We had an exciting time this weekend since it was our first wedding as married people!
Plus we got a side trip to the aquarium!
It’s meant I’ve been spending a lot of time with my Jewish side. While I love them I think sometimes they forget we’re an interfaith couple.
In the past, I would have taken this as a compliment, like I’m passing as the thing I want to be. But after everything we’ve been through I want to be me and she’s a non-Jewish woman married to a Jewish man.
The first comment came because there was a hora. Both the bride and groom are children of interfaith families and incorporated Jewish and non-denominational practices into their ceremony. A family member said “Why is there a hora? This wasn’t a Jewish wedding.” In that moment I thought to myself I didn’t have a “Jewish wedding” because I’m not Jewish. Did they feel the same way about J and I having a hora at our own wedding? And the answer is probably not, the family member was probably over the moon at the wedding and the party and felt it no different than her own wedding. But it made me question if I was really as accepted as I had previously thought. If the family member had wished J had married a Jewish girl instead of me.
The second happened at dinner, an easier venue to have a discussion. We learned the newly weds would be taking each other’s last names to make a hyphenated last name. There was the discussion of how it would work for future generations and then the question of why someone would do that. No matter your opinion it’s their name and their choice, but for them, it seemed unfair only she would be changing her last name.
I confessed I had asked the same thing of their son. J didn’t want to do it and it’s his last name, so I wasn’t going to force him. But I had a different motivating factor than the historic precedent of a woman changing hands from father to husband. J and I both have culturally identifiable names. When you look at them you know what we are and where we’re from. I felt as an interfaith couple who don’t have the same culture, it was important to not lose that factor. That way our names would culturally identify ourselves as an interfaith couple.
Then I heard how people don’t identify themselves by their maiden name, they were more than their name so it didn’t matter. I could tell asking J to change his name had struck a note with his family. Like they hadn’t thought about the challenges we face as an interfaith couple. But like they were still uncomfortable with the idea of their family member changing his name.
This weekend wasn’t the first time this issue has come up. When we discuss buying Christmas tree ornaments and someone asks why we would need that. Or how we choose to break fast on Yom Kippur with an Italian feast and that news is met with “but what about bagels!” Trying to explain that you’re blending cultures is difficult to people who haven’t done it.
For years though instead of speaking up when these things happen, I told J to not say anything and quietly excused myself. Clearly, that way of doing things isn’t going to change anything. I started thinking if we’re so blessed to have children will they think they’re “not really Jewish” because of me? Will they make a comment about how they shouldn’t become a bar or bat mitzvah? Will our children end up feeling like outsiders in their own family?
The fact is we don’t know that yet. I like to think that it wouldn’t change anything and our kids would be fully accepted but as everyone knows that’s not how things really work. So J and I agreed. When we hear something that negates my experience as a non-Jew or is a comment made that makes us feel like we’re on the defensive about being interfaith we speak up.
I hold strong to our identity as an interfaith couple. It’s challenging, ever changing and has taught us both more. We are better people for being different and we need to ensure our families recognize that.