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By Madeleine Deliee
Shortly after the election last November, a friend sent me aÂ real estate listing. It was for a private island in Scotland, including several buildings, its own postage stamp and infrastructure. I started breaking down costs, much to my husbandâ€™s bewilderment. He didnâ€™t understand. But when I talked to my mother about it, she understood immediately. â€śWeâ€™ll know when itâ€™s time to go,â€ť she said.Â My husband thought we were being paranoid. I said we were being Jewish.
The fact is that it isnâ€™t in my husbandâ€™s belief system to think that his government would ever turn on him. He simply cannot imagine that such a thing could happen. I can.
I knew long ago that there were some gaps in our perceptions of the world. He did not know about Dr. Brownâ€™s soda, for one thing, or how to wear a yarmulke. Heâ€™d never seen a Woody Allen movie or lit a menorah. His relatives had largely fled the Potato Famine. Heâ€™s taught me about kneelers, having nuns in your family and growing up Boston Irish.
I wasnâ€™t sure what we were going to learn about each other on our recent trip to Amsterdam. To me, going to Amsterdam meant art, the canals and probably some good beer, but mostly it meant finally getting to see the secret annex. I read Anne Frankâ€™s account of living in hiding when I was in elementary school; it was a source of both hero worship and nightmares for me. I was excited about getting to experience the setting of her story firsthand, but my excitement contained both reverence and nausea. This was where she wrote. This was where she hid to save herself. Would my husband, who was not Jewish, be able to understand all of this?
We waited in line, in the sun, for hours to gain admission. â€śYou can go,â€ť I kept telling him. â€śItâ€™s hot and thereâ€™s nowhere to sit. I donâ€™t mind.â€ť He said no. We took turns standing or sitting on the ground, talking with the German woman behind us who was waiting with her dog and eavesdropping on the loud group of Americans in front of us. They kept exclaiming loudly about how seeing the house was at the top of their to-do list in Amsterdam â€śbecause itâ€™s like the biggest attraction.â€ť We cringed. â€śI was like, OMG, we totes have to go and get the T-shirt or whatever,â€ť I whispered to him. He rolled his eyes. Solidarity.
He took my hand as we crossed into the museum, making our way through the lower levels, the offices and store rooms that buffered the Franks and the other residents of the annex from discovery. The further up we went, the harder it became to swallow the lump in my throat. They were here, I thought. Those pictures on the wall are the ones Anne wrote about in her diary. This is where they ate. This is the textbook they used for lessons to occupy their timeâ€”to maintain some semblance of normalcy in a world that was no longer anything like normal.
This has always been part of what Iâ€™ve found so hard to explain to my husband: Their world was normal and then it wasnâ€™t. Yes, things got worse and worse, until they were so bad that they fled for their lives. But it was incrementalâ€”a pot with the water gradually heating to boiling. This is what I mean when I ask, â€śHow will we know?â€ť I mean, how will we be better-equipped to recognize that the temperature is rising too high?
We were both silent as we left the museum, passing all the postcards bearing the images of the photos weâ€™d encountered throughout the tour. It felt somehow indecent to buy them, although I hesitated over the copy of the picture of the sole survivor, Otto Frank, standing in the annex in 1960. How do you bear that? How do you endure being in the place where your family lived, knowing you couldnâ€™t save them? â€śI love this picture,â€ť I told my husband. â€śBut Iâ€™m not buying it.â€ť He nodded, understanding what I meant: We have children.
We went to a cafĂ© for a drink, both deep in our own thoughts while we waited for our order. â€śI wasnâ€™t sure youâ€™d understand,â€ť I admitted.
â€śI know,â€ť he said.
â€śI didnâ€™t like feeling thatâ€”but youâ€™re right, I donâ€™t have that context.â€ť
â€śYou donâ€™t,â€ť I said. â€śBut I saw you in there. You felt what I did.â€ť
â€śYes, of course,â€ť he said. â€śThat doesnâ€™t depend on context.â€ť
We turned our attention to what was in front of us then: the drinks, watching people walk along the canal, and I realized that Iâ€™d needed his explanation as much as heâ€™d needed mine. Our context is different, but we are not.
