AnCatholic marrying a Jew needs help

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February 9, 2011 at 8:57 am #5471

Paula

I am Catholic and my boyfriend of 5 years is Jewish. We are starting the engagement process and have known from day one that religion would be a tedious issue. To be proactive, we met with his open-minded Rabbi and asked what steps we should take for an interfaith marriage.

I personally decided that having a mostly Jewish wedding would be fine as long as some of my traditions could be thrown in. I also decided that raising Jewish children is fine because I like many of the beliefs Judaism instills in children. But as I read the book the Rabbi gave me to help, I started feeling as though I would have to convert or that it was inevitable. While I am not opposed to a Jewish family, I still don’t want to convert until I get old, and that would only be so my husband and I could be burried together.

I would love some advice from those of you non-Jews in the relationships to help me along the way. Have you felt pressure like this before? And how did you deal with it?

Thank you.

February 9, 2011 at 5:51 pm #5473

Debbie B.

Please see my reply in the more appropriate topic of “Intermarriage”.

By the way, my own view of intermarriage wedding ceremonies:
Do it honestly as a civil ceremony with elements of both religions, being careful that there is nothing that would make members of the other religion uncomfortable. Having a rabbi doesn’t make it a valid “Jewish marriage”, so having one officiate sends a message that the wedding is “Jewish” when in fact it is really just “Jewish-flavored”. A civil wedding is still meaningful and can be every bit as special and beautiful as a religious wedding, maybe even more so if the involved parties worked hard to personalize it.

My husband and I had the father of the best man who was a judge do the officiation of our civil marriage with some Jewish elements: a flowery arbor suggestive of a huppah, a “ketubbah-like-document”, and breaking of a glass. After I converted, on the 22nd Hebrew anniversary of our secular wedding, we did a very small private “real Jewish wedding” with a legal ketubbah (signed by observant friends as witnesses), a chuppah, wine, and even breaking of the glass. Both weddings were beautiful and meaningful as attested by our guests (none of whom were at both weddings).

February 13, 2011 at 4:29 am #5482

Earl Capps

Paula, crossing over is only inevitable if you want it to be. While it can increase the difficulty level to not share a common faith, each situation is unique so maybe it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you feel it is “inevitable”, is it because you believe you will want to do this one day, or is it because you feel you have to do this in order to keep your relationship? Those are two very different things.

April 12, 2011 at 9:23 pm #5707

SP

Paula, I’m a Lutheran woman engaged to a Jewish man.  I’ve never felt any pressure to convert, probably because 1) he (and his family) loves me and respects my religious traditions and beliefs, and 2) we couldn’t find a rabbi willing to participate in an interfaith ceremony, so we did not have clergy pressure.

(YES, I tried the interfaithfamily.com’s clergy finder, but no luck.  In Minnesota, there’s only so much you can hope for.)

Are we still trying to work out how we’re gonna raise our children?  Sure.  And those aren’t easy conversations.  But the bottom line is, neither of us wants to convert to the other’s faith nor to convert the other person to our own.  The conversations, ideas, beliefs, opinions, and traditions our interfaith makeup allows us to share are rich and interesting! 

I guess the short version is: if you want to convert, go for it!  If you find it a meaningful choice in its own right.  If you don’t want to convert, don’t.  I don’t think it precludes you from raising Jewish children or having Jewish family life.

Good luck! 

P.S.  I have found some great, encouraging interfaith resources out there.  Not a lot, and not always easy to find, but they ARE out there.

April 15, 2011 at 12:03 am #5718

KNM

Did you ask him if he would consider converting to the Catholicism?  It real is a wonderful spiritual tradition.

June 23, 2011 at 11:42 pm #5884

jim hayzlett

My jewish wife and I (catholic) have been married for 27 years.  We had a rabbi and a priest at our ceremony at a private hall.  We used parts of both traditions.  Remember, that is just 1 day.  You will have the rest of your life to decide if you want to convert to judaism…i have not.  Since catholicism is based on judaism it stands to reason that catholics do believe everything that jews teach…ie the old testament.  So, it seems easier to convert towards that, rather than thinking that a jewish person could be convinced to believe that jesus, a jew, is the only son of god.  I’m rambling on, but the pros of this interfaith marriage is that the holidays are easily decided who is where…no tugging to get to both families on the same day.  Also, the kids get more holidays.  You will decide most of what you teach the children, and they will decide what to do as adults.  Both of our boys decided on their own to study independently, tutor with a rabbi and get bar mitzvad.  Both you and your spouse have to be understanding and accepting of the differences…It would be nice if the world could be more like that…completely tolerant of differences.

June 26, 2011 at 8:37 pm #5904

KT

Hi Paula,
I know it’s been several months since you posted your question – I wonder if consulting a certified “life cycle celebrant” might be helpful. I only mention that because I have a friend who just graduated as a celebrant, and when she was explaining a lot of what she does, it seems that she has become versed in traditions of MANY different cultures and someone like that might have some ideas of ways to deal with the pressure you’re feeling.

Also, I know celebrants are licensed to perform weddings – and even if you don’t want to be married by a non-denominational officiant, you might find it helpful to sit down with one to bounce ideas off.

I wish you a lifetime of happiness! Best of luck to you both!

June 30, 2011 at 6:00 am #5923

JulietRJones

I guess the it’s really up to you both to decide how you want your wedding to be.  I also on going with the civil ceremony then just decide on a more formal one in the future.  Just my two cents.

July 29, 2011 at 7:40 am #5996

Chris Schulz
Paula wrote:
I personally decided that having a mostly Jewish wedding would be fine as long as some of my traditions could be thrown in. I also decided that raising Jewish children is fine because I like many of the beliefs Judaism instills in children. But as I read the book the Rabbi gave me to help, I started feeling as though I would have to convert or that it was inevitable. While I am not opposed to a Jewish family, I still don’t want to convert until I get old, and that would only be so my husband and I could be burried together.

I think that it is important to take into consideration how you feel about this. I assume that you have shared this with your boyfriend and that he understands how you feel. I suppose that what you both need to do is plan clearly ahead and meet with the Rabbi again to settle things.

October 21, 2011 at 10:26 am #6222

Gael
Jim wrote:
My jewish wife and I (catholic) have been married for 27 years.  We had a rabbi and a priest at our ceremony at a private hall.  We used parts of both traditions.  Remember, that is just 1 day.  You will have the rest of your life to decide if you want to convert to judaism…i have not.  Since catholicism is based on judaism it stands to reason that catholics do believe everything that jews teach…ie the old testament.  So, it seems easier to convert towards that, rather than thinking that a jewish person could be convinced to believe that jesus, a jew, is the only son of god.  I’m rambling on, but the pros of this interfaith marriage is that the holidays are easily decided who is where…no tugging to get to both families on the same day.  Also, the kids get more holidays.  You will decide most of what you teach the children, and they will decide what to do as adults.  Both of our boys decided on their own to study independently, tutor with a rabbi and get bar mitzvad.  Both you and your spouse have to be understanding and accepting of the differences…It would be nice if the world could be more like that…completely tolerant of differences.

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