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
After all of the plans and preparations, the big day came and went without a hitch! We had glorious weather, the ceremony was everything that we wanted it to be, and the reception was an absolute blast. We had people from both sides tearing up the dance floor until midnight. We ended the night exhausted, our sides and cheeks hurting from a day spent laughing and grinning ear-to-ear.
We arrived in Worcester on Tuesday night, which really allowed us to take a more relaxed approach to last-minute preparations. There were the table numbers to finish up, the seating chart to arrange, welcome bags to assemble, and yard work to be done, not to mention being here for the tent and bathroom installation. Things went quite smoothly for the most part.
On Wednesday morning Dana’s mom, Kathy, wanted to reveal the Chuppah. All along we knew it would include articles of clothing from both families but we had no idea what the finished product would look like. Kathy settled on a tree design using the clothing donations as the leaves of the tree. We must have sat for almost a full hour and looked at it, recognizing the articles and locating other items on the Chuppah. It was truly a spectacular final product that we will keep in our family for many many years.
We were bursting with excitement when Friday evening came around and the out-of-town guest began to arrive. The rehearsal went well and afterwards we gathered at a local restaurant for drinks and appetizers—a chance for our families to mingle and get to know each other before the big day. And—much to our surprise—an a cappella group had been hired to sing to us and Dana’s grandparents, who are celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary in July.
On Saturday morning we woke up to a gorgeous sunny day. The ladies got their hair and make up done while the men slept in and spent the morning lounging. By 5 o’clock everything was in place and we were ready to start the show.
Dana walked down the aisle around 5:30 and the ceremony began. We started with a traditional Jewish blessing over the children given by both of our parents. Then we had a reading by Chris’s uncle (a Jesuit priest), followed by our own version of the seven blessings read by friends and a poem read by Chris’s sister. Afterwards we exchanged vows and rings, Chris stomped on the glass (twice—since he wasn’t sure he had broken it the first time), we kissed, and then it was on to the party!
Now, three-weeks later, it’s hard to remember all of the details from the reception but it truly was a magical day. Many people commented on how personal the ceremony was and how much they learned about both religions. The Horah may have been one of our favorite moments, when family and friends from both sides joined on the dance floor to dance around us and lift us in chairs. The joy that we were able to share with our friends and family was palpable during those few minutes, and everyone had a great time.
The morning after the wedding there was a brunch at the Pulda house, which was a great opportunity to catch up with our guests and spend time with those people we weren’t able to see for long during the reception. It’s funny, before the wedding everyone warned us how quickly the night would go, but I guess it’s one of those things that you have to experience to believe. It truly flew by!
All in all, the wedding was a wonderful time and we considered it to be a beautiful fusion of both of our faiths. Our families and friends came together to celebrate us, our love, and the future we have before us. We consider it to be a bright future, and look forward to the joys and challenges of being an inter-faith couple and raising children with an appreciation for the rich heritage of both of our faith backgrounds.
The countdown is on! As of today we have officially two weeks until we tie the knot in front of our friends and family. To say we are excited and counting down the days would be an understatement.
Preparations are moving along smoothly. RSVPs are in (201!) and even our “I work best under pressure” friends have booked hotel rooms. Tomorrow morning we are having a final tasting of the cupcakes and sampling the appetizers for the rehearsal dinner. Songs have been selected, the ceremony is (mostly) organized, and we got our Pinterest on making some pretty cool homespun table numbers out of stained wood, nails and twine.
Friday night we attended a party with some of Chris’s co-workers, and they revealed something they’ve been working on: a book of marriage advice from Chris’s first grade students. They were absolutely precious, and here are some of the highlights:
Roberta, age 7: “How to be a good husband: You can kiss her! Spend time with her! Take her dancing! Take care of the kids! Love her and the kids”
Asia, age 6, has some fashion tips: “I’ll give you advice: You need handsome clothing, like a black tuxedo, and you need shiny black shoes”
Kofi, age 7: “Show love to her by giving her flowers and chocolate ice cream and chocolate hearts and take her on special vacations, like to California.”
Takyus, age 7: “Take her on a date and make her dinner before she gets home. And do your laundry…and hers too.”
Devon, age 6: “Be kind to the wife. Do what the wife says. Have fun with the wife”
It goes on like this for pages and pages, advice from 100 first graders many of whom recommend buying things like dresses, roses, and rings–who can argue with that wisdom? There was funny advice, silly advice, and a lot of poignant advice about being kind, patient and honest with one another.
