What is it like to participant in an interfaith/intercultural couples discussion group? Here’s one couples’ response.
I am a practicing Orthodox Jew, and Birger is a Norwegian-heritage agnostic. We got engaged in August 2006 after a whirlwind courtship, and we planned to be married the following January. It was very important to me that we have an observant Jewish home, but we also really wanted to do it in a way that both allowed Birger to be a full participant in the decision making process and honored his Norwegian heritage. I still think that was a very noble goal but at the time, we really had no tools to make that goal a reality.
We took Dawn’s (Kepler, director of Building Jewish Bridges) interfaith couples class during the fall between our engagement and our wedding. I was more than a little scared about my choice to marry someone who wasn’t Jewish. I was also a little apprehensive of the class because it seemed unlikely that the other couples would be similar to us. But, it turned out that our stories and our challenges did not have to be similar for us to benefit from the experiences, questions, and ideas that the couples brought to the class.
Dawn is an incredibly gifted facilitator. She created a safe space for us to explore what it meant to be an interfaith couple. She put together a series of very thoughtful sessions that helped us think about our values and the traditions that we wanted in our own home. By the end of the class, Birger and I had come to understand that despite our different heritages, our values were very similar. We learned how to articulate what made our different family traditions special to us. These conversations reinforced our commitment to raise our son within the Orthodox community but with extensive exposure to his Norwegian heritage. These discussions also enabled us to do some very creative mash-ups, such as choosing our Passover china based on some key characteristics of the Christmas china of Birger’s childhood.
It is not that there haven’t been any challenges for us being an interfaith couple. It is more that the couples class helped us develop the tools to successfully navigate those challenges. I cannot imagine a better ally to interfaith couples than Dawn Kepler.