A Tale of Three Families


Cokie Roberts, the NPR and ABC telejournalist, and her husband Steve Roberts, also a journalist, form one of the most visible interfaith couples in the country. They often speak sensitively to the problems, needs and opportunities of interfaith families. Unfortunately, raised their children in both Judaism and Catholicism, a choice we don’t endorse.

One of the unfortunate byproducts of raising children in two religions can be a collapsing of the differences between religions, to the point that they form a sort of amorphous, universal religion that shares more in common with Christianity than it does with Judaism. Case in point: in a recent column about their holiday celebrations, the Roberts speak of their Hanukkah party, which was attended by a number of mixed-religion couples:

Some are raising their kids Jewish, others Christian, and a few as both. But they share a belief that Chanukah and Christmas reflect the same elemental human yearning: for hope and redemption, peace and goodwill.

The statement betrays an ignorance over what Hanukkah is really about. In celebrating the Maccabees’ resistance against the assimilationist tendences of their Hellenicized Jewish neighbors, Hanukkah is more about asserting one’s identity than it is “peace and goodwill.” And they would cringe at anyone’s attempts to synthesize their message with that of another religious tradition. Interestingly, the column makes no mention of what religious tradition the Roberts’ grown children follow, or how they’re raising their own children.

A more serious examination of interfaith issues can be found at the Galleria 324 theater in Cleveland (one show remaining). A new play titled “Both Sides of the Family” interweaves two monologues: one from a non-Jewish woman who raised her children Jewish, one from a secular Jew who is raising the child of his second marriage as a Christian. As this Cleveland Jewish News article reveals, the monologues are based on the autobiographical experiences of the author and her classmates from a playwriting program.

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