Forward Thinking

'Why Isn't Mommy Jewish?': When Christian Moms Raise Jewish Kids

By J.J. Goldberg

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JTA has a fascinating story by their intrepid Sue Fishkoff about non-Jewish spouses (read wives) in interfaith marriages who are raising their kids as Jewish

The story doesn’t get into the interdenominational and Israel-Diaspora politics of the issue, for a change. It’s about the part that the politicians and scholars too often overlook: real, live families living the experience on the ground. After all, they’re the ones who will ultimately determine the future of the Jewish people.

A growing number of non-Jewish parents in America who have no plans to convert are raising Jewish children, marrying Jewish spouses, building Jewish homes and playing active roles in the Jewish community. But without plans to join the faith officially, their place in the Jewish community can be a bit complicated

You might think all the complications come from the community’s deeply mixed feelings on the issue. Some of the families interviewed have their own issues, though.

The Rev. Eleanor Harrison Bregman accompanies her children and Jewish husband to synagogue on Saturday, then goes to church the next day on her own. …

She grew up Episcopalian in Savannah, Ga., and says she had “a pretty literalist view of the Bible” when she hit Princeton University. Bregman and her future husband, Peter, struggled with the faith issue. He wanted her to convert, so they took introductory Judaism classes and joined a Jewish text study group.

They married in 1999, and their three children received Orthodox conversions. All are now studying in Jewish schools. Meanwhile, Bregman delved further into her own faith and was ordained as a United Church of Christ minister in 2009. …

Bregman says she doesn’t feel out of place at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, a popular nondenominational synagogue they attend as a family in Manhattan. But when she attend church alone on Sundays, her oldest asks why.


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