I am Jewish. My first husband, the father of my 2 children, is Catholic. When we were dating, and talking abstractly about the future, I decided that it would be okay for our hypothetical children to be baptized and raised primarily Catholic. I knew that to say otherwise would have been a deal-breaker. And I really wanted to get married, a desire that was later the focus of a few years of therapy.
I grew up in a reform Jewish household. We celebrated all of the major Jewish holidays. I went to a Jewish sleep-away camp and I was bat mitzvahed. But we didn’t go to temple on a weekly or even monthly basis and we didn’t celebrate the arrival of the Sabbath every Friday evening. When I was 14, I was taking classes for my confirmation but the classes conflicted with my softball schedule. At that point, my parents told me that I could choose between the two. So, I chose softball. And that choice has served me well.
My first wedding was performed by a notary, a friend of the family who, with his wife, wrote the most beautiful non-religious ceremony. But both a priest and a rabbi said blessings during the ceremony, and at the dinner after, my grandfather said the hamotzi (blessing over the bread) and caused a minor riot by inviting everyone up to receive a piece of challah. There were almost 200 people there. The whole wedding weekend was a how-to on having a happy interfaith celebration.
So, my first husband and I had our two kids. Both were baptized in the Catholic Church. Both have celebrated their first Holy Communions. And both have decided that they want to pursue their Sunday School studies to prepare for their confirmations. All of this has been done with my blessing but not without some inner, and outer, turmoil. When I got divorced, one would think that all religious bets would have been off. I could join the temple and get my kids to become more Jewish. But they weren’t interested. And honestly, neither was I. I also wanted to support them in what they were already doing. Maybe that’s a lame excuse. I don’t know. I don’t mean to sound flip but it is complicated.
I still celebrate the major Jewish holidays with my children. The eight days of Hanukah, Passover, the High Holy Days. And we usually are lucky to be able do this with my parents. And the kids really enjoy these celebrations. But neither has expressed a desire to pursue any Jewish studies. A year or so ago, my daughter said she was interested in getting Bat Mitzvahed, but balked when she heard that it required learning to read Hebrew and going to religious school a few times a week. She is the one, though, who says that when she is older, she may take Hebrew and she may decide to get Bat Mitzvahed. We’ll see.
In the meantime, my heart burst with pride and joy today when her father picked her up to take her to Sunday School and she came downstairs wearing her favorite t-shirt. It says Manischewitz Gefilte Fish and prominently features two Jewish stars. That’s my 9 year-old fair-skinned, blue-eyed girl for you. I wonder if anybody at church noticed.