Friday, July 15, 2011

Being Both; The Interfaith Experience

The corresponding video can be viewed at:

7/15/2011 10:45 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: logs in on 7/15/2011 10:45 am (et).
7/15/2011 10:46 am (et) Moderator: logs in on 7/15/2011 10:46 am (et).
7/15/2011 10:48 am (et) Christa: private message to Moderator: logs in on 7/15/2011 10:48 am (et).
7/15/2011 10:48 am (et) Susan: private message to Moderator: logs in on 7/15/2011 10:48 am (et).
7/15/2011 10:50 am (et) Hussong: private message to Moderator: logs in on 7/15/2011 10:50 am (et).
7/15/2011 10:50 am (et) LindsayU: private message to Moderator: logs in on 7/15/2011 10:50 am (et).
7/15/2011 10:53 am (et) Laura S: private message to Moderator: logs in on 7/15/2011 10:53 am (et).
7/15/2011 10:57 am (et) adambriddell: private message to Moderator: logs in on 7/15/2011 10:57 am (et).
7/15/2011 10:59 am (et) Moderator: Welcome! This is Rebecca from the InterFaith Conference (IFC) and I will be your moderator. As this is still new, let me explain how this will work. On the right, you will see a video playing of our current topic to get the conversation going. If you have a comment and/or question send it along to me, the moderator. As long as I deem it appropriate, the comment will be posted to everyone and the speaker will have the opportunity to answer your question.
7/15/2011 11:00 am (et) Moderator: Today, our topic is ‘Being Both: The Interfaith Movement.’ We will be featuring a reflection from Rev. Julia Jarvis, member of IFC’s Assembly and Spiritual Director of The Interfaith Families Project of Greater Washington (, and Sue Katz Miller, interfaith blogger ( and member of IFFP. Unfortunately, Rev. Jarvis will not be able to join us today, but Sue Katz Miller is present at the chat.
7/15/2011 11:00 am (et) Moderator: As always, I would like to remind you of the rules of our engagement. This is a respectful place where we come together to learn more about the religions of the world. Whether you agree or disagree, we welcome your comments and questions that are posed in a respectful manner. Please no profane or offensive remarks, they will not be posted. Also, this is a place of learning, so please refrain from ‘soapboxing.’ If there are any issues or questions about this, they can be submitted along with the comments pertaining to our topic. I am here to make this a pleasant and educational experience for all, so enjoy and remember there are no stupid questions, just hostile ones!
7/15/2011 11:00 am (et) Moderator: You can now view the beginning comments on the right. As you listen, please feel free to start sending questions or comments (YES, we want your comments). Also, the video will remain within the sidebar, so feel free to return to it as you wish. Our chat window automatically refreshes to keep the flow going, but if you wish to view the whole of the conversation, just hit the archive button. And lastly, PLEASE do not use double quotes as it led to some issues.
7/15/2011 11:03 am (et) sharon.miller: private message to Moderator: logs in on 7/15/2011 11:03 am (et).
7/15/2011 11:03 am (et) jdiggs: private message to Moderator: logs in on 7/15/2011 11:03 am (et).
7/15/2011 11:04 am (et) Betty: private message to Moderator: logs in on 7/15/2011 11:04 am (et).
7/15/2011 11:09 am (et) Moderator: Hussong said: I guess I'll start off: Do you ever hear children say they feel conflicted over their two faiths? I.e. I had a hard time growing up as a dual citizen, never feeling part of one country or the other. Do the children in this group feel the same?
7/15/2011 11:10 am (et) Moderator: Betty said: How does the Interfaith Families Project teach both Judaism and Christianity?
7/15/2011 11:10 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Sue: you identify as Jewish. is your own husband Jewish or not?
7/15/2011 11:11 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: How many families are now involved with the Interfaith Families Project? How old is this project/community?
7/15/2011 11:11 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: Hussong: Part of the goal of an indendent interfaith community is to give children that "country to belong to." When they go out into the world, they may choose another country (one religion), but they are growing up with a sense of community, which we believe is very important.
