Real, Not Ideal

I wish life was perfect.

I think we can all agree on that! For example, I wish I were size 2, a lottery winner and that all the world’s Celtics lottery tickettroubles were solved. But life is not perfect.

In the November 28 edition of the Jewish Advocate, Rebbetzin Korff, the wife of the the Rebbe of Zvhil-Mezhbizh and a descendent of the Baal Shem Tov, the 18th century founder of the Hasidic movement, responded to a question in her column ,“Why is Judaism concerned when a Jewish woman marries a non-Jewish man?”

Rebbetzin Korff does a wonderful job of explaining how complicated it can be to raise a Jewishly observant child when one parent is not Jewish. (A sentiment many of our readers can agree with.) Remarkably, in the end, Rebbetzin Korff does concede that is possible to raise a well-educated, Jewishly-oriented and responsible observant child when one parent is not Jewish. She then stresses it is not a Torah ideal.

One could hardly read Rebbetzin Korff’s column as a ringing endorsement of interfaith marriage, nor even a lukewarm one, but I hope she does agree with InterfaithFamily.com’s mission of encouraging families to make Jewish choices. Like Rebbetzin Korff, I agree that interfaith marriages are not always perfect. For that matter, nor are many marriages between Jews. Life is not ideal. After all, I am still not a size 2 or a lottery winner. Based on my morning check on Google News, there is still a lot of trouble in the world.

Every day interfaith families are engaging in Jewish life and we are all enriched by the richness interfaith families bring to the Jewish community. After work today, I am going to the gym and will be buying a lottery ticket.

More December Holiday Links

Ellyn Bache, author of eight novels including Safe Passage, which was made into a movie with Susan Sarandon, sent us anholiday miracles cover email yesterday. She’s put Holiday Miracles, a novella she wrote about Christmas and Hanukkah in an interfaith family, on the web as a downloadable .pdf file. We put a link to the book at our brief review of it from when it was first published. I’m hoping that if you download the book, you’ll come back to our review page to leave your own review in the comments there.

Another more serious holiday priority for a lot of people is giving charity. I have been following the growing scandal attending the arrests of hundreds of undocumented workers at Agriprocessor’s, the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa. As a Jew I have found it hugely distressing–and I’m not the only one. Many Jews have wanted to donate to St. Bridget’s Catholic Church in Postville because they have done the most to help the families of the arrested workers. Jay at the Modern Mitzvot blog posted a link to a Jewish charity that is helping hungry people in Postville, including providing kosher food to the Jewish employees of the slaughterhouse who have been left destitute. The Jewish Daily Forward has recognized the priest of St. Bridget’s, Paul Ouderkirk, in its Forward 50. If you have Catholic in-laws and you are trying to figure out what to get them for Christmas, how about a letter acknowledging your donation to this Catholic church?

Lights On PBS

I just saw a notice that there will be a Hanukkah special on PBS this week, and it features some Jewish musicians whose work I really like. It’s called Lights and you can find the local listings for your PBS station on Craig Taubman’s website. The most exciting to me is the Klezmatics, who are going to sing one of the songs from Woody Guthrie Hanukkah album that they did, Happy Joyous Hanukkah. Other performers include a well-known African-American Jewish gospel artist, Joshua Nelson, the adorable Brooklyn singer-songwriter Michelle Citrin, and a famous Sephardic cantor, Alberto Mizrachi. Continue reading

“Next Year in Jerusalem” or could it be “New Hampshire”?

I officiated at two interfaith weddings this past Thanksgiving weekend. One wedding I co-officiated with a Catholic priest; the other was a Jewish wedding for an interfaith couple that I officiated by myself. Both weddings included many of the rituals of Jewish tradition as well as the words and presence of Christianity. Doing this is important enough to me that I gave up having Thanksgiving with my own family–it’s very rewarding Jewish work.

New Hampshire White MountainsI wish my rabbinic colleagues who frown on interfaith officiation could witness these weddings as the families and guests do. After most interfaith weddings where I officiate or co-officiate, guests approach me to tell me how much the ceremony touched them. I am uncomfortable with the personal compliments–that’s my problem–but my spirits always get a lift from the expressions of the positive feelings that congregations have for Jewish ritual and blessing.

Our rabbinic fears of losing something in the mix of Jewish ritual and interfaith congregations, both those assembled only for life cycle events and those who share a whole life together, is “holy” (intentional homonym) unfounded. My experience has been that Jewish ritual, done right, offers something of value to everyone of this world … not just Jews. Continue reading