A new identity, or, what is in a name, a Seder and an Easter egg?

Hi friends,

Mia here…Ethan is at a meeting and our cat Daisy is curled up next to me. This rare quiet time  inspired contemplative thoughts about my upcoming marriage to Ethan in an interfaith context. The theme of “in between” came to mind on three different levels, so I thought I would share. If anyone has had any positive experience with them, I welcome your feedback!

Level 1: Kinda sorta a “member of the Tribe” but not really ~
As previously shared, I have been overcome by the love and joy Ethan’s family and friends have exhibited as our relationship progressed, and especially when we became engaged. I have also been similarly touched by and grateful for their acceptance of me as a non-Jewish person, as well as their appreciation of my efforts to learn all I can about Judaism, and my participation in high holidays, Shabbat dinners, etc. I have been dubbed something of a budding resource about Judaism among my non-Jewish friends and coworkers. But beneath it all is the truth that I am not Jewish, and at this time, I don’t intend to convert in the near future. Respect, yes. Participate, yes. Continue to learn, of course. It’s just that I have had a very complicated relationship with organized religion since an early age. I was not raised in a religion because my parents wanted my brother and me to choose our own paths, and that process has been met with a lot of confusion and hostility over the years from many camps (not from anyone in Ethan’s family, thankfully!). I need to get to a place where I can find a good middle ground and not feel in limbo, nor feel defensive about my position (although Ethan keeps reminding me there’s no reason to feel that way ~ I hope he’s right!).

Level 2: What’s in a name?
Despite having issues with patriarchal societies, I decided to take Ethan’s last name when we marry. This decision has made me think about heritage a lot. “My people” were Irish, Scottish, Welsh, German, and French (among a handful of others), with a spectrum of heritage associated with them, whereas Ethan’s family name is Russian and Lithuanian with Jewish heritage. We both gravitate toward the unity a shared name implies, as well as the sense of connection we will have with our children.  I can just picture my children’s responses to the ancestry question: “Well, we are (in no particular order) English, Irish, Russian, Welsh, Scottish, Lithuanian, Polish, French, German, Spanish, and Native American. Seriously.”  I think I may be one of a very small handful of family members in many recent generations of my family to introduce Jewish heritage to the family tree, and this has made me marvel at the amazing webs we all are weaving for future generations of our families in this age of greater tolerance.

And finally (thank goodness, you say!) Level 3: What’s in a Seder and an Easter Egg?
Ethan and I are looking forward to celebrating our third Passover and Easter together. The former is celebrated to the fullest extent; the latter consists of my display of bunnies, painted eggs, and flowers around the house (nothing about Jesus) and the consumption of jelly beans and Cadbury Cream Eggs (drool…). Last year we hosted a Seder, and I asked Ethan in advance if his family would be startled to see Easter decorations. Instead, they were really interested and asked me what the decorations’ meaning is for me. The answer is the thrill of approaching spring and the renewal and fresh start that implies, and memories of savory brunches on the holiday with my family, with me in a new frilly pastel frock and white Mary Janes. Last year, friends and coworkers asked if I was fully participating in Passover since it was Ethan’s and my first under a shared roof, and I replied that I was except for attending every service and observing the restricted eating because I’m hypoglycemic. Again, I find myself in an “in-between” land where I’m partially blending two traditions that have different meanings for me than they do for people who observe them to the letter. But as I write this, I realize that it’s fun! Ethan makes THE best brisket in the world, and I have come to look forward to the bond that exists around the Seder table, while also counting the days until I can transform our home into a springtime display and honor the cycle of the seasons. Don’t worry, I don’t let the Cadbury eggs get anywhere near the brisket.

Hi from Ethan and Mia

Welcome to all of our readers and thank you Benjamin for giving us this opportunity to share a little window into our lives with you.

So where to begin…well, if you read Mia’s post from last spring, you know that we established open and honest communication about our different religious/spiritual beliefs from Day 1. Mia continued to learn more about Ethan’s beliefs and attended more high holiday services with his family, and Ethan joined Mia at another Christmas celebration, this time fully prepared!

We are positive that such honesty helped bring us to where we are today: preparing to celebrate our decision to spend the rest of our lives together! (As Mia would say “forever and Ever and EVER!” in a children-of-the-corn type voice.)

Usually these conversations have been hopeful and thoughtful, but sometimes they have been somewhat emotional. For example, a few months into our relationship, there was a misunderstanding about Mia’s involvement in a family event that prompted her to ‘fess up to some ongoing concerns she had been harboring without realizing how deeply they were affecting her. This lead to a sudden outburst of “but what if…” questions on Mia’s part, accompanied by tears and sniffles. One such question was, “but what if we get married, (sniffle) and have kids, (sniffle) and our kids go to Jewish day school, (sniffle sniffle) and the other kids know our kids’ mother isn’t Jewish. (Deep breath leading into high pitched voice) Will our kids get beaten up in the playground?”

Ethan chuckled as he pulled Mia into a hug. “First of all,” he said, “we Jews are not known for our physical aggressiveness, Israelis not withstanding. Second, given how tall we both are (6′ and 5′ 11″), our children will be the local giants.” 

All joking aside, we both acknowledge that there are some communities that won’t accept us or our children.  This is quite sad, but we have been overwhelmed by the support and love of our friends, families, and communities.

It was clear early in our discussions of our wedding that the ceremony itself would be a blending of our traditions. 

On the Jew hand, it is important to Ethan to have the Seven Blessings, a huppah and ketubah, and of course the breaking of the glass (I mean really, how often do you get to smash things in public?).  On the more diverse hand, Mia wants influences from her myriad backgrounds, including Celtic and Native American blessings. 

To accommodate ourselves we’ve agreed to have co-officiants, the cantor from Ethan’s step-father’s shul and a longtime and well-spoken dear family friend of Mia’s.  We’re still working on a lot of the specifics of who will do which readings and if there will be songs, etc… But it’s a start.  And we look forward to sharing the process with all of you as we continue on this wild ride!

Most of the time, we plan to blog together, but occasionally you might get one of us who was suddenly caught up by the muse! Look out! Thank you for reading and helping us create another special community! Talk soon!

Introducing Our New Couple!!

For those of you who have been around a while, you’ll remember that we’ve had interfaith couples blogging about their wedding preparations, and the ceremony itself, from time to time. The last couple to blog was Lulu and Alx, and you can scroll down to look back on all of that.

But this blog has been vacant for a while… I’ve been keeping my eyes and ears open, trying to find an interesting couple who would want to share their experiences with us. And then I found them: Mia and Ethan. Mia wrote an article for InterfaithFamily.com last spring, in which she shared details of their relationship, how they shared holidays and family meals with each other.

So when I saw Ethan’s family (I’m good friends with two of his sisters) congratulating the couple on Facebook, I pounced.

Ethan and Mia will start blogging here about their plans for their wedding, the decisions they’re making about religious elements, and more. (I personally hope that Ethan’s step-father, a rabbi, will chime in…)

So update your RSS feeds, keep an eye on our tweets and Facebook posts and you won’t miss a single wedding blog post!