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
Our search for the right rabbi is making me nutty. It seems to be this detailed and intricate journey where each turn has its own set of rules to navigate. Each rabbi that I speak to turns our trajectory in a new direction and makes me think about what we are REALLY after. I still haven’t found the answer.
Our lives are so simple, and this seems so complicated. I’m Jewish. Lu is not.
We want a wedding that embraces that Judaism but isn’t ALL about it. I mean, as a couple, we’re not ALL Jew. We want to pay tribute to the fact that there are two of us entering into this commitment. Two people–with two belief systems, and two culturally distinct backgrounds. Yes. We have a Jewish son, who will have Jewish education and eat his mother’s matzah ball soup with a smile on (and, in our family, with chopsticks!)
But does that mean that we can’t show him what Christmas is? Does he have to live in a house that is ONLY Jewish, when his parents aren’t only Jewish?
No. Guys. The answer is no.
Raiden will know the culture of both of his parents. He will grow up experiencing the same feelings that we felt as children. Lula when she found that Easter egg and me when I found that afikomen. How great were those moments!?
So here is my thought process on the whole ordeal. Interfaith marriage puts the couple into a game of statistics. The 2000-01 National Jewish Population Survey says that only 1/3 of intermarried couples will raise Jewish Children. And the truth is that, as Jews, we want to see our faith carried on for generations to come. We want to continue for as long as the human race. So would a Rabbi marry a couple from two faiths with those numbers stacked against them?
So. Ok. It’s a gamble. How would the rabbi who marries us KNOW that we will raise a Jewish family? I mean. She could take our word for it.
Here is the part that is problematic in our situation. We have a child. We have a JEWISH child. So wouldn’t the continuation of Judaism in our family be a given? Wouldn’t that then make our marriage secondary—since we have already fulfilled the pre-requisite for a Jewish future?
We have hope that we will find the right rabbi for us. She is out there and we will work as hard and look as far as we have to, to find her. She is waiting for our little family to tell us that our love for each other is paramount and that we are on the path to one long and happy life together.
Thanks for letting me rant.
So I know what you’re thinking…she’s a graphic designer so her wedding is going to look FABULOUS. Well, that is what I was thinking too, however, reality set-in as we started trying to plan this beast of an event. Planning an event of this magnitude is a painful, tedious process in itself. We not only have the daunting task of planning it but also incorporating the right balance of, well, of us.
The essence of our relationship lies in a fine balance of tolerance, respect, and admiration for the others’ culture and beliefs. Wedding planning is the type of situation in which that balance is often pushed, pulled, and challenged in every way possible. As a conservative Jew, Alx has very specific things that are a must for his big day: a rabbi, a chuppah, the breaking of the glass, the horah, to name a few. You would think that this wouldn’t bother me since I actually don’t subscribe to any organized religion; however, that is very far from the truth. The issue isn’t that I don’t want these rituals in our nuptials. The issue is how to embrace and incorporate all of them without it becoming strictly a Jewish wedding.
We found out quite quickly that it all comes down to a lot of long, hard discussions. I truly believe our saving grace is our bond of love and respect for each other. We disagree, we fight, we cry, we make-up and ultimately we work it out. One of the harder aspects has been the quest for a rabbi. It can’t just be any rabbi. It has to be a rabbi that is comfortable doing interfaith weddings who we are comfortable with. This is no easy task. In fact, we are still in the midst of that journey.
I’m also having a bit of trouble pinning down rituals that I want to include from my culture. Since I come from such a diverse background, it isn’t so easy for me. This type of thing is very black & white for Alx. I have to admit that it is a point of frustration to not be able to just rattle off a list of rituals and be done with it. I’m sure it’s as equally frustrating for Alx when he asks what I want to incorporate and doesn’t really get an answer. All I know is that I don’t want it to be a strictly Jewish wedding because it’s my wedding too and frankly, I’m not Jewish.
To top off all of the challenges that we already face, I’m just not into being a bridezilla. I am not the type of woman who had her wedding planned since she was a little girl. Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, my wedding dress is the first dress I tried on from the first store I walked into. My wedding shoes are the first pair of shoes that my Maid of Honor stuck in front of my face and said “these are cute”. I don’t like tulle, lace, pink, frilly stuff, or even most flowers.
