When Things Change

Sometimes interfaith life can seem like we’re Sisyphus, where each time we think we’ve figured it out the boulder comes back down and we’re trying to figure it out again.  We went from not caring about organized religions, to an almost Jewish couple, to decidedly interfaith leaning Jewish.

It’s been the leaning Jewish part that’s been a struggle.

You see, there’s a ton of interfaith websites out there to support you if you’ve chosen to practice Judaism. Interfaith resources where we are, despite an expansive Jewish community have proven to be hard to find. It seems like if you’re near a big city it’s easier to find interfaith communities. Even something like Honeymoon Israel  which offers couples where at least one partner is Jewish a chance to explore Israel only runs out of certain cities.  Since the goal is community building you have to live in those cities to go. (I’m hoping one will come to our area before we hit our five year anniversary!)

Our interfaith learning has been a lot of internet reading and a lot of talking to people who have been there.

The best piece of advice I got heading into an interfaith marriage was to have the discussion about who you in your faith early and as that evolves keep having that conversation. Since who you are at 19 isn’t the same as who are you are at 26 it’ll change. And when major life events happen things change.

It’s ok that those things change. But you have to be open and honest with yourself and your partner.

Bearing those things in mind, I realized I wasn’t happy where we are in our faith. You see it was really, really easy when I was going to convert. We knew where we stood and I felt like I had a home. Right now, I don’t feel like I belong where I started or where I was so even though I have a community, I still feel like I’m searching for a faith home.

Since I was young I’ve loved learning. I think I might have been the only Catholic kid to love CCD (even if the nuns weren’t a fan of my insane amount of questions.) Which is why it was pretty easy to fall into a system where when we decided we’d lean towards Judaism, I ended up studying and learning which in turn lead me learn more about J.

When you’re raised in a religion things end up influencing you as an adult, for better or worse. Service towards others and forgiveness are both huge parts of my life in part because of my Catholic background. I noticed in learning about Judaism his never ending optimism, the ability to always get back up no matter the struggle and a kindness to all he meets were traits that J had learned from growing up Jewish. And I realized that those were the things I loved most about him. I loved Judaism more because I learned it shaped the best parts of the man I married.

J didn’t feel the same about Catholicism. He doesn’t enjoy voracious learning about religions and cultures like I do. But J also met me when I was my angriest at the church and the angriest at G-d. I was probably not the best reflection of faith at that point and time. He didn’t think Catholicism reflected who I was and really had no interest in learning about anything with Christianity let alone Catholicism.

For a while, that was ok. But more than seven years later I’m not who I was in that portion of my life. And suddenly, seven years later I was annoyed at J. Annoyed that I spent four years learning everything about his religion and he never learned about mine. Annoyed that he seemed to have no interest in those things. Annoyed that I felt insignificant in my home. Because while I’m comfortable with my choice of us being heavily involved in Jewish life, I’m not comfortable acting like my years of Catholic education and upbringing didn’t happen. I was kind of annoyed that one wrong comment was going to make me lose it.

So after weeks of refusing to go to Shabbat services with me, J made a comment about a sermon that a significantly older cousin had printed and mailed us — I couldn’t take it anymore. It all came out at once.

In truth, he didn’t realize any of that was important to me. He thought it wasn’t. But he still couldn’t understand why I felt it was disrespectful to never engage in any learning about my heritage. To him, I made the choice to learn about Judaism, he didn’t ask that me. That part is very true, but I didn’t start learning about Judaism because I wanted to be Jewish. I started because I wanted to know more about my partner.

As we change, it’s been hard in our area to find the resources to support what we are and the family we’re becoming. So often interfaith services focus on one religion or, as I once read on a pamphlet, “how to involve you non-Jewish partner practices in Jewish ways.” But by altering other religions’ practices to make them more new Jewish it negates the experiences and the heritage of one person in the relationship. That can foster resentment when you’re feeling second best. In smaller areas communities that are promoting themselves as interfaith need to be better at serving interfaith families as they are, not one part of the family.  Many places offer a “Mother’s Circle” program for women who aren’t Jewish but are raising Jewish children that “allows women to share their experiences, gain support for their efforts and learn about Judaism in a way that enables them to raise a Jewish child.”

