Jane Larkin shares her personal journey in “From Generation to Generation: A story of intermarriage and Jewish continuity.” In the process, she offers us much to think about, regardless of our own family’s configurations.
And she gives the kinds of intimate details that help us truly grasp her reality. Like the dread she felt on awakening one morning and realizing that she had chosen the wrong husband, for the wrong reasons (the first time). And like the joy she now feels having subsequently met and married the right husband – who supports her in raising their son Jewish.
Tackling the big questions
For me, the greatest value in her book is how Jane explores the questions that come up in real families – questions for which there are no single answers, no easy solutions.
Here are a few of them, condensed because of space limitations:
Q: If I insist on a Jewish home, am I “digging my heels in and not showing the ability to compromise?”
A: Ultimately, Jane realized that she “could not shake” her “Jewish peoplehood, that underlying bond that unites an individual Jew with the entire Jewish community. . . . I found the reason why I wanted a Jewish home: my people were counting on me.”
Q: Can our family become too Jewish?
A: “When I thought about the possible challenges we could confront as an interfaith family, I never considered that resistance to the observance of Jewish rituals in the home by my Jewish family would be one of them.”
Q: How old should Sammy be when I tell him that his father isn’t Jewish?
A: “I was perfectly happy letting Sammy think that his father was Jewish because I was not prepared to have the discussion.” And, ultimately, after she did tell him: “I needed to adjust my approach based on my own circumstances, my child’s age, and my instinct about what will work for my family.”
Q: How can I make my son’s “interaction with faith enjoyable rather than an onerous obligation?”
A: “The key has been moving the focus from fulfilling adult spiritual needs to cultivating a child’s spirituality.” “The performance of important Jewish rituals as a family has also helped us feel more connected to the Jewish people.” Read Jane’s marvelous adaptation of Sukkot to benefit the wider community.
The value of fun
What also resonated for me was Jane’s comment about celebrating Jewishly with joy:
“We believe that adding fun to the holidays now can make the celebrations more memorable than they would be otherwise, without diminishing their significance.”
That, in a nutshell, is why we created Jewish Holidays in a Box.
And, as we get closer to Passover – a holiday where telling stories is a key component – I agree 100% with Jane’s focus on stories.
“Our stories will keep us vibrant . . . They teach us, inspire us, encourage us, and enlighten us. They help us remember, spur us to action, and ask us to consider other possibilities.”
Thanks to Jane for writing this book and for allowing us to share these excerpts with you.
Jane Larkin is the author of From Generation to Generation: A story of intermarriage and Jewish continuity and blogs at interfaithandjewish.blogspot.com. She writes about parenting for InterfaithFamily.com and interfaith relationships for The Seesaw in The Jewish Daily Forward. Her work has appeared in Tablet magazine, Kveller.com, and Suite101.