By Joanna Valente
TV icon and womenâ€™s rights advocateÂ Mary Tyler Moore, who was in an interfaith marriage,Â died today after being hospitalized in Connecticut. She was 80 years old. Her representative,Â Mara Buxbaum, told the Huffington Post in a statement:
â€śToday, beloved icon, Mary Tyler Moore, passed away at the age of 80 in the company of friends and her loving husband of over 33 years, Dr. S. Robert Levine. A groundbreaking actress, producer, and passionate advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Mary will be remembered as a fearless visionary who turned the world on with her smile.â€ť
That statement isnâ€™t hyperbole either. Without Tyler, the way women are portrayed in mediaâ€“and treated in real life, especially at workâ€“would not be the same. The Mary Tyler Moore ShowÂ was the first show to give serious attention to independent working women. Moore, who initially got her big break on theÂ 1960s sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show, started her own show in the â€™70s, where she played a 30-year-old working woman who never marriedâ€“something unheard of on TVÂ at the time.Â
Here are three reasons Mary Tyler Moore was a feminist icon:
1. Mooreâ€™s character, Mary Richards, famously askedÂ for equal pay to her male co-worker in Season 3, episode 1. The fact that equal pay for women is still largely up for debate is, well, depressing.
2. Thereâ€™s also that episode where Mary goes on the pill. Hello, womenâ€™s lib. You can watch it here on Hulu.
3. MooreÂ ran the show. Literally. Moore was a boss lady.Â The Mary Tyler Moore Show director Alan Rafkin recalled in his autobiography how this was the case, stating:
â€śFirst and foremost Mary was a businesswoman and she ran her series beautifully.Â She was the boss, and although you werenâ€™t always wedded to doing things exactly her way, you never forgot for a second that she was in charge.â€ťÂ
Even Oprah famously said in aÂ PBS documentary celebrating the actress that Moore â€śhas probably had more influence on my career than any other single person or force.â€ť Moore herself identified as a feministâ€“andÂ she told Larry King on his show that her character certainly was:
â€śShe wasnâ€™t aggressive about it, but she surely was.Â The writers never forgot that. They had her in situations where she had to deal with it.â€ť
The show itself ran for seven seasons and held the record for most Emmys wonÂ at a whoppingÂ 29, until â€śFrasierâ€ť broke it in 2002. Besides her acting, Moore was also an animal rights activist, as she foundedÂ Broadway Barks 15, an annual homeless cat and dog adoption event in New York City, and fought for legislation to protect farm animals from inhumane suffering.
But thatâ€™s not it either. Moore was also an advocate for researching cures for diabetes and served as the international chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Moore herself suffered fromÂ type 1 diabetes (and was diagnosed at age 33), and nearly became blind from it in recent years.
Moore, who was not Jewish, is survived by herÂ husband Robert Levine. She and Levine (who is Jewish) were married for 33 years. She was a mother to herÂ son, Richard, who died in 1980 of an accidental gunshot.
We will miss you, Mary Tyler Moore.
This article was reprinted with permission from Kveller.com, a fast-growing, award-winning website for parents raising Jewish and interfaith kids. Follow Kveller on Facebook and sign up for their newsletters here.
Joanna Valente is the Editorial Assistant atÂ Kveller. She is the author ofÂ Sirs & Madams,Â The Gods Are Dead, Xenos, andÂ MarysÂ of the Sea, andÂ received her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College.Â You can follow herÂ @joannasaidÂ on Twitter, @joannacvalente on Instagram, orÂ email her atÂ email@example.com.
By Jared David Berezin
Many years ago I was in a book club and read a collection of essays called Righteous Indignation: A Jewish Call For Justice. The book explored how Jewish thought intersects with issues of social justice, and each chapter focused on a different subject: poverty, the environment, health care, human rights, reproductive rights and Israel.