We believe that our plan for the ceremony so far reflects our willingness to be patient and honest with one another, and our commitment to include elements of both religious faiths in our lives as we move forward. Here’s the rundown so far:
Then it will be over! We can’t believe it is all happening so fast. It is an event that has been a long time in the making and we anticipate it like we’ve never looked forward to anything in our lives. We can only hope that everyone has as much fun as we know we will.
We’ll try to post again in the next few weeks as everything comes together! Thank you for reading and going through this wonderful process with us.
Sorry for the long period of radio silence, but wedding preparations have been intensifying. Less than a month now!! We are beyond excited as everything is starting to become real. But more on that later…
This post is all about a very special trip Dana and I took in April. Dana’s sister, Julie, lives in Tel Aviv and works as a JDC fellow for CIMI, the Center for International Migration and Integration. She has been in Israel for about four years, and while Dana has been to visit her and seen Israel several times, I had never been before. We finally decided to take her up on the offer to visit, and the result was the best trip we have ever been on together. From the mountains of her extended family’s home on a Moshav in the north to the desert splendor of the Dead Sea in the south, from the bustle and beaches of Tel Aviv to the ancient labyrinth of the Old City of Jerusalem, I was in constant awe of the country.
We drove to New York City on a rainy Thursday night for a midnight flight direct to Tel Aviv, and despite Dana’s warnings about the complications of boarding a flight to Israel we found ourselves airborne without much trouble. Upon arrival we took a cab to Julie’s apartment, a flat she shares with two roommates and a hot water heater named “The Dude,” which overlooks a courtyard filled with cats and is steps from the Nahalat Binyamin and a short walk to the beach.
Friday night we were lucky enough to attend a Shabbos dinner at Julie’s friends’ beautiful rooftop apartment. I realized that Shabbos dinner epitomizes everything that I like best about religion: a time to slow down, reflect, and more importantly to spend time with friends and family. We decided that, like Dana’s family growing up, we are definitely going to make Shabbos dinner a part of our weekly family routine when we finally do have children. Some of Julie’s friends also exposed us to a unique way of observing Shabbat; they would leave their phones off or at home for the whole day. A seemingly small sacrifice, in today’s world cutting yourself off from your devices is unthinkable to some, and seems to be a very good way of devoting some of your Saturday to a more contemplative life.
After spending Saturday at the beach watching kite surfers and then going to a few bars with Julie’s friends that night, we rented a car early Sunday morning and drove up to Karmiel (near Haifa) to visit Dana and Julie’s Aunt Harriet and her extended family, who live on a Moshav called Yodefat. We spent a very relaxing couple of days with Harriet, her five children and their spouses and kids. What struck me most about this visit was the closeness of the extended family. The cousins, though young, knew each other very well, and everyone took collective responsibility over the cooking, cleaning and looking after the children. And they had so much fun! There were so many smiles, lots of jokes in Hebrew that I couldn’t understand, and a lot of laughter and love.
The trip was filled with highlights and moments like these, but I realize that I am characteristically rambling and will give the rest of my high points as bullets:
It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime trip for us, an invigorating and re-energizing experience as well as a bit of a pilgrimage for both of us. It was wonderful to realize the traditions that we want to pass on to our children, to see that both of our faiths have their roots in the same two square-mile radius, and to spend quality time with Dana’s sister and with one another.
More to come on wedding preparations next week! The countdown is truly on, and everything is going well.
Apologies for the radio silence from the Pulda/Acone camp. We just returned from a 10 day trip to Israel and have A LOT to post–and will do so over the next few weeks.
Just before we left for Israel we celebrated Passover. Passover has always been one of my favorite holidays. For me, Passover meant getting together at my grandparents’ home with the whole (gigantic) family and singing Had Gadya and Let Our People Go at the top of our lungs. In more recent years we have continued this tradition for the first Seder and then people usually break into smaller family groups or join friends for the second Seder. Passover holds special significance for Chris because it was his first introduction to Judaism (and my family) and, thus, this holiday has always been special for him.
This year’s family Seder did not disappoint. We have a large number of kids these days and my uncle (who led the Seder) made the event very kid friendly and the food was amazing, as usual. One part that stuck with me was a passage we read about Israeli soldiers who have been captured in the last 40 years. I was studying at Tel Aviv University when Gilad Shalit was taken prisoner. I remember being in Israel at that time and praying for his return, so this part of the Seder really hit home for me.
