This post originally appeared on JewishBoston.com, and was written by Sam Kaplan and Rachel Wilson on behalf of Reform Jewish Outreach Boston
When I was introduced to Rachel by a mutual friend, I was told that she was my perfect match: cute, fun, and Jewish! Well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad! Given the topic of this blog post, I’m sure you can guess which one our friend was wrong about! Our religious differences didn’t immediately seem to be a problem, and Rachel was quick to offer to convert without really thinking about what it would mean for her. As our relationship progressed, we both realized that we had to reconcile our individual (and very different!) sets of past traditions and current religious practices with what we wanted from faith and a religious community going forward.
As we became more serious as a couple, we knew that this subject needed to be addressed if we wanted to have a future together. Luckily we heard about a program called Yours, Mine, and Ours through Reform Jewish Outreach Boston. During the weekend long discussion group we met other interfaith couples in various stages of life (engaged, newly married, married with a baby on the way) that made us realize we weren’t alone in our struggle with these issues. The program forced us to take a hard look at our relationship and taught us how to communicate better with one another about our wants and needs. We learned that we could compromise without sacrificing our individuality, and that all of our differences, including our religious backgrounds, were not a barrier to taking the next steps in our relationship. If we could overcome the biggest hurdle to Jewish-Gentile cohabitation – the issue of the Christmas tree – then we could compromise on anything. If only our elected officials in Washington could enroll in the next session of YMO!
While Yours, Mine, and Ours helped us resolve some of our issues as a couple and furthered our commitment to one another, taking the next step in our relationship led to more questions. After becoming engaged to be married, we started talking about how we would raise our future children. Rachel was open to having a Jewish household, but wanted to be able to participate fully when our kids asked her a question, as opposed to always directing them to “go ask your Dad.” If she was going to learn all about my faith, I felt that I owed it to her to be at least as knowledgeable, which required me to brush up on my own Judaism! Luckily, Reform Jewish Outreach Boston also offers a class called Introduction to Judaism, which does exactly what its name implies: It provided us with an introduction to Jewish history, customs, and celebrations. The class helped renew my faith and made me want to participate more fully in elements of Judaism that had fallen by the wayside long ago: Shabbat dinners, speaking and reading Hebrew, and Temple services. The visit to the Mikveh at Mayyim Hayyim caused our relationship to come full circle as Rachel again offered to convert, but this time it was a decision based on careful consideration of all it would mean for her and for us.
We got married this past August under a Chuppah in a traditional Jewish ceremony. It was the happiest day of my life, and I can honestly say I am not sure it would have happened if it hadn’t been for Reform Jewish Outreach Boston and the programs they offer. In addition to learning how to talk to each other, we’ve also learned how to communicate to our families about our choices. Rachel’s parents have become involved in our Jewish life together; her father built the Chuppah for our wedding and her mother sewed the cover. During the ceremony, both of Rachel’s parents danced the hora together with my family.
Perhaps the most important lesson we learned during our classes is that there is no “right” way. We have the opportunity to make Judaism our own, participating in ways that matter to us and integrate other core values. Our version of kosher eating, for example, involves participating in a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, making an effort to know where our food comes from and supporting local farmers. Rachel is in the process of converting and we will soon make another trip to Mayyim Hayyim. While we are soon to be a Jewish couple as opposed to an interfaith couple, there are sure to be other disagreements and issues as we live our life together. I am confident that we will be able to overcome them as a result of our experiences with the programming offered by Reform Jewish Outreach.
Sam and Rachel are RJOB Introduction to Judaism and Yours, Mine & Ours Graduates. For more information on RJOB programs, please contact Joyce Schwartz at 617-928-0012. Or find us at http://www.reformjewishoutreachboston.org/