I just read Rabbi Lev Ba’esh’s post over on www.Interfaithfamily.com, one of my most favorite Interfaith relationship resources, and was touched by how similar our experiences and positions are on performing Interfaith wedding ceremonies.
Anyone who reads my story on my website knows that when I married Wayne, my Christian ex-husband, the list of available Rabbis to officiate a Jewish-Interfaith wedding was a very short one, at best. I can’t remember his name, nor do I have a good memory of him at all. Looking back, he struck me as someone who would marry a cat to a dog, for a check. Uninspiring, to say the least, but he certainly did not help the Jewish factor in my marriage, as my husband formed a strong impression about him, and related that impression to the faith, overall. Bad mistake.
I can’t even begin to recount the numerous run-ins we had about how judgmental, critical, conditional, and exclusionary the Jewish faith was, which couldn’t be farther from the truth – but you know as well as I do, that perception IS 100% of our reality. Sad.
Today, I, like Rabbi Lev, feel I have a completely different impact on the Interfaith families I touch by my Jewish-Interfaith wedding ceremonies.
Also, like him, I am more frequently approached by the Jewish guests than the Non-Jews, with comments about how much I taught them about their own faith. As Jews, we learn to do and say very certain things, but never learn why. We don’t learn the meaning in our lives, we don’t learn why. Our Jewish traditions are beautiful. The fundamental message of our religion is “Do the right thing”. Read the words to the V’Ahavta – the prayer that follows the Shema, the most important prayer a Jew can utter. The words tell us to love God, to speak of Him, remember Him, and take him with us in our hearts every day. If we do that, we will surely make decisions that prove that we were made in his image. We are beautiful people, with a rich, touching history, and being Jewish is a magnificent thing. Unfortunately, too many people aren’t shown the beauty of being Jewish.
My Interfaith wedding ceremonies include lessons about why we do what we do, and what the meaning is in our lives. I always try to relate a Torah portion or lesson from the Torah in my wedding ceremonies, so everyone can take a piece of God home with them. In this way, nobody feels excluded, nobody feels alienated, and even the Jews learn just a little more about our beautiful faith than they knew before.
The end result, hopefully, is that everyone who attended that Jewish-Interfaith wedding, or even Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah feels the beauty that eminates from Jewish lessons. When an Interfaith couple has decided to marry, it is not up to the wedding officiant to judge that decision, but it is our responsibility to strongly and proudly represent our faith. It is up to us to hold our heads up and take a stand for why this Interfaith family should NOT turn their backs on Judaism. It is up to us to put being Jewish in their hands, however we can make that happen. We should NOT try to force anything on anyone, but I just don’t see how strongly representing something so beautiful could possibly be looked down upon. If we believe that God brings man and woman together, what gives Rabbis the right to second-guess his decision?
Jewish, done right, is a magnificent thing. Judaism is the cornerstone of my life. It is my road map to God. It is my light that guides me, teaches me right from wrong, and holds me up when all else fails me. Why wouldn’t I help someone else have that feeling? We cannot be afraid as Jews. We cannot run away. We couldn’t run away in the past, and we must not run away today. We must stand up proudly, and teach our Interfaith couples that Judaism is beautiful, and can be the light that guides us all.
Thanks, Lev. You reminded me again how amazing it is that we have the opportunity to do what we do. I am so grateful.
Want to create your own “dream come true wedding”? Contact Cantor Debbi today to see how you can co-create the event of your dreams.
PS: And don’t forget to stop by our sample ceremonies page to see what your ceremony might look like!