My Jewish cousin and her Buddhist boyfriend went to hear Cokie and Steve Roberts speak at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue last night. The Robertses were promoting their new book, Our Haggadah.
My cousin called me after the event, which both she and her boyfriend really enjoyed, and we began talking about how being raised Jewish and dating/marrying non-Jewish partners has made us more aware of our Judaism. Both of us realized that had we partners who were Jewish, we may not be so in tune to all the nuances, meanings, explanations and differences between Judaism and other religions or cultures. We seemed to have a greater need to know and be aware of things because we have to explain them to our partners and their families.
I first encountered this when I had my in-law’s family over for a Hanukkah party years ago. I had to figure out how to explain sufganiot (jelly doughnuts) and why we eat them at Hanukkah. During the conversation with my cousin, we came up with other strange foods that are staples of Jewish holidays. The one we keyed in on immediately was the candied jelly fruit “things” (for lack of a better term) that we eat every Passover. Everyone in my family (except for one uncle!) really dislikes them. Yet, every year someone purchases them and brings them to a seder. Why is that? Had I married someone Jewish, had my cousin been dating someone Jewish, we may never have pondered this question.
The more we talked, the more we both realized that being in an interfaith relationship is not pulling us farther away from our connection to Judaism, but actually bringing us closer. We are asking more questions and trying to have a better understanding of why we have done the things we have done all these years.
This Passover will be my cousin’s boyfriend’s first seder. It will be interesting to see what he thinks and what questions he will ask that we may or may not know the answers to. And, this year in addition to the standard 4 Questions, we may add one more: “Why on this night do we eat candied jelly fruit?”
For more answers to questions about the Jewish holidays, check out our Jewish Holidays Cheat Sheet and our Passover/Easter Resource Page. And, if there is a random question about something Jewish you are looking for an answer to, let us know by emailing [email@example.com]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email].
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