In one chapter, an environmental activist described her time canvassing in a small town in Texas, and how difficult it was to garner local support for her teamâ€™s initiative. One Friday evening as her despondent team gathered around a table for dinner, she had an idea. She asked everyone to pass a cup around the table, and as each person poured a little wine into the cup, they would say one victory they had in the past week, no matter how small. Even having a nice conversation with someone outside the grocery store counted as a victory during those tough times. As the cup went around and filled up with everyoneâ€™s victories, the activist realized to her surprise that they were, in essence, celebrating Shabbat.
Despite the absence of candles, challah or Hebrew prayers, these activists were recognizing the light, sweetness and sustenance in their lives. They were marking the end of a difficult week by taking a moment for reflection.
Inspired by this book, my wife and Iâ€”who are interfaith and unaffiliatedâ€”hosted a participatory Shabbat with some friends a while back. One guest came with her teenage son and daughter, who at the time were not enjoying each otherâ€™s company (to put it lightly!). Tweaking the ritual from Righteous Indignation, as the challah was passed around we asked people to share a moment from the past week that provided sustenance in their lives. When the challah reached the womanâ€™s teenage son, he looked down at the bread and thought about it for a moment. He then told us that what had sustained him over the past week was being able to spend so much time with his sister. We were all taken aback. His motherâ€™s eyes went wide, and his sister turned to him and asked in amazement, â€śReally?!â€ť
It was such a real and honest moment and, I believe, a very sacred one for that family and all of us there. Who wouldnâ€™t want to live in a world where a brother can tell his sister how he truly feels without reservation?
The possibility of these moments is why I keep coming back to Shabbat, even after weeks and sometimes months of letting Friday nights sail by without any acknowledgment. For me and my wife, who was not raised Jewish, Shabbat can be an inclusive way to mark the end of a busy week. It can be an opportunity to create an accessible space for honesty and shared reflection with good people.
But what about when weâ€™re not home on Friday night? Oftentimes my wife and I find ourselves at a concert, a friendâ€™s house or in the car heading off to a weekend adventure. Can a special space be created in these situations? Does every Shabbat need to look, sound and feel the same?
Years back I met with a rabbi and asked him how my wife and I could celebrate Shabbat in a meaningful way outside of the home. He looked me in the eyes and said: â€śFind some light, find some bread and find some sweetness. Then tell each other that you love each other.â€ť
Those beautiful wordsâ€”so simple, so honest, so free of biblical or quorum rulesâ€”provide us with basic ingredients for our Shabbat experiments. Amidst the variable settings and circumstances of any given Friday evening, creating space for love, honesty and unguarded reflection among friends and family can get the weekend going in a positive direction. Whether itâ€™s reading a poem together, reflecting on a victory or struggle from the past week, whether weâ€™re at home or on the road, whether we have the traditional Shabbat accoutrements or not, we can take a moment to find light, sustenance and sweetness around us and within each other.
By Nicole Rodriguez
Whenever I meet someone new, thereâ€™s always an instant connection the moment I find out theyâ€™re Jewish. Itâ€™s almost like an immediate form of familiarity, even though we just met. However, when I meet someone from a different faith, I am just as interested to learn more about their culture as I am when someone is a different denomination of Judaism.
Growing up in a Reform Jewish household, I was often told by my parents, â€śYou can marry anyone you want, but we prefer a nice Jewish boy.â€ť A big emphasis was on the â€śprefer.â€ť But Iâ€™ve dated many people and the religious aspect hasnâ€™t weighed heavily. The one serious relationship I had was with someone who was not Jewishâ€”he was Lutheran. But besides the occasional questions here and there about our faiths, we rarely talked about it. It just became one of the details I knew about him. We were both pretty non-observant religiously; less organizational and more family-centered and holiday-based.Â All the other positive aspects about him were more important to me than the fact that he came from a different faith and belief system, which ensured a successful relationship.
