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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
Everyone enjoysÂ a good love story. Even though I infamously dislike narratives with neat, tidy endings, Iâ€™m also a huge romantic at heart. This is why Iâ€™m so excited thatÂ Â Kirk Douglas and his wife, Anne,Â wrote a bookÂ called Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood,Â which was released in May.
The book, which was written withÂ Marcia Newberger, centers around their long, passionate, and sometimes turbulent marriage. The couple has been married since 1954 (in Las Vegas, no less), so clearly after 63Â years, they know a thing or two about how to make relationships work. Kirk is now 100 and Anne is 98â€“not only unusual milestones for anyone to reach both in age and marriage, but a happily ironic one considering what Kirk once wrote in a letter.
Four years after they were married, KirkÂ wroteÂ Anne a letter saying,Â â€śIf I live to be one hundred, there will still be so many things unsaid.â€ť On his 100th birthday last year, it all came full circle when he wroteÂ â€śAs I have now reached that milestone, I can attest that it is still true.â€ť
As pointed out by our sister siteÂ JTA,Â their union felt unlikely, in that Kirk was â€śthe son of a hard-drinking Jewish immigrant ragman and junk collector,â€ť while Anne was â€śthe daughter of a prosperous German family.â€ť When they met,Â both were recently divorced, and Kirk was engaged.Â But they were meant to be.
Because of his acting schedule, they often wrote letters to each other. Kirk referred to Anne as â€śStolz,â€ť while Anne addressed Kirk as â€śIsidoreâ€ť or â€śIzzy.â€ť Interestingly, Anne converted in 2003 to Judaism (after 49 years of marriage!), describing herÂ mikvehÂ experience:
â€śAfter removing all nail polish, I entered the swimming pool and put my head under the water. I came out looking like a wet dog. But I was Jewish.Â It is time he got a nice Jewish girl.â€ť
The book, with a foreword by their actor son, Michael, was clearly craftedÂ with love. You can see it from excerpts such as these:
This article was reprinted with permission fromÂ Kveller.com, a fast-growing, award-winning website for parents raising Jewish and interfaith kids.Â Follow Kveller on FacebookÂ andÂ 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,Â Xenos,Â andÂ MarysÂ of the Sea, andÂ received her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College.Â You can follow herÂ @joannasaidÂ on Twitter,Â @joannacvalenteon Instagram, orÂ email her atÂ firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Tara Worthey Segal
I formally converted to Judaism one month after I lost my father and two weeks before getting married.
I hadnâ€™t been raised with much religion. I was baptized Lutheran, but always joked that my parents did that more out of superstition than dogma. They didnâ€™t do much to disabuse me of this notionâ€”we attended services at the local Lutheran church on Christmas Eve, but beyond that and spending a week or so at an Episcopal church camp for a few summers, I didnâ€™t have much of a religious identity.
My parents said they didnâ€™t want to force religion on us. Other kids in that situation might never have gravitated toward organized religion at all, but my sister and I both wound up finding our own. She became a Mormon, drawn to it by the community she found in her Idaho college town and by the man who would become her husband. Mine also came through the man Iâ€™d eventually marry. Matt was raised in a conservative Jewish household, and though he wasnâ€™t hugely religious himself, it was important to him that he marry a Jew.
As I began to study for my conversion, I was relieved that no one told me what to think and instead discussed with me how we see and live life through a Jewish lens. I was invited to take part in conversations rather than evaluated on obedience. Always uncomfortable with the idea of pledging allegiance to a transcribed set of beliefs, I was drawn to the idea that I could keep my curiosity, that it was OK to question leaders and make sense of the world myself, using the values of Judaism as a guide.
One reservation I did have was my father. He didnâ€™t object to me marrying a Jewish man; to the contrary, he loved Matt and was incredibly proud of his achievements. As for his own daughter becoming Jewishâ€¦ Iâ€™m not sure he understood the necessity. We didnâ€™t speak about my conversion process much, as he was sick and I was planning a wedding. And then, before we had the chance to really discuss it, he was gone.
