Finding Shabbat When It Feels Like Shabbat is Nowhere to be Found

In a class I teach to engaged and recently married young couples, I talk about the importance of finding time to recharge, refresh and reconnect with one another. We discuss this not in the context of “date night,” but rather in the context of Shabbat. I like to point out that Shabbat is a state […]

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The Religious Identity of an Interfaith Home is a Journey, Not a Destination

Up until recently, I thought the hardest part of navigating life as an interfaith family was determining the religious identity of the home. After all, that’s where 99.9 percent of the angst within the Jewish community lies and therefore, almost 100 percent of the community’s engagement efforts are focused. The idea that many in the […]

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What (I Hope) My Interfaith Marriage Taught My Parents

I’ve been married for 14 years and with my husband who is not Jewish for 16. I’ve always wanted to believe that in that time my mom and stepfather have grown in their willingness to learn about, and be accepting of all kinds of differences introduced into our family through marriages, children and my siblings’ […]

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Should We Pray for Bad People?

Shortly before the inauguration in mid-January, I was contacted by a Chicago Tribune reporter about a story he was working on related to prayer. I worked with him on a Passover-Easter story in the past. This time, he was looking for various faith perspectives on the question: Should we pray for bad people? The idea […]

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When Will Those Who Love Speak Louder Than Those Who Hate?

This morning, the meeting I was in at the synagogue I work at in Dallas was interrupted by one of the rabbis on the clergy team. “I’m sorry I need to miss the meeting. There’s been a bomb threat at the JCC. Last week, 17 JCCs in cities around the country received threats. Today, seven […]

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A Thank-You Note to My Mother-In-Law

My mother-in-law’s email about Christmas gifts for her was simple: “Have composed an extensive ‘Wish List’ on Amazon for those who might be looking for ideas!” When I logged onto her list, I found her typical requests for puzzles and small housewares mixed in with requests for items such as “a picture of the three […]

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Everywhere You Go There’s Always Someone or Something Jewish

A week before Thanksgiving, I stood in the doorway of a building on Skulagata, a street in Reykjavik, Iceland, with my husband and son looking out at the North Atlantic and trying to find shelter from the blustery wind that was making the 30-degree evening feel much colder. We were waiting for our tour guide […]

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The Gift Of An Inclusive and Welcoming Community

I met my friend Tracie at an interfaith moms event at my synagogue. She was friendly, and we bonded over her husband and in-laws being from the same part of New Jersey as me. Tracie immediately got involved and eventually joined the interfaith moms’ leadership team. Tracie was raised Christian but was raising Jewish children […]

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The Tree

This piece is a heartfelt, fictionalized snapshot of one person’s experience. It is not meant to be a judgment about having a Christmas tree. I would love to read about other people’s experiences… Sarah had only been to her dad’s house a couple of times since he married Joanne, and her heart raced as she […]

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My Husband: The Not Jewish, Jewish Parent

The email had arrived a week before I was to travel to Houston to speak to a congregation about intermarriage and creating a Jewish home as an interfaith couple. It said that the following week, instead of regular Sunday school, there would be a program for sixth-grade students and their parents related to b’nai mitzvah […]

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Why Send Your Kid To Jewish Summer Camp? Because It Gets Him To Hebrew School

I recently discovered the secret to motivating my son to go to religious school. I stumbled upon it. Hours after Hebrew school last Tuesday while we were eating dinner, my son spilled the beans. “I had a really bad sinus headache at school this afternoon and felt crummy. I almost went to Nurse Julie to […]

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The Battle of the Bar Mitzvah Guest List

Before I signed the contract for the place where we would have our son’s bar mitzvah, I needed a rough idea of the size of our group so I could let the venue know the number of people we would guarantee. I started a spreadsheet with names of family, friends, and acquaintances: anyone I could […]

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The Bar Mitzvah Brings Out the Big Questions

Our son will become a bar mitzvah in about a year, and I imagine that this will be the first in a series of posts about our family’s interfaith bar mitzvah journey. Since he is our oldest and only child, the bar mitzvah and its planning are new territories. Neither my husband nor I have […]

