October 7th’s Impact on Interfaith Couples

Rabbi Tarfon compared the Jewish people to a pile of walnuts. “If one walnut is removed, each and every nut in the pile is shaken and disturbed. So too, when a single Jew is in distress, every other Jew is shaken.” (Midrash – Shir HaShirim Raba 6:11)

I’ve been receiving emails since October 7 from Jews, for whom being Jewish secondary (if even that) telling me that suddenly they were acutely aware of being a Jew. Say that sentence to yourself, I am a Jew. It’s different from saying, I’m Jewish. It’s not an adjective, it’s a noun. Many people avoid expressing their identity this way. Suddenly the world reminded us that we are something specific, something different. As one person put it, “I realize I am part of a global family; a family that most of the world doesn’t like.”

This awakening can have many repercussions for an interfaith family.

  1. The Jewish partner may feel misunderstood, invisible, hurt, or angry because the non-Jewish partner doesn’t “get it”.
  2. The non-Jewish partner may feel shocked, frightened. They may have doubts about the safety of raising the children as Jews.
  3. For Muslim-Jewish couples the strain can trigger a sense of global misunderstanding.

To the Jews who just woke up I say, I am so sorry. Yes, you’re a Jew and yes, that is “different” and in many cases, demonized. For those who now want/need the security and comfort of Jewish community – you are not alone. Get it for yourself and your loved ones. Be it a synagogue, a Jewish community center, or a circle of Jewish friends, find support.  You can explain your feelings to your non-Jewish partner and they may or may NOT ever “get it.”  If you seek out couples counseling I suggest you get a Jewish therapist who understands what you’re talking about and should have the language to translate between the two of you. You can’t expect a non-Jew to understand the mentality of a culture they have not been a part of. You can certainly hope, but you can’t make it so.

To the non-Jewish spouses who are stunned by this unsettling change in our political world, sadly this has been there waiting to get out. Trust me, many Jews didn’t know it was still there either. Be patient. Look for what will comfort and reassure your Jewish partner.
In regard to your children, connect with other parents, talk to your rabbi. This is outside your understanding – unless you are a minority and already experiencing prejudice. Don’t beat yourself up for being surprised, even shocked. We all are.
Ask yourself, can we unmake our children’s identity? Would that even be good for them? What can we do to build their sense of security and strength?

For Muslim-Jewish couples, there are so many variations on this union. Consider following some of the Arab Israelis on social media and in newspapers who are articulating the reality on the ground. Many post about the atrocities that Hamas has visited on the Gazan people. They desire the safety and comfort of the innocents. Some organizations are finding ways to get relief aid past the Hamas barriers to the people.

For all of us, speak up, ask for help. Be social, see loved ones. Give to organizations that speak to your values.  Express extra amounts of love to all. Be kind. A grocery clerk was kind to me yesterday, in a small way that he has probably forgotten. I will remember. A small gesture can alter someone’s day.

Beth David Summer Nights (Saratoga)
Bay Area JoC Gathering (Oakland)
Community Tikkun Leil Shavuot (Palo Alto)
Shavuot Celebration 5784 (Fremont)

Beth David Summer Nights
Parents, drop your children (ages 4-12) off at Beth David and enjoy a night to yourselves!
We will provide them with dinner, camp-like activities, and a movie teaching Jewish values in a fun and safe environment.

Dates:  June 2, 19, 30, July 7, 14, 21
Time:   5:00 – 8:00 pm
Place:   Beth David (Social Hall), 19700 Prospect Rd, Saratoga
This event is free, but we suggest an $18 per child donation to cover costs and to help us continue to offer these and other family programs! RSVP HERE

Bay Area JoC Gathering
This event is for self-identified Jews of Color age 21+ in the Bay Area. You are invited to join the Bay Area Pro Network for a casual evening together. This summer gathering is intended to bring our community together for community, networking, and an exploration of the personal and professional values that drive us. One drink and appetizers will be provided by JoCI.

Date:    Wed., June 5
Time:    6 to 8pm
Location in Oakland, location shared upon registration Register
Hosted by the Jews of Color Initiative: Bay Area Professional Network
“Jews of Color” is an imperfect term for a complex identity. JoCI uses a combination of historical context, social structure, and self-determination to conceptualize who might identify as a Jew of Color. Given the U.S. context within which we operate, “Jews of Color” might refer to Jews who identify as Black and/or African American, Native American, Asian American, Pacific Islander American, Latin(x/e), and/or Multiracial American. Some Sephardim (Jews of Spanish or Portuguese descent) and Mizrahim (Jews of Middle Eastern or African descent) self-identify as Jews of Color, as well.


Community Tikkun Leil Shavuot
Join us for an extraordinary night of learning with activities for all ages. Come celebrate the holiday of Shavuot with Torah and community. Registration required. Click here for details. Register here!

Shavuot for Adults and Teens
7:00pm: Expressing the Inexpressible
Since 10/7, finding the words to express who we are and how we are experiencing each moment has become nearly impossible. Poetry and song has always been a means of articulating meaning even in the face of emptiness. Join Rabbi David Booth and Rabbi Chaim Koritzinsky as they explore poetry and song from Israel, endeavoring to give form to what we are feeling. Perhaps the words and their beauty can heal and strengthen us towards more meaningful speech.

8:10pm: Community Singing and Candle Lighting
8:40pm: Shavuot Evening Unity Service
9:30pm: Kiddush and Snacks in Courtyard
10:00pm – 12:30am: Dynamic Learning Sessions with Rabbis and Teachers From Across the Community
12:30am: Blintzes!
1:00am-5:00am: More Study Sessions
5:00am: Sunrise Shacharit

Shavuot for Young Families
5:30pm – 7:00pm: Families with kids ages 0-5 are invited to a Shavuot pizza and ice cream party, with music, movement, and stories.

Shavuot for Kids (K-7th Grade)
7:00pm – 10:00pm: K-7th graders are invited to explore the themes of Shavuot through games, stories, crafts, music, and more. Plus make Mt. Sinai ice cream sundaes!

Date:   Tuesday, June 11
Time:   Begins at 5:30 pm
Place:   Congregation Kol Emeth, 4175 Manuela Ave., Palo Alto
Sponsored by Kol Emeth, Beth Am, Keddem Congregation, Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, Kehillah Jewish High School, Oshman Family JCC and Etz Chayim.

Shavuot Celebration 5784
Our tradition tells us that we were all present together at Sinai. Join us as we continue the tradition of together-ness for our annual joint celebration of Shavuot with Beth Emek of Pleasanton and Temple Beth Torah of Fremont. Rabbis from both shuls will lead our learning together.

Date:   Tuesday, June 11
Time:   7:30pm
Place:   Temple Beth Torah, 42000 Paseo Padre Pkwy, Fremont
Register for in-person or Zoom here