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
Reprinted from the May 2006 issue of New Voices with permission.
My friend Jake likes to tease me about what he knows of my love life, starting by reminding anyone in earshot that he had a crush on me in 10th grade. In between making fun of my first boyfriend and asking about my more recent ex-girlfriend, he'll remind me that I should be looking for a Jew. He says that since my mother isn't tough enough about this, somebody has to be. I tell him I'm not sure it works like that.
What drives him crazy about my evolving dating policy, I think, is that at heart I refuse to come down strongly on either side of the inter-dating argument--at least in principle. People get pretty heated when discussing Jews dating non-Jews, but I've never felt ideologically pulled one way or the other. I've had meaningful relationships with non-Jews, and I hope that I never feel pressured to say otherwise. I'm looking for someone who understands what I say and do, and shares my interests. As a Jewish Studies student working for a Jewish magazine and interested in contemporary Jewish issues, I'll own up to making a few assumptions about potential partners.
The Jewish community is making definite strides in the programming and matchmaking world of queer Jews. Although I haven't had much luck recently with queer Jewish dating websites, at least I know they're out there. I have no doubt that the gay baby boom contributed a lot to this change, and sometimes that makes me resentful--as if, all of a sudden, it's worth the effort pushing me toward other Jews, just so I can reproduce for the tribe. I think Jewish families are important, too, but I am more than a baby machine.
So, what's up with the goysiche exes? you may ask. The fact of the matter is that my upbringing taught me that I deserve somebody who will treat me well, and that I need to treat my significant other well. This has meant different things in my short dating career; right now, and I imagine from now on, this means that my partner will respect and cherish my devotion to Judaism and all things Jewish. And because I know I'm most likely to find that in another Jew, I'm adding a criterion to the checklist.
But this isn't a moratorium on relationships with non-Jews--at least not directly. As my conversations with Jake illustrate, many of my fellow Jews get hot in the face about my stance. To my liberated, "spiritual-but-not-religious," friends, the concept that I would choose my potential life partner based on religion is antiquated and not fully evolved. It's a tough position.
I'm the first one to tell you that, yes, as a queer Jewish woman, I'll be having kids, and that they'll be raised more observant than I was. I'd like to imagine that they'll have another warm, caring and Jewishly-committed parent in the picture as well. That said, some of the rhetoric against interdating makes me squirm.
There's a growing trend of intermarriage that's got a lot of people concerned about the future of the Jewish people, and I share the concern. Like all teenagers, I didn't appreciate being told what to do, and had I not dated non-Jews during my college years, I probably would have been fairly resentful at the restriction. The lectures on the evils of intermarriage (and by extension, interdating) are just a little much sometimes, especially given that programming for the under-40 set is still largely so heteronormative. And frankly, it makes me wonder what's behind the community's new interest in gays and their potential partners. Is it okay for their children to be gay, or just their congregants?
As it happened, the Jewish community ultimately did what I think it should do: made itself so attractive to me that I couldn't resist. Now, between my thesis on Jewish feminist literature, my job at Lilith Magazine in Manhattan, and my volunteer work for my campus Hillel, my housemates tell me I've started to communicate in "Jewspeak," my own special blend of Yiddishisms and Jewish moxy. I guess I'm just looking for a fellow fluent female.
I wouldn't change a moment of my past, even as I recognize that my future will probably look different. So while Jake worries a little too much about my personal life, I think I'll check out some of the programming at my local Y. I might not find my next serious girlfriend, but at least I'll be on the lookout.