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A Jewish Mother Sings the Interfaith Wedding Blues

June, 1999

Love is in the air. Engagement announcements and wedding invitations are in the mail. If I'm the old fashioned romantic that I claim to be, why can't I put on a smiley face and convince all of the betrothed couples in my family just how much I look forward to dancing at their receptions?

As a woman who has just celebrated twenty-five years of marriage (to one man), I am all for that institution. The love, the security, the Jewish family life, the kids, the pets, and the mortgage define who I am; I don't regret taking those thirty-six (I counted) tentative steps down the aisle to the wedding canopy (chuppah). Now when I get a wedding invitation, I wonder if there will even be a chuppah.

In the next six months, I expect to be invited to five family weddings. At one time, filling in so many dates on my social calendar would have prompted a reaction of, "How many new dresses will I have to buy?" Today it's more like, "Who will perform the ceremony? A rabbi? A minister? Both?"

Out of the five upcoming nuptials, only one relative is marrying a Jew. The other four are also marrying very nice, attractive, and caring people. But is that enough?

Back in my single days, that wouldn't have been enough for me. Aside from the pressure exerted by my parents and extended family, I never allowed myself to get emotionally close to any man who was not Jewish.

Although I attended college with people from different backgrounds, worked in an office where Jews were in the minority, and met many charming and appealing men of various ethnicities, I never seriously considered a future with anyone who did not share my religious beliefs. I recognized my own weaknesses and knew that even a casual date with a man could eventually escalate into a relationship. By only dating Jews, I avoided the risk of falling in love with someone I would not marry.

Those soon-to-arrive wedding invitations have turned my thoughts to questioning my own children's future. My oldest child, Ellen, will be going off to college in a few months. Though I have always made it evident to my kids that I love them, want them to be happy, and expect them to marry Jews, did I do enough?

Is there any practical way to add, "falling in love with someone who is not Jewish," to the "Just say 'No'" list of ill-advised temptations facing high school and college students?

With a new batch of cousins intermarrying this year, choosing a spouse who is not Jewish becomes easier for those who follow. The initial shock and disapproval surrounding the first cousin's church wedding, albeit with a rabbi co-officiating, have faded with time and repetition.

I pray that my children will someday find happiness marrying within the Jewish community. However, if God grants me a long life, what will I tell my daughter if she turns fifty and is still single? What if she regrets not marrying someone she perceives was her one true love, a Christian? Tell her to keep waiting for Mr. Right, a Jew, to come along?

Hebrew for "canopy" or "covering," the structure (open on all four sides) under which a Jewish wedding ceremony takes place. In its simplest for, it consists of a cloth, sheet, or tallit stretched or supported over four poles. Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation.
Pearl Choset Salkin

Pearl Choset Salkin has been a frequent contributor to The Jewish State, (Central New Jersey) and her work has also appeared in The San Diego Jewish Times, The Jewish Transcript, (Seattle) and The Senior Shopper,. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, Marty, and children, Ellen and Will.

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