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
I love telling our “how we met” story, because if you don’t know us, it’s pretty unexpected. And, if you do know us, well, our beginnings make a lot of sense.
We met three years ago in Guatemala City, both having traveled there for a photography workshop. My first impression of Justin was that he was a skinny hipster. (You’ll have to ask him what his first impression of me was.)
On (what we now realize was our first date) we climbed an active volcano just outside of Antigua. At the top we roasted marshmallows on the volcano’s natural heat sources and felt like we were on a completely new planet. On the way down, distracted by taking pictures and pausing to climb trees, we got momentarily separated from the group and started practicing, in our very limited Spanish vocabulary, the phrases we might need to get a ride back into town. Eventually, we found our bus back.
Afterwards, covered in dirt, we went out for dinner.
A few months later, on a camping trip in Pennsylvania, Justin broke his T-12 vertebrae and severed his spinal cord incompletely. After being life flighted to a hospital, a seven-hour surgery, and a week in the ICU, we both felt the intensity and realness of our relationship. (I’ve written previously for IFF about how I processed praying for Justin, when our faiths were so different.) The next few months I traveled back and forth between Boston and the rehabilitation hospital in Philadelphia where he was recovering.
These days we live just outside of Boston in Salem, Massachusetts. We’re both photographers, and I’m part of the communications team at Keshet. Our day-to-day life of marathoning TV shows, looking for photography work, and teaching ourselves how to cook is punctuated by weekend adventures—it’s not abnormal for me to go into work on a Monday and answer the question of “what did you do this weekend” with “we ended up in the middle of New Hampshire and met some people who were ice fishing in the middle of a frozen lake…”
Our proposal story is the flip side of how we met—but, much like our first date, it makes complete sense if you know us.
There was no big romantic moment, but a long discussion. After several years of dating we knew how we felt about each other—the question was more how we felt about marriage. In many ways, deciding to get married made a lot of sense. In other ways, it was more of a stretch. We went back and forth about wedding hypotheticals and what would be important to each other. For me, having a Jewish ceremony was the most meaningful part of taking our commitment to the next level. For him, having a large gathering where all of our family and friends could be part of a celebration was essential.
Our decision to get married was just that—a joint, mutual decision. We both asked each other, we both agreed. We kept the news to ourselves for a while, just to see how it felt. A few weeks later we got a ring from my family, and we made it official. And, we’ve set a date: 9.26.15.
We’re pretty excited to share our story with IFF’s Wedding Blog. Storytelling—with photos and with words—is a big part of who we are. We’ll be navigating how to put together a ceremony that feels comfortable and right for my Judaism, appropriate to Justin’s secular belief, and understandable for all of our guests. We’re trying to plan something on a modest budget, and we’re hoping to do so without going crazy. I’m sure there will be some surprises along the way, but right now we’re looking forward to our next adventure.
Hi, my name is Reva Minkoff, and I absolutely cannot wait to marry my fiancé, Derek. That sentence, or a derivative of it, is something my grandfather used as part of a marketing campaign for a bridal magazine about fifty years ago, but I guess it’s universal and transcends time.
Derek and I have been dating for over four years and have lived together for the past year, but his proposal still took me by surprise on August 15th. For those of you that are fans of the show Friends, I joke that he pulled a Chandler—he spent about six weeks convincing me that he was not going to propose anytime soon. “What if I promised you that we would get engaged in ten years?” He’d ask. I think that number started at fourteen. By the time he proposed, I’d gotten it down, year by year, to four more years until a proposal. In the car ride up to Michigan, where he proposed, I had essentially resigned myself to the fact that I was never getting married.
So to say I was surprised by the proposal is probably an understatement. But of course, we both knew that my answer would be yes.
As much as I wanted to marry Derek, it increasingly became less and less of a question or a choice as to whether I would be with Derek, regardless. Ok, that’s not entirely true—I was considering leaving over this whole “why won’t he marry me” issue—but as I said, by the end, I really think I might have stuck around.
You see, Derek and I weren’t looking for each other. We met at a friend’s Hanukkah party. She and I had met at Break Fast that year and were becoming close friends. She and Derek worked together. I had been on a great date the night before the party, and while evaluating my options, wasn’t actively looking. I have no idea what was in his head. Over wine and latkes, we laughed, talked, and bonded over the “movie quote” game my brother and I made up years ago.
Over the next seven months, Derek and I kept winding up together. Our friend likes to throw dinner parties, and we were both on the invite list. One night at a blues club, we started flirting. His cousin told him she thought I might be into him. A few weeks later, after the friend’s birthday party, my roommate counseled that he thought Derek liked me. I didn’t believe him.
But eventually we both independently (and unbeknownst to each other) asked our friend for permission to go out with the other person.
On our first date, he thought I wouldn’t be interested in a relationship with him because I was Jewish and he wasn’t (not true: I have always dated people who aren’t Jewish and had no problem doing so), and that I was seeing someone else (kinda not true, as our mutual friend made me promise never to see that guy again if she were going to give me permission to go out with Derek).
As for me, I liked how he pushed me and challenged me. I liked how he made me laugh. But I was afraid that he wouldn’t be strong enough to handle someone like me. I was afraid I would walk all over him. Which, as it turns out, could not be farther from the truth.
