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.