Keeping the (Inter) Faith During the Holidays

Every year around this time I get a call or an e-mail asking for an interview about being in an interfaith marriage. The reporters all want to know why my wife and I decided to raise our daughter Jewish and whether images of Santa and a Christmas tree at my in-laws’ house will make her convert to Christianity at the first possible opportunity.

I occasionally write columns for Interfaith Family Magazine, which is where reporters from publications like the LA Jewish Journal and Jewish wire services get my name. Every year I get the same questions, every year I give the same answers, and every year they can’t believe that a Jew and a Christian can raise a Jewish child, have a Jewish home and go to synagogue every week without the non-Jewish partner converting (in case you are wondering, the answer is yes, it can be done and we are just fine, thanks.)

I understand the questions and the need to ask them, which is why I don’t mind putting on the broken record every December. The questions themselves, however, are born from fear.

Jews are not the most emotionally secure people in the world, and for good reason – 2,000 years of persecution, execution and assimilation will do that every time. There are enough problems keeping the Jews we have, so when someone like me marries a non-Jew, there’s cause for alarm.

I tell the reporters not to worry, but telling a Jew not to worry is like telling Paris Hilton not to go partying. Without Jewish worry and paranoia there would have been no Woody Allen, no Seinfeld and no Jewish mothers.

So I don’t bother trying to change people’s minds. Instead, I focus on helping my daughter with her Hebrew school homework. I proofread the synagogue newsletter that my Christian spouse puts together. I go on despite all those who think this way of life is impossible or wrong.

I’m lucky. My in-laws and my own mother, who may have been skeptical or even scared at first, never disowned us. Our daughter is just another grandchild, not “the Jewish one” or “the mixed-up one.” When Chanukah and Christmas overlap, my in-laws light their own menorah and say the Hebrew prayers.

This is respect, not lip service. There is no fear of conversion from either side; we are all far too secure in ourselves for that.

I understand the need for some Jews to remain afraid. But fear doesn’t excuse narrow-minded thinking – at some point, the fear has to stop lest it consume us all.

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5 Responses to Keeping the (Inter) Faith During the Holidays

  1. Very good commentary, Gary. With religion (and politics for that matter) having such a deep-down tie in and can be full of emotion, glad to read things seem settled on your homefront.
    Just curious though, how did you and your wife decide which faith your daughter should follow? (If that’s too personal/none of my biz, I apologize and no need to answer.)
    While my wife and I are both Christians, we’re not of the same Christian faith. So, while not on the scale you and your wife face, there are some similar we face.
    All the best.
    Mike

  2. Mike, thanks for the comment and your question is not too personal at all. The decision was relatively easy (and was made before we got married) — my wife did not have a strong connection to Christianity while I did have a strong connection to Judaism, and we wanted to raise our kids with one faith to avoid confusion. Later my wife become as involved and connected as I was (joining a syngogue and a kid in Hebrew school will do that), so there have never been any issues. And our daughter still gets Christmas presents from her Christian grandparents and family, so the whole thing is just fine with her 🙂

  3. Mike, thanks for the comment and your question is not too personal at all. The decision was relatively easy (and was made before we got married) — my wife did not have a strong connection to Christianity while I did have a strong connection to Judaism, and we wanted to raise our kids with one faith to avoid confusion. Later my wife become as involved and connected as I was (joining a syngogue and a kid in Hebrew school will do that), so there have never been any issues. And our daughter still gets Christmas presents from her Christian grandparents and family, so the whole thing is just fine with her 🙂

  4. Mike, thanks for the comment and your question is not too personal at all. The decision was relatively easy (and was made before we got married) — my wife did not have a strong connection to Christianity while I did have a strong connection to Judaism, and we wanted to raise our kids with one faith to avoid confusion. Later my wife become as involved and connected as I was (joining a syngogue and a kid in Hebrew school will do that), so there have never been any issues. And our daughter still gets Christmas presents from her Christian grandparents and family, so the whole thing is just fine with her 🙂

  5. Juno888 says:

    Religion really doesn’t matter to most of the people but choosing such religion would form you into a character…

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