What An Interfaith Family Looks Like: Meet the Miculka Family
Aimee and Adam Miculka live in Colorado, where they are raising their one-year-old son, Levi. Though they are new to parenthood, they’ve given a lot of thought to how they’d like their interfaith family to practice religion. Currently working in education, Aimee was raised Jewish in an interfaith family. Adam, who is a student, was raised Catholic but doesn’t identify with any religion. Together, they are committed to raising little Levi as a Jew. I caught up with them to hear more about how their journey as an interfaith family is playing out so far.
MT: Tell me about the role religion played in your family growing up.
Aimee: I grew up in what started as an interfaith home. My mom was Catholic, my dad Jewish. When I was in kindergarten my parents decided they were not going to keep raising us as two religions, just as Jews. We were very involved in our synagogue. My dad was temple president, my mom was involved with the sisterhood. My brother and I both attended religious school and Hebrew school regularly. we went to synagogue for family Shabbat (I think that was monthly) and lit candles weekly. My mom converted and had a Bat Mitzvah the year before my Bat Mitzvah. We had the same Torah portion (how fun is that). I was president of my BBG chapter. I had a confirmation and taught Sunday school.
Adam: Roman Catholic. first memory of church/Sunday school was around 1st grade. usually went to mass Saturday night or Sunday morning. Grace before dinner. My mom was active in some church group, but it was more than a bible study group. I think my sisters were in youth group for a little while. My mom was also a Sunday school teacher. Dad would go to church but he did not participate “extracurricularly” with the church. It was not a choice whether or not we were going.
MT: How do you incorporate religion (both Judaism and any other that you celebrate) into your family?
Aimee: We go to Tot Shabbat when the little one has taken a nap, otherwise, it runs into bedtime and we are all miserable. We light candles and have Shabbat dinner weekly. we belong to a synagogue in the area and are trying to attend and get involved more. We celebrate Jewish holidays at home and with friends.
For me, working in the Jewish community, it is a pretty significant part of my everyday life. We do not celebrate other religious traditions in our nuclear family. I grew up with the understanding that it is not our holiday so we don’t celebrate it in our house, but it is our family’s holiday, and families celebrate together, so for other religious traditions, if we are with the family who celebrates we join in the festivities.
Adam: As a family, we follow Aimee’s lead because she is resident expert.
MT: How is religion practiced or talked about in your current home, versus the home in which you grew up?
Aimee: It probably isn’t that different, but it feels very different as an adult and grown up. It takes much more conscious effort on my part now to make sure we are teaching and passing along traditions and beliefs to our child than it did to just be a kid in my family. We often had discussions about religion, and we often had discussions about current events through Jewish lenses. We don’t have Catholic family locally so our child is getting less exposure to that than I did.
Adam: For me, especially in the teenage years, I became fairly disenchanted with religion and refused to participate. After that, religion talk at home never included me. Before that, there were not any deep or philosophical conversations. And now that I am learning about Judaism, we discuss the ins and outs and the hows and whys on a regular basis.
MT: What Jewish traditions that you grew up with do you want to pass on to your kids?
Aimee: Everything. I think mostly the sense of belonging and identity. If he doesn’t practice the same way I do that is okay with me.
But I think back on my childhood and my synagogue experiences and all the smells and sounds of the holidays at home and it just feels so connected and good. I want him to have that same deep-rootedness. I hope to make challah with him (almost) every week and have a Shabbat dinner. I want to continue to spend one night of Hanukkah shopping for toys for other children (for local toy drives). I hope we are able to send him to Jewish summer camp (as a former director how can I not?!). I hope to build for our family the kind of community of friends that become family that I shared my Jewish upbringing with.
MT: How has the conversation between you and your partner changed, regarding the role of religion in your home, since becoming parents?
Aimee: I think the biggest change is that it feels like we have to start living the things we said we were going to do before if we ever plan on having them become a habit. We are much better at observing Shabbat now.
But it is definitely an ongoing conversation, which can be challenging. Adam doesn’t identify as any religion nor does he have an interest in bringing a different religion into our home. In some ways that makes it easy to have a Jewish home. But I want to make sure Adam feels included and that the things that are important to me are clear and accessible to him. I do not care if he believes in the religion of Judaism. I do care, and I told him on our second date (I think I waited until date 2), that we build a Jewish home TOGETHER. That to me, means we do Judaism entire family. I do not want all the responsibility to rest on my shoulders and I want to participate in Jewish life together. This means we are constantly examining what we are doing and why.
Since Adam is still learning so much, it is an opportunity for me to also look at what traditions and values are important to me, and how we can honor our own identities while still being a team raising our child with this one particular identity.
MT: What does Christmas look like in your family?
Aimee: If we are visiting our parents, we celebrate with relatives. But at our house, we do not plan to have a tree, stockings, ornaments, any Christmas stuff. I can’t separate the Jesus out, even if it is a federal holiday that can be very secular.
MT: How do you talk about G-d in your family (if at all)?
Aimee: I believe in G-d. Adam doesn’t. Makes for some deep talks, and an understanding that we just don’t agree on that topic. Right now the plan is to teach our child about G-d from a religious perspective. When he gets to the age that he has questions and perhaps challenges, the plan is to be honest with him about our own beliefs and answer his questions openly. I think having an interfaith family is a beautiful example of how people can hold different beliefs. Rather than a challenge to my belief system, I see it as an enriching opportunity for diversity and understanding (at least that is how I felt about my own family and upbringing).
MT: What is the most challenging part of being an interfaith family?
Aimee: There is a lot of talking and thinking and a lot of intention. I want for us to provide our child with a strong sense of roots and identity and I do not believe that is something that happens without intentional effort.
MT: What is the best part of being an interfaith family?
Aimee: Remember being a kid and maybe kind of wishing you could do some of the Christmas stuff? Well, now you can! And for us, in someone else’s house! On someone else’s dishes! and someone else gets to store all the decorations!
But in all seriousness, my life was richer and fuller for having grown up in a family that celebrated together and supported one another in our differences. When I was a teenager my godfather, who is a devout Catholic, told me, “Godchild, I don’t care what religion you are. I care that you are a good person and that you do good in this world.” In a world where we are all so divided by our identities, I feel blessed to have grown up in a family where I knew that our differences could unite us.
This interview was edited for brevity and clarity
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