Jewish, Christian, Chewish, or Eschewish:
Interfaith Marriage Pathways for the New Millennium
by Reeve Robert Brenner


A Friendly Copyright Notice
© 2007 Reeve Robert Brenner All rights reserved

Even though most copyright notices say all kinds of mean things about not reproducing the book in any form, I not only wouldn't mind if you copy parts of this book, I would be thrilled if you do. All I ask is that you tell people where this material came from and who is the author. If you want copies of the entire book, it's easier and probably cheaper to buy nice pretty printed originals from our website. Thanks!



1.      Victor E. Frankl, From Death Camp to Existentialism, The Search for Meaning (Washington Square Press, 1984)

 2.  Kenneth Pargament, The Psychology of Religion and Coping (New York: The Guilford Press, 1997) p. 90

3.   Ibid., p. 360.

Chapter One. Who Is Jew

1.      See the works of Solomon Freehof, Walter Jacobs and other Reform Responsa for Jewish answers to thorny problems of our times.

Chapter Two. Israel: The Jewish People

1.      Umberto Eco, et al., Conversations About the End of Time (The Penguin Press, 1999)

2.      Christopher Hitchens, Letters To A Young Contrarian (New York: Basic Books, 2001)

Chapter Three. Marriage, Family, Children’s

Identity: Toward Reworking Definitions

1.      Rabbi Leon A. Morris, former director of the New York Kollel, adult Jewish study center at the Hebrew Union College, writing in The New York Times, October 12, 1997.

2.      The American Rabbi, Vol. 33, Fall 2000.

3.      Walter Jacob, Contemporary American Reform Responsa (New York: Hebrew Union College Press: Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1987) p. 284.

Chapter Four.  Ascending Lineality, Retrojected

Identity, Equalineality, and the Three Marital Transactions

1.      Blu Greenberg, Sh’ma, January 2000, Sh’vat 5760.

2.      Reeve R. Brenner, The Faith and Doubt of Holocaust Survivors (New York: Free Press, 1980; New Jersey: Jason Aronson Inc.1997).

3.      Jenny McPhee, “A Mother’s Name,” The New York Times (February 2, 1997) p. 68.

Chapter Five.  The Four Pathways:  Jewish, Christian,

Chewish (both) or Eschewish (neither)

1.      Letters to the Editor, The New York Times (August 21, 2002).

2.      Dr. Andrew Newberg, et. al., Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the

      Biology of Belief (New York: Ballantine Books, 2001­).

3.   Ibid.

4.   Gazette Regional News (December 27, 2000).

5.   The New York Times (May 19, 2000).

6.   Reform Judaism (July, 1996).

Chapter Six.  Choosing Judaism by Backing into it

1.      The Condition of Jewish Belief (Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson, Inc.) p. 268.

Chapter Seven.  The Four Age-Appropriate Dialogues

1.   Yearbook, XIX, p. 170 – 184.

2.   Yearbook, LVII, p. 161.

3.   Gates of Mitzvah, p. 33f.

4.   Jewish Post and Opinion (October 17, 2001).

Chapter Eight.  Conversion and Convergence

1.   Baruch Litvin, Jewish Identity: Modern Responsa and Opinions - A Documentary

      Compilation (Philipp Feldheim, Inc., New York 1965; back cover).

2.   Ibid.

3.   Washington Post (Friday, July 5, 2002) p. C1.

4.   Nicholas Wade, New York Times (May 14, 2002)..

5.   Nathaniel Weyl, The Creative Elite in America (Washington D.C.: Public Affairs

      Press, 1966).

6.   New York Times (June 20, 2002) front page.

7.   The Jerusalem Post International Edition (July 13, 1996) p. 13.

8.   Neil McInnes, Koestler and His Jewish Thesis (The National Interest, Fall 1999)


9.   Max Weber, Ancient Judaism (Cambridge: Polity Press, New York 1984).

10. The Jewish Post and Opinion (August 14, 2001) p. 11.

11. Rabbi Reuven Bulka, The National Jewish Post and Opinion (August 14, 2002) p. 7.

12. Paul A. Johnson, A History of the Jews (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.,


13. Philip Weiss, New York Magazine (January 29, 1996).

14. Richard D. Kuhn, Mixed Marriages-A Disaster or an Opportunity.

15. Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, Cleveland Sun (March 15, 2002).

16. The Orlando Sentinel (January 12, 2002).

17. Ellen Jaffe McClain, New York Times (July 20, 1995) p. 22.

18. The National Jewish Post and Opinion (August 7, 2002) p. 6.

Chapter Nine.  Judaism, Christianity, Islam-Contrasts

1.   Rosemary Radford Ruether, Gaia and God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth

      Healing (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992).

