Connecting Interfaith Families to Jewish Life in Greater Cleveland by providing programs and opportunities for interfaith families to experience Judaism in a variety of venues, meet other interfaith families, and to connect to other Jewish organizations that may serve their needs.
A great way for Jewish professionals and volunteers who work with and provide programming for people in interfaith relationships to locate resources and trainings to build more welcome into their Jewish communities; connect with and learn from each other; and publicize and enhance their programs and services.
Just like all beginning relationships, I had plenty of questions. “Will he still like me if I eat three burgers for dinner?” “Will my parents and siblings like him?” “Will his parents and siblings like me?” “Will we get along with each other’s friends?” “Will he be ok with my Catholicism?” At first, these questions bugged me. I had doubts that the relationship wouldn’t last because we are so different. However, after talking it over with my friends, something clicked. Instead of focusing on the fact that we were different, I began to embrace it.
I started sharing my hobbies with Sam. When I was with Sam, I experienced things differently than when I was with my other friends. After going to the theater with my girlfriends, we would talk about the rehearsal process, technical elements, and cast and crew. Seeing the exact same show with Sam, we would talk about how we related to the characters and how the acting moved the story along. Sam also started sharing his love of concerts and brewing with me, and introduced me to Judaism.
I began going to synagogue with Sam a few months into our relationship, and it was confusing at first. The service was completely different from the Catholic Mass, and it didn’t help that I didn’t understand Hebrew. After attending a few more services with Sam, I started researching the holidays and cultures and began to find joy in the ways that the Jewish holidays could benefit me personally or spiritually. Creating a menu for Passover became an exciting search, between my friends and I, to experiment with different ingredients within the dietary restrictions mandated during the holiday.
Sam and I started turning activities into exciting adventures. Over the past two years we have attended numerous family holiday celebrations; the National Homebrew Conference, several beer festivals, numerous Synagogue events, Philadelphia Folk Festival, and other concerts; stewarded a mead (honey wine) competition; road tripped to Chicago (twice), Boston, and Minnesota; held a game marathon during the two-week black out of Super Storm Sandy; and celebrated a handful of friends’ interfaith/intercultural weddings.
Sam and Anne (2013)
So when did I know that Sam was the “one”? The answer is three-fold:
When I found that life is more fascinating with Sam than without him,
When being with him, no matter what we are doing, brings sheer happiness and joy, and
When I realized that I am comfortable with myself around Sam and being with Sam is helping me to grow as an individual.
Please note: I’ve posted this for Yolanda, who wrote the following post.
Hey there IFF,
So here we are, two months past our actual wedding date and we’re both enjoying the married life. Before we head off into wedded bliss, Arel and I are leaving you with a farewell video and some extra goodies to take a look at. We never talked about our actual wedding day so this is the video that finally covers how our day went and Arel included some pics for you guys to see how our wedding progressed that day.
We loved vlogging for InterfaithFamily.com and hoped that you enjoyed viewing our journey as much as we enjoyed documenting it for you guys. We wish you all a blessed life and for those of you getting married, good luck and enjoy the process. We welcome the next wedding bloggers, Jess and Erik, and wish them an awesome wedding and life thereafter.
Enjoy our last videos. We have video recapping our actual wedding, the video below that is a glimpse of the ceremony, and the third video showcases our unusual wedding dance. Let us know what you think.
Last weekend, Erik and I celebrated the wedding of our friends Raul and Sarah, another interfaith couple (Raul is a Salvadorian Buddhist friend of Erik, who grew up in Northern Virginia; Sarah is Christian, from Birmingham, Alabama). As we enjoyed their special day, we took notes for ours.
Raul and Sarah held their wedding in a small church/community center in southwest Virginia, with about 35 of their closest friends and family—much different than the 200+ person wedding that we’re planning. The food was served buffet-style, and made by the bride’s cousin. Sarah, the bride, made all the decorations herself, and had friends help her set up the room. Although I know (or hope!) that our wedding will be lovely, there’s something to be said about the intimacy of a smaller, family-style engagement with the people you care about most in life.