I wanted him to know that my conversion wasnâ€™t a rejection of him and my mother, or of our upbringing. In fact, it was because of the way I was raised that becoming Jewish came to make sense to me. People often talk about their finding their spiritual homes, but for me, arriving at Judaism was less of a homecoming and more of a recognition of something that was always there. An emphasis on family. Intellectual curiosity. Passing on a shared history and traditions to the next generations.
The things that eventually drew me to Judaism were my fatherâ€™s values, as well. From him, I learned that knowledge is liberating. He didnâ€™t have much formal education but he shared with me his love for reading (he gave me his tattered copy of â€śThe Diary of Anne Frankâ€ť when I was 8), and said attending college was a non-negotiable.
From him, I learned the value of being able to stand up for my own views. He played devilâ€™s advocate every time we talked politics, driving me to distraction at times (though in the end he voted for Obama).
From him, I learned never to be passive or complacent. He may not have recognized the term tikkun olam (repairing the world), but I also never saw him turn away from somebody who he had the ability to help in any capacity. And he felt guilty when he didnâ€™t have spare change for someone asking on the street.
These are all things that, as far as I can tell, embody Jewishness.
After he died, I found comfort in that oft-repeated phrase â€śmay his memory be a blessing.â€ť It doesnâ€™t promise that I will see him again or that he is in a better place. It doesnâ€™t force me to place hope in something that Iâ€™m not sure exists. It allows me, simply, to find joy in the fact that I had him for 27 yearsâ€”and I have as many yearsâ€™ worth of memories to hold close, when I can no longer pick up the phone to call him and argue about Hillary Clinton.
My husband and I had a traditional Jewish wedding, with the chuppah and the ketubah (marriage contract) and the hora and evenâ€”because both of our siblings had married before usâ€”a double mezinke (a dance for parents whose last child is marrying). And as I watched the endless line of wedding guests dance around my husbandâ€™s mother and father and my own mother, and as I saw the mix of grief, pleasure, and bewilderment on my momâ€™s face, I wondered what my father would have thought of it all.
He knew that he would be leaving me before his time, and he never spoke about concrete ideas of heaven or hell, redemption, or eternal kingdoms. I think, though, that he would be at peace knowing that Judaism gave me a way to grieve him without clinging to a narrative that wouldnâ€™t feel genuine to either of us.
Itâ€™s been three years now since I lost him. Every winter, both his birthday and the anniversary of his death pass in the same week. Every year, the anniversary of my conversion and the anniversary of my marriage follow close behind. The later dates are inextricably tied to the earlier ones. I light a candle and stand to recite the Mournerâ€™s Kaddishâ€”for a man who was not Jewish and who likely did not know what a yahrzeit was.
But my father deserves to be honored, and his Jewish daughter intends to do so.
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.
By Stacey Zisook Robinson
Editor’s note: This author describes difficulty finding a rabbi to officiate her wedding in Chicago. We urge couples to utilize our free rabbi referral service, available here. If you are in the Chicago area, or any of our InterfaithFamily/Your Community areas, our rabbi/directors can help guide you.
Iâ€™m dating. Again. Post-divorce, post 50, Iâ€™m dating. I suppose itâ€™s fittingâ€”I didnâ€™t do much dating during the prime dating years of adolescence and young adulthood. My teens and 20s (and if weâ€™re being really honest, most of my 30s) were relatively unscathed by the trials and tribulations of this particular social lubricant.
Not by choice, mind you. I wanted to date. Would have loved to dive into the dating pool. I envied my friends who wept and wailed and crowed with delight, sometimes all in the same conversation. I was just weird enough and insecure enough to assume that no one would ever actually want to date me, so I remained everyoneâ€™s confidante and confessor. I gave awesome advice and my ears grew muscles with the constant stream of listening that they did.
By the time I was dating, it was less â€śdatingâ€ť and more a series of negotiations over a meal or three to determine relationship status. I mean, come on: Who dated at my age? Who did small talk and boundaries? Time was ticking; letâ€™s get a move on. In or out, whaddya say?
My criteria read something like an EEOC banner: any and all applicants accepted, regardless of race, color or religion. I probably would have given pause at political leanings; that is (still) a deal-breaker. But all the other stuff? Not a whit did I care. I fell in love, deeply, passionately, forever and for always with someoneâ€™s soul.
