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The Cleveland Jewish News has a fascinating story on interfaith divorce titled “After divorce: will the children still be raised Jewish?”
The article looks at three former “interfaith” couples who are now divorced; I use “interfaith” in quotes because two of the couples are conversionary, that is, the non-Jewish partner converted for the sake of the Jewish partner.
In all three cases, an understanding during marriage to raise the children exclusively Jewish appears to have been complicated by the non-Jewish partners’ religious decisions after the divorce. In the two conversionary couples, the converted spouse decided after the divorce to re-adopt Christianity:
And here’s the story of “Jared,” also a Jewish man whose wife converted for their marriage:
For me, both of these anecdotes attest to the pitfalls of cosmetic conversion. At InterfaithFamily.com, we support people who make the choice to convert, but we don’t push it; when partners convert solely for the sake of their partner, the simmering resentment can lead to more stress, not less, as appears to be the case with Jared and his wife. Or it can provide an illusion of joint religious commitment that’s not really there, as in the case of Benjamin and his wife.
Better for two interfaith partners to be honest with themselves and their partners about their religious attachments, and then make the difficult, but clear-eyed, decision on how they’ll raise the children. In both cases, if the non-Jewish partner had never converted, the couples would have had to have been proactive and come to an agreement how the children would be raised. It’s possible the couples would have never gotten married if both partners were honest about their needs, and it’s possible both couples would have stayed married if they were more honest going into the marriage. Even if they still had gotten married and divorced, there would be fewer questions after divorce about how the child would be raised. Benjamin wouldn’t worry about what impact celebrating Christmas would have on his child because their pre-divorce family would have probably celebrated Christmas in some way.
At the same time, the writer, Ellen Schur Brown, acknowledges that most divorced Jews-by-choice stay Jewish:
It is a fact that interfaith marriages end in divorce more frequently than inmarriages, but in the same way that religious issues can be tackled and overcome in interfaith marriages, religious issues can be tackled and overcome in interfaith divorces.
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