January 20, 2010

Couple uses child’s interfaith identity in war games

Posted in Interfaith, Judaism at 5:24 am by chavalah

Fresh off the pages of local Chicago news—a man disobeys a court order by taking his Jewish daughter to be baptized and attend a Catholic church. The news article, which only mentions getting in touch with the mother’s lawyer and not the mother herself, seems to tote the story from the (supposed) “war on Christianity” angle.

Obviously, this story is filled with a lot of holes and I’m going to do my best to steer clear of undue assumptions. But here’s an assumption of the father’s, Joseph Reyes, that I can’t abide by: he wants to raise his child within two faiths.

Even if he is being genuine, his premise is a flawed one. Three year olds don’t need to be raised in multiple religions (and if he’s really sincere, why stop there? Why not include Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism?) to be able to come to a personal relationship with God in their teens and twenties. That’s going to happen anyway. My sister and I were raised in Judaism, with familial/secular exposure to Catholicism, and we ultimately came to very different conclusions about our personal faiths.

A three year old needs structure. Not abstract notions about “choosing her own destiny.” Would you give your daughter free reign over everything else—what to wear, what to eat, how to act in public? Do we want a bunch of Big Daddy’s running around? 😛 I assume that most of us don’t.

In response to this article, InterfaithFamily.com posted its findings on how the majority of adult children raised in “dual faith” homes are confused, not enlightened. I’m not saying that one religion is better than another. In a generic sense, Judaism, Catholicism and all of the others fundamentally believe in the same principles about goodwill to humankind. Specifically, however, Judaism and Catholicism are incredibly different. I highly doubt (and family members, feel free to weigh in on this one,) that the majority of adherents to either faith would agree that Jesus’s ultimate calling card is “the most prominent Jewish rabbi.”

So as usual when it comes to religious quandaries, I spent a little bit of time with my Dad on the phone tonight. My dad, who (still married) agreed to raise his children in his wife’s faith and did not break from that promise. To be fair, he had problems with the Catholic tradition that preceded his marriage, as well as a strong cultural (Italian) connection to offer my sister and me. We ultimately agreed that to raise a child in both faiths would be to raise her, in the best scenario, with an academic appreciation for both, but little to no emotional, faith-based, attachment. No matter what Mr. Reyes might think, his daughter cannot both believe that Jesus was a messiah and the Hebrew bible is a pretext to something else, as well as Moses being our greatest prophet and waiting for Jewish redemption (which has very little to do with walking on water.) She cannot believe that the Pope is a voice of God on earth while at the same time believing that there is no person who embodies God’s voice. She cannot believe that life is a prelude to the afterlife while believing that life is a precious gift because of here and now, not what comes after.

Mind you, I’m sanding over finer details, but that, imho, is the general idea. Some people might be fine with openly raising their child to view multiple religions with a detached, academic eye; it probably happens out there. If Royes were more open or knowledgeable about what he’s proposing, I’d have slightly less of a problem with it. I can’t help but feel sorry for a young girl who, by merits of the article, is supposed to be raised as a Jew and is being kept from her heritage. A young girl with similar parentage to mine, who probably has a lot to offer the Jewish community both in childhood and, if she chooses, in adulthood.

Just a note to those of you in interfaith relationships who’re considering children—remember, this is a big deal. The choices you make provide a complicated foundation for our very identities, even under the best circumstances. It pains me that this couple is letting something so precious fall between a bitter custody dispute. I hope that they are ultimately able to see beyond themselves, and do what’s best for their child.



  1. Joseph’s wife is Rebecca Reyes (Shapiro), and her father is Howard Shapiro, who is an Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Playboy. That’s right, the man who doesn’t want his granddaughter exposed to Christianity, makes his money from pornography!! (Does the word hypocrite come to mind?)

    • chavalah said,

      I’m not sure what one has to do with the other. The issue at stake here is how the parents absolve their differences in raising their child, not her grandfather’s profession. There are plenty of Christians who work in similar fields; should people use that as a basis that their descendants should be raised in another faith?

  2. […] Kudos to InterfaithFamily for tipping my hat to this Chicago Tribune editorial—while the ugly Reyes case is an example of Jewish/Catholic interfaith marriage gone wrong, Catholic wife Alexa Aguilar writes […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: