What ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ Gets Wrong About Interfaith Families Like Mine

I devoured this book as a kid, but I did not relate to the stressed and confused interfaith child.

I was clearly the original target audience for Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” 

When the novel came out in 1970, I was an interfaith kid heading into puberty. And yes indeed, I found the book transgressive and thrilling, for the frank way it addressed boy crushes, mean girls, trying on your first bra and waiting to get your period. I have a visceral memory of lying on the blue-and-green shag carpet on my bedroom floor, breathlessly turning the pages of this book. So, I was not surprised when it became a beloved and iconic touchstone for generations of preteen girls. 

But did I relate to the novel’s other subplot, about being born to a Jewish father and a Christian mother? Not so much. While I was born to a Jewish father and a Christian mother, I never bought this novel’s storyline about the stress and confusion of being an interfaith kid. It did not align with the reality of my experience. I have surveyed, interviewed and coached hundreds of interfaith family members in the process of writing two books on the topic. I know that many interfaith families have harmonious experiences. In fact, I fear that the popularity of this novel — which is finally coming to the big screen later this month — has added to the myth of the stressed and confused interfaith child. 

To refresh your memory (assuming you also devoured this book as a preteen), while Margaret’s parents each come from different religious backgrounds, they leave it up to their daughter to choose a religion (or none). From the very first chapter, Margaret makes it plain that her favorite family member is her spunky and affectionate Jewish grandmother. In contrast, her Christian grandparents have refused to accept her Jewish father. In fact, Margaret has never even met these Christian grandparents. 

Personally, I adored my Christian grandparents, even though I was being raised “exclusively Jewish.” We traveled to be with them on virtually every school vacation, including at Christmas. And they supported the decision of my parents to raise Jewish children. A generation later, my husband and I chose to raise our children, who are now adults, with both family religions. Have cold and intransigent Christian grandparents like Margaret’s ever existed in real life? Probably. But in my experience, Christian grandparents of interfaith kids tend to either be proud, or at least supportive, or just curious but not mean, about their Jewish or “raised with both” grandchildren.


Jews, Muslims, Sikhs get coronation role as king reaches out

Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Rabbi Nicky Liss won’t be watching King Charles III’s coronation. He’ll be doing something he considers more important: praying for the monarch on the Jewish sabbath.

On Saturday, he will join rabbis across Britain in reading a prayer in English and Hebrew that gives thanks for the new king in the name of the “one God who created us all.”

Liss, the rabbi of Highgate Synagogue in north London, said British Jews appreciated Charles’ pledge to promote the co-existence of all faiths and his record of supporting a multifaith society during his long apprenticeship as heir to the throne.

“When he says he wants to be a defender of faiths, that means the world because our history hasn’t always been so simple and we haven’t always lived freely; we haven’t been able to practice our religion,” Liss told The Associated Press. “But knowing that King Charles acts this way and speaks this way is tremendously comforting.”


When The Moon Unites Muslims, Jews And Christians — Lessons For Abraham’s Children

BUENOS AIRES – These days you may find some of your neighbors savoring an Easter egg or a Matzah flatbread, or others eating nothing at all until past sunset. Customs you may have heard of, but where did they come from?

Yes, three important festivities are coinciding right now for the first time in recent memory, and they involve the major monotheistic faiths that account for half of humanity.

For the Catholics and Protestants it is Easter, which will culminate on Easter Sunday on April 9. The same date will be April 16 for the Orthodox who follow the Julian calendar. This is the most important feast of Christianity. For Jews like myself, Wednesday was the beginning of Passover, commemorating our liberation from slavery in Egypt and the birth of the Jewish nation that gave form to monotheism. It is the oldest festivity of the Western world.

According to tradition, as there was no time to make leavened bread on leaving Egypt, the events are commemorated by eating unleavened bread and food without yeast.

The Muslims are two weeks into Ramadan, the sacred month in which the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. It is a month of prayers, of rectification of conduct, reflection and self-analysis, all complemented with a full fast during daylight hours.

Though it is the second year in a row, it is generally very rare for the three faiths to see their holy dates coincide this way. As the Muslim calendar is lunar (having 10 or 11 days less than the solar calendar), Ramadan advances every year by several days, falling in March this year, a little earlier next year and so on. We will have to wait some three decades for this coincidence to recur.

\u200bAn image of a colorful mosque in Duba\u00ef during prayer.

A mosque in Dubaï during prayer.Rumman Amin

Older brothers in faith

We should recall that for centuries until the Vatican II Council of the Roman Church, Easter was used to incite the faithful against the Jews as “Christ killers,” or for a crime of lèse divinité if I may use such a term. Thankfully the Church has banished this discourse and the popes now refer to us as their “older brothers in faith.”


Ramadan, Passover and Easter overlap, highlighting challenges, common ground

On March 29, the kitchen and dining room at Quinsigamond United Methodist Church filled with warmth of friendship, laughter, and Brazilian-style cooking, including canjiquinha, a national dish including grits, pork, and seasonings.

