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I don’t think I’ve ever written about this but, it’s something that’s really worked for us as a couple and as a family of the last nearly 24 years that we’ve been together.
It’s our different but, similar faiths. And how our relationship evolved to be an interfaith family.
My wife is a Christian. She was born and raised a Baptist. But, moved away from Baptist teachings as a 20 something young person. And up until meeting me, she had not known many (if any) Jews growing up. Beyond the initial (yet long-lasting) fascination with each other, she was sincerely interested in my being Jewish. There was a flurry of questions about Jewish traditions, marriage, birth, death and the like. Where I could, I provided answers. Where memory failed me, I kindly reminded her that I was not an encyclopedia of Jewish religious traditions and philosophy and that I might need a moment to research it and arrive at an explanation. Because just like there are many “branches” of faith within Christianity, there are several within Judaism as well.
These divisions of the Jewish faith are generally accepted as:
- Chassidism an ultra-strict following of Orthodox Judaism
- Orthodox Judaism
- Conservative Judaism
- Reform Judaism
Each of these parts of Judaism has many similarities and some differences. These difference, break down into if you keep Kosher (follow Jewish dietary law), how inclusive the congregation might be towards women and people of other orientations and if interfaith marriages are welcomed. Side note: Orthodox Jews generally don’t recognize any other Jew.
That’s a very high-level summary but, you get the picture. As you move from more Orthodox towards less Orthodox Judaism, the congregations generally are more apt to be inclusive and (now) welcome a partner of another faith so long as the decision was made to raise the child Jewish. And less likely to follow Kosher dietary law. To complicate things a bit, there is nothing to prevent a more Orthodox congregant from becoming a member of a less Orthodox congregation and continuing to follow their traditions. It happens.
Interfaith Family Decisions
As our relationship progressed we made a conscious decision to honor each other’s faiths and work the common elements into our relationship.
In our case, we decided to raise our daughter as a Christian. How we came to this and the timing of the birth of our child (early 2000s), it was obvious that my faith wasn’t all that interested in accepting my family.
A Pivotal Event in My Faith
As a part of sharing my faith with my Christian family, we attend a Reform congregation in Greensboro, NC on a Friday night (Shabbat) service in the mid-2000s. I won’t ever forget this Rabbi’s response to our decision when he “welcomed” us as newcomers. In short, it was his position that we were raising a very confused, split personality daughter.
I was crestfallen and when we left, we vowed never to return as a family.
Despite the differences in our faith, it’s worked very well. Not because of them. If you are considering marrying someone of another faith, get to know them. As one person advised me a long time ago, “fold yourself into them”.
Picture: From our Honeymoon morning (’99) at the Broadmore Hotel in Colorado.