NOT ALL JEWISH CHILDREN are raised by parents who themselves had Jewish childhoods. Each PJ Library Mom is different, and many have very different backgrounds. This Mother’s Day, we’re honoring all mothers that raise Jewish children regardless of whether they were brought up Jewish themselves.
ALL OUR MOTHERS
In her JTA piece, “For Non-Jewish Mothers Raising Jewish Children, Things Can Get Complicated,” Sue Fishkoff writes:
- A growing number of non-Jewish parents in America who have no plans to convert are raising Jewish children, marrying Jewish spouses, building Jewish homes and playing active roles in the Jewish community.
For these parents, things can indeed “get complicated.” Fishkoff adds, however, that there are resources to help, “from national groups to synagogue outreach committees.”
For one thing, general awareness is growing. As New Jersey Jewish News staff writer Johanna Ginsberg writes in her article, "Jewish Kids, Non-Jewish Moms,” the growing number of interfaith families has been “effecting a change in attitudes among synagogue leaders.”
Ginsberg adds, “While policies once reflected a desire to discourage intermarriage, they are now being adjusted under the premise that by welcoming such families, their children are more likely to be raised as Jews.”
PJ LIBRARY CONNECTIONS
At PJ Library, we strive to be a resource for intermarried parents. We often receive testimonials from parents reminding us of the important role PJ Library books play in intermarried households.
For example, a mother from the PJ Library program in Northern New Jersey wrote to us recently, telling us she was raised Christian and is married to a Jewish man, raising their children Jewish. “I originally signed up for PJ Library thinking extra books are always a good thing,” she writes. “I had no idea how great the books would be, not only for my children, but for me!"
This mother goes on to say that PJ Library provides her with a Jewish education and a starting point for discussions with her children.
The Jewish Outreach Institute, for example, is an organization that very much values mothers from different backgrounds raising Jewish kids (just see this year’s JOI Mother’s Day card as evidence).
One of JOI’s key programs is “The Mother’s Circle,” which describes itself as “an umbrella of free educational programs and resources for non-Jewish women raising Jewish children within the context of intermarriage or a committed relationship.”
For Barb Rudnick, the program manager for family life education at Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JFCS) of Minneapolis, The Mother’s Circle has proven to be invaluable.
In the TCJewFolk.com guest post, “Raising Jewish Children If You Are Not Jewish,” Rudnick explains that her community has adopted The Mother’s Circle as an educational and support resource for non-Jewish mothers raising Jewish children. “The curriculum covers basic information including celebrating holidays, traditions and rituals, and goes deeper to explain the confusing nuances of Jewish culture,” she says.
Look for local iterations of The Mother’s Circle near you for similar resources.
In addition to local implementations of the program, non-Jewish Moms are invited to sign up for the Mother’s Circle national listserv, an e-mail forum made up of mothers with a variety of backgrounds. The signup form is available via The Mother’s Circle homepage. Open conversations are also hosted on The Mother’s Circle Facebook page and via @Mothers_Circle on Twitter.