Students learn to appreciate two different religions in one Family School

Students learn to appreciate two different religions in one Family School

Marley Hambourger

FAMILY’S FAITH: Deep in conversation, Father Tom Hurley and Rabbi Chava Bahle celebrate senior Marley Hambourger’s Bat Mitzvah. With the Family School’s dual religious system, Hambourger celebrates this milestone with both her rabbi and her priest.

Tori Brown & Anushka Kalra, staff reporters

Convey. Explore. Instill. These are the principles that the Family School, a Glenview based religious education program, have upheld for the past 20 years, according to their website. Operating since 1993, the Family School has provided religious services for families who associate themselves with both Judaism and Catholicism.

“As [Catholic-Jewish] parents began to have children, they were looking for a [religious] school [for] their kids to go [to] that didn’t say, ‘Our way is better’,” Patricia Patt, director of the Family School, said.

According to the Pew Research Center, since 2000, over 58 percent of marriages among Jews are with a non-Jewish partner. According to Patt, these parents faced the difficult task of finding an interfaith school. Therefore, the demand for programs such as the Family School has increased.

“There were no interfaith schools,” Patt said. “There are two schools in the Chicagoland area, the Union School and then the Family School.”

A handful of GBS students have attended the Family School. Sophomore Sarah Patt, a current member of the Family School, described the curriculum taught there.

“We meet two Sundays a month, and each class is taught by a different set of parents each week,” Sarah said.

Each grade has its own lesson, Sarah went on to say. Besides learning about the religions, the upper level classes also learn about the problems and ethical issues surrounding both religions. Senior Marley Hambourger, former student of the Family School, explained how the school had a major impact on her life.

“It has really defined the way I look at the world, and I’ve met some incredible people through [the school],” Hambourger said.

Hambourger remembers her Bat Mitzvah as a unique day in her life because her Catholic priest, Tom Hurley, attended as well as spoke.

“He spoke a lot about the similarities between the religions and what the ceremony meant, which was really interesting for all of the people who attended,” Hambourger said. “I think it was […] eye-opening and showed everyone that there are more similarities than people might want to think.”

Hambourger believes the Family School has shaped her personality and even moved her to minor in religious studies in college.

“Family school has taught me that my truth is not the only truth,” Hambourger said.

However, not everyone agrees with the intentions of the Family School. According to Sarah, some individuals expressed their displeasure with the dual faith aspect.  of the Family School. A fellow classmate in her World Religions class began to question Sarah about her dual faith and did not seem to understand how it could work, Patricia said.

“[That classmate] grew up in an environment where both parents were the same religion, and he thought, ‘How can you [practice both religions]?” Patricia said.

Adults also expressed complaints about the program, according to Sarah.

“People would come up to [our] parents and say, ‘You can’t do that,’ or, ‘Your kids are going to grow up confused’,” Sarah said.

Yet, the point of the program is not to confuse kids, but let them form their own opinions as adults, Sarah explained. As the Family School aims to provide a religiously integrated society, GBS has multiple religious clubs and observes religious holidays. In a recent survey by the Oracle, 150 out of 159 students reported that GBS is accommodating to their own religion and the religion of others.

The Family School, and other programs alike, aim to provide students with the choice to decide what they believe in and to respect other faiths.

“When you talk to the graduates of the school, they are not confused,” Patricia said. “Our kids are interfaith ambassadors. Our kids are more tolerant.”