I am the ultimate anti-bride.
This does not make wedding planning easy. Although in my defense, Alx knew what he was getting into. Our first Valentine’s Day he got me a paper shredder. That’s when I knew he was The One. So after months of feeling like I’ve been drowning in all things girlie, I decided to approach the situation like I would any of my design projects. I made concept boards.
Concept Board 1: Visualization of table decor
Concept Board 2: Diagram of garden for ceremony
I’ve found that this approach has helped immensely. I’ve also created spreadsheets for tasks, timelines, vendors, and our invitation list. The “project” has definitely morphed into something completely different than when we started planning a few months ago. We began with a very laid back approach to the whole wedding but it has since become a bit more upscale. It’s not super fancy but is also isn’t the laid back B-B-Q idea that we originally started with.
Decor That Died: My first attempt at wedding decor. I was trying to stick with our ideals of “reduce, reuse, recycle” so I reused Raiden’s baby food jars for tea light candle holders. That got recycled…
In keeping with my approach as a designer, I’ve come-up with a main concept or theme for our wedding. It’s basically, all the things we love: my favorite colors, his commitment to Judaism, my love of minimalism, our love of books, our love of nature, our love of just having a good time. Our love of nature is what led us to agree on a centerpiece.
Our Minimalist Artsy Centerpiece: The pic doesn’t do it justice. It’s willow branches with little insects, birds, and bright yellow beads on the branches. The vase is filled with iridescent, glass marbles mixed with miniature seashells (my hometown is a beach town).
Centerpiece Concept Board: Of course I had a concept board for the centerpiece!
The process is coming along slowly but we are well on our way to a wedding! Now we just need to work out all of those kinks with the rituals but I’ll save that for the next post.
It dawned on me this afternoon as I was finally able to log into the blog as an author for the first time that most of you will probably know nothing about us. Yes. I know. You have read our articles here before, and you have spent many a bored workday looking at our Facebook profiles, but you haven’t formally met us.
Well. Nice to meet you.
I’ll just start by saying that it is an honor for Lula and me to be able to share our thoughts and feelings about our impending nuptials with the interfaithfamily, family.
So Lula was brought up in a family that didn’t stick strictly to a single faith. Her Japanese mother was influenced as a child by Christian missionaries. Her Trinidadian/French Father was brought us in a southern Baptist family in Texas. What a world! When they started their family during the Vietnam War, I don’t think that they put too much thought into religiosity. What that left were children who celebrated Christmas and had maybe had an Easter ham or two.
I was born and raised as a Jew from a Jewish family. Too much food. I still have the belly to prove it. We were brought up in the conservative movement where I have pretty much stayed. I work for the Jewish Publication Society here in Philadelphia and couldn’t love it more. I wouldn’t call my self observant, but Lula might. I feel like I learn more about Judaism each day and each time I learn more, I relate better.
We have a son, Raiden who is also Jewish just like his pop. Rai is almost 10 months old and will be 16 months when we tie the knot on June 7th 2009 here in Philadelphia.
I think that we will have much to say. I feel like this wedding is a process that comes along inch by inch every day.
We look forward to chronicling the journey here.
See you soon!
I’m very pleased to introduce our new wedding bloggers, Lula Jones and Alx Block. Lula and Alx have each written for us at InterfaithFamily.com. They each wrote a piece about their baby Raiden’s bris and baby naming and Lula also wrote about attending the funeral and shivah for Alx’s grandfather.
Lula is an independent graphic designer and Alx is a sales associate at the Jewish Publication Society. That was how I got to know them–I contacted JPS to get review copies of some books and was delighted to discover two new writers!
Like many couples getting married today, Lula and Alx are in an established relationship. The wedding ceremony is a way for them to formalize their commitment to each other. They met in Philadelphia when they were working together in a bookstore more than six years ago, and they have lived together for three years. I’m excited that they are going to share their thoughts here on InterfaithFamily.com as they plan their wedding.