MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Now, of course, blending different traditions can be a challenge. And this next story deals with interfaith marriages between Jews and Christians. The most recent statistics from the University of Miami show that about 40 percent of married Jews in our region have partners from outside their faith. And that's where the Interfaith Families Project comes in. It's a community of more than 100 families with one Christian partner and one Jewish partner. It was started nearly two decades ago by four women looking for help, as they raised interfaith children. Emily Berman headed to Kensington, Md. for the Project's weekly gathering, to see how these two traditions are taught and practiced side by side.
MS. EMILY BERMAN
When Mary Elizabeth Cisneros and Michael Rosenman decided to get married, no one raised any objections about the fact that they come from different faiths.
MS. MARY ELIZABETH CISNEROS
But as soon as we started talking about children or raising the children, what we kept hearing from friends and family was you can't do both. They'll be confused. It doesn't work. It's not possible.
Mary Beth was raised Catholic and she wasn't just going to give that up. And Michael is a Jew, which wasn't just his religion, he says, but his culture.
And we just weren't comfortable choosing one.
But as their kids got older they realized they'd have to figure something out pretty fast.
We just wanted to give them a basis because bad things are going to happen and for me, when those bad things happened, having my faith to fall back on was a great tool.
So they decided their household would be both Jewish and Christian.
But until we found this community, we didn’t know how we were going to do it.
The Interfaith Families Project begins each Sunday with a service. This week the theme of the service is Hanukkah.
The gathering is led by a rabbi, a minister of the United Church of Christ and members of the community. The service is different each week, but one thing you'll always here is the Shammah, which is in Hebrew and affirms the Jewish belief in one God.
You'll also hear the Lord's Prayer, one of the central prayers of Christianity. After the service the kids and adults split off. Adults have a group discussion and the kids go to Sunday School classes.
MR. NATHANIEL ROSENBERG
I'm Nathaniel Rosenberg (sp?), ten years old. My mom is Roman Catholic and my dad is a Jew.
Nathaniel's been a member since he was three months old. He says, though the classes do clearly define the differences between the religions, they spend much more time talking about the similarities.
There's always light. And different people perform miracles. And they both have one God.
Nathaniel says he loves learning about both religions and for now he doesn't feel any pressure to choose just one.
And that's more presents and everything. So it's all fun.
RABBI HAROLD WHITE
And what we're doing would not necessarily work everywhere.
Rabbi Harold White is the group's Jewish spiritual leader.
For example, it would not work well in a small town where intermarriage is almost unknown. But Washington is a very interesting place because we have lots of hybrids here.
Rabbi White's counterpart, Reverend Julia Jarvis says from the beginning there's been one big challenge in practicing both Judaism and Christianity, how to talk about Jesus.
REV. JULIA JARVIS
I mean we used to say that Jesus was the elephant under the huppah, you know, and that no one really wanted to talk about because it was--that's hard.
Because Christianity believes Jesus to be the son of God and Judaism does not. Reverend Jarvis and Rabbi White frame the conversation in a way that they could all feel comfortable with, Jesus as a historical figure.
He was born a Jew and he lived as a Jew and he died as a Jew. And, in fact, the first people to follow Jesus were all Jews.
Talking about Jesus, for some couples, has been their common ground. Matt McGrath and his wife Randi Field have been part of the group for nearly two decades.
MS. RANDI FIELD
I'm 100 percent Jewish, but I now have a connection to Jesus. And I have tremendous respect for Jesus, which before IFFP I didn't have that. I had no knowledge of the historical Jesus.
MR. MATT MCGRATH
I'm 100 percent Christian, but my appreciation for the roots of Christianity is profound.
Sunday classes wrap up just before noon and three-year-old Alana Kliner (sp?) runs over to her parents, holding a sticky art project.
MISS ALANA KLINER
I glued the candles on this.
What is it Alana?
This week the focus is Hanukkah, but next week the fifth graders will put on a nativity play. Mixing traditions can be a little overwhelming, says Rabbi White. But for an interfaith couple the upside is huge.
I think we've made many of our Jewish partners more Jewish and many of our Christian partners more Christian.
And as for the kids, Rabbi White says, the goal is to teach the history, the prayers and the culture and leave the big decisions up to them. I'm Emily Berman.
If you are part of a family that's working to blend two different faiths, we'd love to hear from you. You can reach us at email@example.com.
Up next, the story behind one of D.C.'s most bling-tastic, over-the-top, holiday displays.
Straight out, I tell them I'm from Panama. So they wanted to show me the house with the lights. So at first I was like, huh. The house with the lights. As soon as we pulled up, I was like, wow, it's the house with the lights.
It's coming your way on "Metro Connection," on WAMU 88.5.
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