2.   The Golden Rule Controversy Reconsidered, The Reconstructionist.

3.   New York Times (June 20, 2003) p. 24.

4.   E. S. Brightman, The Encyclopedia of Religion (V. Ferm, ed., Littlefield, Adams & Co., 1964).

5.   Quirinus Breen, The Encyclopedia of Religion, op. cit.

6.   Parish Liturgy (American Catholic Press, April 2005) p. 35.

7.   Rabbi Jacob Neusner in an address delivered at Temple Beth El, Poughkeepsie, NY

      (December 3, 2000).

8.   Hyman Maccoby, Revolution in Judaea: Jesus and the Jewish Resistance (Taplinger          

      Publishing Co./NY/1981) pg. 93-94.

9.   Hyman Maccoby, p. 75.

10. Ibid

11. Jacob Chinitz, Jews Against Jesus (The Jewish Spectator, September 1996.)

12. Rabbi Milton Steinberg, Basic Judaism (New York: Harcourt Trade Publishers,                1965).

13. Chinitz, Op.Cit.  

14. Thomas Cahill, The Gifts of the Jews: How A Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the

      Way Everyone Thinks And Feels (New York: Nan A. Talese, 1998); Nathaniel Wyle,   The Creative Elite in America (Washington DC, Public Affairs Press.)

15. Rabbi Allen Podet, The National Jewish Post and Opinion (June 18, 2003) p. 5.

16. Trude Weiss-Rosmarin, Judaism and Christianity: The Differences (New York:

      Jonathan David Publishers, 1997); Abba Hillel Silver, Where Judaism Differed: An Inquiry Into The Distinctiveness Of Judaism (New Jersey: Jason Aronson, 1987).

17. Daniel J. Elazar, Covenant as A Political Concept (Article in the Jerusalem Center  for Public Affairs, November 7, 2001).

18. Christianity in Jewish Terms (Tikva:Frymer-Kensky, et al. Editors; Westview Press, 2000).

19. Ibid p. 294.

20. Ibid. p. xiii.

21. Lawrence A. Hoffman, Christianity in Jewish Terms (Westview Press, 2000) p. 178.

22. Bernard Lewis, Semites and Anti-Semites (W. W. Norton and Company 1999).

23. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity, HarperSanFrancisco.

24. Alan Cook, Gleanings, Central Conference of American Rabbis Newsletter, July-August 2005.

25. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, New York Times (October 26, 2003) section 4, p. 1.

26. Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan (in a speech on Views on Islam, delivered on September 15th 2002 at Hillsdale College and published in Imprints,

October 2002, volume 3, number 10).

27. Lewis, op.cit.

Chapter Ten.  Thinking About Thinking About God

1.   Roger Shattuck, The NY Review of Books (June 29, 2000) p. 55.

2.   Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint (New York: Random House, 1969).

3.   Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine, The Jewish Post and Opinion (January 1, 2003) p. 15.

4.   Michael Dirda, New York Times (November 4, 2001).

5.   Donna Berman, Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones But Words May

      Destroy My People (1993).

6.   Judith Plaskow, “The Right Question is Theological,” On Bring a Jewish Feminist


7.   Marcia Falk, “What About God?” Moment Magazine (1984).

8.   Carol B. Balin, “Feminism and Messianism” Tikkun (Vol. 11, No. 6,

      November/December, 1996) p. 66.

9.   Alfred North Whitehead, Religion in the Making (New York: Meridian Books, [1960]


10. B’nai B’rith, Vol. 4 Contemporary Jewish Thought, ed. Simon Noveck p. 177.

11. Reeve Robert Brenner, The Faith and Doubt of Holocaust Survivors, (Free Press     1981; Jason Aronson, Inc.1997) pg. 86.

12. Rabbi Louis Jacobs, Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought (Paul Mendes-Flohr-

      Free Press, New York).

13. Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (New York: Warner Books, [1980] c1978).

14. Ibid.

15. Raimon Panikkar, “How Not To Talk To God” Cross Currents (Summer 1997),

      p. 149-153.

16. Rabbi Richard Rubenstein, The Condition of Jewish Belief (compiled by the Editors of Commentary Magazine, Jason Aronson Inc, New York, 1989, 1966) p. 80

17. Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn, Ibid. (1996).

18. M. M. Kaplan, Ibid. (1996).

19. Rabbi H.J. Wexler, Ibid (1996).

20. Rabbi Jacob J. Weinstein, Ibid. (1996) p. 264.

21. Rabbi Arthur Green, Commentary (August, 1996).

22. Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, “The New Liturgies,” Judaism, (#46 Spring, 1997) p. 239.

