My Mixed Life: Pam Moore
My Mixed Life is an interview series where we showcase interesting humans and their mixed lives.
Talking Louis: Who are you?
Pam Moore: Good question, I ask myself this every day. LOL. I’m a freelance women’s health and fitness writer and speaker. My writing has been published in The Washington Post, Runner’s World, Outside, and many others. I’m also the author of There’s No Room for Fear in a Burley Trailer, a collection of stories chronicling my journey from amateur triathlete to rookie mom.
Before becoming a writer, I was an occupational therapist for over ten years. Although I no longer work in healthcare, my training and experience color the way I see the world, particularly regarding health and wellness.
I’m also the mother of two girls, ages eight and five, and an athlete. I did two full Ironman triathlons and six marathons before my girls were born. In the last few years, I’ve gotten my first pull-up and did my first 5k open water swim. I enjoy running 5k’s, sprint triathlons, and almost anything painful :). I also teach indoor cycling classes, which I have been doing since I was in my 20’s! I’m now 41.
I live in Boulder, Colorado. I moved there from Rhode Island when I was 29 knowing practically no one and met my husband two weeks later at a bar on Valentine’s Day! Married to Dan for ten years in June.
You can learn more about me on my website pam-moore.com, where I’ve been blogging for over ten years.
TL: What does your mixed experience look like?
PM: We’re kind of figuring it out as we go but basically: My husband takes the day off from work on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah (aka High Holy Days, kind of like the Christmas and Easter of Judaism might be a good way of putting it.) We attend a family service at our synagogue, which we joined when our older child started kindergarten; it was important to me that we enroll her in religious school, which is why we joined when we did.
We typically spend Christmas with my in-laws, but it’s more of a secular “American” celebration (e.g. focus on food, gifts, and being together) than anything else. While I have been pretty firm about not having a Christmas tree in our house, I have gotten a little more into Christmas with every passing year. For example, in past years I have not put anything in my kids’ stockings (my sister-in-law puts one up for them at her house), nor have I made sure there were gifts from Santa, although this year I did those things. I like watching my kids enjoy those parts of the holiday.
We typically go to my in-laws for Easter dinner, but we don’t go to church with them. Recently my kids stayed with my in-laws overnight and they took the girls to church, which is fine with me. I think it’s a nice opportunity for them to connect with their grandparents.
We host or attend a Seder or two every Passover, which is a lot of fun. When we host, we invite my mother- and father-in-law, who are very interested in learning about the holiday.
Friday nights, we frequently have Shabbat dinner as a family or with friends. This involves ceremonial candles, bread (challah), and wine (or juice for the kids), along with specific blessings and a nicer meal. (Not leftovers!) We have a tradition of taking turns saying what the best part of our week was. I think it’s a nice way to bookend the week and go into the weekend feeling more connected as a family.
I say a Jewish prayer to my girls before bed every night but if I’m not home at bedtime, my husband doesn’t do this with the kids, which is totally fine with me.
TL: You are Jewish and your husband was raised Presbyterian and considers himself an atheist. Until he met you, he had never known a Jewish person. In what ways, if at all, has being with a non-Jewish person influenced your identity?
PM: Interestingly, although he thought he never knew a Jewish person before he met me, his mother’s maternal grandmother was Jewish, which, according to traditional Jewish law, makes him Jewish (along with his own mother and grandmother, although he never got to meet his grandmother, who passed away before he was born.)
I think, if anything, I have had to think harder about my Jewish identity and be much more intentional about it. Without having a Jewish partner, nothing that we do Jewishly is “by default.” Or at least we don’t make decisions regarding Judaism by default. Like, now that our kids are enrolled in religious school, we are not going to discuss whether to do that every single year; that’s a given that we’ll continue with that. But it was a conversation we had before we enrolled our oldest. Same thing with joining the synagogue.
We have a tradition of taking turns saying what the best part of our week was. I think it’s a nice way to bookend the week and go into the weekend feeling more connected as a family.
TL: Has the topic of your husband converting to Judaism ever come up? At the time, what were your feelings on interfaith marriage?
PM: It comes up from time to time - usually me teasing my husband about the inevitability of him converting. I like to tell him he’s already Jewish because he questions everything, which is a big part of Judaism, and because he truly enjoys gefilte fish, which is something most people think is disgusting and is traditionally served on Passover.
But no, not in a real way. I don’t think he will end up converting and I’m totally fine with that. He is and always has been very supportive of fostering our girls’ connection to Judaism, including sending them to Jewish overnight summer camp (our oldest will attend the camp my dad, my siblings, and I went to this summer), and I really appreciate that.
