Introduction: Counseling interfaith families | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Introduction: Counseling interfaith families 


Forgive us, we are going to touch on another great religion’s core holiday: Christmas. 

Some interfaith couples in our community may face a bit more challenge this year. Christmas Eve falls on the seventh night of Chanukah. Christmas is on the eighth night.  

How does an interfaith family approach celebration under that circumstance? This issue has been called the “December Dilemma,” and much has been written about it.  

In truth, however, the December Dilemma is but a sliver of the interfaith family experience. Local rabbis find themselves counseling interfaith couples and families year-round, not just in December. 

This can be a fraught topic. More observant Jewish leaders may strongly counsel against interfaith marriage and can consider it prohibited. It is also true that there are many interfaith families, including people who are deeply engaged with, and leading, Jewish life. The Chronicle serves readers from each of these worlds, and everyone in between.  

Consider these words, from a Reform movement web page on the topic – you’re unlikely to find sentiments like this on websites from some more observant organizations: 

“In communities all across our Movement, there are interfaith families thriving in our sanctuaries, schools, and synagogue leadership. You don’t have to be Jewish to find a home in Jewish community. When you show up with the wholeness of who you are, when you give from your own life’s harvest, our Jewish world grows stronger and more beautiful. 

“If you identify as interfaith, multi-faith, Jewish-adjacent or Jew-ish, you belong in our Movement. 

“If your Jewish kids enjoy celebrating with their extended family on Diwali, Easter, or Ramadan, you belong. 

“If you are curious about Jewish ritual or prayer, but aren’t sure where your own spirituality fits in, you belong here.” 

We spoke with some local rabbis who have worked with interfaith families to navigate any challenges. These tend to be rabbis from more liberal streams of Judaism. What they had to say appears on several of the following pages.