The Mothers Circle: support and educational group for gentile moms raising Jewish children

Posted on October 15, 2009

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Nine days ago I listed a variety of classes for New York Jews of all ages. Today I’m writing about aJewish class for non-Jews.

Know any Brooklyn moms raising Jewish children but who aren’t themselves Jewish? 

The East Midwood Jewish Center (EMJC) is offering The Mothers Circle–an outreach program designed to support non-Jewish moms who are helping to create Jewish homes. A free series of one hour classes (meeting twice a month) will explore Jewish traditions and provide resources and tools.

This is not a conversion course. The classes emphasize learning, sharing, and support in a non-preachy setting. The Mothers Circle is a national program. It is making its debut in Brooklyn at EMJC. If childcare is needed, a free story-telling and creative play class for Mothers Circle children is partnered with Mothers Circle sessions: Joanne Riel, a specialist in early childhood music, will offer a Jewish-inspired music/creative movement/story class (“Jewjewbees”) while the moms are meeting. Think Music Together with a Jewish Twist. Families who know Joanne’s way with kids will know how fun this class will be. The first meeting will be held on Sunday October 25, 2009 at 4:00 PM.

 

The topics of the first four sessions will be:

  • Getting Acquainted: Introductions; religious memories and experiences.
  • Making Jewish Choices: What it means to raise Jewish children and make Jewish parenting choices.
  • Effective Jewish Parenting:  Key principles of Jewish parenting.
  • From Mitzvah to Mensch: Jewish values to instill in children on their paths to becoming caring people.

By the fifth meeting it will be December and there will be a Hanukkah session (learn about the holiday’s symbols and traditions and discuss December holiday decisions). The meeting after the Hanukkah meeting will be on Jewish values. Anita Diamant’s book, How To Raise a Jewish Child, (2008 edition) is part of the curriculum, and EMJC will provide copies to participants. The Mothers Circle, the Jewjewbees group, and all materials are made possible by a seed grant to support innovative Jewish family programming in Brooklyn. Non-Jewish fathers raising Jewish children are also welcome to participate. For more information, contact Audrey Korelstein at (917)445-6015.  The East Midwood Jewish Center is located at 1625 Ocean Avenue (between Avenues K & L) in Brooklyn.

In Manhattan Parents Inter-Circle, a Mothers Circle affiliated group that also includes non-Jewish fathers raising Jewish children, has been meeting at Congregation Rodeph Shalom, located at 7 West 83rd Street, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. For more information, call Rabbi Grushcow at (212) 362-8800, ext. 3025 or email intercircle@rodephsholom.org.

 

By now I expect some of our Orthodox and Conservadox readers are asking, “How can the child of a non-Jewish mother be Jewish?” and/or are thinking that Mothers Circle must only apply to Reform Judaism which has patriineal descent. In fact both Orthodox and Conservative Judaism permit childhood conversion. I know of a Roman Catholic woman married to an Orthodox Jewish man who agreed that their children would be raised Jewish; the children were converted in infancy, are being raised as Jews,  attend day school, go to synagogue with their dad, and have become bnei mitvah. The difference between Orthodox and Conservative halacha on the identity of the child on the one hand, and Reform and Reconstructionist patrilineal descent on the other hand, is that the former requires that the parents take the proactive steps of converting the child and raising the child as a Jew. It is a mistake to assume that a child of intermarried parents whose mother is not Jewish is necessarily not halchically Jewish.

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