We have an interfaith family. Ross is Jewish and I grew up Christian as a P.K. (preacher’s kid). We fell truly madly deeply in love and got married anyway in a gorgeous interfaith ceremony that I am sure not everyone enjoyed as much as we did. The ceremony was not in a church or a temple. It was full of faith and love and respect. It was perfect for us.
We have not completely figured out exactly how we are raising our kids although we get asked all the time. Yes, we have a lot of conversations about faith and religion. Yes, like with many parenting choices, we are taking things day by day and trying to be the best parents we can be. No, we are not sure we are going to do it all right. But we will try.
It turns out most pre-schools are at churches or temples (at least anywhere near us) so we had to step up our day to day plans a little bit to deal with the kids being exposed to religion by people other than us in a religious setting.
The kids go to pre-school at a church and as the school year begins again I find myself thinking about our family and our faith. We found out last year that many people know next to nothing about Judaism and this made us feel vulnerable. What would the teacher say if Sophia asked a religious question? Were we losing all control at 3 years old? How would we make her comfortable with who she is and how would we even know if it affected her?
Kids get asked questions about what being Jewish is and we decided to provide our kids with simple answers that would help them feel comfortable and help their teachers understand what Judaism is – at least what Judaism is to a pre-schooler.
During the holiday season, we spoke to her teachers about Hanukkah and Sophia came with me to talk to them about how she was saying the blessings and lighting the candles each night. As Hanukkah marks the re-dedication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem after it was destroyed by the King of Syria and commemorates the Miracle of the Oil, there is nothing about the holiday that is problematic for Christians and so I felt it was wonderful to share this part of our family’s faith. This year she will bring a Menorah to show what it looks like and maybe even say something about why we have one. The kids talked about Jesus being born and what was said was simple and straightforward. We were okay through Christmas. We talked about the different holidays and celebrations and made it through without a scratch.
Easter is the holiday that is the absolute hardest for an interfaith family, and I would expect for Jewish families with children almost anywhere other than at the temple. Easter is about Jesus and the miracle of his resurrection and at this point discussions about the divinity of Jesus and the expectations of Messiah and the idea of the Trinity come to mind and go far above the minds of a pre-schooler. In fact, many adults struggle to talk about this subject with people of differing faiths. I am not debating theology here, but simply stating the obvious – this is a tough interfaith subject.
Every week in school the kids work on a new letter and bring something to Show and Share that starts with that letter. As it turns out the letter Y fell right around Easter. I was a little nervous about what we were going to say to Sophia and about what they were going to teach and do in her class. Actually, I was really nervous. I wanted to voice my concerns without offending anyone or seeming like the dim wit who didn’t get that I sent my kid to a church for pre-school. I did it with a letter.
Besides a Yo-Yo I could not think of many things that were portable beginning with Y. Then Sophia walked by wearing a Yarmulke from our wedding and I remembered how beautiful – absolutely beautiful – the Jewish faith is. We talked about the Yarmulke and I knew that I could express the importance of Judaism in our lives by allowing her to take that to school for her show and share. The Yarmulke is not one of the most important parts of Judaism but is certainly one of the most recognizable. Wearing a head covering is a sign of respect in Eastern cultures and wearing a Yarmulke shows respect for G-d. It is also worn as a reminder that G-d is always above you. For a 3 year old, this was a concept that is easy to grasp and for a Christian teacher, this showed some of Sophia’s life in an interfaith family and is simply a beautiful thought.
Sophia was proud to bring her Yarmulke to school and I, as a Christian mother, was proud to see her with no fear when she presented her Jewish faith to her class. We were also okay with the simple Easter story the school used and talked about it at home but at 3 – she did not really have any questions.
I know things will get harder but I am determined to teach my kids about our faiths and other faiths around the world so that they feel embraced by the many different people in the world and not embarrassed that they are different.
We are starting with simple things like learning how different people celebrate and how they dress and slowly but surely we are talking about what people believe. It is scary but exciting as well.
I am muddling through my thoughts on this every day and in this post and to be honest probably muddling through the parenting as well but I am trying my best.
Whether you are interfaith or one faith or no faith at all – how do you teach your kids about the world and the beliefs in it? How do you approach faith in general? Did you come to conclusions about the faith of your kids before you had them? Did they change once you had them? Let’s talk!
I have so many questions and would love to share ideas and opinions (respectful opinions) as we begin this journey in faith education.