As I mentioned earlier this week, I went to an Interfaith Community Conversation last month.
One of the areas that they looked into was interfaith families.
The conversation was in response to some of the results the survey showed.
Read the full interfaith findings here.
Overwhelmingly respondents felt that being Jewish and practicing Jewish rituals were important. One thing that sparked a bigger discussion was if the community was welcoming.
And then the room opened for comments and questions. And oh my goodness. There were so many wonderful people talking about their own experiences. Their personal conflict knowing that their grandchildren won’t be accepted at their synagogues. Parents talking about their children affirming their own Jewish identities while respecting their other half. Spouses talking about struggling with Christmas and their non-Jewish spouses struggling with the cost of being Jewish.
We talked about ways to make interfaith families more welcome. There was a discussion on what to call interfaith families. People told stories of how much the concept of interfaith has changed since they were kids. A Rabbi chimed in on how his synagogue (Conservative) was handling the growing numbers. We talked about letting non-Jewish partners participate; especially in communities where interfaith families are allowed to be members. There’s something especially othering about your money being good enough but feeling like you’re not good enough.
There was so much great experience in this room. And it was wonderful to hear everyone’s personal stories.
And a few people who were there to give their less-than-supportive opinions.
One man talked about how nice all the “touchy-feely acceptance” was but had a lot of feelings about how this was all really the end of Judaism as we know it. That Jews needed to decide what they wanted to future to be and this wasn’t the path to survival.
You know, the kind of thing a room full of people who have children in interfaith marriages and are in interfaith marriages want to hear.
But everyone who spoke about the interfaith community was Jewish. And Jews have totally different issues when it comes to interfaith relationships. And I was at Jewish event so I wasn’t surprised. But it was a little disheartening to not hear any non-Jewish voices. Ultimately we’re the reason for this discussion and we weren’t speaking.
So I spoke. Because if not now, when? I spoke about the challenges of being a non-Jew in a Jewish world. The comments that people have made knowingly or unknowingly. How words and titles matter. How participation matters and my parents’ participation matters. That the first 25 years before I was a wife to a Jewish man matter and I refuse to act like they didn’t happen. How we have developed our own interfaith community here but if this was my first interaction, I’m not sure I’d be back.
It’s funny how the negative tends to stick. But it was a great reminder of why I speak up and why I continue to write. Because if truly that was my first introduction, I’m not sure I would have ever been a part of the Jewish community. But that wasn’t my first introduction, so I’m a part of a wonderful community. I’m so proud to be a part of my community that on the whole is trying to work with the interfaith community.
The conversation actually lead to a continuing conversation with leaders of the local Jewish community. Going to this allowed me to build connections that will hopefully allow us to create more resources for interfaith couples and families moving forward and that is the best for all of us.