The days get shorter, the school year begins, and the Jewish High Holy Days start this week. Are you looking for the joyful company, the wise counsel, the loving support of other interfaith families? In Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family, I chronicle the national grassroots movement to find and form interfaith family communities celebrating both religions, and I describe how the established communities meet the needs of families.
But how do you go about creating a new interfaith family community?
Here I suggest a number of steps and strategies for families who celebrate more than one religion, and want to find like-minded people.
- Join the Network of Interfaith Family Groups on facebook. The Network launched this year to help families across the country find each other, to join in on-line conversation, and ideally form new regional groups. The Network page lists contacts for the following regions: Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Harrisburgh PA, Los Angeles, Louisville, Nashville, central NJ, New Orleans, Raleigh NC, Richmond VA (Christian/Jewish or Christian/Muslim), San Francisco, Seattle, St. Paul MN, western MA, Wheaton IL, and north woods Wisconsin.
- Find other families celebrating both religions in your region, by networking with the clergy who officiated at your interfaith marriage, or who perform such marriages locally. They probably have married other couples who are planning to stay connected to both family religions, and can connect you.
- Start small. Get together with two other young interfaith couples and have a Shabbat or a brunch. Or, get together with two other interfaith families with young children to celebrate a holiday, and inject a little bit of learning for everyone. As the group grows, take a look at the website and engaging programs at the Interfaith Families of Greater Philadelphia, a small group that thrives on volunteer power, and without a lot of infrastructure.
- For long-term inspiration, explore the models at the largest groups in New York, Chicago, and Washington DC. If you happen to be visiting these cities, contact these programs to arrange a visit, and see what it looks like when interfaith children are learning both religions in multiple classrooms with guidance from clergy and/or professional staff.
- If you are struggling to figure out the group model that will work best for your region, or having trouble fitting all the pieces together, I’m now available as an interfaith community coach.
In the fall, the abundant Jewish holidays provide inspiration to create multi-sensory experiences for young children. Even if you do not yet have a community where you feel comfortable, engage your children in these traditions. Dip apples in honey for a sweet new year. Walk to a creek or river or sea, and drop in bread crumbs or sticks or leaves to represent qualities you want to give away, in the Tashlich ritual. Children remember such things.
Susan Katz Miller’s book, Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family is available now in hardcover, paperback and eBook from Beacon Press.