Religion & Beliefs

Intermarriage and Jewish Grandparents

There has been a whole lot of conversation lately about the role of the grandparents in the lives of interfaith children.  And with my own (non-Jewish) mother in town for a post-Easter/Passover visit, I'm feeling the issue in a personal … Read More

By / April 12, 2007

There has been a whole lot of conversation lately about the role of the grandparents in the lives of interfaith children.  And with my own (non-Jewish) mother in town for a post-Easter/Passover visit, I'm feeling the issue in a personal way.

She called a week ago to say, "So, is Mose old enough for Peeps and Jellybeans?"  (He's not yet one and a half)

What should I have said?   "Umm… no.  Because he's only Jewish years old!" 

Instead I said, "No, both are still a choking hazard.  Why don't you just come down and we'll find him a nice treat together."  So then yesterday we got him an "Easter" milkshake, which he promptly spilled down his pants. Delightful.

But it's no small thing… the role of grandparents.  It's a very real issue, and today I wanted to offer some resources for families where this is becoming a "situation." 

Because (in the best cases of intermarriage) our generation may be creating new models for the Jewish family. We may be sitting in therapy, learning to communicate, and finding new expressions of shared ground to bridge the religious gap.  We may be setting clear boundaries. 

But our parents are… well, old.  And they're used to things being done a certain way.  And most of the time, they really do just want to help and support us… but they don't understand the lives we're constructing.  And they don't want to "intrude" a lot of the time.  But they don't know what crosses the line. 

How can they, if we don't tell them?

And then… in the worst cases, we're NOT sitting in therapy, or finding new ways. We're sticking our heads in the sand and hoping there just won't be any problems.  We're deciding that  "the kids can choose a religion when they're older" or pretending religion doesn't matter "if there's love". And our poor parents KNOW that's insane, but they don't know how to help us.

So here are some books and websites they can turn to, for help in helping us (and maybe they'd make good gifts!).  I'm sure there's more out there, and we can try to build on this, but here's a start!

Books:

Twenty Things for Jewish Grandparents of Interfaith Grandchildren to Do

Mingled Roots: A guide…

Grandparenting Interfaith Grandchildren

Websites and articles:

Grandparenting Your Interfaith Grandkids 101

For Grandparents of Interfaith Grandkids

Grandparents Learn Strategies for Interfaith Grandkids

Interfaith Marriages Can Be Tricky for Grandparents

And there are some classes and programs too:

In New York!

In Philadelphia!

In Houston!

And elsewhere too… grandparents can find classes to help them navigate these tricky situations.

It should be said that most of the resources we've seen so far are produced by the Jewish community, for the Jewish grandparents of intermarried families.  But I think we'll see more resources soon for the non-Jewish grandparents of Jewish children too.  We've come a long way since the days when the Catholic church suggested people run out and get the babies secretly baptized, to protect their immortal souls…