23. Judy Carr, The National Jewish Post and Opinion.


1.   Sybil M. Lassiter, “Jewish Americans,” Multicultural Clients: A Professional Handbook for Health Care Providers and Social Workers (Greenwood Press, 1995) p. 147.

2.   The National Jewish Post and Opinion (December 26, 2004) p. 8.

3.   The Washington Times (September 11, 2003) p. A9.

4.   Julie Cohen, The National Jewish Post and Opinion (October 16, 2002) p. 5.

5.   Rabbi Charles A. Kroloff, New York Times (November 22, 2002) p. A26.

6.   Ibid.

7.   Jonathan Sarna, Washington Jewish Week (October 31, 2002) p. 7.

8.   Karen Armstrong, New York Times (August 31, 1996) Op. Ed. p. A23.

9.   Bertrand Horwitz, New York Times (Letter To The Editor, June 17, 2003).

10. Thomas Cahill, The Gifts of The Jews (New York: Nan A. Talese, c1998).

11. Paul Golomb, Central Conference of American Rabbis Journal (Fall, 2002) p. 77.

12. Rabbi Richard N. Levy, Central Conference of American Rabbis Newsletter

      (December 1996-Kislev/Tevet 5757, Vol. 44, No. 4).


TABLE 1.  Criteria for Degrees of Observance




Moderately Observant

Highly Observant

Extremely Observant


1.      Observes dietary laws at home





2.      Observes dietary laws outside home 





3.      Observes shaatnez



4.      Fasts on Day of Atonement





5.      Fasts on the Ninth   of Av




6.      Lights Hanukkah candles





7.      Observes Passover Seder





8.      Prays daily




9.      Attends synagogue on Sabbath





10.  Attends synagogue on festivals





11.  Attends synagogue on Day of Atonement





12.  Observes the Sabbath





13.  Observes the Sabbath (without use of electric switches)




14.  Observes the Sabbath (without the use of automobile)




15.  Wears tzitzit   (fringed garment)



16.  Wears peot (earlocks)



17.  Daily use of tephillin (phylacteries)




18.  Keeps head covered



19.  Attends mikveh (ritual bath)



20.  Kindles Sabbath candles






Glossary of Commandments (Mitzvot)

1.      Dietary Laws  (Kashrut, Hebrew for kasher meaning fit or proper).  Laws of the Bible and Talmud prohibiting certain foods from the diet of the Jew: animals and fowls not slaughtered ritually, and humanely, or found defective in one of their vital organs, and other regulations restricting the eating and drinking practices, habits and customs of Jews.  Most Jews observe some degree of kashrut by at the very least abstaining from pork products, a prohibition the violation of which in Israel today entails an effort similar to the cost and effort of finding a kosher butcher elsewhere.  Jewish tradition considers the prohibition against various other forbidden, “unclean” animals as equally binding.  These include fish without fins or scales, such as shellfish, and birds which are not traditionally known as “clean,” and certain wines, etc.  Flesh torn from a living animal and certain parts of “clean” beasts, meat from which the blood has not been extracted by a special salting process, meat and milk foods intermingled or eaten in proximity are all designated as unfit, that is, unkosher.

2.      Shaatnez  (a word likely of Egyptian origin meaning a mingling of fabrics).  The Bible (Lev. 19:19; Deut. 22:11) prohibits the admixture of wool and flax in a garment worn by a Jew except for certain priestly garments and fringes (tzitzit).  Jewish commentators offer various explanations for the prohibition against the mingling of fabrics.  Clothing today is for the most part clearly labeled as to contents but a Jew who indicates studied compliance with the shaatnez legislation is generally extremely observant.  The law also forbids the wearing of a woolen garment sewn with linen threads.

3.      Day of Atonement  (Yom Kippur).  The most solemn occasion of the Jewish calendar, Tishri 10, while categorized formally as a festival in the Bible (Lev. 23:26 – 32, where it is described as the Sabbath of Sabbaths) is strictly observed as a day of fasting, self-affliction, cleansing of self of all sins (Lev. 16:30).  Most Jews mark the occasion with fasting for all or at least some part of the day and synagogue attendance, particularly for the impressive evening service, Kol Nidre (all vows).

4.      Ninth of Av  (Tisha b’Av).  Fast day commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.  Dirges (kinot) are recited in the synagogue.  The day also marks the anniversary of other Jewish calamities including the 1492 expulsion of the Jews from Spain.  A moderately observant Jew today will not fast and will more than likely be oblivious to the day’s occurrence.

