Every so often our congregation puts together dinners of different parts of the community. They’re always hosted by someone in the community who cooks up an amazing meal and there’s great conversation. Sometimes they’re just for empty nesters, or our TRIBE group of 20’s and 30’s, families with mitzvah kids in the coming year, and sometimes they’re open to all.
I love my TRIBE dinners, but there’s something to be said about the open ones.
I say this because I was the youngest one at dinner on Friday. By about 25 years.
I knew it was an open dinner, so when I got there and our host whispered to me that she had invited other young people, but none of them accepted…I was a bit worried.
I’ve written about how sometimes because I didn’t convert, I feel like a fraud going to events without J. I know they accept me, I know I belong, but it’s just that hump internally I’m trying to get over. But I was there and no turning back now.
And let me tell you it was the most fantastic dinner party I’ve ever been to. At the beginning of the night, I was ask to light the Shabbat candles by the Rabbi in honor of my upcoming wedding which was just a week away! I made a joke about how it was going to be good practice for the next weekend with our unity candle.
Well wouldn’t you know — it sparked an interfaith marriage discussion that night.
Interfaith discussions usually goes one of two ways.
- Everyone talks about how it’s in their lives, everyone is respectful, people are understand, everyone leaves learning more.
- People who are very against interfaith relationships express those feelings, people who have interfaith relationships in their lives are hurt, everyone is upset.
I’ve been involved in both where I’ve had to defend my relationship to strangers. And they’re never going to change their mind! People who think J is wrong for marrying me or that I’m “stealing a good Jewish man and should be ashamed of myself” (an actual thing once said to me) aren’t going to come around. And that’s ok. It hurts…but I’m not going to not be with J because someone says I shouldn’t be.
I’m happy to say that this dinner was the first by far. Our host is a Jew by Choice who converted when she was engaged to her husband. Three of the older women there had children who had married non-Jews and all had struggled with the idea initially. One woman, who was my mom’s age had never converted, but married her Jewish husband despite being widowed and a semi-practicing Catholic was involved in all aspects of Jewish life.
What I found most interesting though, since all them had Jewish grandchildren, was the respect and admiration that they had for the parents of their children in-law. To me, that was the most amazing part. Many of them had started of worried, some of them against their children’s relationships with non-Jews. After consulting with Rabbis, they realized things were going to be ok. And it was. Not because their grandchildren are Jewish, but because they love them all the same and they figured out that was most important.
I was answering questions about my ceremony not because I had to defend them, but because there is no “interfaith wedding template” so they wanted to compare experiences. It felt good to be a part of a group that could have a discussion on a complex topic with seven people having seven different experiences and nobody felt like anyone was doing it wrong.
It was nice to hear so many different perspectives and how interfaith relationships have affected different people’s lives. In truth, I didn’t know what to expect when I got out of my and and was met by a lovely pair of newly weds in their 70’s. But I’m glad I went. Because it showed that my community is one of understanding, love and support. By no means am I an outsider because I wasn’t born Jewish and didn’t choose to convert. They’re mine and I can’t wait to see what’s next for us.