7/15/2011 11:12 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Are any of the kids grown now and made their own faith decisions to pick one faith over the other, no faith, continue to embrace both faiths or maybe picked an entirely different faith for themselves?
7/15/2011 11:12 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: Laura: My husband grew up Episcopalian. We are both deeply involved with our interfaith community now, each of us has served on the Board, for instance.
7/15/2011 11:13 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: Do people also stay in touch with their individual communities on top of being a part of IFFP?
7/15/2011 11:13 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: Betty: Our Sunday School classes each have a pair of teachers, one Jewish, one Christian. We teach the stories, songs, holidays, and ideas of both
7/15/2011 11:14 am (et) Moderator: Hussong said: How about when they get to a certain age and you start teaching details such
as Jesus not being the Messiah to Jews but yes to the Christians? I don't come
from the background but I find it interesting to see how children/adolescents
would start to accept one or the other, or perhaps both..

7/15/2011 11:15 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: or perhaps neither?
7/15/2011 11:16 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: In our DC group, the first kids to go through our program are through college now, but not yet settled down with their own children. I have also interviewed and surveyed children raised in the NY Interfaith Community, which started up in the 80s. Some interfaith children DO choose Judaism, or Christianity. Others keep an interfaith identity. Some say they would seek out an interfaith community in which to raise their own children. What I am seeing, is that often adult interfaith children make a religious decision based on who they marry.
7/15/2011 11:17 am (et) Moderator: Betty said: It's interesting that you mention that you don't water down Christianity and Judaism, but teach both. Is it like Messianic Judaism?
7/15/2011 11:17 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: Susan: Some people do continue to go to synagogue, or church, in addition to being part of our community. We also have families who have given their children a single religious label, Jewish for instance, but still want their children to be educated about both religions in the family so they come to us.
7/15/2011 11:18 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Do the kids ever end up just confused about religion - due to the differences rather than the similarities?
7/15/2011 11:19 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: Our interfaith group has a healthy percentage of atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, Unitarians, Quakers, and progressive Catholics. In some ways, we are the 'opposite' of Messianic Judaism, in that I think very few people see Jesus as a personal savior, or have fundamentalist beliefs. We don't think of this as 'watered down' though.
7/15/2011 11:20 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I've had students in my college classes from Interfaith families who chose to NOT raise their kids in EITHER religion and let them choose when they grow up. That "solution" never seems to work well as the young adults cannot choose in a vacuum
7/15/2011 11:20 am (et) Moderator: Hussong said: I like to hear that!
7/15/2011 11:21 am (et) clarkifc: private message to Moderator: logs in on 7/15/2011 11:21 am (et).
7/15/2011 11:21 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I imagine an 'fundamentalist' would tend NOT to marry someone of another faith to begin with
7/15/2011 11:21 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Your group sounds a lot like the Unitarian church. How is it different and why would your families go to you instead of the UU church for the same sort of diversity of experience?
7/15/2011 11:22 am (et) Moderator: sharon.miller said: I live in Georgia. How do I find other interfaith couples in synagogues and churches without prying into people's business?
7/15/2011 11:22 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: Laura: I agree that children should not be raised in a vacuum, but given a rich background in the history, rituals and beliefs of the religion(s) chosen by their family, and/or represented in their family trees. This is very different from "doing nothing." Sadly, a lot of interfaith families have been "doing nothing" because they could not find a safe community in which to participate, or that met the needs of both parents.
7/15/2011 11:24 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: How are you then making your (or simliar) groups more gererally known so that new IF families can know there is a place they can turn to
7/15/2011 11:25 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: That might be the beauty of something along these lines, the Internet gives you a perfect way to get the idea out there.
7/15/2011 11:25 am (et) Moderator: LindsayU said: I don't know if this has been asked yet, but has the interfaith education ever expanded to include Muslim teachings since it follows the Abrahamic tradition?
