Teaching non-Jewish moms about Judaism



Passing on religious and cultural traditions to their children can be a source of joy for many parents. But, when a child’s parents are from different religious backgrounds, one could feel left out of their child’s religious upbringing.

This winter, Montreal synagogue Dorshei Emet will reach out to intermarried Jewish families by hosting a Mother’s Circle, a six-month series of free, bi-weekly classes and events for women of non-Jewish backgrounds who are raising their children Jewish.

“We really want to create a comfortable space for women where they feel at ease,” program co-ordinator Cynthia Weinstein said. “We want to celebrate their choice and give them the tools and education they need to have a Jewish home.”

The program was created by the New York-based Jewish Outreach Institute in 2002. Since then, it has spread to nearly 100 cities across North America and this will be the first one held in Quebec.

Weinstein stresses that this is not a conversion course and that no prior knowledge of Judaism is needed.  Classes will focus on the basics, like how to make a Shabbat or Purim dinner or what to do at a Bar Mitzvah.

“Many of the Jewish traditions take place in the home, and it’s still a reality that women are in charge of a lot that happens there,” Weinstein said.

The program – with titles of classes like “Ask a Rabbi,” “Making Jewish Choices,” and “Israel and Jewish Peoplehood” -- will help participants better understand Judaism’s rituals.

In addition to classes, participants and their families will be invited to events and parties throughout the year. “It really becomes a supportive community,” she said.

Weinstein acknowledges that some women may feel unwelcome or stigmatized in the Jewish community because of their experiences with more conservative Orthodox groups, who believe that a person must have a Jewish mother (or have converted) in order to be Jewish.

“That is why we are going out of our way to show these women that they are welcome and included,” Weinstein said. “We are making a space for them in the Jewish community that perhaps did not exist.”

The Mother’s Circle program runs every second Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Congregation Dorshei Emet, 18 Cleve Rd., in Hampstead. Courses began Jan. 21, but women are welcome to enrol after the program has started. It is free and childcare is available. 

For more information or to register, call 514-487-9030. 

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