New flicks with celebs in interfaith relationships and from interfaith backgrounds, plus their baby news!Go To Pop Culture
For those of you who follow the lives of the royal family, Prince Harryâ€™s relationship withÂ Suits star Meghan Markle got a renewed buzz when Elle UK and the Express reported that the two can now be married at Westminster Abbey.
Because Markle was married before, there was question of whether Prince Harry could follow in the footsteps of his brother, Prince William, and get married at Westminster Abbey. His father chose a civil ceremony for his second marriage.
The other issue that has come into question for the couple is one of faith. There is wide speculation that Markle is Jewish and therefore, would most likely have an interfaith wedding. However, because she attended a Roman Catholic high school, there are also rumors that she is Roman Catholic. Even with amendments to the Act of Settlement of 1701, a Roman Catholic is still not able to become a monarch since it conflicts with the monarchy also being the head of the Church of England.
Still, the excitement for another royal wedding is definitely in the air. Now itâ€™s up to Prince Harry (or Meghan) to pop the big question! We hope to hear wedding bells soon.
I was almost too old for Harry Potter when JK Rowling introduced her masterpiece to the world in 1997. I may have been almost too old but that didnâ€™t stop me from spending the next 10 years voraciously reading, re-reading and waiting impatiently for the next book to arrive. When the final book was finally published, I was visiting my parentsâ€™ house for the weekend. Obviously, I had pre-ordered the book months in advance and I hadnâ€™t realized that I wouldnâ€™t be home that weekend. Panicked, I went online and changed the delivery location to my parentsâ€™ house, crisis averted. Perhaps I shouldnâ€™t admit this, but I met the UPS driver in my parents driveway with unabashed glee and proceeded to ignore my family for the next 24 hours as I made my way through the final book. It was totally worth it.
These days, my love of Harry Potter lives in my heart as quiet embers, easily fanned into a greater flame when JK Rowling tweets something incredible (which is often) or more recently, when something new is announced. Yes, I have already pre-ordered a copy of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, a West End play beginning this summer, telling the story of an adult Harry and company.
Perhaps it is unnecessary at this point to extoll the virtues of the Harry Potter series; the magic of Harry Potter is different for everyone. In the nine years since the final book was published and the 19 years since the first book, entire other books have been written about every possible angle and theme of the series, not to mention countless articles, blog posts and of course memes. If youâ€™re a Harry Potter lover, youâ€™ve had ample time to analyze the reasons why, and if you could care less about Harry Potter, thank you for getting this far into this blog post.
JK Rowlingâ€™s genius is making the world of Harry Potter seem almost possible. While I begrudgingly accepted my fate as that of a muggle, I still hope that even if I could not be a witch, somewhere someone is. This epic story speaks to those marginalized by society, those whose dreams seem too big, those who want to change their circumstances, those drawn to making the world a better place, to fighting against injustice.
As my life has changed and evolved since I first picked up Book 1 in 1997, so has my reading of the story. I hear the commentary on human nature more loudly. Not everything is always as it seems and rarely is what we see, what we actually get. We meet a wide swath of characters in Harryâ€™s world, not simply heroes and villains, but complex individuals who make difficult decisions in the face of fear, of change, of darkness. Sometimes, those who come from the most â€śperfect, pureâ€ť families choose evil and destruction while those from the most humble, diverse rootsâ€”the â€śmudbloodsâ€ťâ€”are the ones who remind us what is truly important and even save our humanity. And sometimes the heroes make the wrong decisions, while the villains find the light.
I have always cringed at the term, â€śmudblood.â€ť In college, I identified with it acutely when I was told I wasnâ€™t Jewish because my mother wasnâ€™t. How could I not belong in the only community I ever truly felt part of? Why didnâ€™t it matter how I behaved, the choices I made, the way I lived my life? Why did none of that â€ścountâ€ť because my motherâ€™s blood ran through my veins? It threw me into an identity crisis that took years to reconcile.
These days, my life and my work at InterfaithFamily reminds me again of the powerful message of Harry Potter, as we strive to teach our beloved community to not only tolerate the diversity among us, but rather embrace it, learn from it and allow it to change us for the better. After all, where would we be without the most famous â€śmudblood,â€ť Hermione? The more stories I hear, people I meet, families I am honored to learn from, the more I realize that we are all mutts, all a combination of geography, culture, history, and blood. We are all mudbloods. That doesnâ€™t mean we are all the same or should be, but it does mean that the humanity we share can be more powerful than all the Voldemorts out there.
