Jewish Woman, Catholic Man – HELP

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January 20, 2011 at 10:28 pm #5417

HD

I’m scared, to be honest.   We are on the verge of getting engaged – we picked out a ring and he asked my father for permission.  I love him, I want to marry him, but as we get closer to making it “official”, I am getting more nervous about our religious differences.

Barely a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about how we are going to raise our children or how sad it makes me to feel that my children won’t have the same Jewish ideals that I had growing up, and that my sisters’ children will have (they both married Jews).   

Neither of us are practicing.  He hasn’t been to church since he was 18.  His mother is very religious and goes to Mass daily.  She accepts me wholeheartedly and she is a kind, sweet woman.   My own parents seem to be more relaxed and open minded about our religious differences than I am.   My parents (both Jews) love my boyfriend and are excited about our pending engagement and marriage.   They say “you’ll figure it out.  The kids will celebrate Jewish holidays with us and you’ll go to his Mom’s house for Christmas – what’s the big deal?”

Maybe that attitude is because I was raised reform and never had a Bat-Mitzvah (both of my sisters did), but I am having still a hard time with this.  My boyfriend would never convert, and I wouldn’t ask him to (and neither would I, for that matter).   We’ve talked about how we would raise our kids and it all boils down to “we’ll figure it out when the time comes”.  Just like the response my parents give!

I wish it were that simple of just holiday celebrations only, but is it that simple?   How do you explain to your kids what faith they are (both?).  I told him I won’t allow Church/Jesus/baptism, etc. and his initial defensive response was “that’s fine, but then no temple or Bar-Mitzvah”, ultimately keeping religion out of the equation altogether.   We haven’t revisited the subject.

His response makes me feel as though he’s not open to raising a Jewish family and it’s understandable, as he is from a small town and probably knew 2 Jews before meeting me.   I, on the other hand place so much value in the Jewish traditions that it would be hard for me to raise children any other way and I am not open to raising a Catholic family, but I am open to “both”, if it’s really feasible.  I think I would be OK with doing Jewish holidays with my family and Christian holidays with his, but I also know that couples can agree on this stuff before kids and once kids come, everything can change.  I could become more religious, he could become more religious.  Are we strong enough for that?

He thinks it’s not as big of a deal as I’m making it out to be, but that’s because the Jewish population is so small and I’ve been raised with an “outsider” point of view, unlike him.   It IS a big deal for me and I don’t know how to REALLY approach it.  I don’t want to sabotage our relationship because of this.  I mean what if we can’t even have kids (G-D forbid) – because then I really wouldn’t care WHAT religion he is. 

It’s all so confusing… to me, anyway.

Help?  Suggestions?  Opinions?

Thank you

January 21, 2011 at 4:42 am #5419

Debbie B.

Whatever you do, don’t just hope that it will “all work out’. It will be a lot worse if you actually have a child and raising him/her becomes a conflict. If things can’t be resolved so that both of you feel OK with it, isn’t it better to know that now before marriage? True, if you and your fiance have to really look at these issues now, it might cause you to break up, but the underlying issues aren’t going to magically disappear, and it would be worse if it caused a divorce later.

The fact that your fiance thinks that if one aspect of child raising is not done according to his background that something from your background must be given up is a very bad sign. To be frank it is not a good way to think about anything (not just religion) going into a marriage. It is not reasonable to “keep score” because you can’t quantify what things mean to a person anyway. And it’s not a healthy way to have a relationship.

Please heck out this other discussion on this website
Discussion Boards > Interdating > Article Discussion: A Family Not a Statistic:
  http://www.interfaithfamily.com/smf/index.php/topic,1489.msg6466.html#new
I think Harold makes some excellent points that are relevant to the concerns you mention. He says

…one word that came up in your article more than once that concerned me was “compromise.”  Whenever these decsions, on either side, become one of “compromise” rather than a truly shared decision, they are off on the wrong track from the start.

Harold and I were both in intermarriages for about 20 years before conversion of the non-Jewish spouse (his wife, and me, respectively). And we both have similar concerns about people just getting into interfaith relationships who may not want to face the difficulties that may come up. We also both feel strongly that it is not a good idea to try to raise children in more than one religion at once. I feel so strongly about this that I would rather see a grandchild raised as a Christian (although it would break my heart) than be raised as “both Christian and Jewish” (which often means very little of each which is hardly better than nothing, or is confusing to a child, or makes a child feel like they have to choose one parent over the other). The link that Harold posts to an article written by his wife talks about raising children in one religion as well.

Pay attention to your heart which is making you worried. If you are able to work things out by discussing them fully and openly, I guarantee it will strengthen your relationship. And if it breaks apart your relationship, you’ll know that your marriage would have had problems anyway.