7/15/2011 11:25 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: Laura: It is true that Unitarian-Universalist (UU) churches have provided a home, historically, for many interfaith families seeking to expose their children to both religions. Intentional interfaith communities are different in that they provide deeper and more specific background in two specific religions (rather than a full array of religions). For instance, our interfaith Sunday School teaches Hebrew literacy starting in Pre-K, so that interfaith children will be prepared if they choose to have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, or join a Jewish community. A Unitarian church won't do that for you. Also, some Jewish partners still find UU communities too Christian in their focus--it varies greatly from one UU community to another.
7/15/2011 11:27 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: Sharon: Most Jewish communities are now doing specific outreach to interfaith families, so that is one way to meet others. Even if a synagogue is your primary community, it can be helpful for interfaith kids to meet other interfaith kids in, for example, a monthly Shabbat with other interfaith families.
7/15/2011 11:27 am (et) Moderator: adambriddell said: Is there a sacramental aspect to life in the IFFP community?
7/15/2011 11:27 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: And, if so, how does it deal with the specific nature of those sacraments?
7/15/2011 11:28 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: To expand on adam's question: do you mainly just educate or actually celebrate and worship interfaith?
7/15/2011 11:28 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: Lindsay: That's a really interesting question. There are a growing number of Muslim/Jewish and Christian/Muslim families, and they sometimes come to our group for advice. We do not want to expand our entire program to three religions, because we have barely enough time to teach two religions with sufficient detail and depth. But my hope is to help foster specific Muslim interfaith communities if families want to take that path.
7/15/2011 11:30 am (et) MikeS: private message to Moderator: logs in on 7/15/2011 11:30 am (et).
7/15/2011 11:33 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: I very much believe that many children and adults seek spiritual experience, and we do provide that for this who want it. Every week, we have a 'Gathering' of songs and reflection. The theme might be a Jewish holiday, a Christian holiday, or a shared theme like social justice. Personally, I do not describe this as 'worship' since we are not a religion, we are a support community. We do not teach the children what to believe. However, I find, and my children (now 14 and 17) find, great spiritual rewards from singing and reflecting with this community.
7/15/2011 11:33 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: It just seems that sacrament would be the wrong word...I mean would it not be that those people continue to go to their individual traditions for...
7/15/2011 11:33 am (et) Moderator: clarkifc said: Can you give an example or examples of ways that you are teaching both Christianity and Judaism in their specificity as well as in that overlapping cirlce you've talked about in your logo?
7/15/2011 11:34 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: You must have to deal with the somewhat traditional (although not correct in my opinion) Christian anti-Judaism
7/15/2011 11:35 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: Growing up myself as an interfaith child, but raised as a Catholic, I had to find my own answers to this, which didn't really happen until college
7/15/2011 11:36 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: Clark: Sure. For instance, by upper elementary school, students are learning about the life of Jesus (Christian) and the life of Hillel (his Jewish contemporary) and the history of how Christianity evolved from Judaism (historical overlap) as well as the shared ideas about 'loving your neighbor' that Jesus and Hillel both spoke of...
7/15/2011 11:36 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: I have to say, as a child hearing that your grandmther is going to Hell is quite traumatizing
7/15/2011 11:36 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: When older kids start in the program, do they respond differently to it than younger kids who have been there all along?
7/15/2011 11:38 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: Susan: Part of the strength and mission of an interfaith families community is to prepare our children to deal with the 'going to Hell' reactions as well as 'you're not Jewish' reactions. We want them to understand why people make these comments, and how to respond to them. Again, they are not apt to get this kind of education in a single-religion education program.
7/15/2011 11:38 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: Haha, I definitely got the 'you're not Jewish' one too...
7/15/2011 11:39 am (et) Moderator: clarkifc said: Amen to Susan's last comment about how traumatizing it must have been to hear that your grandmother was going to hell. The breadth and depth of God's love is something so many of us don't have any grasp of. What is the Interfaith Families Project doing . Sue Katz Miller has just responded while I was still typing this. Are there other ways the IFFP is doing this?