I would feel remiss if I didnâ€™t end with the powerful and yes, magical, words of Professor Albus Dumbledore: â€śDifferences of heart and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”
Dear Chelsea & Marc,
First I want to say Bâ€™shaâ€™ah tovah and mazel tov on your pregnancy. Your pregnancy announcement was adorable and I hope Charlotte adjusts to your pregnancy and the new baby once it arrives. I glanced below the article I read including your announcement and saw several comments from people who, for whatever reason, think they know whatâ€™s best for your family. If you havenâ€™t read them yet, donâ€™t. If you have read them, or if youâ€™ve heard them elsewhereâ€”Iâ€™m sorry people are treating you as the role model for interfaith families. Iâ€™m especially sorry your daughter will grow up hearing these comments and constantly having to explain her family to others.
But the truth is, you are a role model, and your daughter will be one too. No, not because youâ€™re the daughter of a President (or maybe two?). And no, not because you are a public figure. But because you are married to a Jewish man. And youâ€™re not alone in this. All interfaith couples and families become role models and representatives. You see, we Jews have a lot of opinions on how the Jewish people should behave. But the thing is, we all behave differently. We have no one standard of how a â€śJewishâ€ť family should behave or how an â€śinterfaithâ€ť child should act.
I hope that you and your family are able to look past all the judgment and shame that other people might place on you, and enjoy this time. There are many of us rooting for you and following your journey hoping to learn from your experience. Teach your daughter love and kindness and go from there. Being a mom to a toddler and pregnant is already enough to deal with. I hope that the love in your life and family only continues to grow, and that you can continue living the life you want for your daughter and your new addition.
Being a role model for interfaith families can be tough, but creates a groundwork for future families to follow. Let the love you have guide you and you will be supported. In the meantimeâ€”know that there are other families navigating this crazy road alongside you and that there are many of us in the Jewish community who welcome you with open arms. InterfaithFamily has loads of baby resources just for you. May your family go from strength to strength in this holiday season.
Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and mazel tov,
Rabbi Keara Stein
Perhaps it is because I have been working with interfaith couples and families in an intense way for over four years as Director of IFF/Chicago, but my sensitivity alarm went off in a major way during this film.
Here are my impressions:
1. Â The dinosaur dad dies as well as Spotâ€™s (the cave-boy) parents. The death of parents in animated films has no doubt been the basis of more than one thesis. Itâ€™s important to be comfortable seeing death, talking about loss and understanding memory. The death of parents in so many films for children is thought-provoking, for sure. But why does there have to be so much of it?
2. Â There is a theme in the movie that if you are going to really engage with life, then there will be fear. You will be scared. The important thing is what to do about it. How we react and how we cope and get through something tough shows our character.
Unfortunately, the way Arlo, Spotâ€™s dinosaur friend, shows he can face fear is through physically fighting and warding off the predators. This is the way he leaves his mark; this is how he shows he has done something worthy and important. I wished there was a way he showed his inner strength and resolve without fighting. Standing up for oneself and defending against harm is important at times. However, more often than needing to physically harm someone else to protect oneself when standing up to bullies or navigating difficult people and circumstances, is the need to think with ingenuity and resolve.
3. Â The last theme I want to discuss is the one with interfaith connotations, for me. In one scene, Arlo shows Spot what a family is. He puts sticks in the ground for each family member and draws a circle around them. Then Spot does the same thing and draws a circle around his family of sticks. At the end, Spot is taken in by another cave family and Arlo reunites with what is left of his dinosaur family. There seems to be a message that each kind stays with their group. I was waiting for Arlo and Spot to join their circles and show symbolically that they have become a family because they have cared for each other. This does not happen. They go their separate ways at the end.
The cave parents show Spot how to walk on two feet, and it is clear that only within your species can you learn certain skills. The dinosaurs on all fours would not have been able to teach him this. I think this raises all kinds of questions about adoption, whether different cultures can raise each other, and whether different animals, in the most figurative way, can be a family. With my interfaith family hat on, I was hoping there would be a message of unity within diversity.
