Religious Custody


I probably shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was by Brad Hirschfield’s piece in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, “Who Gets Religious Custody in an Interfaith Divorce?” Rabbi Hirschfield was writing about the Reyes divorce, the case of the Chicago couple whose public battle over their child’s religious upbringing made the news several times. He wrote, among other things,

So Ela Reyes will do what more and more people, including the children of multi-faith families, are learning to do—appreciate that they are part of multiple religious communities and figure out how to honor that reality.  Some will “choose a side,” but one hopes without rancor toward the ones not picked.  The ability to affiliate with one tradition while genuinely respecting those who follow others is one of the central issues in contemporary public culture….Some will claim multiple memberships, not unlike those who hold dual citizenship in two countries.  Others will create new traditions by fusing the multiple faith traditions which inform their life. While these options may cause some discomfort, it’s worth remembering that they reflect genuinely positive realities that benefit us all, and which virtually none of us would give up.

I suppose I’m surprised because Hirschfield has Orthodox rabbinic ordination, and I therefore didn’t expect him to take such a relaxed attitude toward syncretism. Though he’s writing in a high register and maybe what he’s referring to is the kind of thing we often see in interfaith families: sharing of life cycle rituals and holidays with relatives from other faiths.

Hirschfield goes on to point out that the priest who agreed to baptize Ela Reyes without her mother’s permission was acting unethically, which was a very interesting insight.

One thought on “Religious Custody”

  • Rabbi Hirshfield has Orthodox ordination, but he is a very open-minded “liberal” rabbi whose main message is how people can get along with each other. He is probably best known for his book: “You Don’t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right”. I think the title says a lot about his philosophy. I listened to a lecture by him that was available as an online podcast and it was really inspiring. I think his ideas would be very helpful to interfaith families.

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