Religious & Spiritual Guidance

Archived Responses: 

Help managing different religious views within a marriage

May 2005

Can anyone recommend a therapist/conselor who works with intermarried couples? My spouse and I are not actually intermarried -- we're both Jewish -- but we observe at very different levels, and that directly affects our lifestyle and the way we raise children. We'd like to work with someone who can respect our individual religious values and help us manage those differences in day-to-day life. Thank you for any recommendations or advice you can offer.

While he isn't a therapist by trade, I would highly recommend Rabbi Burt Jacobson, the founder of Kehilla Synangogue. He guided my husband and I (I'm jewish and he's not) through inspiring and refreshing pre-marriage counseling sessions. We both found him to be incredibly helpful, a good listener; and we felt much closer as a result of meeting with him. His insight and wisdom is profound. He does meet with individuals and couples for various forms of counseling and guidance.

Help Creating a Spiritual Life

January 2003

I'm what I laughingly call an ''adult survivor'' of a Pentecostal upbringing. But, honestly, I need a counselor who is familiar with the Assemblies of God (or similar charismatic evangelical Protestant) subculture to figure out ways back to a more moderate religious or spiritual life. My husband is a non-practicing Jew, and we would both like to agree on ways to incorporate religion or spirituality into weekly life with our toddler. The counselor could be anyone from clergy to psycotherapist. Any suggestions? Sarah in Oakland

I believe you will find many good counseling resources around here because of Berkeley's Graduate Theological Union, a group of theological schools in which there are many counseling professionals with expertise in theology/church life. I was a student at Pacific School of Religion, and two professors come to mind as people you might call: Archie Smith (who teaches at Pacific School of Religion) and Rosemary Chinicci (not sure I spelled that right; she used to teach at the Franciscan School, but now I think she's on the faculty at Starr King, the Unitarian School.) In particular, I have seen Rosemary address surviving fundamentalism in one class I was in, and she did it with humor and kindness. I took classes with both and would feel comfortable doing therapy with either. You could contact them by calling their schools. If they are not taking on new clients, I am certain that they would have good referrals for you. Best wishes. Elizabeth
While psychological therapy might be useful for the emotional issues related to your childhood religious experiences, you seem to be looking for someone to help you find your way to a more moderate spiritual life. I suggest you look for a spiritual director, who is someone who can help you find different perspectives on religion and guide your spiritual journey. There are a few places where you can start your search. Try the Lloyd Center, 258-6652; Durant House, 848-7024; or any church that you feel comfortable calling. If these groups don't do spiritual advising on-site, they should be able to refer you to someone who does this. Good luck. Anon
Marlene Winell has written an excellent book called ''Leaving the Fold: a guide for fundamentalists and others leaving their religion.'' which is one of the few self-help resources on this issue. She's a psychologist and does individual and group counselling. You can reach her at (831) 479-0139. She also has a site at fiona

Interfaith marriage counselor/support

August 2002

We are looking for a marriage counselor who specializes in interfaith marriages. Also, are there support groups out there or good books' We need help coping with the strains of having two different faiths in our marriage. We'd greatly appreciate any leads.

I don't know what the religious mix in your marriage is, but for marriages in which one partner is Jewish here's what I know.

The best book out there is:

Mixed Matches: How to Create Successful Interracial, Interethnic, and Interfaith Relationships. Joel Crohn, PhD Excellent book with exercises couples can do to explore their own cultural and familial styles and assumptions.

As for support etc. in the east bay:

Jewish Family and Children's Services - offices in Berkeley and Walnut Creek \xad in Berkeley ask for Cathy Diamond, 510-7475 x225 and in Walnut Creek ask for Carla Haimowitz, 925-927-2000. If you are having marital issues you probably want to start with a therapist as they can help with communication style and such.

Joel Crohn, author of the above book is in private practice here in the east bay with an office in Kensington. He is truly expert at interfaith therapy. He can be reached at 510-524-1707.

Building Jewish Bridges: Outreach to Interfaith Couples -- out of the Jewish Federation (Oakland office, but for both Alameda and Contra Costa counties) offers workshops and couples groups. The groups are not therapy, rather they are about clarifying values and deciding how to handle holidays, in-laws and kids. (510) 839-2900 x347

Individual synagogues have programs aimed at integrating and supporting interfaith couples as well as teaching about Jewish tradition. But I'm guessing that is not what you're looking for.

Finally, what about going to clergy that represent each of your faiths? They will be invested in helping you, supporting your marriage and easing the pain you are suffering.

Good luck, just know that you are not alone. Dckepler

You may want to check out the Unitarian Universalist ministers and congregations in the area. Many interfaith couples are married by UU ministers and attend UU congregations because there is a lot of celebration of diverse beliefs. Julie