Yes, I will be there for you to officiate at your wedding! I just imagine that God is content and joyous when two people find each other and arise in love. It doesn’t matter to God whether one person is Jewish and the other is not. I can imagine that God is reminding us that we should rejoice when we see love elevating people above what we usually perceive as differences only. Love has no bounds; it doesn’t care about color, ethnic origin, short, fat, skinny. Love brings together rather than separates! And who am I to stand in the way of love?
A Parent’s Perspective
I know that many parents want their children to marry other Jews. These sentiments run deep and the possibility that a Jewish child will be lost to the Jewish community can be extremely difficult emotionally for some Jewish parents. We forget that a non-Jewish parent may feel the same kind of loss of a child when he or she decides to marry a Jew. That pain can be just as deep and hurtful.
Perhaps, on an unconscious level parents feel betrayed by their children and not uncommonly parents ask themselves, from place of guilt, “What did I do wrong? What more could I done to ensure that my child would marry within the faith?” I am not sure that anything wrong was done by parents and certainly not by the children. After all, we send our children into the world and they meet many interesting people of other cultures and religions, and sometimes they come to love those “strangers,” and we, the parents, are surprised!
It is also true that couples delude themselves into believing that cultural and religious differences don’t matter, when in reality those differences can create a chasm that can’t be bridged. For example, some couples avoid discussing how they will raise their unborn child: in whose cultural-religious tradition—yours or mine. And when they do become parents, couples–or one of the partners for whom the question of upbringing was not previously important–realize their own attachment to their religious-cultural traditions. It may not be logical to others, but the person wants his/her children to participate in the world that reflects at least some measure of their own identity.
And so the child or children do come and the couple finds itself at a stalemate. Perhaps they decide that they will attempt to raise their child or children in both faith traditions, but what does this do to the identity of a child? The research that I have read suggests that the child doesn’t feel at home in one or the other faith community. The child is marginalized and doesn’t know where he or she belongs. His/her identity is ambiguous and the child, especially as he/she grows older, feels lost and homeless culturally and religiously.
So, is there way of turning what seems at first hand unfeasible into something that has a future of fulfillment, laden with wonderful possibilities? After all, doesn’t God Smile when two people find each other and rise in love?
Interfaith Premarital Counseling
I believe in possibilities, and as a matter of principle I strongly believe in discussing matters openly, even when it hurts. I feel a special obligation to couples where one of the partners is Jewish and the other is not to guide and help them examine their relationship honestly and openly.
This is not my attempt to dissuade a couple from getting married! On the contrary, I want to help a couple explore the possibilities that they may have for a future together. So that before the ceremony takes place, as part of our meetings, I will be ready for a discussion about some of the possible impediments that may stand in the way of a successful marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew, and I will happily offer possibilities to a fruitful future together.
Remember, I believe that God is smiling with delight when two souls have found each other. And as for me, I too will smile as I officiate at your wedding ceremony and I will say “Mazal Tov,” congratulations.