Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Updates: “Inter-Faithed” Responds

It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing today. After the jump, we hear from Inter-Faithed, who wondered how to get her Catholic boyfriend to seriously discuss the possibility of raising their children Jewish. After the jump, find out how that discussion finally went down.

 

Wendy, thanks so much for the response. I had not known that your husband was Jewish, but I am glad you had that perspective to offer. I was always quick to drop the subject when I could tell my boyfriend wanted me to because I thought that I was trying to talk about things too soon. But your response and many of the posters confirmed for me that I do need to have this out with him now. So last Friday afternoon I sat him down and told him that we had to discuss this, because if we couldn’t agree then it would be better to end things between us now. I told him he shouldn’t tell me what I want to hear just to keep me, because if its not the truth it wouldn’t do any good.

At first, he said he hadn’t given it much thought because kids are a long way off, but after a little more prodding we had the conversation we needed to. He is okay with the idea of raising Jewish children and, before I could even say it, he said that he wouldn’t want to raise them with mixed religions because it would be too confusing — whatever faith they have, it can’t be “half-assed,” (his words) it has to be all the way. This is how I feel too, and I went further to explain that this meant no Christmas tree in the house, that he could attend church but the kids would not accompany him, and that I would expect him to be on board with all the Jewish holidays — no bread in the house for Passover, lighting Hannukah candles, big family dinners, etc. In the meantime, I told him I would like him to attend more Jewish events with me to get a greater understanding for what he is getting into. I made the deal with him that I would accompany him to church events/services as well, when he wants me to, as proof that I am not trying to convert him and encourage him to keep his faith… but that he could not expect that our children would go with him.

Also, my synagogue is very religious; the men and women sit separately which makes it difficult for him, so I told him I would find a conservative synagogue in the area that we could attend instead so that I would be able to sit next to him and explain what was going on. I was raised in a conservative synagogue and intended to raise my children (especially any girls) the same way, so this will just make me make the move there a little earlier.

I feel alot better having had this conversation, and I’m lucky that he is so understanding and willing to give me what I need. Thanks to all the posters who shared their insight, and success stories (or non-success stories).

 
Congratulations on finally having the conversation you needed to have. Isn’t it nice to have that weight off your shoulders? Best wishes to you both for a happy and long future together.

If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at [email protected] with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.

122 comments… add one
  • avatar

    pinot23 March 25, 2011, 12:38 pm

    I appreciate your plan and not wanting to “half-ass” it. But forbidding your children from EVER accompanying their father to church? Like his religion is some sort of cast off, bad habit that their dad has? No bueno.

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      sarolabelle March 25, 2011, 12:40 pm

      I agree. I don’t see anything wrong with raising children to appreciate and understand both religions but whatever works for them.

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      mf March 25, 2011, 1:08 pm

      Agreed. It’s fine to raise your kids in one religion, but treating your husband’s religion like “bad habit” will only cause resentment. Besides, your kids are gonna wonder where Daddy goes on Sunday morning, and you’re gonna have to come up with an explanation that is respectful to your husband and his beliefs.

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    • becboo84

      BecBoo84 March 25, 2011, 2:09 pm

      100 % agree. I think a little compromise is in order and the LW’s “my way or the highway” approach definitely wouldn’t have sat well with me. However, if they’re both okay with it, I guess that’s all that matters.

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    • avatar

      abby March 25, 2011, 2:37 pm

      That part rubbed me the wrong way as well. It seems like she is doing very little compromising on the kids issue, though I applaud her willingness to attend church services with him, and to find a synagogue where they can sit together so she can explain what’s going on.

      Will her partner also just stop celebrating Christmas, Easter, and other Christian holidays? I fear that her approach re: no Christmas tree, etc, will only serve to make the kids think Daddy’s religion isn’t really important, or has to be done in secret.

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    • avatar

      Spark March 25, 2011, 6:49 pm

      I agree. The kids could still be 100% Jewish but go to Daddy’s church occasionally, especially if Daddy does all the Jewish stuff! I’m Catholic, but going to other religion’s events as a kid didn’t uproot my religion; it was just neat to see and learn about.

      And whatever floats her boat, but it sounds so harsh to automatically and forever exclude a secular Christmas tree.

