100 Essays: Interfaith Children, Interfaith Parents, Interfaith Families

I have now posted 100 essays on this blog: essays on interfaith identity, interfaith community, interfaith parenting, interfaith marriage. And yes, these are essays, not just “blogposts.” For 25 years, I wrote for Newsweek, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, New Scientist…and now I write for this blog. So I defend my online work as writing, while also claiming the blogger title.

Early on, I decided to buck the conventional wisdom that blog-readers do not want to read more than a paragraph or two. As much as I like to “drive traffic” to my blog, my primary goal here is to create a body of reflections on interfaith life, and to provide hope and encouragement to interfaith couples who continue to wrestle with distressed relatives, with misinformed or disapproving clergy, with the constant refrain of “you have to choose one.” To explain our complex and controversial approach to “doing both,” to provide detail and humor and depth, requires a longer essay format. So thank you for staying with me, and not clicking away after 200 words. The community connected through this blog continues to grow, and to spread geographically, so I do not think I overestimated your attention span.

While writing these hundred essays, I have witnessed a sort of coming-of-age for the idea of a more fluid and flexible interfaith identity. The election of our biracial President, a man raised in multiple cultures in two countries, exposed to multiple religions, brought widespread public attention to the idea of our shared hybrid future. The high-profile interfaith marriage of Chelsea Cinton marked another great “coming out” moment for interfaith couples. Meanwhile, surveys have been uncovering what many of us in interfaith families have known all along: that people will define their own spirituality, choose the rituals that still have meaning for them, and switch religious affiliations as adults. And, finally, prominent rabbis have begun to speak out about the need to accept the fact that some interfaith families are going to choose to educate their children about both religions, and they have even begun to imply that this might not be the end of the world, or even the end of the Jews.

The idea of a “half-Jewish” identity is now so de rigeur in the Jewish community that even those who are not half-Jewish are trying to ride the wave: I was amazed and amused recently to read the title of a one-man show currently touring Jewish community centers and theater festivals: “Elon Gold: Half Jewish, Half Very Jewish.” Gold was raised Orthodox, went to Jewish day school, keeps Kosher and doesn’t perform on the Sabbath. This comedian is 100% Jewish, almost any way you want to define it. But he’s riffing on the fact that it’s a half-Jewish zeitgeist out there right now. And he’s probably trying to appeal to all the Jews with interfaith marriages in their families, which is just about all of them, as Jewish intermarriage has reached 80% in some cities.

Meanwhile, Krista Tippett, the host of the most influential religion show on public radio, is changing the name of her program from “Speaking of Faith” to “On Being.” I like to think she’s been reading this blog. But the truth is that both of us have been charting the shift away from religious doctrines and institutions, and toward independent spiritual practices and communities. Tippett’s canvas is broad, all-encompassing, wide-ranging, while I continue to try to chart the untold story of one category of star-crossed interfaith lovers, lovers often forced to defy their families, their institutions, their tribal rules.

So far, publishers have had trouble understanding how to market a book on “being both.” They fret, “It doesn’t fit into any of our categories.” The irony, of course, is that not fitting into those little boxes is precisely the topic at hand. At some point, publishers will understand who we are, understand “being both.” Whether or not you are in an interfaith family yourself, all of you who follow this blog understand that if we venture out of our boxes to dance and converse and study together, the world will be a better place.

7 Replies to “100 Essays: Interfaith Children, Interfaith Parents, Interfaith Families”

  1. First of all congratulations on your 100th blog. It is a great achievement and i have both enjoyed reading them and found them very stimulating. I look forward to the next 100. It is interesting to also get a view of an American perspective. The situation in Europe is slightly different. For example I think the idea of someone being “half-Jewish’ is not nearly as well accepted, by either Reform rabbis, or the community at large. Here you are either Jewish and “in”, or not Jewish and “out.” Keep up the good work.

  2. Anna–It is really important to hear from interfaith families from around the world. Keep us updated on the challenges and issues where you live. You point to the fact that the large number of different Jewish movements and independent Jewish communities in America does mean that there is no one institution controlling the definitions of “in” and “out.”

  3. Sue, Congratulations on a wonderful achievement. But more importantly, thank you for helping to direct civil discourse on a topic that is central to what America is becoming in the 21st century. I’m looking forward to the next hundred essays – or dare I say, the next thousand?

  4. Hi Susan,

    Congratulations on your 100th blog! I agree that your writing falls into the category of essays, not just blog posts. That’s why I’m thrilled to have your essay in my anthology of Jewish and non-Jewish women writing on interfaith relationships. I hope you do find a publisher for your work, as I also hope so for the anthology. I believe there is an audience out there for this topic, and you’re doing great pioneering work on your end.

    Good luck!


  5. Thank Diane, I guess a thousand essays would mean ten years. What will the blogosphere look like in ten years? Interesting question.

    Thanks Hila. I am eager to read the other essays you have chosen, and to send my readers out to buy the anthology when it appears!

  6. Congrats on your 100th blog milestone! I read your blog, dare I say “religiously?” and find myself nodding my head and talking back to the computer as I read your thoughts and comments. I leave it up for my husband and kids to read, and you have sparked some great family conversation topics in my house. Keep up the good work!

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