7/15/2011 11:40 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: Laura: We do have kids joining, even at the Teen Group level. As an interfaith child who did not find this community until adulthood (because it didn't exist yet) I will say I felt tremendous joy and relief when I joined, and I think older children can feel the same. That said, it is harder to make older kids start going to Sunday School if they haven't been going at all, and want their Sundays free
7/15/2011 11:41 am (et) Moderator: That's going to change! (Sorry for the Moderator interruption, but I will be starting as the Teen Group leader there this fall)
7/15/2011 11:42 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: What I more specifically had in mind is if the older kids (those who do not start this IF education until they are teens) as redily identify as IF or both religions as the younger ones might?
7/15/2011 11:43 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: I think it depends on the family, I do view myself as IF in some sense, but I was very lucky to have a supportive family, although not terribly observant themselves.
7/15/2011 11:43 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: Moderator: Lololol. Actually, Teen Group has a lot of fun, as kids do at every level. A lot our adults had traumatically boring experiences in Sunday School as kids (no matter what the religion). And a lof of our families are not naturally 'joiners.' We try to incorporate art, drama, music into the curriculum to make it as engaging as possible. But I guess any Sunday School program would say that these days...
7/15/2011 11:43 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Maybe some of those older kids had been attending a more traditional church or synagogue and thus continue to identify with that?
7/15/2011 11:43 am (et) Moderator: sharon.miller said: I'm not sure if my message went through; sorry if it's a duplicate. My husband, not Jewish, is concerned that the synagogue outreach to interfaith couples will be one-sided in favor of Judaism
7/15/2011 11:45 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Sharon, perhaps synagogue IF group, for you, might just be the STARTING point for connecting with other IF families and then taking it from there beyond the synagogue walls?
7/15/2011 11:45 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: How about finding similar families and creating a space like IFFP in Atlanta, or is there one there already? You wouldn't have to rely on the synagogue at that point?
7/15/2011 11:45 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: Laura: Yes, if kids have gone to Catholic church through age 10 and been confirmed, etc, they are probably more likely to keep a strong connection to Catholicism, or a specific Catholic identity. But I think Susan (interfaith raised Catholic) and I (interfaith raised Jewish) both attest to the fact that interfaith kids do feel interfaith on some level, no matter how they are raised, so joining an interfaith community allows them to explore that.
7/15/2011 11:46 am (et) Moderator: LindsayU said: I can say as someone who was raised in a single faith family, I wish I had been exposed to other faiths earlier. I have always had a desire to be educated about other faiths in order to make an educated decision. In some ways I feel like I am at a disadvantage having not had this resource growing up because it is difficult to overcome the bias of how I was raised to view the world. so I definitely think this is a great program and teens should people of all ages should be involved, even starting late
7/15/2011 11:47 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: That's very powerful Lindsay, and I wonderful attitude to feel that other religions will make your faith stronger, no matter what it ends up to be.
7/15/2011 11:47 am (et) Moderator: sharon.miller said: Laura, yes, I will need to do research to see if there's a synagogue with an existing IF group. Right now the JCC organizes most of the interfaith programs. 7/15/2011 11:47 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: Sharon: Your husband is right, it will be one-sided, but as Laura was saying, you could meet other couples, and they might also be seeking something more balanced. I do not know of a group in Atlanta yet, but there would be plenty of families there if someone (hint hint) wants to start up a group. Our group started when moms met through their children, some groups are started by young couples who don't even have kids yet.
7/15/2011 11:47 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Interesting comment, Lindsay. I too can identify
7/15/2011 11:47 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: Wish everyone felt that way!
7/15/2011 11:49 am (et) Moderator: Hussong said: I agree with Lindsay! I was originally raised Lutheran but I knew at a young age I didn't believe. However I wish I had been exposed to more outside, not simply for the educational or spiritual value, but to teach younger kids that there's more out there than we could possibly know.
7/15/2011 11:49 am (et) adambriddell: private message to Moderator: logs off on 7/15/2011 11:49 am (et).
7/15/2011 11:50 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: I think even being part of a community like IFFP lets kids know its ok to look outside of one. Although it focuses on Christianity and Judaism, I am sure it is implied that children are allowed to explore.
