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âWeâre not doing this!â Andy was visibly upset. âI wonât do it!â
It was a year into our relationship and we were in his car heading to his dadâs house in the middle of nowhere.
The topic that inspired this reaction was none other than kashrut, a set of Jewish dietary laws that I happen to follow. While I am not incredibly strict and will go out to non-kosher restaurants, I will only eat vegetarian, dairy and halakhically (by the law) approved fish.
Andy knew that I kept kosher from the very beginning of our relationship but because I still went out to restaurants, he never thought much about it. As we became more serious and talked about moving in together, he finally began to understand how dating a traditional Jew would affect him. I had explained to him that if we were to move in together, our kitchen, and everything in it, would need to be kashered.
Kashering is the rather intensive process of making a kitchen kosher and it was not up for negotiation. Andy was not particularly pleased when I explained to him what it would involve, and in particular, what he would have to sacrifice.
His protests were valid and I completely understood where he was coming from.
Food is a significant part of life and kashrut not only dictates the kind of food we can eat, but also its preparation, storage, separation of dishes, utensils and pretty much anything in the kitchen that touches food.
For a Catholic-raised atheist who is not Jewish and was not used to food restrictions, it was quite jarring for him to suddenly be told that he would have to abide by them.
Thankfully, a year later as we were preparing to move in together, we were able to talk it out and eventually, negotiations were made where we agreed to set up two âkitchensâ in our apartment.
We dubbed them: Kosher Kitchen and Catholic Corner.
Kosher KitchenÂ is the main kitchen in our home. It’s where the majority of the cooking is done. The dishes in our apartment are all his. We rekasheredÂ hisÂ dishes in a local mikveh so that they could becomeÂ ourÂ dishes. He even participated in reciting the prayers and dunking all of his utensils, pots, pans and well, pretty much everything kitchen related, into the mikveh pool.
“Can you kasher our kitchen every day?!” he had said incredulously as he watched me pour boiling water all over our counters, making them especially clean.
However, when he wants to avoid these situations, he always has the option of using his own kitchen space.
Catholic CornerÂ is a corner by our front window which has a convection oven and a hot plate. Andy has a separate set of pots, dishes and utensils and even a separate sponge at our shared sink for those times when he eats non-kosher food.
Originally, he had a separate fridge as well but I felt like that was overkill. As long he wrapped everything up and it was well contained within its packaging, there would not be a problem about cross contamination and in the two-and-a-half years that we have been living together, it has never been an issue for me.
It may seem unfair that Andy cannot cook non-kosher food in the main kitchen, but I am the one that does the majority of the cooking for both of us. I am also the one who brought my beliefs to the table from the very beginning.
Andy realizes how important my religious and cultural traditions are to me and since that fateful conversation in the car four years ago, he is my number one supporter and now practically an expert on kashrut.
Keeping kosher is not always easy but not because Andy isnât Jewish. Itâs because we have a fairly small kitchen and having two of everything means our space is extremely limited.
Thankfully, together, we make it work.
In 2011, TheKnot.com surveyed almost 20,000 newlywed women. They found that only 8 percent kept their last names. Of the remaining 92 percent, 86 percent took their partnerâs last name. Six percent hyphenated or created a new last name.
While Iâve seen other studies that show the percentage of women who keep their last names atÂ closer to 20 percent, the fact remains: Changing your name after marriage is the ânormalâ thing to do.
Changing my name has never felt like the right move for meâmy last name is the one on my degrees, itâs part of the name of my photography business, itâs the name Iâve written under, and, itâs the name Iâve used my entire life. Iâve given this some serious thought. I support a personâs right to choose the name that feels like the best fit for them, and I understand the idea that a unified last name presents a unified team.
But, for me, changing my name just doesnât feel right.
(It also should be noted, that Justin isnât up for changing his last name either. My last name is hard to spell, and heâs spent too long building his brand to change his name to something else. I donât think this is a conversation only half of a coupleÂ should be havingâif name changes are on the table, they should be on the table for everyone.)
It wasnât until recently, when concepts like name changes shifted from hypothetical to reality, did something click for me. Changing my last name would mean separating my name from my familyâs nameâand taking a step away from my Jewish identity.
I know that marrying Justin, who isnât Jewish, wonât make me any less Jewish.
It wonât make our home any less Jewish; it wonât invalidate the mezuzah hanging on the door, or make my observance of holidays any less meaningful.
It wonât make my work any less Jewish; it wonât tarnish my past community organizing, nor will it make my work with Keshet and commitment to full LGBTQ inclusion in the Jewish community less authentic.
Taking Justinâs last name wouldnât make me any less JewishâŚ but it feels that way.
As an Ashkenazi Jew, with a very classically Ashkenazi Jewish last name, my name is a calling card. Rozensky, with its ârozenâ and its âsky,â shouts Jewish. I can trace its Jewish history. My name comes with a connection to my peopleânot just in the sense of âthe chosen people,â but also in the way it connects me to previous generations of Rozenskys. Iâm not ready to step away from that tradition.
There will be plenty of compromises made in our marriage; after all, meeting each other halfway is an important part of keeping a relationship working. But when it comes to our namesâwhich hold such important aspects of our identitiesâcompromise doesnât seem like the best bet.