Have a Little Faith


Sometimes I think what will be written on my headstone when I die is She had a lot of faith. As Roman Catholic raising Jewish children, I spend a lot of my time in houses of worship—three hours in the synagogue on Saturdays and an hour at Mass on Sundays—preparing for and celebrating holidays, and talking about God and religion with my friends and family.

The truth is I love it. I love being Catholic and I love that my family is Jewish. I am by no means a religious expert or theologian. I have studied Judaism for the past twelve years since I met my husband and as much as I have learned, I do feel like I have barely scratched the surface. Once when I was talking with a (Jewish) friend, trying to understand the differences between the Jewish denominations, he finally said the different denominations are about five minutes old in the span of Judaism, and I should not worry about the difference between a Conservative Jew and a Reconstructionist Jew. He told me to study the Jewish holidays, interpret them for my family, and all will be well.

I am sure some would take exception to that advice, but it has worked for me all these years. I cannot expound on all facets of Jewish religion, tradition, and customs, but I have found my way living a Jewish life with my family. I am grateful for all of my teachers along the way, my children’s preschool, their Jewish summer camp, our synagogue, great friends, and resources on Interfaithfamily.com. And I cannot forget the secretary at my church who recommended the mohel we used for my son’s brit milah (circumcision).

My son is eight years old and my daughter is six. I am happy to share that they are thriving in all aspects of their humanity, they are healthy, they are socially agreeable, and self-identify as Jews. They know I am not Jewish and love me anyway. Last year when William was seven and Sarah was five, we took them to our local mikveh to be officially converted. Of course some lines of Judaism recognize patrilineal descent, but it was important to us to have them officially converted for their Jewish legitimacy to be recognized by most modern denominations.

On the appointed day, William and Sarah went through the ritual immersion for Jewish conversion at the Community Mikveh in Wilmette, Illinois. One at a time, they entered the small holy pool and immersed their whole bodies under the water three times. After each immersion, a prayer was said by the beit din (rabbinic court officiating the ritual) blessing them into the Jewish religion.

William and Sarah loved the experience. My husband and I prepared them for it in advance. The mikveh is a special place. The water is the most special water you will ever feel on your skin. You will be sealed with God’s grace in a very special way. Enjoy it; savor it because it will be a long time before you can go into a mikveh again.

Enjoy it they did. Sarah went first and made us promise she can come back again one day. William dunked himself at least six times. He treaded water. He swam around. He stayed in as long as he could.
The following day was Friday. At our Shabbat dinner, we all made toasts to how wonderful it is to be Jewish and what a remarkable week it had been. Our Shabbat Shaloms , l’chaims and special Shabbat blessings felt extra special and authentic. It was then when I realized that I really am the only non-Jew in our house. I also realized my work to raise Jewish children was not over. It had just begun.

11 thoughts on “Have a Little Faith”

  • How beautifully written. Combining multiple religions can sometimes break some of the strongest unions. You have shown that through love and understanding and your desire for the ultimate good for your family, you and your husband have come together to make things work. THAT is love.

  • Beautiful post!  I am going to share it with the women in our local Mother’s Circle group which is made up of women of other faiths raising Jewish children.  I am sure they will identify with many of your experiences and will share it with their families.

  • Amy, You are truly a special person.  Your article is very interesting.  Your family is very lucky. I hope you will share more with us as time goes by.  Ada

  • Great article!  Keep writing, Amy, because there are many families who need to know they have some options.  A few years ago, one of my friends confided to me that she was really sorry that she and her husband hadn’t raised their children Jewish.  He wasn’t observant and she wasn’t Jewish, so I don’t think she had many resources.

  • Amy,

    Your openness is inspiring. If more people viewed religion–and life–through your eyes, the world would be a much friendlier and more peaceful place. Your family and community are lucky to have you.

  •     Amy:
            What a inspiring article. It was really interesting to read. I wish my brother and Sister-in-law who is not jewish would of raised my 3 nephews jewish. I wish everyday that they were jewish and would have bar mitzvahs. My dad and my older brother think the same about my feelings. Your friends in my book and I am glad to we met at the synagogue. I hope you keep on writing.


  • A wonderful expression of the personal experiences of a mother and her children and how those experiences have shaped their ongoing and evolving beliefs.

    Much could be learned by the world if the people in it practice a similar form of respect for different religions and perhaps equally important, respect for different interpretations of the same religion!

  • What a wonderful heartfelt article Sis. It brought a smile to my face today and you have raised two wonderful kids who definitely love you and respect you.  Cary

  • Terrific article and what a wonderful perspective you and your family have.  I really appreciate how you embrace the faiths in such a loving way.

  • Wonderful article, Amy.  I have 3 daughters in interfaith marriages and your perspective is both heartwarming and refreshing.  I love your down to earth views tempered with humor and love.

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