That’s a wonderful program that I’m sure I’ll use one day! There should be a safe space for women who are in that position to connect.

But what about a program for Jewish partners to engage in aspects of the faith of their partner? Or one teaches parents how to involve other faith traditions and teaching in their Jewish or interfaith child’s life?

I’m not sure that J will ever want to learn about Catholicism. I’m not sure how big of a part it will play in our future family, we are ever evolving. For now though, he’s opted for asking me questions about how I grew up and researching traditions that we both feel fit who we are. Right now, I’m not sure I want anything else.

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The Return

We finally made it back to our synagogue for this Shabbat. It’s been a struggle to get there. It felt like every time I tried to go or we tried to go something with work or our families would come up and we’d say “next week.” All of a sudden we had been home for a month and we still hadn’t gone.

But a number of challenges were simply on ourselves. Sometimes I struggle with going alone when I’m not a Jew despite the fact I find it very soul fulfilling. J doesn’t really want to ever go because he doesn’t feel a connection. So sometimes it wasn’t time, it was us.

I can’t make an almost 27 year old man go to services. I can’t bribe him to believe in something. It’s a hard thing to reconcile; that he felt so strongly that our children had to be raised Jewish when he only wants parts of Judaism for himself.

However, this past Shabbat he was willing to duck out of work a little bit early and leave some for the weekend to go with me. We were lucky because summer means outside services and you can hear the congregation singing throughout the neighborhood.

We also really haven’t gotten a ton of chances to hear our new cantor either, and she was as spectacular as we last remembered her. And just as sweet!

I think he was even glad he did. The beautiful part of our synagogue isn’t necessarily the the prayer and the ritual, but the community. Everyone there knew we had gotten married and headed on our honeymoon. They had just been waiting for us to come back to them and it was like a whole other celebration. Everyone wanted to see our pictures, ask about the party, our old Rabbi had officiated so everyone wanted to hear about her. Some older members who weren’t able to come to services in the past years were as excited as people who had known us for years.  It was the beauty of being part of something bigger than ourselves. J had a great time with some older members who thought that he was from Ireland based on his coloring.

I think the best thing anyone can do when looking for a new place to call your spiritual home, find what makes you feel comfortable. For us it was where J felt like he wouldn’t be judged for his brand of Judaism and where I wouldn’t feel like an outsider no matter my choice.

Our struggle was finding the best community, not the one that was the most traditional or the most popular. Part of the reason why I haven’t found a Catholic or even Christian community up here for us to learn and experience is because we can’t find a community that we liked. It seemed like the interfaith subject was more of a deal breaker for them than it was for our Reform Jewish community.

I’m looking forward in the coming months to going more in preparation for the high holy days and continuing to build our community with the older members.

Rosh Hashanah

I very much enjoy Jewish holidays. It actually pains me that my life my fall is my busiest time at work AND not everyone has it off which means if I take it off I continually have this conversation:

Where were you?

It was Rosh Hashanah.

Oh, you’re Jewish?

No, my partner is.

So why do you celebrate?

An then I get to explain that when someone we loves celebrates something different than us, we’re there to support them because that’s what partnership is. 

This past year, however, a magical thing happened. The holiday fell on our off days. So we did something we’ve never done before.

We went to his parents’ to celebrate the holiday with them. In all of our years together this was something we had ever done. Mostly because we were always in school or working. Since we joined our synagogue, we’ve always gone at our home.

At this point and time, only my future sister-in-law knew I wasn’t going to convert. With my decision came the reality that I wasn’t sure where I would fit in with Judaism. It was the hardest thing that I was struggling with after I made my decision.

And it was one of those moments in life, when you realize that life and God have a funny way of working out.

Because in my in-laws 50 odd years and his grandmother’s 70 odd years they had never, ever heard a Rosh Hashanah service that focused on interfaith families.