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Camp: the Shabbat of the Year

Last Friday morning I took my cup of coffee and my smoothie outside to my patio. I sunk into an Adirondack chair with my cup of Joe, breakfast, and the newspaper. It was early. I had finished my workout, my husband was asleep, and my son was at overnight camp. It was just the dog […]

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Ugandans Nurture Jewish Identity at my Son’s Camp

Last week my family hosted some of the international staff from my son’s Jewish camp before they went to camp for training. We have done this for the past four summers and it’s been a wonderful experience. Most of the staffers are Israeli, and we have built lasting relationships with them, giving us the opportunity […]

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The Hardest But Best Job I’ll Ever Have

There are days when my preteen son is angry with me for reasons that neither of us knows. There are days when he’s embarrassed by me because of a comment or action that I’m quite certain no one has seen. There are days when he’s ornery, gloomy, argumentative or grumpy or sometimes all of the […]

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I Never Thought I’d Be That Kind of Parent

As I gazed out the airplane window on our flight between Dallas and Houston, I thought about my parenting choices. Specifically, my decision to allow my son to skip the first night of Passover for a sporting event. I never thought I’d be that kind of parent. Judaism and its continuation were too important to […]

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Bernie Sanders: American Jew, Not the Other Way Around

As my son and I watched coverage of Super Tuesday, I mentioned that regardless of whether or not Bernie Sanders got the Democratic nomination or won any states on this big voting day, he made history as the first Jewish presidential candidate to win a primary. As the results rolled in, I amended my comment, […]

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Charity Begins At Home, Part 2

Last night, my family watched NFL Honors, the National Football League’s awards show that honored players and coaches. Awards such as MVP, Coach of the Year, and Play of the Year were given out. The most prestigious of the honors was the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. Established in 1970, the Man of […]

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Charity Begins at Home

Every day, I open the newspaper or listen to the news, and I am disheartened by what is happening in the world—violence at home and abroad, food shortages, disease, natural disasters, drought and environmental issues. There are days when I just have to tune out because what is good seems to have disappeared. But recently, […]

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Birthdays, Hanukkah and Learning to Let Go

I was supposed to celebrate my birthday, which fell on the seventh night of Hanukkah with my husband Cameron and son Sammy. We were going to light the hanukkiah, exchange gifts and go out for a sushi dinner. The plan sounded ideal to me–I love Hanukkah, sushi and spending time with my guys. But the […]

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Boldly Share the Light of Hanukkah this Holiday Season

Over the years, Hanukkah, a minor celebration that isn’t even in the Torah, has become the unofficial national holiday of the American Jewish community. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was promoted as the Jewish alternative to Christmas. Since then, many individuals and communal leaders have fought against the “make Hanukkah big” movement and urged […]

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Give Your Kids Something Jewish to Scream About This Halloween

  What do a disappearing groom, a witch in a milk bottle, a demon that writes Mezzuzot, and a clay giant have in common? They’re all part of Judaism’s rich but rarely discussed centuries old tradition of ghost stories, superstitions, and spooky tales. That’s right; Jews go “Boo!” too. Ancient rabbis and Jewish thinkers, Kabbalists, […]

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Parents: Your Actions Are Disingenuous

In this space, we typically address parents who are part of an interfaith couple creating a Jewish home. But this month, I want to address the parents of children who are intermarried or in interfaith relationships. Their actions and behaviors often affect the choices that couples navigating intermarriage make. As an engagement professional at my […]

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Can Sports Unite the Jewish People?

