There are many people who end up in mixed religion marriages and relationships. Before my divorce, my ex and I had a household in which we honored all the traditions of our family backgrounds. At the time, he was a self-described “non-believer in G-d, period ” but was raised Catholic. I was raised by a Catholic/Protestant Mom who converted at the Jewish Theological Seminary for my Jewish father. We observed Jewish holidays, but I didn’t receive a Jewish education. Dealing with mixed backgrounds is in my blood. So when I married a Catholic, I said it was important to me to observe Jewish holidays and honor both backgrounds.
In a world that is pulsing with the celebratory twinkle of Christian holidays like Easter and Christmas, it felt like the more understated and less commercial traditions of the Jewish religion got pushed aside in my interfaith family. How can one compete with iconic characters such as Frosty, Santa and Rudolph? They may not be religious icons, but they certainly make Christmas hard to ignore.
It’s important to make sure that the Jewish practices or ideals that you treasure are incorporated into your mixed religion household because we never want to forget where we came from or who we are. When I married a man outside of the faith, it meant a lot to me, especially as a mother, that I still have the Jewish traditions that I had as a child.
For me, this was second nature. My mom often shared stories of her Christian upbringing, and I learned about Irish culture and beliefs. But when you’re trying to keep the Jewish culture alive in a home that consists of non-Jews, it can be hard to keep all parties on board with that mission. Here are some suggestions for making sure your values and beliefs don’t fall by the wayside.
1. Establish Your Priorities
Whether it’s Sabbath or a Passover Seder, make sure you decide on the most important elements of your Jewish faith and make them a priority. Giving your non-Jewish partner a whole bunch of things to do outside his or her element may be difficult and perhaps unfair. Pick the battles that are the most important and make them a habit. It will be up to you to make Jewish holidays and traditions a part of the family fabric.
2. Never Forget Where You Came From
I loved living in a mixed religion household with different traditions. Hey, Rudolph and Santa are fun and Christmas is a magical time of the year, but I didn’t forget the things I was raised with. Those things come from your heart.
3. Make It Easy To Understand
When you’re trying to explain Judaism or Jewish culture to someone from your interfaith family, stick to the basics and build from there. Hanukkah is a pretty familiar holiday but for the most part, people still are unsure what exactly Jews believe. Fill them in on the essentials, then allow them to ask questions or request more details.
4. Make It Fun
I hate to be bored, so I keep Jewish traditions fun in my house. Not everything can be pomp and circumstance, but having fun while incorporating who I was into my former marriage made it all the better.
Now that I am divorced and have my own home, I can run traditions how I see fit, which is amazing. But there’s no reason you can’t still have a great time enjoying your favorite Jewish traditions in an interfaith family, especially when you use these helpful tips.
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