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Interfaith Grandparenting: Resolving the Easter/Passover Conundrum

Sunie Levin
Resident Blogger  

Interfaith marriage can cause confusion and conflict in the homes of the parents.  Observing two sets of holidays, teaching the kids two different religious cultures and visiting two different houses of worship is often a tough balancing act for parents. 

Every year the Easter/Passover dilemma surfaces with interfaith families and their children.  Passover and Easter are holidays where the religious element is definitely in the forefront, and that makes the situation more difficult. 

More than half of all Jews who wed these days marry non-Jewish spouses.  Grandparents are finding that the tradition of passing on their heritage to their grandchildren has become a perplexing problem in diplomacy. 

Problems for the interfaith family may arise when visits are made to each of the grandparents’ homes. For example, Sally and Ben Weiss have stopped visiting Sally’s parents for Easter.  Her mother cannot accept Sally’s conversion to Judaism and talks constantly about a baptism for her grandchildren. These visits have become too stressful, so the young parents have chosen not to visit at holiday time so as to remove the strain and conflict. 

For grandparents one of the biggest challenges is to listen non-judgmentally to interfaith grandchildren as they try to understand and tell about their beliefs. 

In my book Mingled Roots: A Guide For Jewish Grandparents of Interfaith Grandchildren, I advise to not to meddle in the religious upbringing of your grandchildren.  As grandparents, the number one rule of interfaith grandparenting is to follow the parents’ wishes. These are your grandchildren, not your children, so play by the rules. Don’t be judgmental, and try to accept the parents’ choices – even when you might not agree. It will make the family a more harmonious one. Agree in advance with the parents on what may or may not be said to their children. 

It is essential that the two sets of grandparents support each other and make an effort to compromise where it is needed. There are many things that may be new and strange to the other family. If possible, share the holiday. Invite the Christian grandparents to your Passover Seder and join the fun if you are invited for an Easter egg hunt. In this way, the grandchildren will have an opportunity to develop an understanding of both cultures. You can’t expect to be privileged to attempt to transmit your heritage without accommodation being made for the other side of the equation. 

Here are some suggestions to avoid in-law problems: 

  • Do talk frankly with the parents about how you plan to transmit heritage to the grandchildren. 
  • Do indicate your respect for the rituals your children or the other grandparents observe in their home. 
  • Don’t take your grandchild to a religious service or give books or religious objects without parental approval. 

Being a part of a Jewish/Christian extended family offers special challenges at holiday time. With patience, the families can learn to adjust to the difference. It’s not easy and it takes effort on the part of all generations, but it is worth it. 

Sunie Levin is the author of Mingled Roots: A Guide For Grandparents of Interfaith Grandchildren.  She has lectured and held workshops around the country and has been on national T.V. and radio.