Did you cry through it like we did? Did you have a similar take on these themes?Â As Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav taught us, â€śThe whole world is a narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to be afraid.â€ť
Hanukkah is a holiday full of fun and meaningful traditions, like eating foods made with oil such as latkes and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts); playing the dreidel game; and of course lighting the hanukkiah (the nine branched candelabrum, commonly called a â€śMenorahâ€ť in English). And of course there are the traditional songs â€“ like Maâ€™oz Tsur (“Rock of Ages”), â€śI Have a Little Dreidelâ€ť and â€śHanukkah, O Hanukkah.â€ť
In modern times, there have been some great Hanukkah songs, some for children (though still loved by adults), such as Debbie Friedmanâ€™s â€śThe Latke Songâ€ť and others for a wider audience, like Matisyahuâ€™s â€śMiracles.”
Hanukkah music rose to a whole new â€“ and much funnier â€“ level on December 3, 1994, when Adam Sandler performed “The Chanukah Song” on Saturday Night Liveâ€Ť‘â€‹s Weekend Update. The original song was followed up by â€śPart IIâ€ť (1999),Â â€śPart 3â€ť (2002) and a new updated version this year. In all four songs, Sandler sings about celebrities who he claims (often, though not always correctly) are â€śJewish,â€ť â€śnot Jewish,â€ť or â€śhalf-Jewish.â€ť To learn more about all four of Sandlerâ€™s songs check out the Wikipedia entry on â€śThe Chanukah Songâ€ť which includes a listing of the celebrities mentioned in the songs, the truth about whether they are or arenâ€™t Jewish and links to covers and spoofs. Here’s the latest version.
Starting around 2010, a new kind of Hanukkah song became popular: The Pop Song Haunkkah Parody. Even though it’s been aÂ few years after the first really popular parodies started circulating around the internet, I still remember most of the words to each of the parody songs – though I couldnâ€™t even remember who sang the song originally, let alone the words to the original song. So, in keeping with the number eight for the eight nights of Hanukkah, here are my eight favorite Hanukkah Pop Song Parodies (in chronological order):
1. Â The Fountainheadâ€™s â€śI Gotta Feeling Hanukkah,â€ťÂ the 2010 parody of The Black Eyed Peasâ€™ â€śI Gotta Feeling.â€ť The Fountainheads are a group of young Israeli singers, dancers and musicians who are all graduates and students of the Ein Prat Academy for Leadership.
2. Â The one that really brought Hanukkah song parodies into the big leagues was â€śCandlelight,â€ťÂ a 2012 parody of Taio Cruzâ€™s â€śDynamiteâ€ť by The Maccabeats, Yeshiva Universityâ€™s all-male a capella group.
3. Â â€śEight Nights â€“ Hanukkah Mashup,â€ťÂ a 2012 Hanukkah parody/mashup of three songs: â€śSome Nightsâ€ť by Fun, â€śDie Youngâ€ť by Ke$ha and â€śLive While Weâ€™re Youngâ€ť by One Direction. StandFour is another all-male a capella group, composed of four former members of The Maccabeats.
4. Â The B-Boyz â€ś(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Dreidel),â€ťÂ a 2012 parody of The Beastie Boysâ€™ â€ś(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)â€ť by three young brothers – Ben, Jake and Max Borenstein.
5. The Maccabeats again with â€śBurnâ€ť – their 2013 version of Ellie Gouldingâ€™s song. They didnâ€™t change the words, but they made it into a Hanukkah video.
6. Â â€śChanukah Lights,â€ťÂ The Jabberwocks of Brown Universityâ€™s 2014 song, which is a play on Kanye Westâ€™s â€śAll of the Lights.â€ť The Jabberwocks are Brownâ€™s oldest, all-male a capella group.
7. Â Six13â€™s 2014 â€śChanukah (Shake It Off)â€ť parodying Taylor Swiftâ€™s â€śShake It Off.â€ť Six13 is an all-male Jewish a capella group from New York.
8. Â And the Maccabeats yet again, with 2014â€™s â€śAll About that Neis,â€ťÂ a parody of Meghan Trainorâ€™s â€śAll About the Bass.â€ť
I canâ€™t wait to hear and watch what these groups and others have in store for Hanukkah 2015. And I hope to see more women (of the six groups whose parodies I listed above only one, The Fountainheads, included women) and girls coming out with some awesome parodies.
Whatâ€™s your favorite Hanukkah song or song parody? Please share a link so we can all enjoy.
As an avid follower of the hit show, New Girl, I couldnâ€™t pass up an article in Us Weekly about its star, Zooey Deschanel, converting to Judaism. The headline revealed that she converted for her husband, producer Jacob Pechenik. â€śThe things we do for love!â€ť began the article, which went so far as to say that she â€śmade a grand gestureâ€ť by deciding to join the Jewish people for him.