I used to think that if I were to marry a gentile, he’d be what I call “Jewish-familiar.” I envisioned not having to explain every little thing to him; like I thought he’d know how to pronounce the guttural “ch” in “challah”, how to dance the Hora, what a bar mitzvah was, etc. Anyway, that didn’t happen, but Dan has many amazing qualities I wouldn’t have necessarily thought were important when I was searching for my Mr. Right.
TL: What expectations did you have for your interfaith marriage? How have your expectations been met or not met?
PM: I expected we would raise our kids Jewish, which is something I told Dan about three hours after we agreed to not see other people. We’d been dating for about two weeks and I thought, this could ruin the whole thing or I could just be saving myself a bunch of drama, but I had to bring it up because if he hadn’t been okay with that, it would have been a deal breaker for me.
My expectations have been met, or maybe even exceeded because Dan not only agrees to do virtually any Jewish event/activity/ritual/community gathering I suggest, he typically does it happily with an air of genuine curiosity.
TL: When you were dating, you told your now husband that you wanted to raise your children Jewish. Why was that so important to you?
PM: It’s just a big part of my identity. I also feel like Judaism is, to a major extent, part of who I am. In the way other people might say they’re Portuguese or Italian, or Haitian, or any other ethnicity, Judaism to me is an ethnicity. So, while I don’t necessarily identify with the places where my ancestors came from, I do feel connected to my lineage by virtue of being Jewish.
Maybe part of that is the fact that the reason my family ended up in America was that, all of my great grandparents were pushed out of their home countries in Eastern Europe in the late 19th century because Jews were being persecuted… so they escaped to the U.S. with basically nothing and they built lives for themselves and I feel like in some sense I owe it to them to keep the commitment to Judaism alive.
Also, it’s familiar to me, it’s what I grew up with. When I meet another Jewish person, often there’s just this shared connection, a shared culture, and so many things you don’t have to explain about yourself or your family.
Be prepared to have to articulate many things you may have taken for granted. While it can be challenging to explain yourself and your values, having those conversations present a unique opportunity to reevaluate your own belief, to gain some self-awareness, and to deepen your relationship with your partner.
TL: When your husband asked what raising Jewish children would look like, you told him you didn’t know. How did you both go about figuring out how to raise Jewish children? What Jewish traditions do you choose to incorporate into your family’s life?
PM: We are figuring it out as we go for the most part but I knew going in that a few “musts” would be that we’d join a synagogue, our kids would go to Sunday school, and they’d have a bar/bat mitzvah, which is a coming of age ceremony when a Jewish boy or girl turns 13.
As far as Jewish traditions we incorporate, I mentioned a lot of it above. Also, we held a naming ceremony for each of our daughters which is a ritual that welcomes a baby into the community and announces her Hebrew name. It’s kind a modern equivalent to a briss (ritual circumcision for baby boys that happens at eight days old); modern in the sense that I don’t think there was any formal celebration for Jewish baby girls up until probably the 1970’s or 80’s. Don’t quote me on that, I’m not totally sure when the naming came into vogue. I’m pretty sure I had one. I was born in 1978.
TL: You and your husband enlisted the help of a therapist to work through ambiguity about raising your kids. In what ways has your communication about how to raise your kids improved because of working with a professional?
PM: When an issue comes up that never really gets resolved, or never leads to a productive conversation, that’s when we know we need to discuss it in the presence of our therapist. It’s nice to know she’s always there if we can’t talk constructively about an issue on our own.
She also has reminded us many times that we are a team. Keeping this in mind going into a loaded conversation can be super helpful. It’s not necessarily “How can I get what I want here”; instead, you shift your mindset to “How can we both feel good about the outcome and both feel supported here?”
TL: What are some of the most important lessons you would pass on to parents who are in interfaith marriages and are raising religious children?
PM: Communicate with your partner! Don’t assume anything. Be prepared to have to articulate many things you may have taken for granted. While it can be challenging to explain yourself and your values, having those conversations present a unique opportunity to reevaluate your own belief, to gain some self-awareness, and to deepen your relationship with your partner.
TL: Because we’re a small press, we have to ask: What’s the one book you always recommend to people?
PM: Just one!? That’s the hardest question in this whole interview! It depends what they’re in the mood for… One of my absolute favorite things is recommending books. If I could be a professional book yenta, I would be. For fiction, I often recommend All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood. For non-fiction, I really enjoyed Educated by Tara Westover.
Thanks, Pam, for sharing your mixed experience with us!
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