Jewish schools cant teach mixed messages

The Union of American Hebrew Congregations has taken a bold — and wise — step in its recommendation that the Reform movement's religious schools should not educate children raised in two faiths.

The philosophy of "let the children decide," which resulted in many growing up to be spiritual drifters, underscores why the UAHC position makes so much sense.

It's difficult to pursue a religion later in life without a strong educational foundation. If children receive formal education in two religions, they are more likely to be confused than enlightened.

Ultimately, if equally immersed in two religions, children may choose neither. Such a choice, in their eyes, may be equivalent to choosing one parent over the other.

That's not to say Reform Judaism should not welcome children of interfaith families, and facilitate their exposure to Jewish culture and precepts. The movement has been at the forefront of outreach to interfaith families, and we applaud such efforts and encourage their continuation.

With Judaism dwindling in numbers, we cannot afford to shut doors.

Our rabbis and Jewish communal leaders must make sure those children who attend a non-Jewish religious school are still informally educated in Jewish life. We must help those children build Jewish libraries, introduce them to Jewish music, art and stories, and open holiday celebrations to unaffiliated families.

In other words, we should not discourage children from questioning and understanding the faiths of their heritage.

At the same time, the UAHC vote is rightfully saying that we need to acknowledge the difference between learning about a religion and learning to live a life according to a religion. It's important that in the interest of Jewish continuity, the Reform movement make that distinction clear to interfaith families.

Interfaith marriages are a reality, one to which we must be sensitive and open. We cannot, however, do so at any cost.