In the beginning, every six weeks or so he would want to have a serious conversation to remind me that he wasn’t looking for anything serious. I would ask him if he was happy and if he had a good time when we were together. He would say yes. I would say then let’s just take it one day at a time. After about four months, those conversations stopped.
Four years later, we have an amazing partnership, and I cannot wait to walk down the aisle with him. People often say that love comes when you aren’t looking for it—and perhaps in many ways we are a great example. I wasn’t looking for him. He wasn’t looking for me. But we found each other. And now, the campaign that my grandfather came up with for a bridal magazine rings true. I cannot wait to marry him and share our journey to our October 11, 2015 wedding with all of you.
Are you planning a wedding? For help finding a clergy member to officiate, send a request using our free officiation referral service.
Welcome. Shalom. My name is Ryan Mount and I am a great story teller, but as far as writing goes, this is new ground. Ring-bear with me while I try to introduce myself. (Please excuse the How I Met Your Mother jokes and references; it has been a favorite of Lisa, my fiancé, and became a favorite of mine. I also tend to think I have a great How I Met Your Mother story, but that post is for another time.)
My name is Ryan and as you can see I am a terrible at telling jokes, a self-proclaimed great story teller, and I am getting married in November to my fiancé Lisa. This blog is hopefully going to be an adventure of how a Jewish kid born and raised on the east coast got mixed up with, fell in love with and is now planning an interfaith wedding with an Ohio native and soul mate, Lisa.
Lisa was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio (right outside of Detroit, which I mention because I never heard of Toledo, before I met Lisa). She has been a Cincinnati area native for 12-13 years and lived here her entire adult life. Lisa was raised in a tight knit Polish neighborhood by mainly her father and her extended family. She has an older sister who is seven years older than her who also happens to be getting re-married one month after our upcoming wedding. Overall, her family dynamic is much different than my own and it certainly brings up a lot of conversation during our wedding planning. Lisa went through 12 years of Catholic School and church was a strong part of her young life.
I was born and raised in a small suburb of New Jersey called Westampton, but if you ask me where I am from the answer is always, “Philly.” I come from an interfaith home where Dad was raised Catholic and Mom was raised Jewish, but neither practice. Christmas was always about Santa and Easter was always about the giant bunny. Jewish holidays stood as a staple of tradition, like Pesach/Passover, but no one kept kosher during it. We celebrated Hanukkah, which would end up growing to be one of the most important parts of my spiritual development as a Jew, but I would not come to realize that until much later. I have two sisters, one nine years younger, and one two-and-a-half years older. Somehow in the middle of all this non-practice growing up, I endured some personal hardships and continue to grow spiritually in the Jewish religion. I do not know if I classify myself as devout, but am a Friday night attendee of Temple and pray/meditate every day.
Who are we? (That is actually a sports chant Lisa and I both say every Tues/Thurs/Sun.) You see now we both live in Cincinnati, and initially met through the sport of Roller Derby. We are both skaters and each other’s coaches for our teams. I am a Jewish professional working for the Federation system and she works for a custom box making company in Northern Kentucky.
Our wedding date is November 8, 2014. This blog will explore more about our relationship, our upcoming wedding plans and the challenges it takes to make a true interfaith wedding. We are striving for something more than just a Jewish wedding in a chapel (which right now is actually the plan). It is not just about a merging of two faiths, but also two very different cultures meshing together and hoping for a lot of laughs and only tears of happiness. So again, welcome and shalom.
Hello IFF Community!
Check out me (Erik) and my fiancee Jess as we introduce ourselves via our first Hitch posting. We are super excited to be a part of the IFF community, to share our story and get your thoughts and opinions as we prepare for our interfaith (Buddhist/Jewish) wedding in November.
Thanks so much for taking the time to watch and we look forward to your comments and thoughts as we begin our journey with IFF.
As Yolanda and Arel wind down their blogging (after all, they did get married in January!), I’m excited to let you all know that we have a new couple blogging for us as they prepare for their marriage!
Erik is originally from Wisconsin and has lived in DC for 9 years. He works on Capitol Hill as a Chief of Staff for a Member of Congress from his hometown. A lapsed Catholic, Erik found Buddhism while in college and has been practicing, including hosting meditation at his apartment, for over 12 years.
Jess, who is Jewish, hails from Montreal, but moved to south Florida when she was a young girl. She currently works as the Director of External Affairs at a federal government agency and previously had spent several years in the Public Relations field and running Congressional campaigns.
They originally met in Wisconsin during the fall of 2000 while working on a rally for Joe Lieberman. After the rally they didn’t see each other for 10 years and were reconnected via e-harmony in the fall of 2010. The rest, as people say, is history.
Give them a big welcome, and stay tuned for their own introductory post!
Check out me (Yolanda) and my fiance Arel as we introduce ourselves via our first vlog (video blog) and hear a little bit about your story and upcoming wedding plans. We’re very excited about this journey and look forward to learning more about Judaism as we figure out how to have a Jewish wedding with a mostly interfaith guest list.
We would love to hear from all of you out there. Please comment and show us some love or give your opinion. This wedding is a work in progress and we are eager to hear from y’all.
While Mia and Ethan are off enjoying their honeymoon (mazal tov again!), I’m excited to introduce a new couple to this blog:
I’ll turn it over to them…
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!
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…)
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!