(Published April 7, 2020)
“Passover is a perfect way to introduce Judaism to those who are not Jewish, because there’s so much participation,” said Hannah Wipper, a lifelong JCC member who was raised proudly Jewish by her Jewish father and Catholic mother.
Growing Up Multi-Faith
As a child, Hannah was exposed to both Judaism and Catholicism. She attended Hasten Hebrew Academy but also celebrated Christmas and Easter with extended family. For Passover, if she was in Indianapolis for the holiday she celebrated with a large traditional seder (festive meal) with her father’s side of the family. But occasionally she would be in New York visiting extended family on her mother’s side, and she recalls several times her non-Jewish family members joined with them to put on a seder.
Hannah appreciates her multi-faith upbringing and the support from her Catholic family members. Her family did a great job, she said, of incorporating both traditions where possible but also avoiding any confusion by drawing distinctions when needed.
The Wippers – A New Multi-Faith Family
Today, Hannah has a multi-faith family of her own, raising her son, Bennett, with her husband, Michael, who is Catholic. Just as their wedding had elements of both Judaism and Catholicism, so does their parenting: After some difficult discussions, they agreed that Bennett will be raised Catholic but will have immense exposure to Judaism, and they will emphasize a proud Jewish identity through family and holidays.
“It was really important to me to be back home in Indianapolis with family,” Hannah said (she and Michael met in Boston), “and really important for Mike to raise his kids within his faith. Because I was raised in a multi-faith family that was the same but opposite [Jewish dad, Catholic mom vs. Jewish mom, Catholic dad], I’m comfortable with this.”
The Wippers have wasted no time in practicing what they preach. Michael serves the community as a member of the JCC Indianapolis board and Bennett attends preschool at a local synagogue. The family belongs to a Catholic church, and Michael also attends High Holidays services at synagogue with Hannah.
Passover – A Unique Holiday
Because Hannah grew up with non-Jewish members at her family’s seder, celebrating Passover with her new multi-faith family makes perfect sense. Today, the Wippers host a seder that both Hannah’s parents and in-laws attend. For them, food is an especially important part of Passover; being in the kitchen with family members and partaking in the ceremonial dinner brings the whole family together, regardless of their religion.
The Wippers celebrate all holidays within Judaism and Catholicism. Passover is special because “there is a shared history” and connection to both religions. Michael and Hannah encourage everyone at the table to partake in the reading of the Haggadah, a written guide to the Passover seder that includes prayers and the Exodus narrative.
Hannah aims for a seder that honors tradition and the past while also being accessible for all people. “There’s room for everyone at the table!” she said.