January 21, 2011 at 5:45 pm #5421

HD

Debbie,

Thank you for your thoughtful response.  I agree with your comments.  I’m afraid that he’ll be too stubborn to agree to raising a Jewish family because it’s MY religion and not his.  My Mom says I’m not giving him enough credit – he’s intelligent and open minded, and maybe she’s right.  But what you said rings true, the bottom line is we have to have a frank discussion BEFORE we are married and agree to how we will raise our children.  I don’t want my kids to have an identity crisis, although I know that there are many interfaith couples who make it work.  Maybe I am over thinking, but I will heed your advice (and it’s what I already feel in my gut), that no matter how scary it may be, we need to figure out how we are going to approach child raising before we are married.

Thanks again.

January 24, 2011 at 6:41 pm #5431

Lora Hirshberg

Hi heather,
  I am in the exact same position with you so I understand what you are going through.  The only difference with my situation is that I was rasied observant and he is not observant anymore.  I agree with Debbie that you should talk about thinks.  My boyfriend and I recently decided to take an interfaith counseling class at the JCC which we are finding very helpful.  It allows for many of these discussions to take paret and gives you the opportunities to listen to other couples.

    My concern with doing both is…what happens when they conflict?  For example, what if Passover and Easter are at the same time.  Which holiday would they take part in?  It can also be very exhausting doing both holidays all the time. 

    I wish you the best of luck with everything!

January 25, 2011 at 9:11 pm #5433

HD

Thanks, Lora.  I’ve looked into a group called “Yours, Mine and Ours” and I think it would be beneficial for both of us to participate.  There are some things I’m not comfortable compromising on in terms of raising children.  As far as “non-Jewish” traditions, I’m ok with the celebration of Christmas and I suppose, Easter – but only in the sense of family and fun and food and presents.  I want my children to believe in God, but not Jesus.  These are things I can not and will not compromise on.  I would like to believe that if we are going to make our relationship last, we will have to be on the same page.  I know that he doesn’t want to “give up” his sense of self and the beliefs he had growing up as well – which is what makes this all the more difficult. 

I can only hope that by participating in group discussions (with a Jewish slant), he can learn to understand the importance of Judaism in my life and in the lives of our future children.  If he is not comfortable with the religious aspect of Judaism, as I’m not with Catholisism, then we will have to figure out a way of raising a family that participates in family celebrations and understands the beauty of being Jewish.  I’m ok with no Bar-Mitzvah’s or no Hebrew School.  I didn’t do either of those things, afterall.  But I want to come to an agreement where we aren’t confusing our kids… being “both” religions would be really difficult and conflicting.    I’m afraid of these talks!  I read some of the posts on here about non-Jews who have accepted and actually appreciate and love the Jewish faith.  Those who converted, etc.  I don’t think I’m with someone who is so willing to give up all he knows for something he knows nothing about.  But then again, I’m the same way.  This is why it’s scary…

January 27, 2011 at 3:10 am #5436

Phx Mom

I hate to say it, but I agree that the fact that he doesn’t want to compromise is not good.  The time to figure out what to do about children is before you’re married, not after.
My son is Jewish; his wife is Catholic.  They eloped a few months ago.  The two children she brought into the family will be raised in her faith.  Any kids they have together will be raised in his.
I, too, am Reform.  Did not have a bat mitzvah (was very rare in those days), but I was confirmed, and I actively practice. 
My new grandkids came over for their first Chanukah.  At breakfast, my darling little 4-year-old granddaughter said, “Jesus loves me.” Uh…no, it’s not a simple situation. 
I’ve read story after story about interfaith marriages in which religion did not seem to be much of a big deal until the kids came. 

 

May 5, 2012 at 3:28 pm #6743

Nick V.

I am soon to be engaged to a wonderful and amazing woman whom I had been seeing for almost 2 years. She is Jewish and I am Catholic. She was previously married to a Catholic man and has 2 children, both girls, with him. Because of our ages, we will not be having children of our own, but if it did happen, I would feel comfortable raising that child Jewish.

Her answer to this problem was that the children are Jewish no matter what because they were born to a Jewish mother. Saying that, the children are not religious one way or another but they celebrate the high holidays of both religions. However, when you ask either of the girls what nationality they identify themselves as, they say American Jews.

I understand the significance of Jews wanting to keep Jewishness for the next generation. It’s not just a religion such as Christianity, but much deeper. I think when the time comes, you can explain to your husband how important for you it is that the children embrace their Jewish heritage. like me, he may not convert, but at least he will see how important it is to you and go with it. You don’t need to convert to attend synagogue after a ll.

Maybe NYC is different from the rest of the country somewhat, but I know plenty of interfaith couples who have comfortably gotten past this issue, and most of the time the children were raised Jewish, but also celebrated Christmas and Easter as a commercial holiday. Santa and the Easter bunny are not religious symbols after all.

Wish you all the best.

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