For the second Seder, we were a bit lost this year–my mom was away and my dad was looking for somewhere to go–so we made a (very last minute) decision to host the second night. We invited some friends, a local cousin, and Chris’ parents. Chris and I have hosted Seders before with a group of Jews and non-Jews, but this Seder was really special because it was the Acone’s first time participating in a Seder.
My dad led the service and began by asking each person to share one way in which we each have freed ourselves in our own lives. Everyone had a great example, some of which were Chris’s dad retiring from 30+ years as a pilot, my cousin Ben moving to Boston for a new job, and my dad realizing that he should be doing more things he likes rather than obligations. I really enjoyed this addition to the Seder and liked how it connected our lives with the lives of the slaves in Egypt.
The rest of the Seder was pretty traditional. We sang the four questions, hid the afikomen, drank some wine (probably more than four glasses), read the plagues, ate the bitter herbs, etc…and had a delicious meal. Even though the service was ‘old hat’ for me, I really loved watching Greg and Judi experience it for the first time. They had such interesting questions and comments, and were especially surprised at how many parallels there were between the Seder to Easter and the Catholic religion. When the night finally came to an end they both expressed how much they had enjoyed it and how they would love to do it every year.
And thus…a new tradition shall begin!
Last weekend we met with the caterer to finalize the menu and taste some of the dishes we had picked for our wedding. We decided a while ago that we would serve dinner ‘family style’ with large platters of each dish placed on each table, instead of individual plates or buffet. We choose to serve the meal this way for two main reasons: one is because we think it goes well with the aesthetic of our backyard themed wedding, and the other is simply because we don’t have room in the backyard for a buffet table.
Once we nailed down the manner in which we would serve the meal, picking the dishes proved a bit more challenging. Interestingly enough, the meeting with the caterer proved reminiscent of Chris’s post last week about how “Jewish” our wedding is going to be. The caterer was very sensitive to potential religious restrictions and was very upfront about all of the ingredients in each dish. While we are not serving a Kosher meal, we will have some guests who keep Kosher and want to make the meal accessible to those individuals. It would have been quite expensive to serve a fully Kosher meal so we decided we would serve a ‘Kosher style’ meal, meaning no shellfish, pork, or milk and meat together–likely disappointing Chris’s Uncle Bobby who had requested both scallops wrapped in bacon and escargot. Sorry Bobby!
After the serving style and food accommodations were decided it was time to choose the actual menu. This was the fun part! The caterer choose for us to taste a variety of appetizers including homemade hummus and baba ganoush with pita chips, a Caprese salad, beef satay, mini quiches, and roasted zucchini and summer squash. We loved them all and chose to serve each one. For the salad course we picked a spring salad with strawberries, goat cheese, and a pomegranate and blood orange dressing (my mouth is watering just thinking about this salad). For the main course we decided on two meat dishes–salmon with a spicy avocado sauce and chicken piccata–and green beans, wild rice, and a tortellini salad on the side. We were utterly pleased with each dish we tried and even more impressed with the effort the caterer showed us by serving Hamentashen for dessert! He also ordered fresh baked Challah from a bakery in Brookline that we will be serving on each table.
Now…all we can hope for is to actually get to eat some of it!
“Are You Having a Jewish Wedding?” is a question that I seem to field a lot from friends of mine. I’m not sure why, but initially this kind of bothered me. “No, it’s going to be a fusion,” I’d reply, somewhat annoyed. I’ve come to realize that I was concerned because the question seemed to disregard my faith, my religious background. I was worried that people would assume that Dana’s faith was the prominent one, much the same as I used to get a little anxious when people would (jokingly) ask me if I was converting.
The more I thought about it, however, the more things I came to realize about the question. First, it generally came from non-Jewish friends of mine, whose exposure to Jewish customs was limited to pop culture representations. They weren’t asking whether Dana and I would sign a Ketubah or be married under a Chuppah. They didn’t want to know who would be reading the 7 blessings or if we would partake in Yichud following the ceremony. They wanted to know if I’d be stomping on a glass and getting picked up in a chair. A resounding “Yes” to both of those, for the record.
Secondly, I realized that I couldn’t accurately answer the question “What is a Catholic wedding?” Aside from being in a church, which wasn’t happening, and sharing Communion, which is also a no-go, a Catholic wedding doesn’t have much to set itself apart. Sure, I want my uncle, who is a Jesuit priest, to be involved in some capacity, and there are a couple of beautiful readings from the New Testament that I would like included, but other than that I am perfectly content to let the ceremony take shape as it will. The fact is that the Jewish faith has more customs and traditions for weddings, and I have to say that I am enamored by many of them.
I’ve been to a few Jewish weddings with Dana now, and one wedding between a Jewish woman and a lapsed Catholic that was probably the most similar in appearance to what ours will be. Aside from the breaking of the glass and the Hora, I love the symbolism of a Chuppah. Dana’s mom has requested various articles of clothing from both of our large extended families and is quilting them together to make our Chuppah. We will be married beneath the symbolic shelter of their love and support, and will keep this quilt throughout our lives together. I am also always struck by the power of the 7 blessings. We haven’t determined exactly what they will sound like or who will read them, but it does strike us as an opportunity to get many more people involved in the ceremony. Our wedding parties being limited to just my brother as best man and her sister as maid of honor, this is a great opportunity for other people to take on an important role. More than that, I have been moved by the obvious emotion shown by everyone who reads one of the blessings, and the intimacy it adds to the ceremony. Another element I am excited about is the Yichud. The interfaith couple I mentioned before introduced me to this concept, and I like the idea of taking a little bit of time after the ceremony to just be together, to celebrate our love and our union before we take the stage and start glad-handing during the reception.
A final element that I am excited about is the Ketubah. The same interfaith couple made their own contract which featured a beautiful drawing by the groom, and this is something I am interested in doing as well. I’m thinking about drawing a picture of a tree and some birds in flight, echoing a quote that my mom has hanging on the wall in her house, “There are only two lasting bequeaths we can hope to give our children: one is roots, the other wings.” I like to think that this is a good foundation to build a marriage upon, the idea of stability and freedom as equal elements. I know that the roots of our marriage are deeply embedded in our families, and we will try to honor them both by including elements of their religious faiths in our wedding ceremony. Exactly what it will look like, we’re not sure yet, but we know that it will be special and that it will be us.
Since Chris and I have been planning our wedding for so long, it’s strange to think that it will actually happen–and soon! This weekend really put it into perspective how close it is as my bridal shower was this past Sunday. It was held in my hometown, at the home of a very good family friend. Four of my mom’s friends hosted the shower and it was amazing. They truly thought of every detail and made sure the women from both sides of our families felt included.As we’ve mentioned many times before, both of our families are large. So, as one may imagine, the shower was quite crowded with about 50 in all of family and friends–most of whom were meeting for the first time. The event began with lunch and schmoozing. After we ate everyone gathered in the living room to embarrass me (in the most loving way possible) with a quiz about Chris.
Then, some members from both families stood up and spoke. This part was so touching. My aunt Liz spoke about my grandmother, who passed 5 years ago, and how much she would have loved Chris. A few of Chris’ aunts read poems or blessings. My sister, who lives in Israel, sent something for my mom to read for her, and Chris’ sister, who lives in England, sent something for Chris’ mom, Judi, to read. Then, for the big finale, both my mom and Judi said a few words, both of which brought me to tears. Chris’ mom read the following poem:
A Mother’s Prayer
I prayed for you
There was something about you
You were the answer to the prayer
I prayed for your health
And now I know just who you are
I have put together this little poem
Now…if that doesn’t bring you to tears, I don’t know what will! My mom also brought the place to tears, but mostly through laughter. She teased about how the key to a successful marriage is BreatheRight Strips and how it’s best to bake goodies when your children aren’t home so you can lick the batter, ha! Now I know why there was always banana bread and brownies around when I got home from school!
I truly felt like the luckiest person in the world, not only for the amazing gifts we got (!!!) but also for the immense amount of love that surrounded Chris and I. We are truly blessed.
110 days to the wedding!
As the Winter Olympics have been consuming our TV watching the past few weeks, Chris and I have been talking about our future children–particularly, our future children and sports. Will we raise a future Olympic athlete? Possibly, but probably not. We are both relatively athletic and played sports as children; Chris was an avid hockey player through high school and I took up rowing in high school and stuck with it through college.
