For more information on the Mothers Circle, visit www.themotherscircle.org, or call the national Mothers Circle coordinator, Ruth Decalo, at (888) 205-7373.
in to Jewish Brunch With the JT Bunch on WMLB AM-1690 on Sunday, Feb.
4, to hear a panel discussion with Auer, Macksoud, Maser and Rabbi
NEWS: Non-Jewish Moms Share Lessons
Marcy J. Levinson Staff Writer
families in which a non-Jewish woman raises Jewish children must
confront plenty of tough questions. The Mothers Circle helps provide
The group is an Atlanta project of the Jewish
Outreach Institute in New York to help ensure Jewish continuity. The
rabbi emeritus of The Temple, Alvin Sugarman, is a guide for the group
and, according to some members, a friend to turn to.
several veterans of the circle will discuss the challenges of raising
Jewish children when you're not Jewish at a community forum Monday,
Feb. 12, at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Federation North Metro Campus in
The first Mothers Circle pilot program began in
Atlanta about three years ago. Early participant Abi Auer said it
provided invaluable knowledge.
The nine-month course "really
taught you the nuts and bolts about how to go about parenting a child
in Judaism when you are not Jewish yourself," she said. "The most
interesting thing, and the most lasting thing, has been the
relationships I made during that course. We all keep up on e-mail."
Maser has been friends with Mary Ellen Macksoud, another member of the
Mothers Circle, for about five years. They bonded as non-Jews raising
Jewish children before the program existed.
Maser said that although she was raised an Episcopalian, she feels drawn to Judaism.
husband and I both love to study Judaism. My circle of friends has
grown from these classes that we have taken, and we stay close. We do
Shabbat dinners at each other's houses. Here we are, the non-Jews,
putting together these great seders," Maser said.
Rabbi Sugarman said he offers support and open dialogue for those raising Jewish children in interfaith marriages.
hope I offer, first and foremost, support for what they are doing. Here
you have a situation where one partner is Jewish, one is not Jewish. I
hope I bring support to their endeavor and an unbelievable - if I can
be so bold as to speak on from my perspective on behalf of the Jewish
community - the deepest debt of gratitude for what you are doing," he
said. "Hitler wanted a world without Jews, and if the Jewish community
disappears, then Hitler's won a posthumous victory. But what these
young women and others are doing is making sure that does not happen."
of the first steps to making an interfaith marriage with kids work, the
rabbi said, is opening up the lines of communication to discuss
religious issues. He said couples should seek out groups such as the
Mothers Circle for support, education and the chance to spend time with
others in similar situations.
He said the most important issue is the respect of each partner for the other's religion.
of conversion can become stress factors in marriages. Rabbi Sugarman
said the Mothers Circle allows couples to address such questions early.
raised Roman Catholic, has been married for 20 years. She said she has
taken inventory of her devotion to Judaism and is considering
conversion. She said it is a deeply personal decision that she came to
on her own accord.
Other issues the Mothers Circle addresses
include Christmas trees, secular and religious holidays, and how the
non-Jewish spouse gives up a part of her upbringing and memories to
create a new set of memories with her husband and children.
who is involved in the Mothers Circle has made a sacrifice to give up
some of those things we were raised with," Auer said. "I think
everybody has made some sacrifice. There are some childhood memories
that you will not share with your children, but we focus on the
positive things, developing new memories with our current families, and
that's really what the group is about. And you don't know what you
don't know when you are raising Jewish children and you weren't raised
Jewish yourself. Work on developing those new memories."
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