He began with a story of a family, he’s Jewish, she’s not and the had a baby and decided to raise their child Jewish. They called a mohel the synagogue’s office recommended for his bris, and the mohel refused, saying that the child was not Jewish. The rabbi was embarrassed, and hurt. He had a long conversation with the mohel, they still aren’t on the same side.

Which lead him to writing this sermon.

His entire sermon was a love letter to the partners of Jews who were opting to give up aspects of their own histories and  things they had envisioned  passing onto their own children to instill a faith into their children.

The most surprising thing was he spoke of Oznat, a woman mentioned just three times in the Torah. A woman who I had never heard of. But, the names of her sons are invoked in blessing, yesmichem elohi lefriam vchi-mnashe.  They were the first brothers actually get along, the sons of a non-Jewish woman. She was simply a wife and mother, who was not Jewish but chose to keep her identity and raise her children Jewish. 

He spoke of the Ger Toshav saying :

3000 years ago, the Torah already recognized that there was a group of people who lived among the Israelites and who followed Jewish practices, but who, for whatever reason, chose not to formally join the Jewish people. The Biblical name for this group is Ger Toshav the resident stranger,or the one who lives among you.There are laws about the Ger Toshav all over the Torah youre supposed to share tzedakah with them; youre supposed to treat them with respect; youre supposed to include them in communal life. Thats not to say that there was no distinction. Biblical society most definitely did differentiate between Jew and non-Jew. But whats remarkable about the Torahs approach is that it treats the Ger Toshav essentially as a part of the brit – the family. And in Judaism, being part of the community means being part of the covenant.

And that felt like me. Close to Judaism, but not officially Jewish. Which is how the term K’rov Yisrael came about. A term I like a little better than non-Jew, which feels like an outsiders term. K’rov Yisrael feels like we’re a part of a world we’re so involved in.

He ended the sermon with the following blessing from Rabbi Janet Marder

You are the moms and dads who drive the Hebrew school carpool and bring the refreshments to Shabbaton. You help explain to your kids why its important to get up on Sunday morning and to learn to be a Jew. You take classes and read Jewish books to deepen your own understanding, so you can help to make a Jewish home. You learn to make kugel and latkes; you try to like gefilte fish; you learn to put on a Seder; you learn to put up a Sukkah. You join your spouse at the Shabbat table maybe you even set that Shabbat table and make it beautiful.

You come to services, even when it feels strange and confusing at first. You hum along to those Hebrew songs, and some of you even learn to read that difficult language. You stand on the bima and pass the Torah to your children on the day of their Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and tell them how proud you are and how much you love them, and how glad you are to see them grow into young Jewish men and women.

We know that some of you have paid a significant price for the generous decision you made to raise Jewish children. You have made a painful sacrifice, giving up the joy of sharing your own spiritual beliefs and passing your own religious traditions down to your kids. I hope your children and your spouse tell you often how wonderful you are, and that their love and gratitude, and our love and gratitude, will be some compensation, and will bring you joy.

It may only be June, but the chances of us going to his family for Rosh Hashanah this year are very slim.  As I look back on last Rosh Hashanah, one of the most moving experiences of my life, I am so blessed. I’m blessed to have such a wonderful and supportive family who has never once asked me to change who I am, who have always loved and accepted me because I’m not Jewish, not in spite of it. I’m blessed to have found a community that it open to loving and serving interfaith families. I’m blessed and lucky to be here as the acceptance of interfaith families in all movement grows.

I look forward to the lessons and realizations that this year’s holiday brings.

lasagana

The Acceptance of Interfaith Marriage

Recently JTA published this article about the Rabbis at B’nai Jeshurun, an influential non-denominational New York City synagogue, deciding they would officiate the weddings of interfaith couples who commit to raising Jewish children and having a Jewish home.

On the heels of that announcement, the Jewish Theological Seminary committed themselves to their ban on clergy officiating interfaith marriages.