I know that many people within the Jewish community frown upon the idea that someone converted â€śforâ€ť someone else. We often have an idealized kind of conversion in our minds: Someone discovers Judaism on their own, learns about it and seeks a community, studies toward conversion until they are immersed in Jewish life and ultimately take the plunge into the Mikveh (ritual bath necessary for conversion by Jewish law). They might speak of having a â€śyiddishe neshama,â€ť a Jewish soul that has found its rightful home. We especially love it when this conversion candidate far surpasses what Jews who grew up with the tradition know or practice.
This is a great image, and I have worked with dozens of such Jews-to-be over the years as a rabbi. It is incredibly gratifying to study with someone who is so drawn to our tradition. But it is not the way everyone comes to join our community. Since our earliest history, individuals have joined and strengthened our people because they fell in love. Abraham heard the call of God and became the first adherent to this new faith. But God didnâ€™t speak directly to Sarah; she trusted her husband that this was a revolutionary way to live and a God worthy of uprooting her life.
She followed her husband.
Countless others followed, building up what we now know as the Jewish people. We would not exist were it not for all of the individuals who loved someone who was part of this community. Were they lesser? Would we challenge their commitment?
I work with so many interfaith couples in which a partner is considering conversion but battles with this notion that one might only be converting â€śforâ€ť someone else. My reply is, â€śWow, you would consider converting to our tradition because you love this person that much? That is a beautiful thing.â€ť I would never suggest or urge someone to make this commitment, but if they think it might be the right step for them, I hope they donâ€™t get stuck on an image of what an â€śidealâ€ť Jew-by-choice is like.
If they are passionate about this move, I want to support them without questioning their motives. I have to admit that I do have an ideal scenario in my mind. This person hopefully studies and begins to practice Judaismâ€¦ along with their Jewish partner who, often times, may not know too much about Judaism either. Together, they discover meaningful practices along with a vibrant community that speaks to the home and life they are creating together. That process may feel spiritual, but it might also feel practical or logical. That is for each Jew to determine, and people who convert shouldnâ€™t be held to a different standard than other Jews.
Of course, conversion is not for everyone. We have finally arrived at a moment in contemporary Judaism in which many communities and leaders view â€śfellow travelersâ€ť who have not chosen to convert as having an important role as members of the Jewish community. Anyone who enters the door to Jewish life should be welcome, no matter what their status. And, of course, no one should be coerced into converting. Ideally, everyone who decides to make the commitment to become Jewish is doing so on their own terms, even Zooey. But letâ€™s not judge peopleâ€™s decisions when they do follow someone into our traditionâ€¦ letâ€™s celebrate the fact that they love someone that much.
Have questions about conversion? Check out our conversion FAQ.
Itâ€™s 1972. An off-duty, dark haired young cabbie drives by a young blond woman. Slowing down and noticing that the woman is attractive, he switches his light to â€śon dutyâ€ť and backs up to pick her up. He drops her off at the school where she teaches, then watches as she walks in. Flash forward to the end of the school day and as the teacher leaves school, the cabbieâ€™s there waiting to pick her up. A montage unfolds: The good looking couple walking over a bridge in New Yorkâ€™s Central Park with their arms around each other; him playfully chasing her; the two of them kissing in the back of the cab; kissing more by the bridge. And then, they finally speak:
Woman: â€śYou know, this is crazy. I donâ€™t even know your full name.â€ť
Man: â€śBernieâ€¦.Steinberg. Whatâ€™s yours?â€ť
Woman: â€śBridgetâ€¦.Bridget â€“ Theresa â€“ Mary â€“ Helene â€“ Fitzgerald.â€ť
Then they both say at the same time: â€śI think we have a problem.â€ť
So opened the pilot episode of Bridget Loves Bernie (you can CLICK HERE to see it yourself), about the interfaith marriage of Irish Catholic Bridget (played by Meredith Baxter) and Jewish Bernie (played by David Birney).
Bridget Loves Bernie had a primetime Saturday night slot between two very popular shows and it was the fifth highest rated TV show of the 1972-1973 season. But it was cancelled by CBS executives in response to hate mail from viewers who opposed its portrayal of the coupleâ€™s interfaith marriage. To this day, Bridget Loves Bernie is the highest rated TV show to be cancelled after only one season.