It was probably no surprise to anyone that when I finally found The One, he was not Jewish. It was a huge surprise to me when I called my rabbiâ€”the man who had been my rabbi throughout most of my childhood and young adulthoodâ€”and he refused to marry us.
â€śWhat?â€ť I criedâ€”literally criedâ€”into the phone. How could that be? Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that my rabbi (whom Iâ€™d not seen in more than 20 years, but whoâ€™s counting, right?) would refuse. â€śMazel tov,â€ť he said, kindly and with finality. â€ťI wish you luck.â€ť And he hung up the phone.
It took a while, but I found a rabbi, apparently the one rabbi in Chicago who performed mixed marriage ceremonies. On a magical day in May, there was a chuppah and a glass and a rabbi, and my somewhat befuddled bridegroom who wasn’t Jewish.
Nine months and a day laterâ€”exactly nine months and a dayâ€”we had our son. But as time went on, I watched as my world, my marriage, fell apart. I forgot that if you have a relationship based upon need (because really, who on earth could ever love me; need was almost as good, right?), when the need goes away, whatâ€™s left to hold all the pieces together?
And so my husband became my ex-husband, and I jumped back into the (non)dating pool. I wound up with a handful of relationships to call my own. Though now there was a difference: These were all Jewish men.
Itâ€™s not that I had refused to go the Jewish route when I was younger. This was no misplaced rebellion from God or my parents. Had some Jewish man, in need of fixing or just plain in need, offered, Iâ€™d have been all over that. Iâ€™d have loved that. Maybe it was timing or luck. Maybe it was my subconscious. Regardless, Iâ€™d never dated within the tribe before.
At some point in my more desperate attempts to find healing with the ex of note, however, I had found, much to my surprise, God. And with God, synagogue and Torah and community and services and committees and temple politics and devotion and Talmud and chanting and teaching andâ€¦ OK, Iâ€™ll make this easy: I found my Judaism. I felt as if I had finally come home. Outside of being a mother to my son, being a devoted, mindful Reform Jew was the central fact of my life, and I was determined to make â€śJewishâ€ť central to my dating criteria from now on.
So, of course, when I least expected it, there it wasâ€”love. Again. Dating. Againâ€”no, not again.Â For the first time. Actual dating. The Iâ€™ll-pick-you-up-and-weâ€™ll-go-to-dinner-and-then-Iâ€™ll-take-you-home kind of a date. The Iâ€™ll-call-you-in-a-few-days-and-weâ€™ll-make-plans-for-another-day kind of date, because we donâ€™t have to do everything right now; later is also good, because there will be a later.
And now here I am, dating. Heâ€™s kind and funny and smart. He loves me, which is awesome, since I love him. We met in junior high and we found each other again in a hailstorm of good timing and strange coincidence. He likes pizza and the Cubs, has a cat named Einstein, and heâ€™s not Jewish.
Dammit, heâ€™s not Jewish. And it never, ever mattered to me before. But I found God, and Judaism, and mindful devotionâ€”shouldnâ€™t it matter?
â€śI donâ€™t know about him,â€ť I said to my son, now 17. We were talking just after Iâ€™d come home from a dateâ€”not the first one, not even the second or third, but right at that tipping point of figuring out where it all fit, having no idea if I was doing it right at all, since Iâ€™d never actually done this before. â€śHeâ€™s not Jewish. That feels kinda weird.â€ť
My son, filled with that heady mix of cynicism and ennui that pervades every 17-year-old, said, â€śMom, you just want someone who believes what you believe.â€ť
â€śNo,â€ť I replied, with a growing sense of wonder, â€śnot that. I want someone who thinks like I think. Someone whoâ€™s willing to dive in and learn and argue and discuss and discover. Heâ€™s devoted to his faith and to what his faith calls him to doâ€”serve those in need, fix whatâ€™s broken in the world. How is that different from what I want?â€ť
I wonder sometimes if I am betraying my faith, my people. He and I, we talk about it from time to time. He comes to synagogue with me on occasion. I go to church every once in a while with him. I think we are both a bit smugly sure, in a most loving way, that each of us is right about the whole God thing, and we kindly indulge the other in their misplaced faith.
