Happy, Healthy, and Interfaith
Tips for parents from adults who grew up in interfaith homes.
BY: Robin Margolis
Who would know better how to raise happy, psychologically healthy children of intermarriage than the grown offspring of interfaith relationships? I'm the child of a Jewish-Orthodox mother and an Episcopalian white Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) father. I now teach adult education classes for interfaith couples. Here are some of the comments that adult children of intermarriage have shared with me about errors that their well-meaning parents made. If you can avoid making these mistakes, you will be much more likely to raise a happy, well-integrated child.
1. Please don't raise us as "nothing"
with the idea that we can choose when we grow up. The word "nothing" is devastating to a child, and has really bad effects on an adult's self-esteem. Plus, it guarantees that we won't fit into either the Jewish or Christian communities. If you're not religious, take us to secular Jewish or Christian groups, but don't leave us with no information at all.
2. Please be wary about raising us as a "compromise."
Children are very sensitive to the words that you use. Also, a "compromise" such as Unitarian usually means "Christian." Many "compromises" are historical offshoots of Christianity, and it means we will never be part of the Jewish community, but will become part of the mainstream Christian world. Other compromise routes, such as various forms of Paganism or Eastern religions, will create a Jewish-Christian child with a coating of Paganism or Hinduism. Is this what you want?
3. Be careful if you decide to raise us as "both,"
because many times all we get are superficial smatterings of Judaism and Christianity, but not enough to be comfortable in either culture. And if you do raise us in "both" thoroughly, you need to accept our decision if we pick one faith or culture. Please don't oppose our having a Bar/Bat Mitzvah or Christian confirmation if we say we want one. And please don't lobby us to put off choosing for the rest of our lives.