By Meredith Moss,
Updated 4:47 PM Friday, November 6, 2009
CENTERVILLE — Is your grandchild being raised in an interfaith family?
If so, you may be playing an important role in the development of that child’s religious identity.
study of young adults who grew up in interfaith families by the Jewish
Outreach Institute found that many of them considered their
grandparents to be important role models and connectors to their
religious and ethnic heritage.
Paul Golin will address the topic on Sunday, Nov. 8, as part of the
Dayton Jewish Cultural Arts and 13th Annual Book Festival. He’s the
associate executive director of the Jewish Outreach Institute in New
York and the co-author of “Twenty Things for Grandparents of Interfaith
Grandchildren to Do (And Not Do) to Nurture Jewish Identity in their
doesn’t just affect the two individuals getting married, but the whole
family,” said Golin, who said grandparents of any religion will pick up
some useful tips.
Q: How does a couple decide about religious upbringing for their kids and what is a grandparent’s role?
Each couple has to determine what is right for their own home and
children. All couples benefit from increased communication, but
especially interfaith couples, who otherwise might make incorrect
assumptions about their spouses’ religious expectations. Spouses must
communicate what they want, and collaborate to make it happen.
grandparents must communicate but also listen to their adult children’s
expectations. This can be a fine line for grandparents, because the
conversation is not about what’s happening in their own household, so
they don’t really get a vote. As with all life choices that adult
children make, parents do not have to agree with those choices, but the
way they disagree could set the tone of the relationship for years to
come. To us, the priority is good family relations.
can and should be who they are. As long as they have a relationship
with their kids and grandkids, they will become role models.
Q: Can you give suggestions for grandparents?
Grandparents should wear their own identity proudly; if your son-in-law
or daughter-in-law is helping to raise a child in your religion,
celebrate those actions; share stories and mementos from your own
background and heritage; throw the best holiday parties ever; keep the
holidays focused on celebration, not confrontation; and make sure that
your home reflects your heritage.
Q: How should you interact with the other set of grandparents who are a different religion?
It’s important for both sets of grandparents to understand that the
religion of their grandchildren is not a competition. The religious
decisions that their adult children make should not be perceived as a
“victory” or “loss” for one side over the other. Nor should those
decisions be seen as anyone’s “fault.” Decades ago, intermarriage may
have represented rebellion from one’s upbringing, but today, it is
simply a product of the free and open American society. For the most
part people are basing their religious decisions on what they find of
meaning and value for themselves and their children, and not what they
feel “guilted” into doing.
spirit of understanding in mind, both sets of grandparents should try
to be in their children’s and grandchildren’s lives as much as
possible, in a loving and supportive way, and participate in each
other’s holiday celebrations and life cycle events to their own comfort
level. For example, if a new grandson is going to be baptized, it may
be a very uncomfortable task for Jewish grandparents to attend such a
ritual in a church. They may also feel that attending gives tacit
approval to decisions with which they disagree. But they have to weigh
their discomfort with the message their not attending will send to
their adult child and son- or daughter-in-law, which is, “We will not
be in your lives if you proceed along this path.”
the same time, the “host” set of grandparents should understand that
the other set may be experiencing discomfort and do all they can to
make them feel more comfortable. For example, if that same family
decides the grandson will also have a bris (ritual circumcision), it
may be the Christian grandparents who feel uncomfortable about the
experience. Holiday celebrations such as Passover or Easter should be
about sharing traditions without expecting the other side to “own”
those traditions or even necessarily participate in them if they don’t
In the end, the
ultimate commonality is that they all want their grandchildren to grow
up to be good, ethical human beings, and that can happen regardless of
the religious traditions in which they are or are not raised.
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2440 or MMoss@Dayton
How to go
What: “Twenty Things for Grandparents of Interfaith Children to Do,” a chat with author Paul Golin
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8
Where: Boonshoft Center for Jewish Culture and Education, 525 Versailles Drive, Centerville
Also: The Jewish Book Fair continues through Nov. 18. For information: www. jewishdayton.org
Golin’s presentation will also highlight a new session of the
Grandparents Circle program in the Miami Valley. The free five-session
educational course is being offered for Jewish grandparents with
grandchildren being raised in interfaith families. For more
information, www.GrandparentsCircle.org or call (937) 610-1555, ext.