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Nurturing Jewish identity in interfaith grandchildren

When an interfaith couple has children, the grandparents often feel unsure of how they can cultivate the religious identities of their grandchildren, especially when it is not always clear as to how the children will be raised. The Jewish Outreach Institute (JOI) has created a program called the Grandparents Circle that offers Jewish grandparents the skills and techniques to nurture their interfaith grandchildren’s Jewish identity. This spring, the program, which was piloted in Los Angeles, is coming to New Milford.

“I’m excited to be able to bring the Grandparents Circle to my community,” said Barbara Levitt of New Milford, who will lead the program with her husband, Joel. “Grandparents can have such a strong influence on the religious identity of their grandchildren, even from a long distance, and this course will help them share Judaism with their grandchildren in an engaging and interesting way.”

The free five-session Grandparents Circle Course begins March 15, 10:30 – 12 p.m., and will be held in the Levitts’ home. Family-friendly events for grandparents and their grandchildren often held during or close to Jewish holidays or school breaks supplement the course.

The Grandparents Circle also offers a national email discussion listserve for all grandparents, including those who have not yet taken the course or live in a city where it is not offered. The listserve provides a supportive online community of peers from across the country to share their experiences, thoughts, and questions.

“The Grandparents Circle provides a safe, open-minded environment where people can share their achievements, express their concerns, and acknowledge their challenges,” says Jewish Outreach Institute program associate Anna Allen. “It serves the Jewish community’s needs by empowering grandparents who might be questioning their role in regard to their grandchildren who are being raised in interfaith homes. But more importantly, it gives grandparents the tools to help ensure that their family’s Jewish identity is carried on for another generation.”

The Grandparents Circle is sponsored by the Brownstein Jewish Family Service and the Jewish Federation of Western Connecticut.

For more information, contact the Levitts at (860) 799-0744 or bleelevitt@yahoo.com or Anna Allen at (212) 760-1440 or aallen@JOI.org.

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