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      • avatar

        emma March 26, 2011, 1:02 am

        Spark,
        I’m really confused about your term ‘a secular christmas tree’. I just don’t see how a christmas tree could ever be secular in the same way that a menorah could ever be anything but jewish. As the daughter of a jewish father and Catholic mother my parents made the conscious choice to raise us jewish as my fathers family are holocaust survivors. Of course a couple of times we went to church with my mother and even celebrated christmas with her parents when we were all old enough to understand what was going on. But being ‘100% jewish’ is a pretty constant struggle in the US today. Christianity permeates almost all of our daily modern lives in hidden and obvious ways. It is a real struggle to create ‘100% jewish’ identities for children especially when you group up in places where there are 3-4 jewish families in elementary school or town. It’s not that it’s going to uproot their religion. it’s that its going to dilute it.

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      • avatar

        Zel March 27, 2011, 5:53 am

        Much of Christian religious tradition is borrowed from pagan traditions (Christmas and Christmas trees are two examples). No religion can be practiced purely in the U.S., as it is a secular country without one religion. If Christians didn’t feel their religion was diluted by culture, they would not establish private Christian schools etc.

        My husband was raised Hindu, I was raised Christian. Neither one of us practices or believes, but our kids enjoy both Diwali and Christmas as times to create family traditions. They know the history of the holidays, but they understand these holidays, like anything else in life, are ultimately what you make of them.

        There are very few places without religious diversity, none of which I would want to live in. Our children are as much Indian as they are European, and will make their own choices about religious and cultural identity when they want to. Until then, we’re not about to tell them one part of their heritage is more important than the other.

        What I’m trying to say here is that there is more than one way of doing this. And secular Christmas trees are indeed possible, because a Christmas tree is a symbol, and symbols carry the meaning we ascribe to them.

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    ArtsyGirl March 25, 2011, 12:42 pm

    Well I am happy you were able to work it out, but I have to say that it sounds like everything ended up pretty heavy on your side rather than compromise. I mean, the kids are going to be raised Jewish, you are willing to go to services but he also has to attend yours and future children will never attend Christian services, you will not celebrate any ‘Christian’ holidays even though Christmas and Easter are secularized in this day and age, etc.

    I would say to keep a more open mind, it is very apparent that your religious beliefs are an important part of your life and identity, but if you decide to start going to conservative or even reform services then maybe you could loosen your hold on small things like a Christmas tree and Santa Claus. Hell they even make ornaments which relate to the Jewish faith and you could have an all blue and white tree (which was common in a lot of my friends’ homes).

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    • avatar

      Hana March 25, 2011, 2:54 pm

      because everything was so heavy on her side I wonder if he just agreed right now to get her to stop talking about it. I don’t really remember the letter but if someone who I wasn’t sure I wanted to marry brought this topic up to me and wouldn’t let it go, I would tell them we need to talk about it later. I think it is a good topic to discuss with a partner, but to bring up children when your not talking about marriage is a lot of strain on a relationship. But like I said, they could be in that right before engagement spot. I don’t remember.

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  • avatar

    Katie March 25, 2011, 12:45 pm

    I dont picture this plan going over so well once the kids are born. I think it’s messed up that the dad would have to go to church alone and there cant even be a Christmas tree. She is really going to isolate herself from his family this way. Of course he was basically willing to agree to whatever because of how she phrased it : “if we couldn’t agree then it would be better to end things between us now”. Of course he agreed! He loves her and wants to be with her. But this just seems strange that the kids cant share any part of his faith, much less even some traditions. A Christmas tree doesnt require Christian faith! Good lord. I feel like this will drive a wedge between them that will only get worse over time. This wont work.

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    • avatar

      sarolabelle March 25, 2011, 12:58 pm

      200% agree with you. It’s their father going out of the house and going to his church services. As a kid I would wonder where he was going, and also how is this going to make him feel when he gets to that point? It’s going to make him feel very alone in his own house. Shame….real shame. But she got her way. I feel sorry for the guy.

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      • avatar

        Katie March 25, 2011, 1:09 pm

        he will start resenting her more and more for requiring him to set aside a huge part of who he is. he loves her so he is trying to be the “bigger” person by letting his beliefs fall to the way side. this cant last. It will end in divorce and once that happens, they will both be in 100x angrier battle over how the kids are raised.

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      • avatar

        katie March 29, 2011, 10:02 pm

        This, a million times over. I read the first letter and it’s tone is completely different than the second one. These poor kids.

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    • caitie_didnt

      caitie_didn't March 25, 2011, 3:04 pm

      I agree! I really, really don’t see this working out long-term. The LW tried to sound like she was willing to compromise in her initial letter, but if she is this Orthodox it will be virtually impossible. I also agree that the guy went along with whatever she said just so she’d stop talking about it.