5.      Hanukkah  (Hebrew meaning dedication).  An eight-day festival commemorating the successful revolution of the Maccabees in 165 B.C.E. against the excesses of Antiochus Epiphanus and the rededication of the Altar of the Second Temple following its desecration.  The festival was instituted for eight days because the uprising caused the eight day Sukkot festival to be deferred and in commemoration of a cruse of oil which, according to the popular story, miraculously burned for the period, and Jews kindle lights each of the eight nights to celebrate the event.  Hanukkah is one of the most popular Jewish holidays, particularly for youngsters.  The rabbis stressed religious values to diminish the military aspect of the festival.  However, in the State of Israel, the military character has been reemphasized.

6.      Passover  (Pesach).  The springtime pilgrimage festival commemorating the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt, hence its designation as the “festival of freedom.”  It is also known as “the feast of the unleavened bread” (matzah) in the Bible (Lev. 5 – 6).  Passover is a seven-day festival in Israel (eight days elsewhere for traditional Jews).  Both first and last days are sacred days on which all work is forbidden.  Special dietary laws apply the entire period of the festival.  The most popular festival of the Jewish calendar is simultaneously agricultural (marking the beginning of the barley harvest) and historical (referring to the passing over or sparing of the children of Israel from the plague of the first born and their subsequent liberation from Egyptian bondage) in origin.  The seder (order) ceremony, which features the recitation of the Haggadah narrative and festive meal of symbolic foods and beverages, in the most important home ceremony of the year.  Jews of almost every background and persuasion observe the festival with some form of special seder family meal.

7.      Sabbath  (Shabbat).  The weekly day of rest for Jews is observed from Friday before sunset until after nightfall Saturday.  According to its biblical origin (Gen 2:1 – 3), it is a memorial of the seventh day of God’s creation of the world as well as of the liberation from Egyptian bondage and of God’s covenant with Israel (Exodus 31:16 – 17).  The commandment of the Decalogue (Exodus 20:8) enjoins: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it sacred.”  In the home candles are kindled, generally by the woman of the household, and the man recites the Kiddush Prayer acknowledging the special character of the day, over a cup of wine, before the Friday night meal, which is prepared of the finest foods possible.  Synagogue services including readings from the Torah and Prophets as well as prayers signal the importance of the day.  And the Sabbath is terminated after nightfall with valedictory benedictions over wine, spices, and candle to distinguish (Havdalah) between the Sabbath day and the secular character of the rest of the week.  Certain types of action are considered an infringement of the day, and the extent to which they are observed often determines the extent to which the Jew is thought of as observant.

8.      Tzitzit  (fringes).  The Bible commands the wearing of fringes or twisted cords appended to each of the four corners of a garment (Deut. 22:12 and Numbers 15:38).  A special garment of this sort is worn by male Jews during the day in keeping with the biblical precept.  The continuous wearing of the fringed garment beneath one’s outer clothing points essentially to extremely observant behavior.

9.      Peot  (Hebrew, literally corners).  Earlocks worn by male Jews in keeping with the literal interpretation of the biblical injunction (Lev. 19:27) not to round the corners of the head or mar the corners of the beard.  Allowing the hair around the ear to grow long is now characteristic of ultra observant, Hasidic Jews.

10.  Tephillin  (phylacteries).  Two black leather cases fastened to leather straps which contain scrolls of parchment on which are written four portions of the Bible.  They are bound to the arm and head by the Jewish male of thirteen years of age and older during the weekly morning service at home or at the synagogue.  The injunction to wear them is based on four paragraphs in the Bible:  Exodus 13:1 – 10, 13:11 – 16; Deut. 6:4 – 9, 11:13 – 21.  Many Jews are introduced to the practice at their coming of age (Bar Mitzvah), but only the highly and extremely observant Jews continue to “lay” tephillin daily the rest of their lives.

11.  Covering of the Head.  The prevailing custom among the extremely observant is to keep their heads covered at all times, whereas others would cover their heads only while praying or eating.  The covering of the head finds its source not so much in Jewish law as in custom, which in time assumed the force of the law.

12.  Mikveh  (Hebrew for gathering or collection, especially of water).  Ritual bath used mainly by the post-menstruous woman for the ritual of immersion.


A Friendly Copyright Notice
© 2007 Reeve Robert Brenner All rights reserved

Even though most copyright notices say all kinds of mean things about not reproducing the book in any form, I not only wouldn't mind if you copy parts of this book, I would be thrilled if you do. All I ask is that you tell people where this material came from and who is the author. If you want copies of the entire book, it's easier and probably cheaper to buy nice pretty printed originals from our website. Thanks!