I remember the day my now husband and I made “the deal”. He was the first non-Jew I ever dated… and also so clearly the love of my life. While I couldn’t envision asking him to give up his religious beliefs and traditions, I also wasn’t willing to give up mine or compromise on raising my future children with Jewish religious beliefs and traditions. And so we agreed, well before we ever got engaged, that he would fully participate in raising any children we may have as Jews and I would not ask him to convert or move to my hometown of Philadelphia.
This arrangement worked out just fine for years. Eventually we moved to my husband’s hometown of Boston and had two bright, spirited, musical and affectionate kids. We settled in the MetroWest suburbs, participated in lots of activities at the local JCC and ended up with a bunch of Jewish friends, as is easy to do in MetroWest Boston.
But then we moved 45 minutes north to the Merrimack Valley, where Jewish culture is less pervasive, just when our eldest (now age 5) was starting to understand the concept of religion, tradition and self-identity. Suddenly it wasn’t so easy for our daughter to say “I’m Jewish, just like most of my friends.” Now we really had to think about what it meant to be Jewish when not everyone around us shared our same heritage (or at least a strong familiarity with it). And I, who had bargained for the ability to raise my children Jewish, had to figure out what it really meant to do just that.
Enter Parenting Through a Jewish Lens. I learned of the program while attending a family High Holiday service at Temple Emanuel in Andover. I hoped PTJL would provide the foundation that my husband and I needed to establish a Jewish household while honoring both our interfaith marriage and raising children who understood and embraced their Jewish heritage.
Being in the class led by our PTJL instructor – the warm, thoughtful, engaging and all-around phenomenal Rabbi Audrey Marcus Berkman — more than gave us the foundation we sought. Moreover, the discussions helped me to re-engage with Judaism in a way I hadn’t done since my own childhood and to recognize that so much of my approach to parenting and to life more broadly is rooted in my Jewish upbringing. The PTJL discussions have also helped my husband understand and relate to Judaism in a way that I alone could never have done. And they have guided us to identify Jewish teachings and perspectives that are meaningful to our family and which we want to instill in our children.
We have found a welcoming community of parents grappling with all the same questions. And, thanks to the useful suggestions of the PTJL curriculum and Rabbi Audrey, we have adopted certain ways of handling common parenting conundrums and instituted specific practices that weave Jewish thought and teachings into our everyday lives. One of those practices is that of regularly expressing gratitude for the blessings in our life. And, like so many other participants, I count PTJL as one of those blessings.