Thereâ€™s a chance that God smiles indulgently at the both of us, too.
But we dive and struggle and wrestle with faith, with God, with love and our imperfectionsâ€”not to change the other, or to prove our rightness. We wrestle because it is part of the thing we share: devotion and faith.
We are completely together, differently. That is, ever and always, enough.
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.
Stacey Zisook RobinsonÂ is a single mom. She sings whenever she can. She writes, even when she canâ€™t. She worked in Corporate America for a long time. Now she works at her writing and looks for God and grace, meaning, connection, and a perfect cup of coffee, not necessarily in that order. Stacey has been published in several magazines and anthologies.Â Her book,Â Dancing in the Palm of Godâ€™s Hand, has just been published by Hadasah Word Press. She recently launched a Poet in Residence program designed to work with both adults and kids in a Jewish setting to explore the connection between poetry and prayer as a way to build a bridge to a deepened Jewish identity and faith.Â She blogs athttp://staceyzrobinson.blogspot.com, and her website can be found atÂ www.stumblingtowardsmeaning.com.
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
Well Iâ€™ve gone and done it. I didnâ€™t mean to make you mad, but I can tell that I did.
There I was, a Jewish girl from New York, living my life, building a career, being a young adult in a big city, when out of nowhereâ€Šâ€”â€ŠBAMâ€Šâ€”â€ŠI fell in love with a kind mid-western man.
He was smart and loving and well, raised in a different faithâ€Šâ€”â€Šbut frankly, the fact that we were in love trumped anything else.
But I didnâ€™t expect you to be so disappointed in me.
You see, this man asked me to marry him, and there we were, planning our weddingâ€Šâ€”â€Ša Jewish weddingâ€Šâ€”â€Šbecause that is what we agreed it would be, because it was meaningful to me and I knew, and he agreed, we would keep Judaism in our lives. So I naturally asked a rabbi to be with us on our big day. he said no, he would not, under these circumstances, bless our union. I asked another and another and yet another and the prospect of having our Jewish wedding dwindled. But I struggled through and found a way to have the ceremony we wanted with a cantoral student who helped us create our beautiful Jewish wedding.
And then I got pregnant. A BOY, what a joy to behold! A blessing in our lives! But my husband had questions that I could not answer about mohels and ritual and foreskin and we sought the counsel of a rabbi to help. We called on your synagogues to find some answers. And we kept calling and calling and messages were left from the kind man who married the Jewish girl again and again, but again we were denied access to you. Once again we stood up for our family and the traditions we wanted to uphold and found a mohel that came to our home and we had a lovely bris for our beautiful boy. One fitting for bringing a Jewish boy into the world.
A third time I sought you outâ€¦ to care for this child and teach him. But as you glared at my tattooed body and asked about my husbandâ€™s background, I was told that your communityâ€™s childrenâ€™s programs were reserved for those who were members and perhaps I should look elsewhere.
And somewhere that day, I lost the fight. I gave up on you right then and there, Judaism. You clearly didnâ€™t want me. There are only so many times you can be turned away before you wonder why you are trying in the first place. You did not want my family, Judaismâ€¦ so I gave up trying.
But I was heartbroken.
I know youâ€™re trying to find a way to welcome us, but youâ€™re not there yet. When we encounter your barriers and your walls we struggle to get through them. And eventually we give up, because it is hard and we donâ€™t want our children to hear your clucking or your message that they are not good enough for you.
Yet, your articles and comments and letters to the editor tell us it is we who are ruining Judaism. It stings to hear that we, the intermarried are destroying Jewish continuity.
But I am stubborn, and thereâ€™s something about you Judaism, thatâ€™s too important to let go. So after I gave up on you, a friend and fellow Jewish professional told me that my experience was not the Judaism she knew and loved and encouraged me to try again. I found my own way to keep the faith in you. I created a Jewish home and holidays and traditions in my own Jewish way. And eventually, I found a community that embraced me and supported my family for who we areâ€Šâ€”â€Šand doesnâ€™t punish us for what weâ€™re not. There are so many of us out here making our own wayâ€¦ but also so many who gave up, never to return.