One of our favorite take-aways, besides the fact that they wrote their own vows: Sarah’s grandmother, the associate pastor of the church, officiated. She told a story about how, growing up, Sarah used to play dress up with her cousin and ask: “Grandma, will you help marry me at my wedding when I grow up?” And, for 20+ years, her grandmother answered, “Yes, honey. I will be there when you get married, and I will marry you myself.”
It was such a special moment, that it underscored for us the importance of our choice to have family and a close friend officiate our wedding too. We’ve decided to have my cousin, Wendy, an Orthodox Jew, and Erik’s college philosophy professor, Ken, who introduced Erik to Buddhism, preside over our wedding. We’re thrilled about it. The next step: figuring out the vows and the ceremony.
We would welcome your suggestions and ideas as we move into the ceremony planning stage….
Thanks for reading, and Happy St. Patty’s Day to any fellow Irish-Jewish folks out there!
Here we go with another video where Arel and I talk about the Aufruf before our wedding and the prepping required to ensure it went smoothly. We also discuss music for the ceremony and why that was challenging for us. On a side note: Arel sharpened his video editing skills with imovie to make this particular clip more interesting. Check it out!
First, a confession:
Hey there, Mia here, who married Ethan in July and wrote about the wedding planning last spring and summer. I have been meaning to write this final wedding-related post for months. Part of me held off because I was still reeling from the whirlwind events related to the wedding. I also wanted to take some time to let the whole experience sink in so that I could share some meaningful reflection. Truth be told, I think I was subconsciously procrastinating because writing this post, like printing photos for our wedding album, symbolizes the end of wedding-related activities. (But not the marriage!)
So here we go:
Our wedding day was the perfect combination of fun, celebration, solemnity, humor, gratitude, old and new traditions, community, reverence and most of all, love. Don’t just take my word for it ~ Ethan and I were humbled by how many of our guests expressed the same observations. At numerous times I was overcome, and had to pause to take a deep breath to prevent myself from sobbing with awe and joy. There was nothing Jewish or gentile about that ~ it was 100% natural and free-flowing.
Two days before the wedding, Ethan’s family hosted a Shabbat dinner at a local schul for his observant family and friends. My immediate family as well as my 16-month-old niece, Jewish aunt and Buddhist uncle also attended. It was interesting observing my relatives who were not familiar with a Shabbat dinner and their thoughtful expressions often seen on anyone who doesn’t quite know what to expect next. I remembered how I used to feel that way, and marveled at how far I had come in terms of learning Jewish traditions and practices. However, I realized as the guests were gathering that I was slightly anxious about this dinner setting a “Jewish tone” to the weekend, especially since it prevented me from visiting with out-of-state guests on my side who had arrived in town early. This concern was dispelled when my niece, who loves music, bopped along in her high chair to the sing-song prayers and clapped at the candle lighting. After the final blessing, she clutched a small box of raisins in her tiny fist, raised it high, scrunched her face up in an earnest expression, and, amidst the post-prayer silence, proclaimed loudly her support of the dinner in baby babble. She sounded just like when the cartoon warrior princess from the ‘80s, She-ra, exclaimed with sword raised, “I have the power!” She was clearly moved by the spirit of the gathering! Everyone loved it.
The Big Day:
The day of the actual wedding, the weather behaved, everyone showed up on time, and neither Ethan nor I got cold feet or tripped walking down the aisle. Despite having participated in seven or eight weddings, I was unprepared for how emotional I would be as I approached him. Here was this amazing man who accepted me 100% for who I was, who was standing before his family and friends to say that he chose me. I am still in awe! Getting married under a huppah didn’t faze me at all since I had officiated two interfaith weddings that also used one. In fact, I enjoyed the sense of enclosure it provided, the creation of sacred space, and the more intimate dynamic when friends and family stepped under it to read a blessing to us. We used Ethan’s talit as the canopy, and even though I have never been bat mitzvahed, I appreciated the significance of the talit, and loved that such a special item of his played a role in such a special day of ours. To know that I would recall the feeling of standing under it whenever he wears it for future high holidays, etc., forged my own sense of connection with it. I have a similar feeling when I look at our ketubah that uses interfaith text and hangs proudly in our dining room.
