Friday, January 22, 2010

Mid-Morning Conversion

Like many people, during the recent holidays, I gave more thought to religion. Our family is interfaith - I am Catholic and my husband is Jewish. While we are not very observant in either of these religions, we chose to baptize our son in the Catholic church and we celebrate the Jewish holidays in our home.

When we first got engaged and began contemplating how we would someday raise our children, we knew that we wanted to expose them to both faiths, have both sets of traditions, both cultures, be a part of our life. As a childless couple, it was difficult to envision exactly how that looks in practice, but we understood that the role of faith in our family life would necessarily continue to evolve, and it has. A prime example? Our son was circumsized in the hospital because I was not open to a bris at that point (and not particularly happy with circumcision, period, but that is another post), but if we were to have another son, I feel very strongly that he should have a bris.

The evolution continued one morning during Hannukah. The previous night, we had given E a wooden puzzle in the shape of a menorah for his Hanukkah present. Every year as we've lit the menorah, I've silently stood by, observing the ritual but never participating in the prayers. This past year, my husband started teaching the prayers to our son, and E, quick child that he is, memorized quite a bit. That morning, as he began "lighting" the candles of his puzzle menorah, he looked to me to guide him in the prayer. And I couldn't.

I have not stepped foot in a Catholic church for nearly two years, but I am a Catholic down to my bones. It is about tradition, it is about continuity, culture. It is about my grandmother. And yet that morning I realized there is a part of me now that is Jewish. That part of me is my son. I need to know these prayers for him, because he looked to me for guidance in a ritual that gave him joy, and I couldn't guide him.

That night, we lit the menorah for the 7th night of Hanukkah, and though awkward and fumbling, I repeated the prayer with my son, because earlier that morning I realized compartmentalizing the dual faiths of an interfaith family is to close yourself off to a part of your child. Opening yourself to the aspects of your partner's faith that bring joy into your home, and into your child's face, will only bring you joy as well.

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