You see, when you denounce intermarried rabbis and talk about the declining vitality of Judaism, we, the families are listening to you talk about how these rabbisâ€Šâ€”â€Šwhose families closely resemble our ownâ€Šâ€”â€Šdonâ€™t count for you. We hear you tell us, yet again, that we are not good enough but that you are welcoming in the same breath.
So while some of your newspapers and your blogs and your institutions (and your commenters, oh gosh, your commenters) whisper too loudly behind my back and wonder what to do with a â€śproblemâ€ť like my family, my boys will bound through the door this Friday, giddy from the waning of the week and ask â€śMOM? What time is Shabbat?
It started as most modern romances do these days. Girl logs on to a website. Spies a boy. Sends notes back and forth. But it was 2000 when I met Dave, long before dating websitesâ€”a time when chat rooms and websites catering to different hobbies and interests were just starting to bring people together.
We corresponded via Internet and phone calls before we ever met in person. I was living in Brooklyn and needed to be in Boston for a work event in May 2001. We thought we should have dinner. Dinner turned into a weekend, which turned into weekend trips between New York City and Boston for quite some time.
Aside from the travel, it all seemed so simple.
And it was, mostly. There came a point in the relationship where we knew we were going to move forward, as in, it looked like I was going to leave New York City and move to Boston to be with Dave. We felt like we needed to tell our parents we had met someone special. That we were serious.
I was nervous.
You see, I was raised Jewish. My mom, my dad, my Orthodox Russian Rabbi great grandfathers, and family as far back as I know of, are all Jewish. And Dave was raised in a different religion.
I know the stories, Iâ€™ve seen The Way We Were, Fiddler on the Roof, and Annie Hall. People get disowned, troubles arise … lineages are broken, chaos ensues! I love my dad. I am his first born and I have always wanted to please him. I also knew I loved Dave. And that my Dad loved me.
So I prepared myself mentally and I picked up the phone.
Please answer so I can get this over with.
We start off like any other normal conversation; we laugh a little and check in. Then I let him know that I have something important I want to talk to him about.
â€śSo I know I told you Iâ€™ve met someoneâ€¦ but I wanted to let you know that we are… um… moving forward with our relationship.â€ť
â€śWell Iâ€™m sure you must know that I have one big question for you about this man that I need to ask.â€ť
â€śOK.â€ť Still holding breath, about to pass out.
At this point Iâ€™m trying to prepare to help my father understand that, to me, just because Dave isnâ€™t Jewish, that fact doesnâ€™t make me less Jewish or even less likely to raise Jewish children. Iâ€™ve always loved the holidays and the culture and the food and I want to make sure that those traditions are carried on. Iâ€™m ready to have this conversation with my father.
â€śOK, Dadâ€¦ask it.â€ť
â€śWell, is he a Red Sox fan? Because that might be a deal breaker for me.â€ť
And with tears in my eyes, I laughed. I laughed and told my father that no, the man I knew I was destined to marry was not a Red Sox fan.
I knew that my father chose love. He chose his love for me because he knew that love is the most important choice. He understood that we make choices in our lives every day and those choices should be made with love.
In my head, I made this conversation much more difficult because the â€śIf youâ€™re a Jew, you marry a Jewâ€ť mantra whispered throughout my upbringing. The truth is, by embracing my interfaith relationship, my father actually made me want to keep Judaism in my life moreâ€”to carry on the traditions and the culture in my own family. And while I wouldnâ€™t realize it until long after this conversation, he made me want to fight to keep Judaism in my childrenâ€™s lives no matter how many times we were made to feel unwelcome.
â€śI thought you were going to ask a different question.â€ť
It has been over five years since my father died. I see him in my children. My Jewish children. When they laugh, when theyâ€™re defiant and when they participate in Passover and light the Shabbat candles, and certainly on the day they eventually become Bar Mitzvah. Judaism is strong in my family, because at a critical moment, my father chose love.
To learn more about InterfaithFamilyâ€™s #ChooseLove campaign and to tell us how you #ChooseLove, visitÂ interfaithfamily.com/chooselove.
To see how we #ChooseLove, watch this video.