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Interfaith Weddings: Honoring Both Sets of Parents

May, 2000

In a typically Jewish way, I'd like to challenge the unspoken premise behind the notion of honoring your non-Jewish parents in a Jewish wedding. The underlying premise is that there is a basic conflict between the desires, beliefs, and outlooks of the spouse's non-Jewish parents and the lifestyle that the couple has chosen.

My belief is that while the couple's choice of religion may be different from the parents', the underlying principles, morals and life ethics may very well have more commonalties than differences. After all, the woman I was attracted to, the woman whom I love, the woman whose outlook on life I respect so much, is a product of those non-Jewish parents. If my wife has the qualities in her spiritual, moral, and religious life that I respect and cherish, and if those qualities developed from within a non-Jewish family, then it only stands to reason that there must be some elements within her parents' belief systems that I can understand and respect.

Therefore, when I was confronted with the issue of creating a wedding and indeed a lifestyle that would honor Alice's parents' traditions and values, I changed the question. I ignored the entire notion of Judaism vs. non-Judaism or Judaism vs. atheism (Alice is a second-generation atheist), and rather challenged myself to try to understand, as best I could, who Alice's parents were -- what they believed in, why they made the choices they made, and what we had in common.

As I suspected, I discovered that we have a lot more in common than a traditional view of "Jewish vs. non-Jewish" would suggest. We all have a healthy respect for humanity and human dignity. We all have a skepticism of religious fanatics and of principles that affect personal freedom and personal dignity by relying on arguments that contain the phrase, "...because God..." We all consider religion, religious beliefs or lack thereof, and the process by which individuals find meaning in life to be highly personal and almost sacred. And we all have an utter disdain for hypocrisy.

That being true, the best way we could honor Alice's parents was to construct a wedding ceremony that was true to the beliefs and values that we share and that we hold as deeply valuable, and not create a hypocritical concoction of different religious and non-religious elements designed to appease any perceived bias that either set of parents might have. Instead, we chose to create a ceremony that honored our personal values and the informed and deliberate choices that we have made in our lives. Our wedding ceremony became a weekend-long incarnation of the values and mores that Alice and I hold dear, and of the people that we are. By respecting ourselves, we respect our parents.

Ben Dubrovsky

Ben Dubrovsky is a partner in ReadyAbout Interactive, where he designs and implements web sites, CD-ROMs and museum kiosks. He describes the process of creating his wedding as being identical to the process of creating any multimedia project.

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