I was a young girl when Bridget Loves Bernie was on TV, but I still remember the show. And I remember the atmosphere in which it aired, at least in the Jewish communityâ€”and certainly in the tight-knit Conservative synagogue where I grew up. It was a shonda (a shame, a pity) if you were Jewish and you married someone from another faith. People assumed you didnâ€™t care about Judaism. When you â€śmarried outâ€ť you were seen as â€śwriting offâ€ť your Judaism. I heard stories of parents who â€śsat shivaâ€ť (performed the Jewish mourning rituals) for a child who â€śmarried out.â€ť The parents wondered what they had done wrong. The married children usually cut off ties with the synagogue and the Jewish community. (Can you blame them?)
To a large extent, things have changed. The days when I grew up, when Bridget Loves Bernieâ€™s interfaith marriage was too controversial for primetime television, are fadingâ€”at least in a large segment of the liberal Jewish community. In todayâ€™s worldâ€”a world in which, according to the 2013 Pew Portrait of American Jews, 71 percent of liberal Jews who are getting married are marrying someone who isnâ€™t Jewishâ€”itâ€™s not a shock when Bridget loves Bernie (or, for that matter, when Bridget loves Bernice). And now, with the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Collegeâ€™s recent decision to allow inter-partnered candidates apply to the school, it may become less of a big deal when Bridget loves RABBI Bernie or Bernice.
If you identify as a liberal (non-Orthodox) Jew you almost certainly have friends, and most likely family members, who are in interfaith relationships. If you belong to a Conservative, Humanist, Reconstructionist, Reform, Renewal or unaffiliated synagogue, you almost certainly know fellow-congregants who are in interfaith marriages. And you probably know parents who arenâ€™t Jewish who are actively involved in the Jewish education and upbringing of their children.
Today, there are lots of real couples like Bridget and Bernie, each with their own unique stories, and we canâ€™t just â€ścancel the showâ€ť and ignore reality. (For years, the Jewish communityâ€™s response to intermarriage was to preach against it.Â Not only did intermarriage rates continue to rise, but people in interfaith relationships often felt alienation from and resentment toward the Jewish community.)
If Bridget and Bernie were real people living today, InterfaithFamily, and many like-minded people in the Jewish world, would see Bernieâ€™s marriage to Bridget not as a threat to Jewish continuity, but rather as an opportunity. Weâ€™d want to celebrate Bridget and Bernieâ€™s marriage (they could even use our free clergy referral service to find a rabbi or cantor to officiate at their wedding), to provide Jewish resources and support and a safe, non-judgmental space to explore the role of religion in their lives and their marriage. If Bridget and Bernie decided to move to Philadelphia (or one of the other cities that has an InterfaithFamily/Your Community office) they could take our â€śLove and Religionâ€ť workshop and meet with other interfaith couples to discuss how to have religious traditions in their lives together. When they had kids, they could take our online â€śRaising a Child with Judaism in Your Interfaith Familyâ€ť class to consider â€śhowâ€ť and â€śwhyâ€ť to bring Jewish traditions into their lives.
Bridget and Bernie are ready for primetime. And for InterfaithFamily, â€śprimetimeâ€ť is the month of November, when we celebrate Interfaith Family Month. This is a time for synagogues and Jewish organizations to publicly acknowledge and thank those members of our community who arenâ€™t Jewish; to let them know that we donâ€™t just tolerate them, but we are grateful to them for their commitment to Judaism and Jewish continuity. Itâ€™s a time to let those Jews who have partners who arenâ€™t Jewish know that not only are we not â€śsitting shivaâ€ť for them, but we hope that they will fully engage in the Jewish community, and that we donâ€™t see their choice of a life-partner as a reflection on their Jewish commitment. Itâ€™s a time to declare that rather than fighting against intermarriage, we are working for a vibrant Jewish communityâ€”and we welcome anyone who wants to join us.
Interfaith Family Month is a time to let all of the â€śBerniesâ€ť out there know that we donâ€™t love them any less because they love â€śBridget.â€ť And for all of the â€śBridgetsâ€ť out there, we hope that just as you love â€śBernie,â€ť you will come to love his Jewish community too, because we are committed to building a Jewish community where the two of you can truly feel at home.
In Marc Maronâ€™s recent podcast â€śWTF,â€ť he interviews Jason Segel (of How I Met Your Mother fame) at length and touches on his interfaith upbringing early on. (The interview itself begins at 14 minutes in, and the conversation turns to religion at about 15 Â˝ minutes.)