While the B’nai Jeshurun announcement wasn’t perfect by any means and proves we still have a long way to go in supporting interfaith families, it does feel like a step forward and win for those of us in interfaith relationships.

The other announcement– that cuts me to the core.

It’s not personal, I know it’s part of their interpretation of Jewish laws, that interfaith marriage is a grave danger to Judaism. But it always feels like in some ways, it is personal. That they’re telling me I’ll never be enough. That I’m the grave danger to Judaism.

I don’t think the demand for conversion takes into account what you give up when you make that request. While I inherently feel like my community is my community, it doesn’t negate the 23 years I lived as a Catholic.  The traditions I had since childhood, my childhood community, me as a person.

According to the Jewish People Policy Institute  barely 40 percent of Jews are marrying Jewish spouses and among non-Orthodox American Jews 32 percent are raising their children Jewish.  Those aren’t exactly shining numbers for the survival of Judaism as a faith. But part of that is how easy it is to disengage from your religion when you feel like they don’t accept you or your choices. If you spend your life being told you have to marry a fellow Jew by your community,  and then you don’t do that, there’s no want to be a part of a place that you know isn’t going to accept you.

When we were first looking at synagogues, because I wanted to join one, a Reform synagogue was friendly up until the moment I asked about support for interfaith families practicing Judaism. Then it was clear that there was a strike against us and we realized that we’d never be fully welcomed. He’d always be a man who married outside Judaism, I’d be a woman who took away a nice Jewish boy, our kids would never be Jews to them. So we didn’t join. Instead our dues and our time goes to a different Reform synagogue with programming and support for interfaith families.

So when a group says they see interfaith relationships as a grave danger to Judaism, or they announce a separate but equal program for interfaith marriage, or they’ll accept interfaith marriage BUT still follow matrilineal descent it does feel personal. Because the way I see it, the grave danger isn’t interfaith relationships, but the othering of interfaith relationships and interfaith kids.  Then it’s not just the non-Jewish partner who feels excluded but the Jewish partner because they’re abandoned by their community.

Ultimately some of J’s issues with organized Judaism stems from one of his childhood Rabbi informing him early in our relationship that it was ok for now, but he should marry a Jewish girl. After that, he felt like Judaism wasn’t going to be for him.

People who are interfaith families are going to pick the path that’s right for them and represents themselves the best. For us, it’s mixing in elements of my history and culture but being a primarily Jewish house. We’re lucky that Judaism is an option for us and we feel accepted and at home in our community. For so many people to feel like a community won’t accept them, it’s not surprising to me that less interfaith couples engage with Judaism.

lasagana

A Life Update

Wedding

In a bit of personal news….

 

WE GOT MARRIED!!

ErinandJasonBALLROOMATTHEBENWEDDINGPHILADELPHIAFLCeremony(89of286)

Kiddush cups and unity candle

Part of our interfaith journey has been figuring out what pieces of each of us we bring with us. My families’ marriage traditions were reflected in having a unity candle set. We used a glass with shamrocks for one of them.

ErinandJasonBALLROOMATTHEBENWEDDINGPHILADELPHIAFLCeremony(7of286)

 

Our chuppah included  the tallitots of J’s grandfathers who both passed before we married. erinandjasonballroomatthebenweddingphiladelphiaflceremony152of286.jpg

We had an amazing ketubah which reflected both of us with traditional Hebrew on one side and English translation on the other. We had two sets of old friends as our witnesses, one of which is also an interfaith couple.

It was the most beautiful and meaningful day of my life. Nothing will every come close to feeling the way it did the moment we were actually married.

And then we spent two and a half weeks in Hawaii and I decided relaxin on a beach was more important than writing.

I’ll never say anything was easy when it came to putting together our interfaith wedding. There was a lot of self discovery during the process but through it we came out stronger, better communicators and we knew more about ourselves as individuals. We were also able to create a ceremony that reflects who we are as a couple at this point and time in our lives. There’s no part of the ceremony that felt in authentic to us.

And we had a great party after.