I think it would have been slightly disconcerting for me had we just had one officiant who followed a traditional Jewish wedding service because that was not the tradition in which I was raised. (See our previous post about working with two officiants.) Having two stand with Ethan and me under the chuppah grounded me and really reinforced the communal aspect of the ceremony.
Said ceremony, as outlined in an earlier post, included a mix of Jewish, Celtic, and Native American wedding traditions that many guests said blended beautifully together. I will confess that the only tradition during the entire day that felt slightly foreign to me was dancing the horah; I didn’t really know the exact steps, nor did many of my family members and friends, so we just threw ourselves into the circles, grabbed hands, and kept up! Sadly I got separated from my new husband who ended up flanked by his family members, which made me feel like this was “their thing.” But I have a terrific photo of Ethan, his step-dad, my brother’s wife, and my mom all smiling and dancing together in one of the circles, and I love the unity of that moment! Any lingering concerns I had about whether members of Ethans side would think the wedding “wasn’t Jewish enough” were mitigated by the enthusiasm with which they participated in the various celebrations, and the warmth with which they embraced us and me on that day.
Six months later:
So here we are several months later, during which time I attended the fall high holiday services and/or dinners, as well as a traditional Jewish wedding of one of Ethan’s step-sisters, with a slightly different perspective knowing that such rituals would be part of my future for the long term. I’ve come to realize that Ethan’s family’s traditions can now no longer be seen in black-and-white terms as “theirs versus mine,” since his family is now my family. Just as how Ethan willingly helps me set up my Christmas decorations, and helped me bake Christmas cookies for a “Christmas Mia-style” open house I held for some of his family in mid-December.
As we were preparing for the open house, I quietly contemplated how blending the two December holidays would work for our future kids. Would they fall into the “yours, mine and ours” mode of thinking, or would Ethan and I be successful in creating a home in which both traditions merge well? (For the record, Christmas was never about celebrating Christ’s birth for my family; it is a time of gathering with loved ones, adding light, magic and sparkle to a dark season, and sharing gifts and giving back to the community and those less fortunate to demonstrate your love.) A recent rabbi-rabbi-lev-baesh">Boston Globe feature noted the increasing number of interfaith families in Massachusetts, which is good, but acknowledged that sometimes it’s hard for the kids who feel like they are straddling worlds, which is disheartening. Later that evening, as Ethan and I sat with 10 of his family members in our living room, each of them began sharing aspects of Christmas that they “actually like,” most particularly non-secular songs, food, and made-for-TV movies. Ethan’s step-dad then led everyone in a rousing rendition of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I got choked up when I looked around the room and realized, “This is going to work. Both histories and realities can be honored without sacrificing anything.”
That is how I hope Ethan and I will continue to live our lives together and to raise our children: to demonstrate that core values cross faith and traditional divides, and that love, family and community are what matter most, no matter what language, song, or decoration you use to honor them. Am I afraid that members of Ethan’s family will look upon our kids as “not Jewish” with some sadness? Yes, and that isn’t easy for me. But then I think back to the joy, acceptance and inclusiveness of our most wonderful wedding day, and feel confident that we will be able to make it all work out. To paraphrase She-ra, “We have the power!”
So in this episode, Yolanda is trying out new hair styles and seeing what look she will go with for her big day. This video shows one of the hair style options. You’ll notice Arel isn’t too excited about how it turned out. But what do you think? Is this the look? Any suggestions on keeping the hair up or down?
This is one of those small details that are important (at least to the brides
I know I’ve been ranting and whining about wedding invitations but now that they are over and done with, I wanted to take you back a few months to where I talked about the wedding dress.
There’s so much that goes into the dress. I mean this is ‘the’ dress that so many girls dream about, envisioning their day dressed in a to die for gown. To be honest, I never really thought about what dress I would wear, but when the day came to actually start thinking about it, I couldn’t believe how many options there were and how most of them did nothing for me. As much as I love sparkly things in everyday life (love glitter), I for some reason found it to be ghastly on a wedding gown. Who knew? I also found it disturbing the lack of options for a Conservative bride. And don’t even get me started on the ‘modest’ dresses that are out there. Seriously, it’s as if ‘modest’ is equated with lack of fashion sense and taste because dresses made for Conservative Jewish girls like me are just plain ugly. Blech. All I wanted was a beautiful dress that was simple and covered the arms. I want to be modest for the ceremony which means covering myself. I know many liberal Jews do not share the same opinion, but I’m naturally conservative and do not like showing my arms. It seems so risque but for this post you’ll see I’m wearing all strapless gowns because that’s what’s out there.