This past week, the JCC Maccabi Games were played in my city, Dallas. Dallas was one of three cities hosting regional games this summer. The Maccabi Games are an Olympic-style sports competition held each summer in North America. It’s the second largest organized sports program for Jewish teenagers in the world and is part of […]

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An Interfaith Mom’s Bookshelf

If there is one thing I’m passionate about, it’s expanding Judaism’s tent. After years of living as a Jewishly engaged interfaith family, I got tired of hearing Jewish professionals, academics, and community leaders blame families like mine for the demise of Judaism. So, for six years, I shared my family’s story in forums such as […]

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Please, Just Call My Son Jewish

Earlier this month my family hosted some of the Israeli staff from my son’s summer camp before they went to the camp for training. We have done this for the past three summers, and it has been a wonderful experience. This year, the staff that we hosted had spent time with Birthright tours in Israel, […]

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Nothing to Fear, Much to Gain from a Community of Interfaith Families

Recently, the membership director at my synagogue asked me if I would reach out to a young woman who was the Jewish half of an interfaith couple and a new temple member with her husband. She was also expecting her first child. Knowing the importance of a warm welcome, especially for intermarrieds, I said I […]

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Choosing a Jewish Life – Fostering Jewish Peoplehood

The Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education (CJPE) is a resource and catalyst for developing education about collective Jewish belonging, often focused on the areas of Jewish peoplehood and Israel. Through its blog and Peoplehood Papers series, the organization generates dialog about the meaning and importance of Jewish peoplehood and how to nurture it. Recently, I […]

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Make Shabbat the New Family Dinner

Several months ago, I read Jennifer Senior’s All Joy No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood. Senior’s book is one of the few that examines the effects of children on their parents. How does parenthood affect our marriage, our work, our lifestyle, and our happiness? Much of the book resonated with me, especially the chapter […]

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Deepen Your Family’s Connection to Judaism with Summer Travel

As the end of the school year approaches, my family is actively planning our summer vacation. This year we’re traveling to Santa Fe for art, culture and hiking. As I’ve done since my husband and I began traveling together before we married, I’m researching the various landmarks, historical sites and things to do at our […]

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Ma Nishtanah: Why are Jewishly Engaged Interfaith Families Different from Other Jewish Families?

There are times in life when we’re in the zone. We’re so involved in performing or participating in an activity that we get lost in the experience. Other times, we’re more of a participant-observer. We’re engaged in the action or event, but we have enough distance from what is happening that we can study or […]

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This Passover Let Your Creativity Go Wild

This post originally appeared on Jane’s Interfaith and Jewish blog. If you or your Jewish partner is like me, you remember your childhood Passover seders as long and boring affairs. There was no child-friendly Haggadah, toy plagues, or jumping around as everyone sang “Frogs here! Frogs there! Frogs were jumping everywhere.” Maybe there was a […]

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Last year, in the “Community Voices” section of my local paper there was a column written by a woman about the proliferation of yard signs in her neighborhood proclaiming “God lives here!” She said that often the behavior of her neighbors displaying these signs was far from divine. Recently, I recalled this column as I […]

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How to Raise a Jewish Dog

Two-and-a-half years ago, when we got our dog Brady, my son asked if an animal can have a religion. The question was only half-serious. He knew that pets didn’t actually practice a faith, but he wanted the dog to have a religious identity anyway. But what would that identity be? My son and I are […]

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Be Courageous

An email from the family in charge of leading the discussion for the next fourth-grade book club landed in my inbox. It said the selection for this month’s meeting was Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. An appropriate choice since we were about to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Some parents […]

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Jewish Education Can’t be Optional

For four years, we tried a day school education for our son. For the first two years, it worked. The secular education was excellent, our son’s Jewish identity blossomed, and his knowledge of Jewish history, texts, and the Hebrew language grew. But our overall satisfaction with the education didn’t mean that we thought the school […]

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Your Teen is Interdating–Some Things to Think About

Over winter break, an inmarried Jewish friend told me that her son was no longer dating the nice Jewish girl from his summer camp. He was now dating a not Jewish girl from his high school. I could tell my friend wasn’t enthusiastic about the relationship. The following week, I received a message from another […]

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There is Something You Should Know, We Have a Christmas Tree

This is a blog about a different kind of December dilemma. It is not about whether my family should have a tree–we do–or hang a wreath on our door–we do not. It is not about whether we recognize Christmas in our home or only at my not Jewish in-laws–we celebrate a secular holiday in both […]

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Peoplehood: It’s the Reason my Family is Jewish

The Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education (CJPE)  is a resource and catalyst for developing education about collective Jewish belonging, often focused on the areas of Jewish peoplehood and Israel. Through its blog and Peoplehood Papers series, the organization creates dialog about the meaning and importance of Jewish peoplehood and how to nurture it. At the […]

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O Menorah Tree! O Menorah Tree! Thy Candles Shine so Brightly!

