DAY 1238: Understanding “Discomfort” for Interfaith Families

November 20, 2015
By bethmordecai
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DAY 1238: Understanding “Discomfort” for Interfaith Families

Reflection on working last weekend with interfaith families in Faithful Families & Grandparents Circle 

Dear Hevreh,

“Discomfort.” If I had to name the single most intractable challenge for interfaith families to overcome, it would be “discomfort.” In particular, it’s the discomfort of Jewish parents in knowing their kids and especially their grandkids are being exposed to the traditions of other faiths, and it’s the discomfort of those intermarried kids (many of whom are now parents) in engaging with a potentially contentious topic without the unilateral support of their family and clergy. The result of the discomfort for the former is that in order to remain in relationship with their families, the Jewish parents tread very carefully on the topic of faith and tradition, not wanting to stir the pot and not knowing how to express their true feelings. The result of the latter, is that the lack of support inhibits a clear sense of direction for intermarried kids, and the contentiousness of the issue at its core means that often, it is simply better to not deal with it at all. And at the end of the day, it seems that because of the discomfort in whole heartedly engaging with the topics of faith and tradition, many interfaith families will pass on a minimal amount of tradition and expose their families to a minimum number of faith based experiences.

Truthfully, I don’t blame interfaith families at all — the grandparents, the kids/parents, the kids/grandkids — for this situation. Being “comfortable,” is a natural desire for human beings. For instance, we use the phrase in describing a stable financial situation where one is not for want for anything. When all of your needs are provided for with a minimum of worry, you feel a sense of “comfort.” You can also substitute the word “happiness” or “safety” at the end of the previous sentence and get the same idea and I think we all agree that those two are worthy pursuits. Though there are times we seek out challenges — personally, professionally, and spiritually — we don’t want them all the time, and if we do seek out challenges, our confidence in overcoming them is often fostered by the people who surround us. Yes, there are times when our family and friends push us and challenge us to do better. But before and even during those challenges, we need to know they have our backs (“safety”), we believe that whatever happens they’ll still love us (“happiness”), and we have faith that if things fall apart they’ll provide a shoulder to cry on (“comfort”).

Those feelings are necessary within a functional family unit, so I don’t blame interfaith families for not wanting to engage in “uncomfortable” conversations about faith. If I was in their boat I’d probably feel the same way.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Ari Saks

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