I did eventually find my dress love, the beautiful ‘Addie’ by Monique Lhullier. It really was pure love at first sight. It’s modern, simple, no bling, sequins, or sparkles and it has 3/4 sleeves, sheer beautiful sleeves. This dress is conservative and stylish. But as I mentioned before, it’s also $6000. Ahh.. This was one of those moments where I actually thought life isn’t fair for the budget conscious bride, but I reluctantly got over it, and started the search for ‘the’ dress that looked like my dear ‘Addie’. I started my search at Alfred Angelo, followed by David’s Bridal, and then NY Bride. For all you brides out there, please do not wait to buy your dress. I waited until 4 months before the wedding date which left me very little time to find a dress in time. I felt sort of pressured to make a decision quickly and although I did find my dress, and I love it, it’s not my first love, the Addie, and to be honest, I don’t love it as much as the Addie. It’s true. I still look at pictures of my dear dress but like a long lost love that didn’t work out, I try to focus on what I do have now, my actual dress. I’m happy with it and I bought a sheer tulle bolero with a train to give it a conservative twist because of course it’s strapless. I’m not going to show you what I chose until the actual wedding, but I’ll show you a few of the dresses that didn’t make the cut. Notice my facial expressions in some of the pics…clearly, I wasn’t so thrilled. However, wedding dress shopping is fun and I felt like a princess. I wish there were more occasions to wear such gorgeous dresses than just one day.
So let’s start with my dream dress, the Addie.
And now let’s move onto the ‘real’ dresses
Dress 1 from Alfred Angelo. Pretty but it didn’t catch my eye.
Dress 2 from Alfred Angelo. Simple and modern. I liked it but it didn’t have enough ‘oomph’.
Dress 3 from Alfred Angelo. I just thought this looked weird on me.
Dress 4 from Alfred Angelo. I like the simplicity of this one with the crystal band but it’s hard to tell how it would really look. All the samples were way too big so everything had to be clipped back.
Dress 5 from Alfred Angelo. I like the idea of this dress but it was just too big to really tell what it would look like. It’s very romantic and lace-y. I think if it fit, I would have liked this one more.
Dress 6 from David’s Bridal. I adored this dress from David’s Bridal but once I tried it on, it didn’t look right on me. This is from Vera Wang’s new White line. All the dresses are gorgeous. I tried quite a few on but it didn’t seem to work for me. You’ll also notice my Blue Steel face. I was trying to be Vera Wang-ish and no one was there to take a pic for me. Yes, I went wedding dress shopping alone (initially). I wanted to see how I felt about it without the influence of other’s opinions.
Dress 7 from NY Bride. I really enjoyed this dress but it was too thin for a winter wedding. It didn’t have as much heavy material like the other dresses. It was effortless to move in which is a big plus but I wanted more material.
Dress 8 from NY Bride. I just had to try on a big poofy dress. Fun, but hard to move in, and it swallowed my short body.
Dress 9 from NY Bride. This dress was so pretty and flowy but I found another dress I liked more, so this one could have been the one.
I think I tried on about 20 dresses total. For those ladies who are already married or are getting married, how many dresses did you try before you found the one?
Arel and I have been MIA for awhile: both of us have been working full time, Arel has been traveling, I’ve been teaching Zumba, and we’ve been wedding planning which has zapped up much of our time… But we’re back and have so much to update you on. Our latest adventure involved wedding invitations, and my first official melt down which ended up in tears… yes, over invitations. Oy vey. I’ll give you the details in the next post, but for now, here’s a glimpse of my best friend (and maid of honor) and I working on the DIY invites. Excuse my hair in this video, I realize I look like a hot mess. It was a long night putting together the little touches (which in the end will not be mailed along with the invites)… arghh!