A mother presents a debut guide to building a mindful, harmonious Jewish family life.
Larkin blends a family memoir with religious exploration, in a thoughtful examination of Judaism and intermarriage. Raised Jewish, married to a supportive non-Jew and committed to raising her young son in her faith, she details the arduous but rewarding process of actively defining her family’s religious life. She argues that intermarriage doesn’t threaten Judaism at all, but can actually help increase one’s involvement in the Jewish community. “Falling in love with a non-Jew,” she writes, “was the spark that reconnected me to my faith,” and this book is full of advice for readers in similar situations. She offers an overview of intermarriage and genealogy throughout history, looks at strategies for getting along with extended families and addresses the importance of discussing past and present anti-Semitism. The result is a thorough, sensitive and well-researched journey through the challenges and gifts that intermarried families—and Jewish families more generally—experience. Although an early section about the author’s unhappy first marriage feels superfluous, she largely maintains an effective balance between her own experience and broader trends, making her story read like an intimate chat with a very knowledgeable friend. Although the book is geared mainly toward interfaith families who’ve chosen to raise Jewish children, it will likely interest anyone involved in an interfaith relationship. It’s also an excellent starting point for those looking to engage further with its issues; its appendices include an extensive list of resources for continued study and a guide to starting an interfaith families group. The book’s greatest strength, though, has little to do with Judaism specifically, and more to do with the author’s clear-eyed appreciation of the nuances inherent in any community, religious or otherwise. “[I]t is the zigzags of our family histories,” she writes, “that give the story of the Jewish people richness, depth, and diversity.” That inclusive, open-minded attitude toward politically and emotionally charged subjects makes this book an edifying read for those of any faith.
An enlightening, encouraging take on the complexities of religious intermarriage.
There's a growing number of books and resources addressing interfaith relationships and marriage, and I was glad to receive a copy of this new addition to the genre. With intermarriage rates for American Jews at 58% (and at 71% for non-Orthodox Jews), not talking about this phenomenon would amount to some serious denial. Some of these books, while presenting information about options, challenges, and historical Jewish thought, are fairly neutral, such as those by Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky in conjunction with the Jewish Outreach Institute. Others have a much more cautious tone. In political commentator Naomi Schaefer Riley’s recent book, Til Faith Do Us Part, she writes “Fuzzy romantic ideas that obscure the very real tensions of interfaith marriage, she charges, are also at fault in the lack of realism that many couples bring to their relationships.” Jane Larkin’s new book, From Generation to Generation: a story of intermarriage and Jewish continuity, celebrates her very positive experience with intermarriage. She understands and articulates the particular challenges of interfaith couples, yet celebrates the growth and transformation that they can bring. I think that most of her points are important considerations for all modern Jews, whether they are part of interfaith relationships or not.
Of all the books I've read that chart a person's journey to raising a Jewish family, From Generation to Generation is the most insightful book I've read to date. Jane writes in a language that speaks to anyone who is married or partnered with someone who was raised in another religious tradition in a manner that touches every button, raises every question, and guides the reader towards possible solutions.
"Jane is to be commended for extraordinary honesty in sharing her mistakes and worries as well as the lessons she has learned from marriage, intermarriage and Jewish living along the way. From Generation to Generation is a nice addition to the literature, more memoir than advice book, which may enable a lot of readers to understand that while each intermarriage has at least one element in common with others, they all are different⎯⎯but can be worked through successfully."
Beth Haverim Shir Shalom
280 Ramapo Valley Rd., Mahwah, NJ - 201.512.1983
Interdating and intermarriage can make even the most open-minded Reform Jewish parents and grandparents anxious. It’s one thing to welcome intermarried couples into the general community, but it is another when the mixed-faith couple involves your own child or grandchild. Join us as we explore the “oys” and “joys” of being a parent or grandparent of a child in an interfaith relationship with Jane Larkin, author of From Generation to Generation: A Story of Intermarriage & Jewish Continuity.