This is a guest post by Sarah Malakoff at Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis.
Even in a world with JDate and Jewish moms meddling through TheJMom, we all know that not all Jews marry other Jews. We marry whom we love, be they Jewish or not.
No relationship is without its challenges. Throw different religions into the mix, and you might have a whole other set of issues to overcome. But wonderful experiences of understanding, acceptance and love for each other’s upbringing can accompany any struggles an interfaith couple encounters. As a child of a Jewish man and Catholic woman — trust me — I know!
I got the chance to talk about interfaith relationships recently with Barbara Rudnick, who holds an MA in Counseling and Psychological Services. She’ll be leading a set of workshops in March and April for interfaith couples and has wonderful insights for couples.
“One Couple, Two Faiths” will explore identity, beliefs and practices; the impact of two faiths on a relationship; expectations of family; religious identity of children and how to discuss sensitive issues.
The workshops will be held on four Tuesdays (March 22 and 29, and April 5 and 12) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis (13100 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka). Please RSVP by Tuesday, March 15, to Barbara at 952-542-4825 or [email protected]. The fee for “One Couple, Two Faiths” is $50 per couple. Please call Barbara if you would like to request a confidential fee adjustment.
Here’s what Barbara had to say about some of the topics she’ll be covering:
Q: What are the most common issues that arise in an interfaith relationship?
A: Every couple is different and so the issues vary. Generally, common initial issues are about families and celebrating holidays. As the relationship progresses, couples focus on raising children and religious identity and beliefs.
Q: What are positive things that couples experience or learn because they are interfaith?
A: Successful interfaith couples respect each other and value the differences that each person brings to the relationship. They learn how to have successful conversations about sensitive, emotionally charged and difficult subjects. There is a willingness to learn about each other’s beliefs, customs and traditions.
Q: What are some suggestions for couples who might be navigating negativity or sensitivities from family members?
A: Be patient. Family members that are having difficulty with the idea of an interfaith relationship need time to get to know the other person. Be respectful even if family members are not. Avoid threats or ultimatums. Be open to conversations and be willing to listen to concerns and questions of others. Each person needs to take the responsibility for communicating with his or her own family.
Q: How do you recommend couples explore the issue of raising children?
A: This is a very complicated subject. Some couples are able to figure this out on their own. For those who struggle with this, I suggest getting help from clergy and/or other helping professionals who are knowledgeable about interfaith couples. Coming to One Couple, Two Faiths could help tremendously!
Q: What tips do you have for couples sharing new holidays with family?
A: Take some time to learn about the holiday and talk to your partner about his/her family customs and traditions. If you or your family is the host, translate everything into English that is said in a foreign language and ask about dietary restrictions. Holiday celebrations are not the time to have sensitive conversations, so if difficult topics are raised, make plans to get together at another time to talk.
Q: Are there any helpful books or websites you suggest to couples?
A: Two of my favorite websites are www.JOI.org and www.interfaithfamily.com