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    • avatar

      kali March 26, 2011, 4:45 pm

      Not to mention Grandma and Grandpa will be celebraing Christmas, Easter, etc. and may send *gasp* gifts for those Christian holidays…

      I think LW needs to relax a little and realize that life and marriage require compromise on most things. She sounds like a control freak which does not bode well for the long term.

      For now, though, she’s happy, I guess. So MAZEL TOV!

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  • avatar

    Jessica March 25, 2011, 12:52 pm

    I am so annoyed by this response. You seem like you’re very controlling. Just sayin’

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      Katie March 25, 2011, 1:03 pm

      yes she sounds VERY VERY controlling!!! it’s just sad all the good ones get taken by women like that for some reason LOL. If I find a guy that concerned about how I feel and what I want for “our” kids someday I would treat him with respect and value. I dont feel like she respects his backround or values his beliefs. So sad to see a good guy wasted on a woman like her.

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      • avatar

        spaceboy761 March 25, 2011, 1:17 pm

        She isn’t being controlling, she’s made the decision to make a more Conservative/Orthodox observance of the faith. How that jives with her current choice of boyfriend, I’m still not sure.

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        Katie March 25, 2011, 1:19 pm

        just because he willing accepts her being controlling and goes along with it without much protest DOESN’T mean she is not being controlling. It just means she found a man willing to be controlled.

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      • avatar

        spaceboy761 March 25, 2011, 1:24 pm

        Observing your religion as you choose isn’t being controlling; it’s a basic right that the LW has just as much as anybody else.

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      • avatar

        Liza March 25, 2011, 1:27 pm

        Just as having your religious differences respected is a basic right the boyfriend of the LW is not being afforded.

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        Katie March 25, 2011, 1:29 pm

        correct! but the kids will ALSO be his kids. if they agree to practice different religions thats their own deal, but having the kids only raised to follow the beliefs of only one of their parents is controlling and/or selfish if you ask me.

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      • avatar

        spaceboy761 March 25, 2011, 1:45 pm

        Her plan will not work with kids.

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  • avatar

    Liza March 25, 2011, 12:56 pm

    The sad thing is that if this works out the way she envisions, not only will she isolate the boyfriend/future dad, she is actually creating a platform for her children to convert to Christianity or any other religion, because eventually they will get curious and will want to know more about Dad’s “secret religion that can’t be mentioned.”

    I’ve seen families that go for this style of interfaith parenting; the children eventually reject the religion they were brought up with.

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  • avatar

    MissDre March 25, 2011, 12:56 pm

    I pretty much agree with what everyone else here said. Raise your kids Jewish, that’s fine. Teach them about the faith and practices. But I don’t see how the Easter Bunny is religious… just tell your kids that the big white bunny comes and hides chocolate in the house when they are sleeping. Nothing Catholic about that!

    And what happens when the kids get old enough to be curious about where Daddy is going on Sundays? What if they decide they want to go with him to see what it’s about? Are you going to forbid them?

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    • avatar

      sarolabelle March 25, 2011, 12:59 pm

      yeah, she pretty much said that more than once that she would forbid them. And by forbidding them to go it makes kids think that their father’s church is bad. Shame.

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      • avatar

        Hana March 25, 2011, 2:47 pm

        I have friends who actually believe their own father is going to hell. They were raised in their mothers denomination and not their fathers. Anyone who is not their denomination might as well stop trying. They are all christian…

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  • avatar

    Allie March 25, 2011, 1:00 pm

    In my own opinion, I think allowing a Christmas tree in the house, and letting the children go to church with their father every now and then would not be the end of the world. I’m also wondering what this would mean for his parents–could they not have the children over during Christian holidays? Can they not give the kids Christmas presents or easter baskets?

    I agree that it’s better to be raised in one religion than going halfsies, but their father should also be allowed to express his religion with them since it’s part of who he is. They are also his children. Once again, this is just my opinion, but from what the letter writer wants for her future children, it might be more realistic to look for a Jewish spouse.

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    • avatar

      WatersEdge March 25, 2011, 1:07 pm

      Exactly. She is pretty much villanizing Christianity. I’m not even practicing and I’m offended.

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    • avatar

      maynard March 25, 2011, 1:42 pm

      Didn’t see your reponse before I wrote mine but I completely agree – and you bring up a good point about the potential future fathers parents/family. Will they have to pretend they don’t excist on Christian holidays?

