After we got engaged and heard an ongoing chorus of well wishes and congratulations, the first question came—then another and another, always from different people, typically those we had never expected. It was shocking. After all, the way we planned to raise our interfaith children, who didn’t even exist yet, was none of their business. But questions are inevitable when you have an interfaith family.
My husband was raised Jewish and I was brought up in a Catholic home, but to be perfectly honest, neither of us is very religious. We respect the traditions, celebrate the holidays, but that’s about where it stops. Both of us are more comfortable living our lives in a way that shows compassion and respect for all people instead of sticking to a religious doctrine, one of the main reasons we fell in love with each other in the first place. And those are the values we try to model and instill in our young boys—ideals that almost every religion celebrates and encourages.
It is easy to make these statements, but much harder to put them into action. So here are some tips we found that foster the growth and development of our interfaith family.
Listen to each other. As in all marriages, communication is key. When there is a complex situation, such as blending two religions, there are many different viewpoints to acknowledge and address. Don’t be afraid to express how passionate you are about something, whether it is decorating a Christmas tree, attending Passover Seder or baptizing a child.
Compromise. This is important for any family situation, especially when dealing with faith, which tends to be a highly emotional topic. We had a few instances of holidays overlapping, such as when Christmas fell during Hanukkah. By compromising, we were able to spend time with both our families, not choosing one over the other.
Do what’s right for your family. Attending weekly religious services isn’t a priority for us. And that’s OK. Having a library filled with different children’s books that explain various holidays is a priority for us. And that’s OK, too. Just as you use parenting techniques that work best for your family (bottle vs. breast feeding, helicopter vs. free range parenting, etc.), the same is true for celebrating your faiths.
Make your own traditions. Every winter, we set up our Christmas tree next to our menorah. Our Elf on the Shelf plays with our Mensch on the Bench. We love the fact that our family’s traditions are unique and respectful of different religions and are not determined by anyone but us.
We have almost finished our fourth year of parenting, and our little guys know more about both our faiths than we did at their age. To us, that is a huge success. And when they ask us to stop off for matzoh ball soup after a frigid Easter egg hunt? Even better.