7/15/2011 11:51 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: Maybe even encourages it
7/15/2011 11:51 am (et) Moderator: Betty said: Where can you find more information on your group?
7/15/2011 11:51 am (et) Moderator: IFFP has a website
7/15/2011 11:52 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: If it were up to me, I would send every kid to religious education at a UU church where they can learn about all religions but be indoctrinated into none of them. I find that to be the ideal approach.
7/15/2011 11:52 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: Lindsay: yes! Sharron: It does take a lot of work to start up a group, but it is tremendously rewarding. The JCC would work fine to meet others, it might even be more balanced than some synagogues, just reassure your husand that you are seeking balance, and will go into it ready to ask questions and learn and meet people but with your own agenda, if that's the case.
7/15/2011 11:53 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: I feel like that could be alright for certain children. I feel like it takes a specific type of person and a wonderful education to take that idea and make it into an identity.
7/15/2011 11:53 am (et) Moderator: clarkifc said: Time and again in the InterFaith Conference and elsewhere, people have discovered that engaging in interfaith dialogue and collaboration deepens their faith
7/15/2011 11:53 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: Where do you find the most overlap, Sue?
7/15/2011 11:53 am (et) Moderator: Hussong said: This has been my favorite discussion to read, thanks for coming in Ms. Miller!
7/15/2011 11:54 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: I blog about our community, and about interfaith identity more broadly, at I have a lot of UU folks following me on twitter now, we definitely have a lot of shared perspectives.
7/15/2011 11:54 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I imagine there are more Jews who are in an IF marriage than Christians. Thus why synagogues tend to have more IF groups than you would find in any church
7/15/2011 11:55 am (et) Moderator: Susan said: I'm not so sure about that, Laura. I mean I know many Catholic churches have a programs on the topic as well.
7/15/2011 11:55 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: Thanks Hussong! Laura: Yes, in terms of percentage, Jewish institutions feel understandably overwhelmed by intermarriage, whereas it doesn't much bother much Christian institutions for statistical reasons.
7/15/2011 11:56 am (et) Moderator: sharon.miller said: Thanks everyone for the encouragement. I will try to find one or two more people willing to take on the challenge of starting some kind of ongoing community group. I welcome recommendations!
7/15/2011 11:56 am (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Sue, do you also have families that are Catholic-Protestant (ecumenical) rather than simply Christian-Jewish?
7/15/2011 11:56 am (et) Moderator: clarkifc said: As Laura knows, about 50% of Jews marry someone from another faith or of no faith. I believe its even higher in the DC area.
7/15/2011 11:56 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: The Chicago area has a lot of outreach to Catholic/Jewish couples, sponsored by the Catholic church, because of a history of intermarriage in a city where Jews and Catholics have long lived side-by-side.
7/15/2011 11:57 am (et) Moderator: Hi All, So it is almost time to get going, I know this week's chat has flown by! So please finish up any thoughts/comments!
7/15/2011 11:58 am (et) Sue Katz Miller: I have really enjoyed this discussion! Hop over to Huffington Post Religion if you want to continue, I have a post up there today about the role of interfaith children in interfaith dialogue...
7/15/2011 11:59 am (et) Moderator: Also, in doing research on this topic and for those who might be interested, the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs put out a report on the topic of Interreligious Marriage, go to
7/15/2011 11:59 am (et) Moderator: Thank you for your participation today. If you would like to reach our speaker please contact me at Next week we will be discussing ‘Religious Liberty from a Roman Catholic Perspective,’ with Fr. Avelino Gonzalez, Director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs in the Archdiocese of Washington.
7/15/2011 12:00 pm (et) Moderator: Also, this is a new effort on our part so we welcome your feedback! Any comments will be helpful. If you have any suggestion please feel free to email me at
7/15/2011 12:00 pm (et) Moderator: If you are interested in finding out more about our organization please feel free to browse our website: and sign up for our bi-monthly e-newsletter by emailing me, again the address is

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