So we’re having a great time being married and rejoining normal life!

lasagana

 

 

Community Shabbat

 

ED8CF5E9-052E-40D8-AC4C-BB749B3645ECEvery 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.

  1. Everyone talks about how it’s in their lives, everyone is respectful, people are understand, everyone leaves learning more.
  2. 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.

 

A Jew-ish Ceremony

I wrote previously about Finding Our Officiant. It was something that wasn’t with out struggle.

Right now I have just 17 days left until I’m married. For a lot of reasons J and I had an engagement that has lasted over two years. And it’s good that we have. It gave us a lot of time to grow not just as a couple but as individuals as well. If it had only been a year I might have rushed into converting thinking I had to do it and I don’t think I would have regretted it, but I do think I might have been less comfortable with my decision.

So our officiant is our friend and Rabbi who left our synagogue to do amazing work in Jewish teen engagement in her home town. It allows her to be closer to her family and do what she’s really good at — youth religious engagement. And she’s like really, really ridiculously good at it. It’s a thing I admire most about her.

Creating our ceremony though, was an assortment of challenges. How Jewish did we want it? What elements of Catholicism did we want? What was she comfortable with? What were we comfortable with?

We started with a few ground rules

  1. The party was about other people. Our parents could decide about the flowers, the band, the food (they didn’t, but they had a lot of input) the ceremony was ours and not for anybody else so if there were things they didn’t like, tough.
  2. We needed to have elements of both
  3. People who were unfamiliar with Jewish traditions needed explanation and translations.
  4. Most of these practices were business practices that had been around for so long that my ancestors partook in them because they had to.
  5. We each got one need to have and one veto that the other one couldn’t argue.

Over the past few months, I think we built an interfaith ceremony that’s the best reflection of us.

We’re having a ketubah, but it’s an egalitarian writing of what we would say to each other if we wrote our own vows (an option presented to us, but weirdly something I’m uncomfortable with) and J’s “need to have” was, and it was a surprise to me, the bedeken. There’s a lot of reading and interpretation about  modesty, inner beauty, a husband’s duty and more but the most common biblical story cited is when Jacob thought he was marrying Rachel but was tricked into marrying Leah because of the veil covering her. J thinks it will be a fun and memorable moment for us, but again, egalitarian so while he puts my veil on, I’ll put his kippah on him.

We will have a chuppah, and we’ll use J’s late grandfathers tallit which has been embroidered with every milestone since the first cousin wedding above us, but we won’t be wrapped in it. My mom ended up really liking the idea of both parents walking me down the aisle. She was traditional for about 45 seconds before deciding that my father didn’t raise me alone.

Our vows will be in both English and Hebrew. We’re consecrating ourselves to each other “In the eyes of G-d and all humanity” as opposed to the traditional “according the laws of Moses and Israel.” We’re using the wine (since wine is also big item in Catholicism I felt like even this action was a bit of a nod towards my heritage.) We’re using the kiddush cup got at his Bar Mitzvah and the chalice I got at my First Communion.  We are having a unity candle, we’re doing a more modern Seven Blessings that acknowledges our differences and we’ll be breaking the glass.

I knew when I decided to marry J what I’d be giving up. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have just a twinge of missing it. While I don’t practice any more, I feel I have too much respect for those rules to violate them for the sake of making other people happy.

This is what my interfaith ceremony looks like. It leans a little bit more Jewish, but in our home and in our lives that’s who we are. It was by no means easy to create. There was a lot of research and a lot of discussion. I ended up vetoing any circling because it didn’t feel like me. Everything in our ceremony feels like both of us. The truth is just as no ceremony fits all people no interfaith ceremony will fit all interfaith couples. We’re lucky that our officiant wanted our ceremony to be something we were both in love with and build it from the ground up because it was ours. At the end of the day only one part of that entire day matters and it’s the 30 minutes where we go from being two separate people to our own family.

