Early on in my rabbinate, I decided I would officiate at weddings for interfaith couples if they agreed to have a Jewish family and raise Jewish children. I honestly hadn’t given the issue much thought and believed this was a typical position of many of my fellow Reform rabbinical colleagues. I remember one conversation in which the couple did not agree to these parameters and I refused to officiate at their wedding.
More than 100 friends and neighbors from across Greater Cleveland joined together on February 12 to celebrate our shared earth at the Interfaith Tu B’Shevat Seder. This annual event, hosted by the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and Holden Forests & Gardens, was a chance to integrate all of our traditions, connect with friends old and new, and enjoy a delicious feast of the fruits of the land.
When Nina and Scott decided to get married, they were determined to respect each other’s religious background – she is Jewish, he was raised Catholic. They planned their interfaith wedding, with the help of Rabbi Enid Lader of Beth Israel – The West Temple, who encouraged Nina and Scott to participate in The Taste of Judaism courses, sponsored by jHUB, a joint initiative of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland, and is an InterfaithFamily affiliate.
A long time ago in medieval Spain, there were three great religious leaders. Saladin was the leader of Muslims. Don Pedro led the Christians. And, the Jews were led by Ephraim Santzi. These leaders wanted to know which of their faiths was the true religion of the one God. Ephraim, in an attempt to answer the question and not offend his colleagues, responded with a story.
Babies, babies, babies! It seems like I’m learning of a new birth or pregnancy daily. I love hearing these couples’ good news, celebrating with them, witnessing the love and excitement, hope and anticipation of discovering who these new souls will become and what their future accomplishments will be. Each new baby brings new opportunities, new possibilities, new joys.
He lied to me. Yep, that’s right. A person I looked up to and admired lied straight to my face. At first, I was pretty ticked off. Then, I felt disappointed. Later, I was just plain sad. I’m not really sure how to process this. I want to resolve my feelings, but am finding it difficult to get past this moment.
If you don’t know your history, you don’t know where you are going,” said one of the participants as we were seated together in a circle. Twenty couples with diverse backgrounds, faiths and practices. Some have children. Some do not. But what we all have in common is some connection to Judaism and a desire to learn so we can figure out the next steps to our own personal journeys.
Looking for a new ways to celebrate Hanukkah with your family this year? Check out 8 Nights of Alternative Giving, brought to you by jHUB, a joint initiative of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland (JECC) that connects interfaith families to Jewish life in Greater Cleveland, and to each other.