Members of the local Berean Baptist Church, a Portuguese-language church hosting the meal, urged visitors to eat. 

The occasion was the fifth and last night of a weekly interfaith supper and prayer service, “Living Our Discipleship,” organized by the Quinsigamond Village/South Worcester church collaborative. 

Children perform a song after the opening prayer at Quinsigamond United Methodist Church during the 2023 Mid-Week Lenten Series "Living Our Discipleship" on Wednesday March 29, 2023.

Berean Baptist Church members Pamela Lima and Gil Aguiar said their congregation rents space in the Methodist church.“We like to unite the whole community in the name of Jesus Christ,” Aguiar said. “We’ve got the same God, who founded the same faith.”

After supper, the gathering moved to the sanctuary for a Portuguese-language service led by the Berean Baptist Church Pastor Antoniel Neri, with music and English-language translations by church youth. 


Catholic leaders open new church in UAE’s interfaith Abrahamic Family House

Denver, Colo., Feb 21, 2023 / 09:35 am

The three Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — now share a common place to worship in the predominantly Muslim United Arab Emirates with the opening of the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi.

Such was the dream of Pope Francis and Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb, who in 2019 signed a historic pledge calling for peace and brotherhood between religions and nations. Four years later a synagogue, church, and mosque sit opposite a secular visitor pavilion in an interfaith complex meant to encourage goodwill and understanding.

Representing the pope for the first prayer service at the new St. Francis of Assisi Church was Cardinal Michael L. Fitzgerald, a past president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

“The place of prayer should also be a place of joy, and I hope that this will be true for all of us here present,” Fitzgerald said at the Sunday prayer service at the new church.

Fitzgerald conveyed the pope’s greetings. He said Pope Francis would encourage all those gathered “to continue in the culture of dialogue as our path; to adopt mutual cooperation as our code of conduct; and to endeavor to make reciprocal understanding the constant method of our undertakings.”


Dems, GOPers, Muslims and Christians: Attacks On Any Religious Freedom Is Wrong

A rare glimpse of bipartisanship in the volatile political atmosphere  of Washington D.C.  kicked off the International Religious Freedom (IRF)  Summit 2023 Tuesday, setting a tone of cooperation and mutual understanding for the event.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee  joined Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat, on the stage at the Washington Hilton as part of a panel to  address why international religious freedom is key to U.S. foreign policy.

The panel followed a welcome by IRF Summit Co-Chair Ambassador Sam Brownback who declared the coalition’s mission was “religious freedom for everyone, everywhere, all the time.” The two day summit brings together a broad coalition “that passionately supports religious freedom around the globe.” Patheos, the world’s homepage for all religions, is a summit partner.

McGovern and McCaul both agreed that religious freedom remains under assault around the world. While acknowledging the panel usually “wouldn’t even agree on lunch,” McGovern touted the work both men have done to promote religious freedom including introducing legislation to promote a peaceful resolution to the Tibet and China conflict.

McCaul highlighted the continued need to address religious freedom abuses in China, Afghanistan, Iran, Nicaragua and Israel, particularly against women.

“To all those listening, we stand with you,” McCaul said. 

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee joined Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, speaks as Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, listens at e International Religious Freedom (IRF)  Summit 2023. (Travis Henry)

McGovern noted that as a practicing Roman Catholic he knew his religious freedom depended on the same freedoms for his Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim neighbors.

“Unless freedom of religion belongs to everyone, it doesn’t truly belong to anyone,” McGovern said.  

Political diversity gave way to a faith kaleidoscope later in the afternoon when some of the world’s most preeminent religious figures joined a panel session on equal citizenship as envisioned by the Marrakesh Declaration. 

The distinguished panel included:

  • Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, President of the Abu Dhabi Peace Forum
  • His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem
  • Imam Mohamed Magid, Co-Founder Multi-Faith Neighbors Network and Executive Imam, All Dulles Area Muslim Society
  • Pastor Bob Roberts Jr., Co-Founder of Multi-Faith Neighbors Network
  • Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center Director Emeritus and Senior Advisor for Policy and Strategy


Get Jews, Muslims and Christians talking and maybe they won’t want to stop

One hundred and forty Jews, Christians and Muslims will sit down together next month to discuss human dignity and how it is exemplified in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Quran for “Peoples of the Book,” the third in a series of interfaith events. This will be the first time Jews are taking part.

The first two events created by the Crosier Fathers and Brothers, a Roman Catholic religious order, and the Sema Foundation, a community service non-profit founded by Turkish Americans, were “Friends of Mary” and “Jesus: Word and Spirit of God,” and focused on theological considerations between Christians and Muslims.

Jewish partners were not included, but organizers said welcoming Jews at some point was a long-held desire.

Rabbi Debbie Stiel of Temple Solel was the first Jewish clergy member to join the group and she felt a warmth from the others right away. Each event had a different configuration of planners, so it was easy for her to enter the group on equal footing without the sense of being late to the game.

