you have a question and don’t know the answer? What do you do when you feel uncomfortable in a situation? e.g. you are the person of another faith and your father-in-law hands you a Tallit and suggests you might want to wear it the next time you are in synagogue.  Core values and beliefs: Why are we raising […] Read More >
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Engaging Interfaith Couples Through the Arts

Engaging Interfaith Couples Through the Arts

On February 18th and 19th, Love and Religion, Theater J, Adas Israel Congregation’s Beit Midrash, the JCC of Northern Virginia, and the Washington DC JCC co-sponsored a reading of the play “Love, Faith and Other Dirty Words,” written by Kent Stephens. The play is about interfaith couples and the critical issues they face as they construct a religious life together. The purpose of the production was to reach out to interfaith couples through the performing arts, and for me, it was a monumental evening! It was the first time such an event was undertaken in our community and five groups worked together to make it happen. We also collaborated with the New Center Now of Boston, whose mission is to have this important play read in cities all over the country–Washington D.C. was the play’s first stop out of Boston! While I had read the play through a few times, I was unprepared for my intense involvement with the actors as they took on these roles. The content of the play emerged from the playwrights’ discussions with interfaith couples in various combinations of religions including: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu. The potential of this play for dialogue amongst people of many faiths is enormous. We held “talk-backs” after […] Read More >
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“Being Jewish on Valentines Day”

As some of you might remember, last year, the Washington Post’s On Faith column published some of my thoughts on the origins and history of Valentines Day. I have included a snippet of the article below, I hope you all enjoy! Here in the United States even the name of the holiday has been changed from religious to secular. No one even thinks about the religious origins of the holiday. There were in fact three St. Valentines. While all three were martyred, the patron saint of the day was indeed a benevolent soul. During the third century when Claudius III, ruler of the Roman Empire, realized that unmarried young men made better soldiers, he forbade them to marry. It is Valentine who took the risk and performed the marriages clandestinely.  He was celebrated for his acts of bravery and made a saint. The romantic aspect came much later at the end of the fifth century. The oldest valentine still in existence was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt.   Click here to read the whole article, and […] Read More >
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Video: Interfaith At Adas Israel – John Donvan’s Story

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Video: Adas Israel Welcomes Interfaith Families

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An evening of Storytelling About Interfaith Families and Their Jewish Journeys: Recap

A little known fact about Adas Israel Congregation, is that we have over 90 families in our conservative congregation who identify as interfaith. It is part of Adas Israel’s mission to integrate this group into the many facets of synagogue life, and so on December 15th Adas Israel hosted its first storytelling event that focused on interfaith families. Ten people volunteered, okay, were persuaded, to present their narratives. Each of these couples was, at one time, composed of a Jewish partner and a partner of another faith. Some have become Jews-by-choice, and some have not converted, but all are raising their children Jewish. Nine of the couples had participated in my “Love and Religion” Workshop, and one couple was in the very first session I ran 19 years ago! Each person had 5 minutes to present his or her story, and what incredible stories they were! The themes ranged from “forbidden fruit” to how “conversions can make many generations of Jews” to “what do you get when you mix an Irish Catholic with an Israeli Jew.” The audience laughed and sighed–some stories were sad, some were happy, some focused on issues still out there to be addressed, and some talked about […] Read More >
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Malbec and Midrash: Developing New Traditions and Creating Memories

It always pays to do someone a favor. While the benefits are obvious, the gifts we receive can be totally unexpected. About a month ago, I received a phone call from a wonderful young woman who had been a participant in my “Love and Religion” workshop many years ago. She had a favor to ask of me. She belongs to a Jewish women’s discussion group, and the Rabbi who leads the group was going to be out of town. Could I please lead the group in her stead? While I was flattered, I am certainly not equipped to lead a biblical text study. She sweetened the pot when she added, “You can talk on whatever topic you want.” This was irresistible! As she described the goals for the group, I began to formulate what I wanted to discuss with them. Since we were meeting before Thanksgivakkah I knew the holidays would be one of the themes we would address. I also wanted to know if there were any interfaith families within the group and she said there were a few. When this group meets, they start with wine and cheese–what a civilized ritual after a long day of work and […] Read More >
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My Tips for an Interfaith Thanksgivukkah

This year, Thanksgiving falls on the second night of Hanukkah, this is the first time this has happened, and it won’t happen again for another 79,000 years! This can certainly make life a bit complicated since Jews will want to celebrate both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. My solution to is to marry your Hanukkah and Thanksgiving traditions together, just as you do in an interfaith relationship! Here is a real world situation that involves the need to marry together traditions, just as we all must do this year with the timing of Thanksgiving, and Hanukkah: Say you are in your second marriage, and you are your spouse are an interfaith couple. You have decided to raise the children you have together children Jewish, but you have a child from your first marriage who is of a different faith that will be celebrating Thanksgivukkah with you. Thanksgiving is the easy part, but how do you approach Hanukkah as a family with children who practice different religions. Here is how I would manage this situation. First, you and your spouse should first call whoever you are celebrating the holiday with and discuss the situation with them. Talk about how they can make your […] Read More >
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Creating New Traditions: A Canadian Learns about American Thanksgiving

Every Thanksgiving, my parents fly from Montreal, Quebec to Washington DC to celebrate Thanksgiving with me and my family. One Thanksgiving in particular stands out in my mind, it was 1977, and one of my very first “American Thanksgivings.” We never celebrated Thanksgiving in Montreal. As observant Jews, my parents thought it was a great time of the year to go to New York, visit our relatives, go to the theatre, and have a great vacation. Since I never celebrated Thanksgiving growing up, I had no Thanksgiving memories to rely on when it came time for me to host the holiday. Everyone was obsessing over where they were getting their turkey, how they were going to prepare it, and what other dishes they were serving and I was at a loss. Okay, I understood that I had to serve turkey, but that was it! My father and I cooked up an idea that would combine our Canadian heritage, while also embracing the American holiday.  My father knew how much I loved smoked turkey, a Montreal delicacy, so we decided that he would bring one with him when my parents came for Thanksgiving. To go with our meal I made sour […] Read More >
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Welcoming Interfaith Families

Come and learn about the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington's commitment to Interfaith Families. The agenda is exciting, the presenters have important things to say and you can participate in the dialogue. Looking forward to seeing you there! Read More >
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