I met an awesome couple yesterday, amid my hectic day of Hebrew School and tutoring. Jason and Melanie had called me a couple of weeks ago, asking about a Baby Naming ceremony for their boys, Aaron and Isaac. An Interfaith couple, he Jewish, and she Catholic, they were looking for someone to perform an inclusive ceremony that would allow them the freedom to celebrate the lifecycle, pay tribute to their Jewish heritage, but without having to make the promise to raise the boys in the Jewish faith, as they were as of yet – unclear as to what path they would take in choosing a faith for their sons. They were pretty clear that somewhere along the line they would make the decision to choose – they just didn’t know which they would choose, and once they did, how they would engage their fairly strong minded families in their choice. Certainly, they saw this choice as a distinct possibility of alienating someone – they just couldn’t predict who.
A common situation these days, especially in my life, I am once again reminded why I do what I do. This couple is on the proverbial fence. The strongest outward presence faith plays in each of their lives are the celebrations and rituals of their past. Neither subscribes particularly to a specific faith today, however, given the events of their lives over the last few years, I am confident they both share a very special relationship with G-d.
Shortly after their wedding, Melanie was diagnosed with cancer.
She is young, vibrant, and beautiful, and she and Jason should have just begun their carefree happy life together, getting to know each other and experiencing life as a married couple. But instead, they were thrust into a life of challenges neither of them could ever have predicted, and traveling a very scary road ahead.
With several treatments left to endure, Melanie was in menopause. She was not sure if she would ever experience the joy of having a child, so she and Jason began to consider adoption. Only a few months later, as Melanie was completing her treatments, she received a phone call telling her that a child had been located for she and Jason. Thrilled, they quickly went through the adoption process with Aaron, and were so incredibly happy to be parents. While there were certainly unknown challenges ahead, they embraced the gift they received, and Aaron was home with them, and they began a new life as a family, and a road to recovery.
Shortly after Aaron’s adoption, Melanie and jason were at her sister’s son’s Baptism. The Deacon performing the Baptism had asked everyone in the ceremony if anyone wanted to be blessed with his special cross. Melanie came forward, hopeful for all possible blessings of healing, and the Deacon said “I just want to let you know, many women who receive this blessing find they become pregnant.” Melanie knew inside this couldn’t be possible, as she had just come out of menopause after her treatments, and doctors told her there was a slim – to no chance that she would get pregnant for years, if ever, as a result of her treatment.
A month later, Melanie wasn’t feeling well. She was clumsy, and tired, and just didn’t feel right. Afraid for her health, she spoke to the Oncologist – who recommended a pregnancy test, just to rule out what small possibility existed. She sent Jason out to buy a pregnancy test, and he brought home 3! Unable to believe the positive results – she bought 5 more tests, and – MORE POSITIVE. Melanie was pregnant! A miracle!
Today, Melanie is 3 years into a Cancer-free life, with 2 amazingly beautiful little boys, Aaron and Isaac, 19 months and 7 months. Both boys have been baptized. Now, they want to give Hebrew names to their children, and I am performing their naming ceremony next weekend. Many Rabbis refused to perform the Naming ceremony, unless they made a promise to raise the boys Jewish, with full exclusion of any Catholic education. Jewish doors closed. Catholic church doors open. What is a liberal, inclusive, open minded and open hearted Cantor to do?
No question in my mind – perform the ceremony, with love, passion, and hope that Aaron and Isaac will know the beauty of the Jewish faith. Based on this family’s history, I am sure that each child will grow up with the core values of faith – love, charity, honestly, good will toward men, the value of education, and a life lived properly in the eyes of God. This is a family who will choose NOT to be faith-less, but faith-full, and I want to make sure that a door remains widely open for them to know Judaism. The alternative is unthinkable to me.
I know that Melanie and Jason have considered far deeper issues in the last 18 months than the religion of their children. I know they value every day they have together, and the gift of children, and a family is the greatest blessing ever. I know they will make right choices for their family, and for the boys. It is not my place to judge this amazing family. It is only mine to give the gift of my Jewish faith, my beautiful heritage, and my love for my G-d, who I know will watch over those boys, regardless of the faith their parents choose for them.
Melanie and Jason – it will be my pleasure to be such a special part of your lives.