“So what Are You? Jewish or Christian?”
Recently, my teenage daughter experienced a formative moment: someone expressed negative feelings about her Jewishness. Frankly, I was thrilled. The fact that she has faced a moment common to all of us with Jewish identity means my plan to raise my children with strong connections to both Judaism and Christianity is working.
My children, with only one Jewish grandparent, could have passed as Christians. But that was not our family strategy. Our intention was to make them equally proud, equally knowledgeable, about both family religions, so that when this formative moment arrived, they would stand up as Jews, and feel the bracing sting of being outsiders, rather than duck and pass.
I am quick to identify myself as Jewish, particularly to Christians and Muslims, when I sense an opportunity to further the cause of interfaith dialogue, or to dispel prejudice or misunderstanding.
Ironically, with fellow Jews I am more likely to identify myself as an interfaith child. This is a defense mechanism (many wouldn’t consider me Jewish anyway because I’m a patrilineal “half-Jew“). But it is also another part of my mission to educate: I want my fellow Jews to try to understand bothness, interfaithness, the extent to which multicultural people cannot be described in binary terms. And I want them to understand that, although I don’t describe myself as a flat-out Christian for theological reasons (I do not believe Jesus was the messiah), I feel my interfaith status gives me permission to explore all that is inspiring and profound in Christianity.
I am Jewish. I am an interfaith child. I am both. And I claim the right to bodysurf these waves of fluid identity as the spirit moves me. I stand bobbing in the ocean, lifting gently off the sand for small waves, throwing my body ahead of the larger ones, catching exhilirating rides. I am not intimidated by the power of religious tides and spiritual currents. I am in my element, and the water is fine.