Saturday, November 21, 2009

NaBloPoMo 21--Your questions answered!

At least a couple of them (I'm saving more for later--promise the rest won't be this long!):

Courtney asked: "You receive a million dollars to be spent exclusively on travel. How do you spend it?"

Courtney, did I tell you of my love of travel? If I had piles of money, that's what I'd do. Rarely does much time go by before I'm telling Jason of some other place I'd like us to go sometime. Oh travel, how I love thee...which is actually a little odd, because having a happy and comfortable home is so important to me.

A million dollars to spend on travel? I'd take my family, of course. We'd do a world tour. I've never been to South America, Australia, or Asia, so those are the places we'd go first. I'd love to see the Andes, the outback, the Great Barrier Reef, the beautiful and gorgeous areas all over Asia. Then, when we'd had our fill of all of those places, we'd go back to Africa. Of course to Ethiopia, and spend as much time as possible touring and learning the country, but there's so much more that I'd like to see there. It's such a huge continent with so many incredible countries...there are just infinite possibilities. If there were anything left, my next destination would probably be eastern Europe. Architecture isn't normally my thing but the photos I've seen of places in Hungary and Turkey are simply breathtaking. I've never been to Alaska and would certainly want to go there, as well as the Pacific Northwest.

There are so many choices! I'd love to hear where other people want to go also.

Stephanie asked: "Can you share how you are raising the boys as it pertains to both religions. I'm stumped which is why we've done nothing yet."

We actually agreed to raise our children Jewish before we got married, shortly after getting engaged. My parents have an interfaith marriage also, in which my mom is Jewish and my dad is Catholic, so I had the experience of being raised in a home with multiple religions. I also knew that it's really not possible to raise a child in both a Jewish and Christian religion at the same time--there's no way to get through the "Jesus is your personal lord and savior" issue if the other side is telling you that the Messiah hasn't come yet. My siblings and I are Jewish. We weren't raised in both religions. We didn't go to church except for special occasions (sibling baptisms and confirmations, and the rare Christmas Eve when my parents would let us to go midnight mass. I think I went twice.). We went to synagogue and Hebrew school and Sunday school and had Bat/Bar Mitzvahs. And we understood that the Christmas tree and stockings were to help Daddy celebrate his holiday, not ours. (OK, we eventually understood--as little kids, it was just another great excuse for more presents.)

In college, I participated in the Jewish student organization but wasn't really sure what role I wanted it to play in my life. Nevertheless, when Jason proposed, we had a discussion about what religion to raise our children, and I told him I wouldn't marry him until we figured it out.

Jason was also raised in an interfaith house, but both were Christian religions. He was raised going to both churches and at age 18 chose to be a Mormon. He had figured that we would do the same thing--raise the children going to both Jewish and Mormon services, then letting them choose when they were old enough.

From the start, despite the fact that I was still not sure about the role Judaism would have in my life, I still wanted them raised Jewish. One of my points was this: I didn't know how children would reconcile the LDS idea that people who are not Mormons cannot attain the highest level of heaven with the idea that Mama is a good person and why wouldn't she be there? I told Jason that I had no objection to bringing the children to LDS services sometimes, but that I still wanted them to be raised Jewish. I pointed out that they would be Jewish simply by the fact that I am Jewish. I pointed out that they would need to be Bar/Bat Mitzvahed at 12 or 13 and that waiting until 18 to choose wasn't a good option if they wanted to be Jewish.

It ended up coming down to what I said at one point: What child would give Judaism a fair shot when it involves Hebrew school twice a week, synagogue on Saturdays, and Sunday school on Sundays? They would look at their friends in the church who go to church and Sunday school one day a week, and there would be no way to give the two religions equal access. That a child is not going to look at what is right for them spiritually, they're going to look at which one gives them more time to play after school.

We agreed to raise them Jewish, but I said that we would still take them to Jason's church sometimes. Then I went with him once. The elders knew I was there and that I was Jewish. And at one point, the person preaching said something very much to the effect of "And let us help the Jews realize that they're wrong and find the right way." Let's just say I haven't been back since.

The elders who've come to our house for home visits have always been extremely respectful of the fact that the kids and I are Jewish, never once trying to preach to us or anything. Still, it did make things difficult for Jason in the church since those who are LDS are all about family--and Jason's family wasn't there with him because they're Jewish and have no intention of converting. He hasn't actually been to a service in years. He tends to keep his spirituality more private but I do think he misses having a church.

Thankfully, our Conservative synagogue is very welcoming to us as an interfaith and transracial family. Many interfaith families attend Reformed synagogues but I was raised in a Conservative synagogue and never felt comfortable in a Reformed service--I like Hebrew and hearing the traditional services. Our rabbi has met Jason several times and always been just as pleasant to him as to anyone else. Jason comes to help everytime we lead the Tot Shabbat services, so he's there a couple of times a year; the kids and I go most weekends (though we've slacked lately). Patrick attended the JCC daycare for 2 years and while we won't send Melkamu, for several reasons, he enjoyed learning more about Judaism and the Torah and everything.

Judaism became more important to me as I thought more about what was right for me spiritually. I love our synagogue's diversity and accessibility. We do not keep Kosher as a family but do incorporate other important aspects. Our family tries to do Shabbat dinner at our house often, with candles in holders from Ethiopia, grape juice in the Kiddush cup I got for my Bat Mitzvah, and a beautiful challah cover made by Ethiopian-Jewish women that my mom found for us. The kids say Shema as part of their bedtime prayers every night. Patrick goes to Sunday school and Kamu will start in 2 years. We still have a Christmas tree (when we're home, anyway), the kids have stockings, and we do a little Easter egg hunt each year...even though the eggs often have to be filled with Kosher-for-Passover chocolates. The kids are always reminded that we do these to help Daddy celebrate his holidays. Melkamu will be formally converted to Judaism with the other children that we adopt. It will be a Conservative conversion, not Orthodox or Reformed. He's been raised Jewish since he came home and even with an occasional Christmas tree around, the kids have no doubts in their minds that they're Jewish.

Anyway, that was an exceptionally long-winded explanation about how we decided to raise the kids with regards to religion. (Yikes. I wonder how long it will take for this post to publish.)


Jess said...

Thanks, I really enjoyed this!!

Rachel L. said...

Wonderful post, you are such a good writer