interfaith families were explored at the Double Blessings Workshop held at Temple Beth Torah in Humble on Sunday, Dec. 2. Rabbi Dan Gordon and Dr. Susan Pollard led the “Double Blessings” interactive workshop” to give guidance for faith households with multiple faiths in the art of understanding, respect and tolerance. They explored these issues in a safe, non-judgmental and fun way, remembering all their shared goals.   “All of us are products of our religious background and identity, regardless of how ‘religious’ our homes were,” said Gordon. “When people of different faiths and cultures marry, they bring with them their history. In the past, many interfaith couples found themselves unwelcome in certain communities because the culture discouraged marrying outside of the faith. When this happens, the interfaith family may become discouraged, and stay away from any form of religion.” “They may also find one of the faiths more welcoming, and turn toward that one while excluding the other,” Gordon continued. “Today, we are trying to reach out more by showing that it is possible to have a strong sense of your own identity without negating others.” Gordon explained that by teaching understanding and respect, an interfaith family can achieve a “win-win” feeling. “That’s why we titled this workshop ‘Double Blessings.’ We can get beyond the difficulties of differences and embrace diversity,” he said. “Holiday time can bring many questions to the surface. When married partners come from different religious backgrounds, how does a family create identity and a love for culture while maintaining respect for the various traditions? Ultimately, each family makes its own decisions, and it can be frustrating to try to make everyone happy.” Gordon said there used to be more of a stigma to being part of an interfaith marriage. Families who felt strongly about their religion felt that a child who married “outside the faith” was abandoning their roots. “We try to create an atmosphere in which religious identity does not negate the other, but that mutual respect enhances all,” said Gordon. “One of my students wrote a beautiful poem about being a ‘cashew’ - half Catholic, half Jew. In suggesting that everything is not black and white, she closes her poem by saying, “I must be the gray between the black and white spell/And that’s the life of a Cashew ... in a nutshell!” According to Pollard, the participants in the workshop saw others who had very similar concerns. “There were six participants and the workshop went well,” Pollard said. “I think one of the main benefits for everyone was learning they were not alone in their concerns and questions. The participants left after a detailed discussion of the some of the “big issues” about being in an interfaith family as well as getting some very practical suggestions on specific questions. I think everyone left with more information and ideas about how to address their particular issues.” Pollard is a woman of Jewish faith and a professional psychologist, and she and her husband, Bruce, who is Methodist, raised three children. Through her professional practice, her personal situation and her work as a teacher in the Temple Beth Torah Religious School, she has seen many situations and learned the necessity of sensitivity. Gordon, who has been Temple Beth Torah’s spiritual leader since 1998, has been working with couples, families and the greater Houston interfaith community most of his professional career. He has been recognized for his work with multiculturalism and has seen many success stories. Temple Beth Torah is located at 320 Shallow Drive in Humble. For more information, visit their website at Morgan and Ethan Mooney were married six years ago in a blended interfaith ceremony co-officiated by Rabbi Dan Gordon of Temple Beth Torah, left, and Pastor Justin Jones of Grace Church of Humble, right. Contributed photo

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