Focus on your Love of Judaism, not your Discomfort with other Traditions

I love to share the personal reflections and experiences of individuals from interfaith families. I spotted this article in a synagogue newsletter and contacted the writer for permission to post it here.

Learn to embrace and love Jewish activities instead of focusing on the non-Jewish divide
By Lisa Fernandez

Many of you might already know. My husband isn’t Jewish. This was indeed a big problem in our early dating stages. In fact, I said flat out: I’m not going to marry you. This is just a fling. You’re not Jewish.

But during that fling, we fell in love. And I was deeply conflicted. That’s because I am deeply Jewish.

I ended up going to an interfaith help group back in the 1990’s in Berkeley. I remember the most important thing said in that New Age-y group circle: Stop focusing on the non-Jewish part of your partner, the fact that he or she wants a Christmas tree and that you hate it. Instead, focus on what you LOVE about Judaism and bring that into your relationship.

That was a revelation. I am someone who already celebrates Shavuot and Purim. I can’t wait to celebrate Sukkot and eat outside under the stars. I love Jewish songs. I feel connected to my history and people by keeping kosher. Nothing beats Passover seders with my cousins. The list goes on and on.

And over the years, through a combination of osmosis and practice, my non-Jewish husband has learned to love many of these Jewish things that I love so well. Perhaps his favorite time is Shabbat, enjoying a meal with friends and a few glasses of wine with great conversation.

And I’ve come to the important realization that it’s OK that my husband enjoys some parts of his childhood and heritage too. Just by giving a nod to his traditions, doesn’t mean that I’ve lost what I love about being Jewish.

Lisa is a member of Temple Beth Abraham in Oakland and is the editor of their monthly newsletter, The Omer, where this column was originally published.