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Interfaith family: How do you raise the kids?

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OP-ART: Lisa Haney

(Read caption) A drawing of a Christmas tree decorated with bagles, stars of David, dreidels and topped with a menorah illustrate an article by Julia Gorin on the attractions of Christmas to a Jewish girl.

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Tis the season for your interfaith family to celebrate. But celebrate what? The 12 days of Christmas? The eight nights of Hanukkah? And what happens in the New Year? Should Junior have a confirmation or a bar mitzvah? Does the baby have a baptism or a bris? Some people say that raising your kids in two religions gives you the best of both – that if one faith is good, two must be even better.

In a recent piece in Time, Susan Katz Miller author of the recently published “Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family,” argues just that. She says that raising children in an interfaith community that draws on two religions schools your kids in both sides of their religious heritage, avoids the need to favor one parent’s “better” faith at the expense of the other, and skirts a whole host of practical problems interfaith families confront.

Not so fast, say others, who warn against inclusivity at the cost of identity. After all, the essential doctrines of Judaism and Christianity – the religions Ms. Miller calls “the first great wave” of a growing phenomenon of interreligious marriage – are at odds. Do you believe that Jesus was the messiah, or that the messiah hasn’t come yet?

Jim Remsen, author of the “Intermarriage Handbook: A Guide for Jews and Christians” and former religion editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, believes the practice of watering down two religions to try to accommodate them both disrespects both religions. “Maybe this dumbing down is the way society is going. Maybe it’s the best we can do,” he says. But in articulating a “middling” approach to faith for the next generation, “You’re cheapening what’s a long and serious tradition and that’s a shame.”

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