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Christian father and Jewish mother introduce their children to both faiths

These are some of the books an interfaith couple use with their children.

Rob Sauders and Diana Koorkanian-Sauders are raising their nine-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter in both Jewish and Christian traditions.

This season, they celebrate both Passover and Easter.

They believe their children have the right to choose their beliefs and the only way to make an informed choice is to be educated in both faith traditions.

“Some literature on raising interfaith children suggests they will be confused, but we have not found that true,” Diana said.  “They gain something from each faith community.

“Regardless of what they choose, we want them to understand who we are and what motivates us,” Rob said.

“They pick up on common themes, and we make sure they understand these are different religions, not the same, even though there are many commonalties,” Diana said.

“In broad themes, they are similar but they are different in details, practices and culture,” Rob said.

“We do all the holidays,” he said.  “Hannukah, Christmas, Passover and Easter activities, along with other Jewish holidays, including the high holy days of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, in the fall.

Their family also attends the annual Yom HaShoah Holocaust remembrance service at Temple Beth Shalom.

They are involved in both the Reform Jewish Congregation Emanu-El and Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ in Spokane.

 “From Sunday school at Westminster, they gain a broad perspective,” Rob said.

The church has been using a book by Desmond Tutu of South Africa as a resource for its classes.
“The UCC church is open and affirming and involves people from various Christian backgrounds.  Similarly, the Reform congregation is a welcoming and inclusive Jewish community,” Rob said.

“The Reform movement shares many values with the United Church of Christ, including the priority on social justice, racial equality, women’s issues and environmental responsibility,” Rob and Diana said.  “Broad themes are similar. Details differ, but can enrich.
“We understand differences are not about right or wrong,” he said.  “Often we stress differences, but it’s about some do religion this way, and others do it that way.”

Diana’s mother is Jewish and her father was Armenian and a member of the Apostolic/Eastern Orthodox Christian Church, so she is familiar with growing up in an interfaith household, in which her parents encouraged her to decide what faith path to follow.

“I identify as Jewish, but my name is Armenian. I’m proud of that heritage, too,” she said.  “There is a big Armenian community in New England with much extended family.  The East Coast also has a bigger Jewish community.”

Diana said her parents were culturally involved in their communities.
Rob grew up going to Sunday school regularly.

In the Jewish community in Spokane, Diana said it’s important to be involved.  On the East Coast, there are other Jewish children in school and the community. 

“Here there are just a handful, so we have to proactively make efforts to introduce them to Jewish culture and religious education,” Diana explained.

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