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      • avatar

        Allie March 25, 2011, 2:11 pm

        That’s what I wonder. I’m an atheist who was raised as a protestant, and for many Christian families, Easter and Christmas are big get-togethers. In my family, they were usually the only times I would see aunts, uncles, and cousins who lived far away…what if its similar for her boyfriend’s family?

        It seems like if they do end up together, her family could potentially get wayyyyy more time with the kids, while the kids could very possibly be isolated from the other side of the family. That’s just not fair.

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      CG March 25, 2011, 2:34 pm

      Allie, I was not raised Jewish, but my mother’s religion forbade the celebration of Christmas. My father’s parents, who were Methodist, were really unhappy about that, so my mom and my grandparents compromised and we celebrated Thanksgiving instead — no tree or religious symbolism, but we did the gift exchange then. So hopefully the LW will be willing to compromise with her BF’s family and allow some kind of Christmas-like celebration for the children that doesn’t have any religious undertones. But I agree with everyone else, I don’t see this relationship working long-term.

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  • avatar

    Lindsay March 25, 2011, 1:04 pm

    I’m glad things worked out. I have to agree with the above commenters, though. I think it’s good to establish that the children will have one religion, but be open to changes once you have children. If they their dad not being allowed to acknowledge his religion at home or in front of them, then it may look to them as though their dad is being shunned from the family. Obviously, your choices have to do with the children’s religion, but essentially, your future husband won’t be allowed to practice his faith at his own home, which could cause problems later on.

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  • avatar

    WatersEdge March 25, 2011, 1:05 pm

    Yeesh, what they said. Especially the part about how the children are forbidden from attending church with their father. Are you afraid they’ll like it better or something? A word of warning- you know what kids do when you forbid something.

    I think that the way you’re approaching the situation is very one-sided and disrespectful. You’d be better off asking him to convert, rather than openly disrespecting his religion in front of the kids by refusing to let them engage in it in any capacity whatsoever… The message that you will send to your kids is “Your pathetic misguided father can go to church by his sorry self, but we don’t go there because we know the true and only way to worship God”. Do you plan to tell the kids that Daddy’s not going to Heaven, too? And what if their grandmother hosts an Easter egg hunt for all the cousins, and what about spending Christmas with his family? You should seriously work on respecting other faiths and developing a little tolerance.

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    • avatar

      mf March 25, 2011, 1:14 pm

      You bring up a lot of good points. Have in-laws that are another religion means that you can’t shun that faith and the accompanying traditions. The kids are going to be exposed to it whether their mother likes it or not. So it’s probably better to allow Dad to practice his faith at home. At least that way, both parents can influence the kind of messages the kids receive about Christianity and other religions.

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      • avatar

        WatersEdge March 25, 2011, 1:25 pm

        I really don’t think that this LW should pursue an interfaith marriage. Either he should convert or she should marry a Jewish guy.

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      • Ginger

        Adler March 25, 2011, 1:35 pm

        I agree with WatersEdge. I understand wanting to raise her future kids Jewish, but I don’t see how by demonizing her husband and in-laws religion she expects to raise healthy, well adjusted kids that will accept others they meet through their lives.

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      • avatar

        elisabeth March 25, 2011, 4:05 pm

        Yes. She knows what’s important to her, and that’s fine, but imposing those beliefs on others is a really hard line to cross.

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        sarolabelle March 25, 2011, 1:26 pm

        yeah, boyfriend’s parents, siblings and aunts and uncles will have Christmas trees. What will she tell the kids then? What will happen with grandma and grandpa want to give them Christmas gifts?

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      spaceboy761 March 25, 2011, 1:29 pm

      For what it’s worth, LW’s approach might seem OK on paper, but it won’t work with the kids involved. She’s basically driving a wedge between her husband and her kids before they’re even born by declaring his beliefs as inferior. The kids are not going to fare well in that environment.

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      • avatar

        Katie March 25, 2011, 1:38 pm

        ok maybe we dont agree on the “controlling” aspct, but we do agree on the “driving a wedge” part hehe

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  • avatar

    Meg March 25, 2011, 1:09 pm

    I think there’s a difference between raising her kids decidedly Jewish (rather than bringing them up in a confusing conglomerate) and expressly forbidding them from ever being curious about, or exploring, their father’s religion. One can raise the kids in one faith while being open about the fact that their father believes differently, and then honestly answer questions as the kids get older. Lots of parents raise their kids in one religion (even if it’s one that both parents share) and when the kids get old enough to have their own ideas, allow them to explore those- so I’m not quite getting the leap from choosing to raise them Jewish to saying that Christianity (or any other religion) is bad. How you raise a child (religiously speaking) is a starting point, until he or she can decide for him or herself what to believe.