 

Shabbat

I’m secretly a little bit jealous of J’s siblings and cousins. None of them are interfaith. So when one of them just plans to do Shabbat, it’s no big deal. For us, people always see it as a thing. They get to celebrate as a family, with their children who are so solid from day one in where they belong. The oldest, at three-years old sings HaMotzi every time she sees bread.

Every restaurant with candles and bread, she celebrates Shabbat with prayers and singing and covering any sort of carby goodness on the table with a napkin and pulling the napkin off like a magician and distributing us pieces of bread that she’s torn off.

It’s the kind of adorable that makes you squeal every time you see it. But in truth, we’ve missed ever doing an actual Shabbat with her. We live a plane ride away and frequently our work schedules prevent us from ever having a weekend off that’s not diligently planned months in advance.

We don’t work in a field that affords us a weekend off consistently. During our busy season, Fridays and Saturdays become our busiest and most hectic days. Even Sundays get crazy.

So really, we don’t have weekends off. Sometimes we do. Usually though I’m spending it at work running around. So it certainly doesn’t help with our religious practice when our clergy has the same off days as us and there’s no services or programs for young adults.

Take this weekend for instance, we had a plan to go to services Friday night. I was going to take a break from work, recenter myself and head back into the thick of work. And then everything blew up at once. So I got stuck at the office and I was here early Saturday morning.

Suffice to say, any sort of services went out the window for us.

J’s family never celebrated Shabbat on a consistent basis. They did when the kids were interested in it, but it was never a part of their regular Friday night family routine. From that, it’s not a part of J’s consistent routine as an adult post the questioning religion phase of college freedom.

The work schedule isn’t a new thing, it’s just a rotating thing. And we got out of one of our best habits when it rotated about a year ago. We also dropped our best habit because I decided not to convert. It was like in doing so, I suddenly felt that Judaism wasn’t “mine” to be a part of if I didn’t have someone legitimate with me. And it’s nothing to do with our community, it is much more of my own anxieties. Like people will know that I’m some sort of fraud in my prayers. And I feel like by me not converting, J got some sort of get out of services free card because it only became a part of his like because it was a part of mine. Unlike me, he doesn’t get much out of organized prayer. Which is a sad thing, I think. But our ritual before was one that I think improved our relationship.

Because we follow Reform Judaism we follow a much more relaxed interpretation of Shabbat. So when we were off together some sort of consistency, we would create our own Shabbat.   Even if it was Tuesday.  And we’d spend the day talking, maybe finally see that movie we’ve been talking about going to, go to minor league baseball game or take a cooking class together. The rule was if there were things that had to be done on the computer, you could only spend two hours on the machine, and there were no phones. We spent most of our time doing things we didn’t always normally do and spending time with each other.

For a while since we could just go to services, go to dinner and hang out on Saturday we stepped away from our truly special ritual we had created for ourselves. And I know life is a little crazier than normal with just three weeks until our wedding. But craziness right now doesn’t excuse the month before when we weren’t three weeks from our wedding.

So I think our honeymoon, which we’re leaving everything with work on the mainland for two weeks and not talking to anyone (ok, except our photographer if she has our wedding photos ready) and hopefully we’ll be able to re make these rituals and this time for each other that we can carry into our marriage.

It’s kind of the beauty of interfaith, we’re designing what is working best for us.

Priorities

It has been hard to write for a bit. There were two bridal showers, a bachelorette, moving and all these last minute wedding plans.

Who knew there was so much that goes into planning for a grand total of like six hours?!? It’s exhausting just planning the party!

So writing kinda fell off my priority list. And I’ve noticed a lot of our priorities shifting and in ways it makes me sad and in ways it makes me happy!

We have a house, and we’re spending so much more time together. We’re so much happier having our own space and space that’s far away from work. It’s amazing how good for your soul a commute can be!

But through the past month we forgot about Purim.

And we forgot about Passover.

And we forgot about Easter.

And I remembered Lent, but it was hard. We haven’t been focusing on going to services at our synagogue. I haven’t been focused on writing. And I could blame it on time, oh I could. But in reality I have time for all those things. I’ve chosen not to do them.