“I felt immediately there was a curiosity and an interest from them in learning more about Judaism,” she said. “It felt great to join and do some teaching — as well as some learning.”

Interfaith dialogue is often held up as a good way to engender understanding, tolerance and even friendships. Leonard Swidler, Khalid Duran and Reuven Firestone in their 2007 book, “Trialogue: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Dialogue,” stated its importance even more starkly:

“We human beings today face a stark choice: dialogue or death!”

However, pulling off a meaningful interfaith dialogue event is challenging and can take long periods of detailed planning. Indeed, for this particular series, every event required several months of meetings.

But it was sparked by a simple inchoate desire to make a connection.

In the summer of 2019, Crosier Rev. Bob Rossi shared the iftar, the meal Muslims eat after sunset during Ramadan, at Sema’s community center in Chandler. During dinner, Rossi recognized a need for some kind of formal interfaith dialogue between Catholics and Muslims.


Interfaith Relationships Are Becoming Common. Do They Work?

Research reveals the challenges of partnering with someone of a different faith.


  • The number of interfaith couples is increasing: 20 percent of Gen Xers have interfaith parents, compared to 27 percent of Millennials.
  • Interfaith couples report poorer psychological health and experience pressure from their parents to marry someone of a similar faith.
  • Involvement in, and importance of, religion markedly declines amongst children raised by interfaith parents.

Interfaith relationships are increasingly common. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 27 percent of Millennials were raised by parents with two different religious backgrounds. This is a marked increase from 20 percent of Gen Xers, 19 percent of Baby Boomers, and 13 percent of the Silent Generation who were raised by parents with two different religious backgrounds.

Today, 25 percent of U.S. marriages involve couples of different religions. Such that, 15 percent of marriages involve one partner who is religious and one who is unaffiliated, such as atheist or agnostic. And approximately 9 percent of marriages involve partners of differing religions, such as one Protestant partner and one Catholic partner.

Because more people are choosing interfaith relationships than ever before, couples may be asking if and how they can work. Every couple’s relationship is unique and the variables which affect their long-term success are complex. Luckily, research in psychology reveals some of the unique challenges that interfaith couples might face.

Challenges for Interfaith Relationships

Both relationships and religion tend to be good for your health. Several studies, for instance, reveal people who are married, rather than single, tend to live longer and experience greater physical and psychological health. In fact, patients who had undergone a coronary artery bypass graft were 2.5 times more likely to still be alive 15 years after their surgery if they were married, rather than single.


An interfaith discussion on the role of religion in mental health

Religious leaders often try to support the people they serve during challenging times. This supportive role was especially important during the past few years as the nation dealt with a pandemic, social distancing and the loss of more than a million lives.

In a recent discussion sponsored by the Global Religion Journalism Initiative, academics and religious leaders discussed faith-based mental health counseling, including its benefits and limitations.

Natasha Mikles, an assistant professor at Texas State University, moderated the discussion.

Academic panelists included Thema Bryant, a trauma psychologist, ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and professor at Pepperdine University and Rabbi Seth Winberg, senior chaplain at Brandeis Hillel at Brandeis University. Publisher and author David Morris also took part.

Below are some highlights from the discussion. Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Natasha Mikles: Are there times when religion can actually be a source of stress rather than comfort for someone who’s going through a difficult time?

Thema Bryant: Yes, religion can be used for healing and empowerment, and it also can be used to oppress, marginalize and shame. In psychology, there’s something called positive religious coping and negative religious coping. Positive religious coping is believing that God is loving and ultimately wants to help, and that’s associated with positive mental health outcomes. Fundamentally believing that God is harsh and trying to penalize me is associated with more negative religious outcomes, and more negative mental health outcomes.

Seth Winberg: Yes, depending on the person and the circumstances, the faith, traditions and the community that one is living in, faith can certainly be a burden, or a strain, or a source of trauma. But for many people, faith provides a community, a social network, a sense of shared values, a rhythm to life and a common culture that I think is very powerful.


Interfaith summit dreams of America as a potluck, not a battlefield

Hundreds of interfaith campus leaders gathered in Chicago to reimagine America as a potluck, where everyone is welcome — rather than a melting pot.

CHICAGO (RNS) — Amaris DeLeon grew up in a religious home but no longer identifies with any particular faith, calling herself “spiritual but not religious.” But she recognizes that religion can still play a role in bringing people together, especially in times of tension and conflict.

“People are desperate for a place to talk about things like politics where it’s not going to get too aggressive,” said DeLeon, a student at the University of North Florida, where she works with the school’s interfaith office. “Everyone has morals, everyone has these codes of value. And I think there’s so much more similarity than difference. We just have to look for it and be intentional about it.”

DeLeon was one of about 360 students and educators from 90 colleges and universities who gathered in Chicago over the weekend (Aug. 12-14) for Interfaith America’s annual leadership summit. Held in person for the first time in three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was a chance to connect with other interfaith leaders and receive training on how to help students from different backgrounds work together.