Interfaith dating forces someâ€”not allâ€”people to make the difficult decision of whether they should or should not pursue a potential relationship with someone of a different faith. My opinion as a millennial in this day and age is that beliefs are not a key factor in determining the outcome of a relationship; values are. Date whomever you want based on personality, sense of humor, how that person shows their love for you, etc. Truly good people are those who find ways to apply their beliefs to their lives and aspire to live a life by the right values.
Though all the different kinds of faiths across the globe may vary from one to the next, many of their values are universal. As long as both people share similar values and are able to maintain mutual respect for each otherâ€™s beliefs, there shouldnâ€™t be anything holding them back from being together. Both parties can carry on the religious traditions important to them, share in each otherâ€™s practices and celebrate the unity of their values. There will be different approaches to how to be a good person, and that can potentially be enriching to learn about and process.
As a famous Beatle once said, â€śAll you need is love.â€ť Now, John, what do you mean by that? Specific love from specific people? Love as long as itâ€™s with someone from your religion? No. I think he means that any love is worth your time and affection, regardless of religious differences. By limiting yourself to one cluster of people, you might be denying who can truly make you happy. Some couples might disagree, but in my opinion finding someone who will love you the way you truly are is the truest kind of love.
Judaism has a sense of peoplehood and a shared text, language and connection to a land. However, when you find a mate with real love and connection that isnâ€™t Jewish, it doesnâ€™t mean they canâ€™t still be a great addition to the community. I wonâ€™t lose my Jewish connections and Jewish allegiances, identity and pride when I #ChooseLove. Iâ€™m not choosing love over sharing the same religion. If I can have both, awesome! Iâ€™m hoping for love with someone who will support me for me and let my beliefs inform them as well.
By Zoe Crum
My husband, Erik, and I recently attended â€śLove and Religion,â€ť a workshop for interfaith couples who are exploring their spirituality and how their religion, spirituality and traditional practices will play into their future lives. I myself am not Jewishâ€”Erik isâ€”and I was raised, as we collectively decided to put it in class, with â€śChristian undertones.â€ť
Erik and I have known each other since our undergraduate years at Drew University. We have been engaged for almost three years and will be getting married later this summer. Erik recently moved to Washington, D.C., to join me there. Since we have been living together we have decided to spend this time, and the early years of our marriage, experimenting with traditions and deciding what we want to nurture in our household from both of our upbringings. This is what led us to â€śLove and Religionâ€ť and eventually to this blog post!
Through this workshop at the DC JCC, we were lucky enough to meet the wonderful Rabbi Sarah Tasman, former director of InterfaithFamily/DC, and hear about the â€śJewish Food Experience: Beyond the Bagel Program Grants for Interfaith Families.â€ť
I could gush forever about this program, as Iâ€™m a self-proclaimed vegan foodie. Cooking and baking are a huge passion of mine, and I love the opportunity to cook for people I care about. When we found out there was a program that would not only help fund a dinner for our friends but would allow me to explore new recipes and that directly related to our new relationship mission of exploring each otherâ€™s cultural traditions, we didnâ€™t have to think twice. Of course we were going to host an interfaith veggie Shabbatâ€”my very first.
We applied for the grant and the rest was delicious.
Friends of all backgrounds joined us for Shabbat, including both of the couples with whom we attended â€śLove and Religion.â€ť We started the night with homemade hummus with veggies and flatbread, vegan cashew cheese with crackers, and dates and olives to snack on. Many people drank wine, which I have learned is standard for Shabbat, and a tradition the group wholeheartedly embraced.
Erik led us through the Shabbat rituals and got everyone involved. We lit candles and broke the vegan challah. We washed our hands and drank the wine. I wish I had gotten more pictures, but we implemented a strict no-phones-at-the-table rule. Then we sat down for strawberry, walnut and spinach salad and challah.
Making challah was an interesting challenge, especially since I had never tasted it myself. However, from my understanding, itâ€™s a heavily egg-based bread. Luckily, I found a nice and easy recipe from the cookbook â€śBetty Goes Veganâ€ť and started the dough for two loaves. One was a classic challah, and the other I quickly decided should be a cheesy, garlic bread challah of my own devising. Apparently I didnâ€™t do too badly (or my friends are just too nice). Everyone loved the challah, and one person even commented that they would buy the cheesy garlic one at the store if they could!
