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 do I describe myself? I wear many hats in many roles, but who I am is deeply rooted in my being a Jew, a Jewish woman. I am a wife of a Catholic man, a mother of two wonderful Jewish women, and a daughter and a sister. Family is a controlling factor of my lifestyle, my ethics and how I lead my daily life. Deep in my heart, my upbringing as a Jew directs how I conduct my life and how I interact with others. I have a high system of ethics and beliefs on how one should treat others and interact in today's world. Judaism and family have been a strong part of my developing these standards.
I have been married to my husband for thirty-one years and continue to cherish every day with him and our life together. Even though he never converted and rarely participates in anything Catholic, he has been an advocate of raising our daughters in the Jewish faith, creating a Jewish home, and being active members of a Conservative synagogue. We have always lit Shabbat (Sabbath) candles, had a special Friday night dinner and celebrated all holidays with family. Each Shabbat evening my husband says a blessing over our children. This has been a special part of our marriage and life.
I grew up in an observant home and was an active USYer who attended Hebrew school through 12th grade. Initially, it was difficult for my parents to accept my relationship. My falling in love with a Catholic man was not what they had planned for me!
Determined to overcome obstacles and work things out, my husband and I spent a great deal of time and effort in decision-making discussion prior to our marriage commitment. Judaism was always important to me, so my husband and I worked out our differences. I believe that much of our success is due to communication and compromise and the flexibility and caring I received from a wonderful husband.
Our home shows much evidence of Judaism and family. Our daughters were both Bat Mitzvah and received a Jewish education. My husband has been a complete participant in all of our family events, going to synagogue, learning prayers and melodies by heart.
We are active members of a Conservative congregation. I have spent many years in Sisterhood, serving on the board in various positions and have now been on the executive board of the synagogue as vice president of membership for four years. In this capacity I often reach out to other intermarried couples and encourage them to be participants and part of our synagogue family.
My husband is so much a part of our synagogue life that people are often surprised when they find out that he is not Jewish. Through our synagogue we became involved in a havurah (study and worship group) twenty years ago. Our families spent many special times together celebrating Judaic events and meaningful experiences. This group of Jewish friends accepts my husband wholeheartedly and they have become some of our dearest and closest friends as we continue to connect and enjoy social and intellectual experiences together.
My parents and brother, with his family, have had a strong influence in helping us to keep our Jewishness--through holiday observances and life-cycle events. This guidance and close involvement has been paramount to our success.
I believe that I am an example of how intermarriage can work through commitment and compromise. I am truly fortunate that my husband respected my deep love for Judaism and worked with me to make it work for our family. It certainly would have been easier if he had converted, but that was not how it was meant to be. I am thankful for what I have and the love that I have from my husband and family, and truly thank him for his support and devotion.
Jacqueline Martins is a special education teacher. She is currently vice president of membership at Yorktown Jewish Center, a Conservative synagogue. She and her husband of thirty-one years have two grown daughters. This article was an entry in the InterfaithFamily.com Network Contest, "We're Interfaith Families... Connecting with Jewish Life."