by Ben & Jenna Slutsker
Each winter IFFP hosts our annual Interfaith Couples Workshop series. We ask each couple to reflect on the experience and share what they’ve learned, and how they’ve continued to grow on their journey.
Why did you decide to take the Interfaith Couples Workshop?
We first heard about the Interfaith Families Project when reading the book Being Both by Susan Katz Miller. After researching further online, we saw that IFFP offered the Interfaith Couples Workshop as an online course, which provided us an opportunity to join despite living outside of the DC/Maryland area.
In fact, we are part of a small New York interfaith book club with other couples, so actually a few of the couples decided to register for the Workshop together, which was a great shared experience. In particular, we wanted to see what the IFFP community that Susan Katz Miller described in her book looked like in real life, as well as hoping to seek guidance on how to plan and navigate our interfaith relationship.
What did you want to get out of the Interfaith Couples Workshop?
In particular, we wanted to get a better sense of what an established interfaith community looks like. What type of clergy is on staff? How is religious education for children structured? What types of families are a part of the community? Prior to joining the Workshop, the idea of an established interfaith community that both distinctly studies and welcomes Christianity, Judaism, and other faiths felt more like folklore than reality! So going to the workshop, meeting the clergy, and hearing about how the community programs are structured gave us a lot more comfort that these types of communities not only exist but thrive and help families navigate life events.
Did you like have a Reverend, a Rabbi, and a Priest lead the Workshop?
We enjoyed having a workshop jointly led by a Reverend, Rabbi, and Priest. It was great to have an expert source for all of the different religious angles, and observing healthy debate and complimentary dialogue across faiths. What we were particularly impressed with is not only the wealth of information that each clergy member had about their own religion, but how much each knew about each other’s religion! In the past, we have observed leaders in our individual faiths that knew a lot about their own religions but not necessarily others, so seeing the different clergy members who are immersed in each other’s faiths provided a great sense of optimism.
Did you learn more about each other’s religions?
We learned more about each other’s religions. Many of the discussions about each other’s holidays and spiritual rituals made us consider each other’s religions in new and different ways. For example, some topics led to discussions about Jesus as a person vs. Jesus as a messiah, different sects of Judaism/Christianity, and reflection of the scripture recited during Good Friday in light of an interfaith family. These discussions led us to deep conversations regarding other’s faiths, as well as our own.
Would you recommend the workshop to others? Why?
We would recommend the workshop to others, especially couples looking to raise an interfaith family but are living in locations that do not have a centralized interfaith community. This is a great opportunity for couples to observe that a such an interfaith community does indeed exist, can help guide families through life events, and support raising children in a multi-faith household. In addition, for couples who are aware they have different faiths/beliefs but haven’t dug into the depths of these conversations yet, the Interfaith Couples Workshop offers comfortable communication exercises to navigate such subjects.
Although 2020 and 2021 have been challenging for many families, one of our bright spots is that IFFP has made the Interfaith Couples Workshop available online and to those outside of the broader DC/Maryland area. We certainly recommend that couples in a similar situation to us take advantage of this experience!