So You’ve Fallen In Love with a Gentile…

interfaith chitribe

So You’ve Fallen In Love with a Gentile…A Jewish View of Interfaith Relationships

Rabbi Daniel Kirzane is a millennial from an interfaith family who serves Oak Park Temple, a reform congregation in Chicago. Rabbi Kirzane was ordained from Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute and is a strong supporter of interfaith relationships. 

It takes you, it takes “Jew,” and it takes two.

interfaith chitribe

I’m a millennial, I’m a rabbi, and I grew up in an interfaith family.  We celebrated Christmas at home and Hanukkah at temple, attended Easter egg hunts and community seders.  I always knew I was Jewish, and as a Jewish kid, I helped my parents decorate the tree or dye the eggs without a trace of irony or guilt.

I’ve worked with a lot of interfaith couples, usually where one person used to be fairly involved in Jewish life (but isn’t really anymore) and where the other person was born Christian (but isn’t really anymore).  These couples want to ground their relationship in something sacred and powerful without giving over their family lives to a religious system they don’t believe in.

So I get it.  There’s a lot to love about non-Jewish traditions: secular American traditions as well as religious traditions from other faiths.  One of the best parts of the 21st century is that we can use any and all of these traditions to enrich our personal lives and to expand meaning in our relationships. 

If this describes your relationship, listen up: Judaism is here for you. You just need to keep three things in mind: It takes you, it takes “Jew,” and it takes two.

interfaith chitribe

It Takes You

Reform Judaism teaches how individuals make community rather than the other way around.  We believe that educated people can make informed choices for what works for them, and those choices are authentically Jewish.  

The catch is the “informed” part. Reform Judaism patiently promotes this exploration to find what works for you. Here’s the surprising twist: I’ve found that the more often someone can say “I’ve thought a lot about X, and it does not work for me” the more often they actually DO find something else that actually works does work for them. So I’m extending an open invitation to seek out what works for you…

Which brings us to…

interfaith chitribe

It Takes Jew

Jews in interfaith relationships often find themselves in the surprising position of caring more about Jewish life now than they did when they were single (or even when they dated Jews).  But the plague of imposter syndrome takes over, and it can be hard to know how to incorporate some meaningful aspect of Jewishness into the life of the couple.

Talking to the Jews: It’s up to you to “bring the Jewish.”  Trust your own background, even if your memory is spotty, and even if you really really hated Hebrew School.  Feel free to use your expert Googling skills to study up on what you’ve forgotten since then.  Also, I recommend checking out reformjudaism.org if you are interested in a ton of great information for people of all backgrounds.

Nothing replaces face-to-face connections, so the best way to engage with Judaism is to get together with others on the same journey.  Find a Shabbat dinner, attend a community event, or even (dare I say it?) check out a synagogue.

But don’t go alone!  Because…

interfaith chitribe

It Takes Two

All of this Jewish exploration will mean so much more with a partner. Couples need to agree on the communities and practices that bring meaning into their lives, and it is ’s hard for one person to manage “the religious stuff” for everyone. There is no need to feel awkward or embarrassed attending new Jewish events or organizations.

Judaism is here for you, and I do not just mean Jews.  I have a rabbi bias but Judaism is a religion that anyone can find meaning in.  

It takes you, it takes “Jew,” and it takes two.

 

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Written by Rabbi Daniel Kirzane

 

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