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
How heart warming it was to receive over fifteen letters regarding my article "Broken Line," which apparently resonated with many readers. The many personal stories were educational for me and also validated my own story. My new title is "Expanded Line" rather than "Broken Line" since in truth the family love line has expanded and did not break.
In one letter I received, a reader described her brother who had converted to Catholicism and now wears a cross, which disturbs her whenever she is with him. Another concerned mom was worried because her teenage children were only dating non-Jews and she had no idea how to cope. My advice to all is to maintain the relationship with your loved one, even if they make love or religious choices that you regret.
I would like to share one story in particular which came from Israel. The names have been changed to protect the writer, but she was generous in wanting to share her story. Leah wrote that she and her husband are Conservative Jews and strong but not fanatic Zionists. She loves her Jewish identity and her life in Israel, having made aliyah over seventeen years ago. Their son Jacob was born in Israel fifteen years ago, while their two daughters, both in their twenties, were born in England and were six and four when the family moved to Israel. Their oldest daughter Sarah moved back to Britain over six years ago, feeling more comfortable among Brits than Israelis. This daughter's boyfriend Laim, of four years, has no interest in conversion. While his background is Catholic, he avoids anything to do with any religion. This mom is very concerned about any future marriage and ceremony and was interested in any resources that would be of help . . . I suggested the many resources on Interfaithfamily.com but also reminded her that the most important thing is her relationship with her daughter.
Since I wrote "Broken Line," I have suffered a broken heart. I lost my first love and soulmate of almost fifty years. Suddenly and without any health problems or warning. A devasting nightmare. My Jewish and my Catholic daughters-in-law were each there for me in a loving and supportive way, and how fortunate I am to have both. Cherished and treasured family and friends have been my emotional transfusions.
This painful time has taught me that the heart and soul of individuals can be far more significant than religious or cultural differences. Rejoice in the relationship with your child's choice, and by doing so, you are expanding not only your family, but yourself.
I would like to add two anecdotes concerning the extended and expanded part of my interfaith family, my son's intermarriage and the fact that his two sons attend Catholic school and are being raised Catholic. When my son and his family moved to their new neighborhood in California, they couldn't find their menorah. My non-Jewish daughter-in-law went out and purchased an even more beautiful one than the first, and it was made in Israel. Also, a source of joy for me is what my son does on all the major Jewish holidays. Since they live in an all-Christian neighborhood where many of their neighbors had never met Jews, let alone celebrate Jewish holidays, my son invites several of his neighbors to share each holiday with them. Last Passover, one of the children was younger than my youngest grandson, and he recited the four questions in Hebrew, coached by my son. These two signs of respect for my son's traditions and for our heritage--one from his wife and one from him--reassure me that he retains the values he was taught and will pass them on to my grandsons.
Last Hanukkah, both grandsons on separate nights did the blessing over the candles in Hebrew and on another night joined with our Jewish granddaughter as she sang the blessing. What joys would be lost forever if because of our children's choices we were to turn away. Perhaps it is better to turn our cheeks, not to be hit on the other cheek, but to be kissed on both.