That’s the part that makes me sad. That faith has become less of a priority in our lives. I guess that’s what makes the interfaith thing hard. If we were both Jewish or both Catholic I might feel like I’m “allowed” to make J go to services. But I can’t make him celebrate a holiday that isn’t his own, and despite the acceptance from the community, I’m still a little weird about going to Jewish holiday services on my own. I feel like it’s mine — but it’s not until I’m actually married.

We haven’t been in so long that our Rabbi emailed me to make sure that everything was ok.

It’s hard to figure out where our priorities should fall for now. For me, I put a lot of focus on faith and prayer and I feel unfulfilled when I don’t have those things in my life. J is very opposite. He doesn’t find much in organized faith and religion but instead finds fulfillment in traditions. So it’s a hard balance because we haven’t found the right place for it in our lives.

In that way, our interfaith journey is still very fluid. We started with what we wanted to be: interfaith. And now we’re figuring out the next step not as individuals but as a team. Ultimately this year will be big for us and so I want to make sure we start setting the ground work for our faith identity together within our first year of marriage.   That’s the part I’m still figuring out.

A Jew-ish Lent

When I was a full-time, practicing Catholic I my favorite time of year was Lent.

I’ll admit, it is odd for someone to say that they love Lent. But as a child I liked the challenge of not doing something I enjoyed.  As I got older I enjoyed having that time to reflect on what truly mattered. I also lived for Palm Sunday mass because it was really like a play and I’ve always had a bit of a flair for the dramatic.

When I was younger I would very carefully pick what I was going to give up for Lent, what my yearly challenge would be. I’ve given up foods, video games, makeup (that was the hardest, but also the most fulfilling), social media and wine. I always arrived at Easter Sunday proud of my strength, feeling more spiritually fulfilled and like I didn’t need those things. Some things, I never really went back to.

Still to this day, I do enjoy the Lenten season. There’s a certain peacefulness  when you’re trying not to do something and have to find more fulfilling way to occupy that space in your mind.

When I was in my conversion process I struggled with giving up this time of reflection even if I was replacing it with something else. There are plenty of opportunities for spiritual reflection in the Jewish calendar! Just look at having a mindful Shabbat. But it just didn’t feel the same as what I had grown up with. As much as I love Jewish traditions and as much as they’ve begun to feel like my own, I still want to hold onto some of my own faith-based traditions even if that’s not what half my home practices.

I’ve found that despite my questions of faith, my quest for a spiritual fulfilment at this time of year remains strong.  In recent years, I’ve mixed my love for the season in and the Jewish teaching of Repairing the World or Tikkun Olam.

These days, I’ve stopped giving things up outright. I haven’t found that as fulfilling in recent years. To me, while I understand why it’s done, it doesn’t do much for me. And it feels more like a bragging point than an internal struggle when I hear people talk about it now.   Instead I’ve found it more fulfilling to go out and do something to push myself out of my comfort zone, or changes up my routine but that also helps other people.

 

For me, that’s more spiritually fulfilling than giving up desserts again (which always leads to the age-old question: is a doughnut a dessert or a breakfast food?) This year, I’ve opted to keep my phone on the other side of the room most week nights, but every Friday and Saturday night. That way, when I wake up, instead of playing on my phone waiting for J to wake up I just relax and we spend some time talking in the morning before moving into the hecticness of everyday.

We did just clean out all our clothes. We’ve donated them to a school that will not only donate the clothes, but will earn money for the school based on the weight of clothes that they donate. A lot of them have tags and could be well loved outside of my closet.

This year my big project is volunteering with Girls on The Run, a non-profit that through running and small groups teaches girls that they can. As someone who spent a lot of her childhood (and a decent chunk of adulthood) outwardly confident but inside lacking any confidence, this cause hits home for me.

So while I’m pushing against the Lenten tradition of totally giving a thing up, by spending these 40 days finding different ways to make the world a little bit brighter I feel I’m making an interfaith celebration of Lent.