I often ask myself how people get into sports in the first place (this came up often while watching many of the sliding events at the Olympics–how does one become a skeleton competitor?!) I imagine children are first exposed to the sports their parents’ were (or still are) involved with and then make choices from there. Of course, Chris is already talking about buying our future first child a pair of hockey skates, and I know I’d love my children to experience the lifelong friendships and physically active lifestyle I attribute to my years as a rower. We both enjoy skiing and would surely expose our children to that at an early age. But…the rest is really up to them.
This made us think about how in many respects, religion parallels athletics, or really any interest that can be passed on from a parent. A child’s first exposure to religion is through their parents and the religion(s) they practice. Clearly this is more complicated when parents practice different religions, as we do. Chris and I do not happen to be the type of believers who find Judaism and Catholicism mutually exclusive, but we know that there are many among both faith groups who would say that you must pick a side.
So what do we do? Try to expose our children equally to both faiths and wait and see which they choose? Will our children have Bar or Bat Mitzvahs or first communions and confirmations? Is it possible for them to choose to practice both? We do not really know the answer to these questions, and in fact think that our kids will be infinitely more qualified to address them. We do acknowledge that exposing our children to our faiths will require us to make some changes, but we can’t exactly foresee what this will mean. Ultimately the best we can hope for is to raise our children with the values our religions have taught us; kindness, caring, loyalty, honesty, and generosity. And if they end up competing at the Olympics one day, we’ll be there to cheer them on.
The DJ we’ve hired for our wedding– in 5 months!– has an incredible online system for music requests. (Shameless plug, his name is Mike Obara, based out of Central MA and he has been incredibly professional throughout the process–check him out at http://magicmikeentertainment.com/). Dana and I sat down for a few hours the other night and tried to figure out the music selection for our pre-ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner and reception. We had a few non-negotiables right off the bat: no YMCA, no electric slide, no “Shout!”, not to take away from it if that’s your kind of thing, but we just aren’t interested in any of the old cliches. Besides, we have a sophisticated and musically literate group to cater to.
An interesting thing for both of us was how to draw the line between crowd-pleasers and underground favorites. We want to play Earth, Wind and Fire “September,” and also think that even some of our older guests might be able to rock out to some Vampire Weekend or Passion Pit. How do you introduce those kinds of songs that might be unknown to a majority of the audience without clearing them off of the dance floor?
I suppose that’s where we have to trust Mike’s expertise, but we also don’t want to put him in the position of trying to play some of our requests if he doesn’t think they’ll be popular. Then there’s the issue of top 40 pop music. We both love Avicci’s “Wake me up” and Ellie Goulding’s “Burn,” and can see ourselves dancing the night away to them, but who’s to say there won’t be a new hit by June, and these requests will be out of date?
We did attend a wedding for some of our friends last summer–actually, another interfaith wedding from which we’re stealing a lot of our ceremony ideas–where the dinner/cocktail hour was all country music. We thought this was a great idea and plan to play some of our country and folk-indie-Irish favorites that would be totally un-danceable as we eat.
Overall, choosing the playlists has been a fun and fascinating process, one that we’ve both enjoyed, and one that makes the wedding so much more real and immediate. It’s really happening, and we couldn’t be happier! Getting the music squared away is one of many final details we’re starting to work out, wish us luck!
To follow up with Chris’ philosophical post last week, I thought I would lighten it up a bit and do a post about our wedding plans thus far. It’s funny, we’ve been engaged for a year and a half now so plans have been moving pretty gradually (this has been nice!) and now we’re coming up on 5 months till the big day and everything’s coming together nicely.
As we mentioned in our first post, the wedding is in late June and will be held in my parents’ backyard. My sister had her
People often ask me if there is a theme and the simple answer is…no. The theme is ‘Backyard Wedding’. We will decorate with rustic decor, homemade decorations, handmade table numbers, and other such items. Dinner will be served family style (and kosher style—meaning no pork or shellfish), to go with the ‘laid-back’ theme. Chris and I decided long ago that we wouldn’t have a large wedding party; my sister, Julie, is the maid-of-honor and Chris’s brother, Patrick, the best man. Our niece Ava will be the flower girl and will likely be accompanied by Chris’s sister Erin (Ava’s mom) because Ava will be just shy of 2 years old.
The biggest stress so far in the planning process has been the guest list. We both come from massive families; my dad is one of six children and Chris’s parents’ are one of four and one of five. Between both sides we have about 160 family members to invite, and that’s after doing some serious guest list shaving. Including friends, our final invite list was close to 250. We can fit 220 under the tents, so we’ll have to wait and see!
With love, Dana