Segelâ€™s father is Christian and his mother is Jewish, and he tells Maron, â€śNeither of them are religious. So they made this decision that they were going to let me decide, which is like the dumbest thing you can do for a kid. Because you donâ€™t really care [at that age].â€ť
He goes on to say, â€śAt Christian school youâ€™re the JewishÂ kid and at HebrewÂ school youâ€™re the ChristianÂ kid. I think thatâ€™s the nature of groups.â€ť
Itâ€™s not surprising that Haaretz picked up on the message that being a â€śhalf-Jewâ€ť (their words, not oursâ€”we do not promote this term) equaled â€śoutsiderâ€ť for Segel. Being brought up with two religions does not work for everyone, and perhaps having parents who Segel did not consider religious themselves, he didn’t haveÂ the necessary context for religion at home that is necessary to form a religious identity.
Susan Katz Miller takes issue with Haartezâ€™s framing of the interview: â€śClearly, by leading with this idea [of interfaith equals outsider], the intent was to use Segelâ€™s story as a cautionary tale, warning parents away from dual-faith education, or from interfaith marriage in general.â€ť
The argument that raising children in an interfaith family can lead to them not identifying as Jewish is nothing new. AndÂ Katz Miller makes some good points in response to this assertion, including:
â€śYes, it is essential for interfaith children to have support for integrating two (or more) cultures in their families, rather than bouncing back and forth between two separate religious worlds.”
Katz Miller touches on the danger in simply being dropped into two different religious institutions without enough context at home or awareness withinÂ the religious institutions themselves about interfaith families. We donâ€™t know exactly what Segelâ€™s religious life was like at home, but it sounds like there might not have been much reinforcement of what he was learning outside the home. At InterfaithFamily, we try to educate parents and offer many ways to boost their knowledge of Judaism and how to do Jewish at home, so that a child has a framework for what they are learning and why itâ€™s important to their family. And we work to help Jewish organizations create a welcoming environment where kids will feel they belong–regardless of their background.
Weâ€™re so proud of the role that Michael Douglas is playing. No, not his new movie, Beyond the Reach, where he plays a villain, Gordon Gekko-style. Weâ€™re proud that heâ€™s chosen to speak out against anti-Semitismâ€”first in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, and this morning on the Today Show. And, as important, that heâ€™s supported his son Dylan as he has explored Judaism and begun making Jewish choices, including a bar mitzvah in Israel last yearâ€”and that heÂ is becoming an advocate for interfaith families.
The recent recipient of this year’s Genesis Prize,Â DouglasÂ said of his son, “he’s brought a lot of spirituality to our lives.” We’re thankful for that, because as Douglas says, “Now I’m actively involved with bringing interfaith families together.”
In Downton Abbey, Lord Sinderby is the disapproving Jewish father who opposes his sonâ€™s interfaith marriage to Rose. In Lord Sinderbyâ€™s time, there were virtually no opportunities for interfaith families to engage in Jewish life, unless Rose were to convert.
Fortunately, we donâ€™t live in that time anymore. Today, many interfaith families can live active Jewish lives â€“ and many do. The Reform and Reconstructionist movements consider children to be Jewish if there is one Jewish parent (regardless of whether it is the mother or father) and they are raised as Jews. They can be married by a rabbi and join a synagogue.
While Jane Eisner defends Lord Sinderby (â€śDefending Lord Sinderby,â€ť The Forward, March 1, 2015), I cannot. Too many Jewish professionals and communities still think that Jews are â€śthrowing it all awayâ€ť, to paraphrase Lord Sinderbyâ€™s words, when they marry someone who isnâ€™t Jewish. With a different approach, however, we can see interfaith relationships as an opportunity to invite more people in to the Jewish community. Rose, although naĂŻve, is already eager to learn about the faith. And wouldnâ€™t it be beneficial to have Lord Grantham as an ally?
I do agree with Eisner on a few points, though. We do need to ask the difficult questions, not only of interfaith families, but also of Jewish institutions. If we want to ask the spouse who wasnâ€™t raised Jewish â€śto commit to doing her part to carry on a precious tradition,â€ť as Eisner says, then canâ€™t we ask Jewish institutions to welcome them and provide opportunities for learning and community?
What would happen if we shifted the focus from who someone marries to helping all families â€“ interfaith and in-married â€“ find their place in the Jewish community? I bet we would see a myriad of beautiful Jewish traditions being passed on to the next generation. That points to a bright Jewish future indeed.