‘Tis the season for Jewish Scrooges to say, “Bah! Humbug!” to anything that they judge to be a blend of Hanukkah and Christmas or an inflation of a minor Jewish holiday. Any attempt to sprinkle Hanukkah with a little tinsel is depicted as a perversion of the holiday’s message. These Jewish grinches shout “syncretism” and […]

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A Halloween Postscript: Why Opposition to Trick-or-Treating Won’t Strengthen Jewish Identity

I didn’t intend to write a post-Hallowen blog. To be honest, Halloween isn’t something that is big in my family. I’m not a costume or candy person, and neither is my husband. While our son Sammy enjoys trick-or-treating in our neighborhood, it isn’t something that he wants to do every year. This year we weren’t […]

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Don’t let the Weather Fool You, It’s Time to Think Camp

While many people have apple cider and pumpkins, and maybe even turkey and holiday gifts on their mind, I’m thinking about camp. Part of why I have camp on the brain is that I just watched the American Camp Association’s 2009 video “Because of Camp.” My overnight camp posted it on Facebook. How I, a […]

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My New Year’s Resolution: Improvement Not Perfection

If you’ve read some of my blogs related to Sukkot and Tu Bishvat or articles in the InterfaithFamily article archive, you know that the environment is an issue that my family and I care deeply about. We have an organic vegetable garden, use earth-friendly cleaning products and buy local meats and produce whenever possible. We […]

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The Evolution of an Awesome Rosh Hashanah Observance

When Sammy was little, everything about being Jewish and celebrating Jewish holidays was “awesome.” His love of all things Jewish stemmed, in part, from his loving and joyful experience at the preschool at our synagogue. It also came from a conscience effort made by me and Cameron to make religious engagement enjoyable. As I wrote […]

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American Jewish Community Must Learn From Jewishly Engaged Intermarrieds to Remain Vital

When I set out to write my book From Generation to Generation: A Story of Intermarriage and Jewish Continuity, I wanted to demonstrate through the telling of my family’s story that intermarriage has not been as bad for the Jews as many in the Jewish community would have us believe. I wanted to show that […]

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A Walk in the Woods, A Conversation About Life and Death, A Moment of Connection

I have a talkative family. Mostly, our everyday conversations are about routine topics such as schedules, work, food, sports, and updates on family and friends, but there are moments when we have rich conversations about meatier subjects such as ethics, history, faith and fate. These thoughtful discussions are never planned, they happen organically. But while […]

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Do I Need to Censor the Word “Jeez?”

My 9-year-old son, Sammy, was bursting to tell me something after his robotics class the other day. I assumed it was about his class activities, so I was surprised when the first thing he told me was this: “I was working with my partner to design something in a computer program and I made a […]

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I Stand with Israel

As I left the gym early this morning, I walked past a TV showing an MSNBC interview with the Israeli Counsel General in New York. I paused to read the closed captions at the bottom of the screen and then made my way to my car. While Israel has been on my mind for weeks, […]

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A Reminder to Diligently Teach Our Children

Before my son, Sammy, left for overnight camp, my husband made him commit to writing us weekly. Sammy was not happy about being forced to communicate with us while he was enjoying his four weeks of freedom from parental oversight. About a week before camp, he complained to me before bed. “Daddy says I have […]

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Community: It’s What Makes Camp Special

Last summer I wrote about that sometimes-indescribable element that makes Jewish summer camp special (See Jewish Summer Camp’s X Factor). I said that I thought Jewish summer camp’s specialness came from its sense of community and that feeling was recently reinforced when my husband and I brought our son to camp last week. On the […]

