Q: My daughter is Jewish and is the grandchild of Holocaust survivors. She has assured me that after they marry, she and her Catholic boyfriend will have kids who are Jewish. However, her boyfriend wants his children baptized. As long as they are baptized, he agrees that the kids will be Jewish. That seems contradictory to me. If it is a boy, he will have a bris and be baptized? How should I tell my husband? Her boyfriend was an altar boy and is the only child of a large Italian Catholic family. I am sure that his mother has spoken to him about this. I have never put pressure on her, but I told her that the babies will be Jewish due to her being Jewish. Any advice? Thank you. — From K, a confused and disappointed mom
A: Dear K, both my late God Squad partner, the Rev. Tom Hartman, and I agreed that among the basic rights every child possesses are the rights to be safe, fed and loved, have books to read (of the e-kind or paper kind) and have a chance to learn what they love and what God made them good at. They also have a right to have a home team to root for. But among all these basic rights, one of the most basic and most important is the right to be able to walk into a church, synagogue, mosque, temple or another house of worship and look around and say, "I am home here." The right to feel rooted in religious identity is basic. Once, a little girl named Jennifer came up to us and said, "My daddy is Christian and my mommy is Jewish, but they did not raise me up to be anything. Do you know how I could be raised up to be something?" I do not want, and you do not want, Jennifer's question to be your granddaughter's or your grandson's question. As long as your daughter and son-in-law agree to raise their children in one faith, you should be happy. You want more. You want no trace of Christianity in their home, but that is not possible. Be grateful that your grandchildren will be raised to be something.
More thoughts on dying
Thank you, dear readers, for your thoughtful musings in response to my homework assignment to share what you think dying is like.
•The most poignant metaphor came from readers like R, who wrote: "Perhaps the transition from fetus to human is similar when we die. Do we see flashes of light? See our friends and parents who have gone before us? I knew a man about 15 years ago who claimed to have had a "Near Death Experience." He said he saw a bright light. I had seen him socially on different occasions and never thought of him as being a weirdo. He had a regular life — a wife, kids, a job, etc. Is the transition from life to death similar to the birth transition?"
•I am a foodie so I appreciated the insight of M from Long Island City: "Dying is like your favorite part of a meal coming to an end … it's over, but there will be more."
•The most succinct response was from L: "We emerge then we remerge."
•Among all the really good responses was a clear winner. Appropriately, it came from M, a nun at St. Joseph's Convent in Brentwood. It arrived via snail mail on nice paper and written in beautiful handwriting. This form of communication seems so much better than an email that can be erased by the click of a mouse.
This is what sister M wrote to me and to us all:
"Dear Rabbi Marc,
"In response to your invitation concerning thoughts on what dying is like, I want to share with you what a child of 11 years shared with me when I cared for pediatric AIDS patients. A boy very ill with the disease said to me, 'My mom is not here now and I want to ask you what is it like to die?' I responded, 'What do you think it's like?' He said, 'I think it's closing my eyes to sleep, and then waking up in God's arms.' I only responded, 'Javier, God already told you the answer.' He smiled and died a few days later."
Our conversation is over; no more homework on this topic. The answer to the question of what dying is like has been definitively answered by a child named Javier. May his memory be for a blessing.
Dying is like falling asleep and waking up in the arms of God.