A Rabbi and a Minister…

My rabbi often expounds on “radical amazement,” a concept that his teacher, philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel, used to describe our response to creation. Me, personally, I am radically amazed that I have a rabbi. And I am equally, if not even more radically amazed that I have a pastor. We are living in strange and wondrous times, when a person, an interfaith person, can have both.

Here’s how it works. Rabbi Harold White and minister Julia Jarvis lead the Interfaith Families Project in song, prayer and reflection twice each month. That means sometimes the rabbi will give a reflection about Lent, and the minister will give a reflection on Sukkoth. It sounds meshugenah but this cross-fertilization leads to dazzling insights. And for those of us who are interfaith children, it leads to profound opportunities to feel like an integrated whole, rather than a half-something.

I never thought I would have a rabbi again. I had reconciled myself to a life of exile from organized Judaism, and I assumed that meant exile from the likes of Rabbi White, who combines warmth and crinkly smile lines with deep wisdom and erudition. My exile began, like that of many other intermarried Jews, the day my father went to our family rabbi and asked if he would officiate at my marriage to a lapsed Episcopalian. The answer my father brought back was, “He says he can’t touch it.” Later, I learned that many synagogue Boards forbid their rabbis to perform interfaith marriages as a condition of employment. This may help to explain why I have returned to a rabbi, but not to a synagogue.

I never dreamed I would have a minister, nor did I pine for one, since I never had one growing up as a Reform Jew. But it turns out that everyone can benefit from a minister. Clergy of all stripes actually know this—they often benefit from spiritual direction from different faith traditions. Julia Jarvis is a gifted empath who has given me personal support, and creative dedication to the task of raising healthy interfaith children in our community. She has given me the courage as a Jew to accept the help of a pastor. It may seem radical. But it is also amazing.

5 Replies to “A Rabbi and a Minister…”

  1. Sue, I just read a review of a new book by Kevin J. Madigan and Jon D. Levenson called “Resurrection: The Power of God for Christians and Jews” (Yale – see http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/reviews.asp?isbn=9780300122770) in the TLS of 2/20/09. The reviewer, John Barton, describes how the authors demolish many of the stereotypes about the differences between the two faiths. The historical background looks very interesting – not surprising from professors of Christian and Jewish history, respectively, from Harvard. I just ordered the book from Amazon, but you might want to check out the review if you can get a copy at a library (can’t find online without paying!).

  2. Dear Susan,
    I loved your article on “being both.” Nice title.

    It is an amazing time in which we live. We’re rewriting history, a new sociology, and it’s time for a new theology too, right?

    I’m so glad we are blog-buddies now. When I get a chance, I shall read more. It all looks fascinating: So, why aren’t you a Unitarian?

  3. It is interesting, although I personally can’t relate to Christianity and have no interest in it. Unfortunately, the Jewish community is not very welcoming to half-Jewish people, including those of matrilineal descent (no matter what they say they believe.) I grew up in a vaguely Unitarian Universalist household. I like the idea but not the experience of the UU church. My solution to being “half-Jewish” is to create my own niche.

    –Sara @ The Holy Halfbreed

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