Some Catholic-Jewish couples have designed combined Catholic-Jewish religious-education programs and developed joint Baptism and baby-naming ceremonies that are recognized as valid sacraments by the Catholic Church.

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She incorporated symbols from Baptism, including water from the River Jordan and soil from her native Iowa.

Now the girls are making their own choices clearer.

As they gether around the dinner table each evening, the Yala family of Oak Park, Illinois gives thanks to God in both English and Arabic.

Dana bows her head and intertwines the fingers of both hands, just as she was taught as a young Catholic.

Synagogues of all but the most Orthodox branches are offering classes in Jewish holidays for non-Jewish partners and hosting discussion groups for interfaith couples, he says.

The openness varies by geographic region, Mayer says.

But the national Orthodox and Conservative Jewish bodies forbid their rabbis from officiating at such ceremonies, and only a minority of Reform rabbis are willing, say Jewish scholars.

Within the past 15 years, however, there has been a "radical shift" toward including and welcoming interfaith families into synagogues, according to Egon Mayer, director of the Jewish Outreach Institute at the City University of New York's Center for Jewish Studies.

Twelve-year-old Michaela has begun the rigorous preparations for a bat mitzvah, while Kate, 15, is an aide in the church's religious education program and a member of the church youth group.