For the main course we had summer squash lasagna roll-ups with a walnut and sundried-tomato pesto, roasted lemon asparagus and roasted purple potatoes with rosemary. I had hoped to make a few more veggies but ran out of time (and itâ€™s a good thing too, since there was plenty left over!).
On to the most important course: dessert. One of our fabulous guests brought a delightful peach crisp and coconut-based vanilla ice cream. I paired this with a vegan blueberry cheesecake with a graham-cracker crust from the cookbook â€śVegan Pie in the Sky.â€ť
The night was a huge success, filled with many insightful questions about Shabbat, Judaism and veganism. We are looking forward to our next chance to host a big dinner, and are so incredibly grateful to Sarah for connecting us with this opportunity. Shabbat shalom!
By Laura Baum
The most popular days to get engaged are Christmas (and I assume Hanukkah!), New Yearâ€™s Eve, and Valentineâ€™s Day. That means this time of year is one when rabbis like me get lots of phone calls to officiate at upcoming wedding ceremonies.
One of my favorite parts of my rabbinate is officiating at weddings. It is such a joyous time in peopleâ€™s lives, and they are eager to share their stories, to plan a wedding that celebrates their values, and to bring their friends and families together for a wonderful celebration. As a rabbi, I get to learn about people and to work with couples to think about their future together and the family life they are beginning to create.
Of all the weddings that I do each year, most are for interfaith couples. This makes sense, since most couples getting married include partners with diverse backgrounds and religious identities. As my colleague and friend Rabbi Jesse Gallop often says, â€śinterfaith families are modern Jewish families.â€ť I agree; they are not outliers or some group that needs to be treated as outsiders to the Jewish community.
Todayâ€™s Jewish community is beautifully diverse. Whether a Jewish person marries another Jew or someone who identifies with a different background, what I believe matters more are shared values. Yes, it is possible for a person who is Jewish and a person who is Christian to have very different values, just as it is possible for two Jewish people to have very different values. It is also possible for someone who identifies as Jewish and someone who identifies as Christian to have common values. At the end of the day, conversations about values, traditions, rituals, and frameworks for living oneâ€™s life are more important to me than a conversation exclusively about religious identity.
It is for these reasons, among others, that I am happy to officiate at interfaith marriages, including some ceremonies where I co-officiate with clergy of another faith. In recent conversations with InterfaithFamily, a group that (among other activities) matches couples with prospective of officiants, I learned that they get many requests for rabbis to co-officiate and that many rabbis are unwilling to do so.
Of course, I respect that my rabbinic colleagues can and should make individual choices about which ceremonies they are comfortable officiating. That said, I am here to say that I have had only positive experiences working with co-officiants. When I officiate any wedding, whether between two Jews or a Jewish person and someone who is not Jewish, I make case-specific choices about whether itâ€™s a wedding I am comfortable officiating. There are times that I say no because I am not comfortable for any of a number of reasons; a couple wanting an interfaith ceremony or a co-officiant is not a reason in and of itself for me to say no.
In those ceremonies, I bring Jewish elements and my clergy colleagues bring elements from their tradition into the ceremony. We make sure we are all comfortable with the specificÂ elements chosen. Â We each explain what we are doing so that all of the people there understand the elements of the service. We work with couples to talk about what matters to them â€“ so they are very intentional about the choices they are making for their ceremony, which is really just the beginning of a series of choices they will make throughout their married lives. I would so much rather an interfaith family hears welcoming and positive messages from a rabbi rather than being told â€śno, I canâ€™t be there for you.â€ť
Throughout my rabbinate, I have seen how amazingly involved parents who aren’t Jewish often are in their childrenâ€™s Jewish identity. They are often the ones driving kids to Hebrew school, helping them prepare for their bar or bat mitzvahs, and volunteering at synagogue. There are so many parents who do not identity as Jewish who still strongly cultivate their childrenâ€™s Jewish identity. Letâ€™s celebrate that. Letâ€™s also celebrate the families where couples choose not to become parents and have a wonderful marriage celebrating both of their religious identities, learning from one another.
