Judaism Unbound Episode 73: Being Both - Susan Katz Miller


Dan and Lex are joined by writer and journalist Susan Katz Miller, author of Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family[1] In their conversation, they explore the growing phenomenon of families raising children in Judaism along with another religious tradition (families who are "being both") and consider the unique gifts these families may bring to Jewish life and to the wider world, as well as the challenges and barriers they face.

(0:01 - 14:21): Katz Miller begins by telling the story of her own background as both a child of an interfaith relationship and someone who is part of an interfaith relationship herself. She explores the issue of patrilineal descent and the impact on Jewish communities and individuals when the Jewishness of individuals with a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother is called into question. [2] Katz Miller then gives a window into a number of institutions around the United States that have developed specifically to serve families raising children in multiple religious traditions. [3] She also introduces some of the ways in which these families have unique contributions to make, both to Jewish life and to the world more broadly. 

(14:22 - 27:04): Katz Miller continues by exploring a variety of barriers to participation in Jewish life faced by "Being Both" families. [4] We discuss some of the fears that may be driving the Jewish institutions that have erected these barriers. 

(27:05 - 44:48): In an increasingly interconnected world, how do we begin to understand Jewish-Muslim, Jewish-Buddhist, Jewish-Hindu, and Jewish-Other relationships? Katz Miller looks at issues unique to these families, along with challenges of Jewish-Christian families that others may not face. She also talks about how LGBTQ clergy have often proven quite supportive of "Being Both" families, and considers possible reasons why. In conclusion, Katz Miller explores some of the ways that "Being Both" families, more than simply being "not-harmful," may actually yield children who are particularly well-positioned to transcend religious and ethnic boundaries. [5]

[1] For Susan Katz Miller's biography, click here. To purchase Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family, click here

[2] To learn more about the issue of patrilineal descent in contemporary Jewish life, click here.

[3] Learn more about these interfaith institutions by visiting their websites: Interfaith Families Project of Greater Washington, Interfaith Community (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut), The Chicago Interfaith Family School

[4] For a New York Times article on many of the questions discussed in this episode, entitled "Being Partly Jewish," click here.

[5] Katz Miller has written two pieces recently on the issue of interfaith marriage. Read them at the following links:  Recent pieces: "4 Reasons We Should Stop Calling People 'Intermarried'" and What do Interfaith Families Want from Rabbis?