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Make Jewish Behavior Contagious, Hire Jewish Babysitters

  One of the things I’ve learned about being a parent is that while my husband and I are our son’s primary role models and key influencers of the choices he makes, raising a child is a communal effort. Teachers, coaches, siblings, camp counselors, clergy, extended family, babysitters, and peers play a part in shaping […]

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Church, State, and Jewish Engagement

I did not intend to write a blog on the recent Supreme Court decision on ceremonial prayer. I actually planned to write about the amazing Jewish teens and young adults who babysit our son Sammy and are a powerful influence on him. But then I opened the Sunday paper and read about Town of Greece […]

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Why Go to Israel

As we prepare to celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut, I find myself thinking about the land of milk and honey. I’m not dreaming of pita and falafel, or gaga or any of the other activities at my community’s Israel Independence Day celebration. I’m thinking about why travel to Israel is important. I’ve got this on my mind […]

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Finding a Way to Embrace the Fifth Child

The other day, I received an email from an organization that supports unaffiliated and intermarried Jews encouraging me to recognize the “fifth child” at my seder. Curious about who the “fifth child” was I opened the note. The message highlighted how Passover has long been a holiday that pushes Jews to acknowledge critical Jewish and […]

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The Lord of the Rings’ Passover Connection

My son Sammy and I have a tradition – we read a novel together on the weeknights during dinner. Usually, the book has themes or ideas that are targeted to a child several years older than Sammy, making it helpful to have an adult with whom to discuss the book. Over the years, we have […]

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The Blessing of the Broken Garage Door

We have a mezuzah on the front door to our house. It is a lovely silver object that my mother gave to me and Cameron when we lived in New York. It has journeyed with us from the Big Apple to the doorposts of our homes in Connecticut, Ohio, and Texas. After more than a […]

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What Would Esther Think?

Over the past month, the intermarriage debate has once again flared. On one side are the longtime advocates of in-marriage who convened a group of Jewish leaders to discuss the future of American Jewry and sound the alarm about the impact of assimilation and intermarriage on the community. On the other side are the proponents […]

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After the Tough Questions About Sochi Were Answered, the Scantily Clad Women Arrived

The other day I felt good about how I handled Sammy’s challenging political questions about the Sochi games. We discussed Jonathan Pollard when Edward Snowden came up again in conversation. We talked about the parallels between Russia’s anti-gay policies and Hitler’s ideas of racial supremacy during a discussion about the price paid at an auction […]

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Talking Sochi with my 9-Year-Old Son, Sammy

  On Thursday night, Cameron was working late and instead of reading the next chapter in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King after dinner, Sammy wanted to watch coverage of the opening day of the Olympics. Sammy, a huge sports fan, had been eagerly anticipating the start of the games. While […]

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Teaching An Attitude of Gratitude

On our flight home from our Christmas visit with Cameron’s family in Vermont, I came across an article in The Wall Street Journal about raising children to appreciate things big and small, and the tangible benefits of giving thanks including a more positive outlook on life, less depression and higher GPAs. I could not help […]

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How a Tin Can and Piece of Paper Taught me to Speak for the Trees

This week, the Jewish world, will celebrate Tu Bishvat, the New Year of trees. Often referred to as Judaism’s Earth Day, it is a time when Jews renew their commitment to care for the earth, celebrate nature and anticipate the renewal of the natural world. The other day, as I thought about the coming holiday, […]

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I Heart my In-Laws. What is Wrong With me?