So to all of the couples who just got engaged or are about to get engaged, mazel tov and congratulations! If youâ€™re looking for a rabbi to officiate at your interfaith marriage, we exist and are happy to do it. Donâ€™t give up. Keep calling, and you will find a community that welcomes you.
By Laurel Snyder
This blog post originally appeared at Rituallwell.orgÂ in honor of Interfaith Family Month
I have never suggested to my Catholic-born husband that he convert. As a child of intermarriage myself, whose parents always maintained their own distinct religions (but raised me Jewish), conversion wasnâ€™t part of my heritage.
It was enough, I thought, that my husband supported me in raising Jewish kids. It was enough that he came to shul now and then. It was enough that he raced home from work in time for me to light the candles on Friday night, so that we could all be together for Shabbat. To be honest, I have inmarried friends whose partners are less supportive in this way. I felt lucky.
Then, last year, something happened Iâ€™d never expected. I was out of town, for work. I donâ€™t remember where, but I know that I was busy on Friday night, and didnâ€™t call home until Saturday afternoon, when my son picked up.
â€śSorry, Mom,â€ť he said right away. â€śBut we couldnâ€™t remember all the words last night.â€ť
â€śWhat words?â€ť I asked, confused.
â€śThe words to the prayers,â€ť he explained. â€śWe tried. We did our best! We got most of them right.â€ť
It took me a minute to realize was he was saying. There was a long pause before I asked. â€śOhâ€¦ did you guys light the candlesâ€¦ for Shabbat?â€ť
â€śYeah,â€ť he said. â€śDad did.â€ť
â€śHuh, cool,â€ť I said. I pretended like it was no big deal. We talked about other things, and after a minute we hung up.
But then I sat there, in my silent hotel room, and I felt my eyes fill with tears. Because while Iâ€™ve never asked my husband to convert, or even really thought about that possibility, I have wondered what would happen if I were hit by an eighteen wheeler. Iâ€™ve wondered whether Judaism is just the mom-show in our house. Iâ€™ve wondered whether it would continue in my absence.Â Whether anyone besides me wanted it enough to make it happen.
This proof that they did want it stunned me.
Hereâ€™s the thingâ€”I didnâ€™t grow up lighting candles each week. That wasnâ€™t my heritage any more than conversion was. Shabbat candles were something I decided to do as an adult, as a mother. They were something I added into my life by choice. They werenâ€™t automatic.
One could blame that fact on my parentsâ€™ intermarriage, but one would be wrong in doing so, because in fact my very inmarried grandparents didnâ€™t light Shabbat candles either. So for me, an intermarried child of intermarriage, to light candles each week had to be a choice.
Of course there is value in tradition, in heritage, in routine. There is value in doing something because we have been imprinted, conditioned to do the thing. But there is also value in making a choice, in consciously deciding.
After my parents divorced, my father became more observant than heâ€™d ever been before. As an adult, I watched him change. He began to cover his head. He began to keep kosher. He chose to do so, and if I have a Jewish heritage, I think thatâ€™s what it is. Choice. Mindful observance. Constant reevaluation. My parents married without a religious blueprint, and so they had to puzzle out a household. They had to make decisions. Periodically, they had to revise those decisions. That process continues to this day. In their homes, and now in mine.
People often assume that as Jews continue to intermarry, observance will decline. But thatâ€™s an incredibly pessimistic view. That doesnâ€™t take into account the joy of discovery, or the pure pleasure of Jewish practice. The human inclination to do better next time. Such pessimism assumes that observance must be linked to tradition and routine.
It doesnâ€™t make room for families like mine, for my Catholic-born husband and my second-generation-intermarried kids, lighting the candles, saying the prayers, all on their own, for the very first time. And getting most of the words right, anyway.
Laurel is the project manager for InterfaithFamily/Atlanta