Downton Abbey Portrays Reality of Interfaith RelationshipsBy Gerri Miller
Go inside Season 5 Episode 9 where the story line of Atticus and Rose's interfaith relationship comes to a head.Go To Pop Culture
Since the Sept. 26 issue of our Web Magazine last year, we’ve been running polls alongside the table of contents. We typically get around 20 responses. While nothing like a statistically reliable sample, they do provide an interesting barometer of our readers’ opinions on interfaith issues.
For example, in our last issue on interfaith weddings, we asked “Do you think interfaith couples are more likely to participate in the Jewish community if a rabbi officiates at their wedding?” Eighteen people responded. 72% said Yes, 28% said No. In our new issue, out today, on growing up in an interfaith family, we asked, “Can a person be half-Jewish?”
We received the most respondents to our December holidays question: “Christmas music: Love it or hate it?” The 69 respondents were evenly split. Half said it was “OK in limited doses,” while slightly more than a quarter (28%) said “Love it” and slightly under a quarter (22%) said “Hate it.” Count me in the last category.
But in some cases, the questions divided our readers into equal-sized camps. For our Passover/Easter issue, we asked “Is it harder to be non-Jewish at a Passover seder, or Jewish at an Easter dinner?” 47% of the 45 respondents said “Non-Jewish at a Passover seder” and 53% said “Jewish at an Easter dinner.” I can see both sides of the coin on this one, but I would bet if we had more non-Jewish readers, the poll results would be quite different.
For the Jan. 30, 2007, issue on Latino-Jewish Relationships and Hispanic Jews, we asked “Which culture has the best food: Spanish, Mexican or Jewish?” 40% of the 15 respondents said Spanish, one-third said Mexican and 27% said Jewish. I demand a recount. You have to be loco to think Jewish food is better than Mexican or Spanish food. Corned beef and matzos ball soup are great and all, but that’s about the limit of great Jewish food. Mexican, meanwhile, has tacos, burritos, guacamole, carne asada, carnitas, salsa, chicken mole and a lot of other great foods that end in vowels, while no Jewish dining experience (at least outside the home of your grandmother) can compare to tapas and sangria with friends.
Overall, our readers are a rather tolerant lot. 79% of the 24 respondents to the question “Can you be Jewish if you don’t believe in God?” (May 8, 2007) said Yes. When we asked “If interfaith parents adopt a child of non-Jewish or unknown descent, should that child have to convert to be considered Jewish?” (Nov. 7, 2006), 61% of the 18 respondents said No.
But you seem to draw the line at anything that smacks of mixing religions. Half of you (well, 24 of you) said it is not OK for a child to undergo a baptism and a bris (May 22, 2007). And when we asked “Is Messianic Judaism a legitimate religion or evangelical Christianity in disguise?”, the overwhelming majority (83% of 29 voters) said it was evangelical Christianity in disguise. Nearly two-thirds of you (14) said Hebrew schools should not accept children being raised in two religions (Jan. 4, 2007). Interestingly, this distaste for syncretism doesn’t extend to Buddhism, as only 18% of the 11 respondents said you couldn’t be Jewish and Buddhist at the same time (Nov. 21, 2006).
When it comes to your own interfaith relationships, your experiences are all over the map. 63% of the 24 respondents to our June 5, 2007, question said they’ve never hid their interfaith relationship from their parents, but one-quarter said they didn’t tell their parents until they were serious. Of the 25 respondents to the question “Do you attend services at your partner’s place of worship?” (Sept. 26, 2006) 12% said “Never,” while 24% said “Frequently.” 24% said “Only for life cycle events,” 24% said “Only for life cycle events and major holidays” and 16% said “More frequently than life cycle events and major holidays, but not regularly.”
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