As the year begins, many of us find ourselves feeling as if we need to detox after the holidays. I am not talking about cleansing ourselves of the festive food and drinks in which we indulged (or maybe over-indulged). I am referring to the process of removing the toxins that have accumulated in our hearts […]

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The Most Religious Thing I Have Ever Done on Christmas

Christmas is a week away and many interfaith families are busy with preparations for their family celebrations – buying gifts, packing for travel to relatives, baking, decorating, and shipping presents. This makes many in the Jewish community nervous. They worry that engagement in this Christian holiday will confuse children who are otherwise being raised Jewish […]

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Honoring my Promise to my Grandfather

About a month ago, I visited my 96-year-old grandfather at his skilled nursing facility in New Jersey while in the area for a family event. It was Shabbat morning, my favorite time to go see him. My grandfather and I have always been very close. As the oldest grandchild and the only girl, we share […]

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A Shabbat Gift

I arrived at the Dallas Arboretum at 8:30 am on an early fall Saturday. The lush gardens were quiet in the pre-opening hours. I breathed in the crisped air on the walk to the building where I would be spending the next eight hours. As I approached the location of my congregation’s Women’s Retreat, the […]

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The Maccabee on the Mantel

The other day, as the Halloween candy was being eaten and costumes were being put away, I saw a house decorated in Christmas cheer. It had a large wreath with balls covering one side of the home, and the frame was lined with bright red and white lights. I sighed and thought, “Is it really […]

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The Extended Influence of Camp

Two weeks ago Sammy celebrated his ninth birthday. It was a day filled with love, excitement and camp. The day started like all Saturdays do in our house, with cinnamon challah French toast and quickly progressed to getting ready for Sammy’s weekend sports event. This week it happened to be a swim meet. Sammy was […]

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Why We Chose Judaism

According to the new Pew Center survey of Jewish Americans, 45 percent of intermarrieds are raising their children Jewish or partially Jewish by religion. That is great news since the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey found that only one-third of intermarrieds choose Judaism in some way. But simply knowing that that the number of us […]

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Back to School, Back to Family

I am so excited. It is back to school time. Not for Sammy, he’s been in school since late August, for me. Several years ago, I received a call from my friend Renee who is a teacher at our congregation inviting me to participate in a new class. She was going to be teaching a […]

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Pray for Rain

My family is looking forward to Sukkot after the serious work of the Days of Awe. As I wrote about in my essay Beyond the Lulav and the Etrog, it is an easy holiday for my interfaith family to embrace. It emphasizes the concept of gratitude, a universal sentiment that is prized by many faiths […]

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Transgression, Repentance and Forgiveness on the Tennis Court

I had no intention of writing two posts on the High Holidays, but something happened the other day while playing tennis with Sammy that was in sync with the spirit of the season. Sammy has been playing tennis since the age of four. He has progressed from group lessons to private lessons twice a week. […]

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Does God Really Care About What We Eat?

As the High Holidays approach, I’ve thought a lot about the past year – my successes; my failures; the moments when I’ve been my best self and those when I haven’t lived-up to who I want to be as a colleague, daughter, friend, mother, sister, spouse and Jew. As I’ve gone through this psychological housecleaning […]

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Finding God

I’d like to say that my family and I find our deepest spiritual connections in our synagogue’s pews, but we don’t. That’s not to say we don’t find any meaning and connection during traditional temple services, we do, it’s just not necessarily divine. My husband Cameron will tell you that for him this has nothing […]

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Celebrating Shabbat on Vacation

My family has a regular Shabbat observance. We either celebrate at home or attend our synagogue’s family service and dinner. But while we religiously mark the Sabbath in Dallas, we are not very good about practicing this tradition when we’re on vacation. In fact, when we’re away we don’t celebrate Shabbat at all. My son […]

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Jewish Summer Camp’s X Factor

My son just returned from his second summer spent at the Union for Reform Judaism’s (URJ) Greene Family Camp. While Sammy is glad to be reunited with his puppy, he misses his other home. I know how Sammy feels. I was a diehard camper too and I’m so happy that he thinks camp is as […]

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This is my Story. What’s Yours?

My name is Jane Larkin and I’m excited to be one of the new writers for InterfaithFamily’s parenting blog. I’m the Jewish half of an interfaith couple creating a Jewish home. I live in Dallas, TX with my husband Cameron and eight-year-old son Sammy. Cameron lives Jewishly and is actively involved in raising Sammy within […]

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