The Jeffersonian
  July 16, 2007    


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Welcoming mothers into the circle of Jewish faith

By Diana Bae

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Starting in the fall, non-Jewish mothers raising Jewish children will have a new resource at Owings Mills' Ben and Esther Rosenbloom Jewish Community Center.

The Mothers Circle is a national program that offers classes, family events and networking opportunities for women of different religious backgrounds who have chosen to raise their children in the Jewish faith. The program is sponsored by the Jewish Outreach Institute, an organization whose members seek to include intermarried couples in the Jewish community.

According to Sharon Seigel, coordinator of The Mothers Circle at the Owings Mills JCC, the program has opportunities for participants to network and learn.

The free, eight-month course for mothers will meet twice a month. The classes will cover aspects of raising a Jewish child. The lessons include lectures and guest speakers that will go over topics such as incorporating Judaism into their everyday lives, dealing with issues raised by interfaith marriages and Jewish holidays.

"There are more than 200,000 mothers (nationally) raising Jewish babies that don't have a Jewish past," Seigel said. "It's not so easy if you have no past experience."

Melissa Werner, of Cockeysville, is one such mother. Although she is Christian, she and her Jewish husband have decided to raise their two children in her husband's faith. She signed up to participate in The Mothers Circle this fall for the information and camaraderie.

"With something this important, you constantly have to be refreshed and re-educated," Werner said.

In addition to the classes, participants will also be able to join a national e-mail network. Through e-mail, they can talk with other mothers across the country who are in similar situations.

Seigel said events for the entire family are planned to help further bring participants into Jewish life.

"It's an instant support group," Seigel said.

To add to that support group, the program also has an "Ask a Rabbi" feature, where mothers can e-mail a rabbi with specific questions.

Non-Jewish mothers sometimes have problems fitting in and being accepted into the Jewish community, Siegel said. With the program, they are trying to ease that transition.

"It's a noble thing they're doing. It's nice to feel wanted and accepted in this smaller group," Seigel said.

She said that the Jewish Outreach Institute is working on a program for non-Jewish men. The focus has normally been more on the mothers because "it's 2007, but it's usually still the woman that makes the house," she said.

The Mothers Circle originated in Atlanta. Since then, the program has spread to about 15 other cities, with more in the works.

For more information about The Mothers Circle, go to or call Sharon Seigel at 410-356-5200, ext. 347.

Email Diana Bae at



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