Should Our New Home Have a Cross or a Mezuzah (or Both)?

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Laura hanging the crucifix

Zach and I just moved into a new, smaller apartment at the end of April. Our last apartment was the first place we lived together, and we erred on the side of having more space. This new place has a more useful layout and more updated kitchen, so we were willing to trade for the smaller space. The extra space in the old place helped us consolidate belongings and get used to living together. Living with a partner differs from living with any other kind of roommate. In some ways, you’re more careful about the things you say and do, because you know this person will be living with you forever! You’re shifting from compromising to shared decision-making.

I’ve written a few other posts about shared decision-making in the context of getting a dog. But we’re also, already, making decisions as newlyweds about the faith life of our family. These decisions pop up in seemingly insignificant ways. In the case of decorating a new apartment, hanging a crucifix can bring up some big questions.

I owned at least three crosses growing up. Family members gifted them on the occasion of receiving the sacraments of my Catholic faith. In that way, they are not only a religious symbol, but a reminder of the roots of my faith. My family has been not only an example of faith, but has created a culture of faith, with mass on Sundays and holidays and prayers before meals. The crucifix I have carried with me since I left home for college reminds me of this family foundation.

Hamsa with script: Blessing for the home. Through this gate enters joy. Into this home blessings flow. This is the door where love comes in. In this place there is belief happiness and peace
Our interfaith “mezuzah” welcomes guests at the door

I’ve hung a crucifix in my room since I started college. With roommates of other faiths, I usually kept the crucifix in my room, since we didn’t share that space. Moving in with Zach changed that. It was no longer my space, but our space. I learned from one of our wedding books, the historical context and complex relationship the Jewish people have with the cross. I was made aware of how Christianity has dominated public life and culture, often to the detriment of other religions. I wanted to be respectful of Zach and his beliefs while also being true to my Catholic roots and faith. We hung the crucifix in the living room in the old apartment, and in the new apartment we decided to hang it on a small wall in the bedroom, where it fit the best. I asked him if he was still OK with hanging it in our house, not wanting to assume that because we had done it before, it was still OK. He shared that he was, and that he was still getting used to it, but he knew it meant a lot to me to have one in our home.

I try to apply the ways I celebrate and appreciate my faith to learning about and celebrating Judaism. The physical Christian home symbols are important to me, so when I learned what a mezuzah was, I knew I wanted one. Zach found a beautiful, non-denominational mezuzah on a work trip in Israel, and it has a beautiful prayer for peace and understanding in our home. It’s not a traditional mezuzah, in that there’s no Sh’ma prayer hidden inside, but we like the spiritual message that speaks to both our faiths. We were excited to put it up in the new apartment, in a place where we could read its prayer daily. A mezuzah is traditionally placed on the doorpost, and we made sure it was on the wall coming in and out of our apartment, so that those coming in as well as going forth could see its message. Now our home feels less like his and hers, and more like ours.

young woman leans against wall in bedroom, with family photos, ketubah and crucifix hanging on the wall
Our ketubah and crucifix in our bedroom

About Laura Drescher

Laura is a practicing Catholic navigating life in Washington, DC with her Jewish husband. She is passionate about public service, environmental stewardship, and interfaith connections. Just married in September 2017, she is excited to jump into married life and form new faith traditions with her life partner.