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  • avatar

    Desiree March 25, 2011, 1:09 pm

    If she feels THIS strongly about her religion and the religious instruction of her children, an interfaith marriage is probably not for her. Considering that she attends a conservative synagogue, I am surprised she is even considering it. I perceive the more conservative branches of the Abrahamic faiths to generally be against interfaith marriages.

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    • avatar

      Laurel March 25, 2011, 2:16 pm

      I think this nails it. I am Catholic and I intend to marry a Catholic because my view of marriage is intrinsically tied with the Church (for me–I am completely happy with others’ religious or non-religious marriages). Part of getting married in the Catholic Church is promising to raise all potential children you have Catholic.

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  • avatar

    spaceboy761 March 25, 2011, 1:12 pm

    My wife practices Reform Judaism (it sounds like LW practices either conservative or orthodox), so we don’t have to draw the lines quite as brightly, but if LW is keeping an orthodox observance there isn’t a whole lot of room for compromise. No Christmas trees, no Easter baskets, et al.

    The Orthodoxy doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for interfaith marriages… even marriages to a Recon or Reform jews are challenging. I really hope that your future husband remains on board, because the road will not be getting easier any time soon with kids coming along. The ‘hypotheticals’ become real in a hurry. I also hope that his family is OK with this as well since that is another potential point of contention. They probably want the ability to give their grandchildren a Christmas gift without being chastised or scowled at.

    She shouldn’t have to compromise her religious beliefs for anybody, but attending a Conservative temple and following the leve of observance set by a Conservative rabbi is probably a good idea.

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  • avatar

    Jennifer March 25, 2011, 1:19 pm

    The poor guy agreed to let the future children be raised Jewish and instead of being grateful for his concession, she ran him over like a steamroller. If this guy has any common sense to him, he will dump her and find someone who truly knows what the words compromise in marriage mean.

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  • avatar

    TheOtherMe March 25, 2011, 1:20 pm

    I am not 100% sure of how it works, but have many friends who were Catholic, dating someone Jewish and had to convert to Judaism before being allowed to marry in a synagogue. If the boyfriend does convert I doubt he would still attend church.

    I do feel sad if the boyfriend’s parents won’t be able to celebrate any of their holidays with their grandkids.

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  • avatar

    Katie March 25, 2011, 1:34 pm

    OK well either way, when the kids grow up they are going to believe whatever the hell they want.. which more-than-likely wont be how they were raised to believe.

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      WatersEdge March 25, 2011, 1:43 pm

      Well we know they’ll be raised to believe it’s ok to disrespect their father…

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        not leaving my name for this one!!! March 25, 2011, 1:46 pm

        well I think as they grow up and become more aware of the situation, they will lose respect for their mother and probably side with their father.

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    maynard March 25, 2011, 1:39 pm

    Clearly I know nothing more about their relationship here, but yikes. Sounds like the LW should only date Jewish men if there won’t be any (or very few) compromises surrounding relgion in her future.

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  • avatar

    jena March 25, 2011, 1:41 pm

    I love that this all assumes your kids are going to even want to be involved in a church once theyre old enough to make their decisions.

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  • avatar

    MissDre March 25, 2011, 1:44 pm

    Like other people said, what is she going to do when HIS family (siblings/parents/cousins) want to spend time with the kids? Is she going to forbid her kids from going to Grandma’s house because there’s a Christmas tree up? What the hell? It’s fine to raise your children Jewish if that’s what you want, but you need to find a way to have balance here.

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    • avatar

      Maracuya March 25, 2011, 1:57 pm

      I imagine her mother-in-law will be hurt when the kids can’t go to the family Easter Egg hunt, accept the chocolate rabbits she wants to give them, go caroling with them or open Christmas presents. Those secular aspects aren’t edging in on your religion at all, but they will make your boyfriend’s family feel like second-best. There has to be some sort of compromise because you, your boyfriend and your hypothetical children will not live in a bubble.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom March 25, 2011, 3:08 pm

        And how would the children feel when they realized that all the other cousins were getting Christmas presents and they didn’t? Wouldn’t they feel less loved and maybe feel like the grandparents didn’t like them just because the children were Jewish?

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  • landygirl

    Landy March 25, 2011, 1:57 pm

    IMHO, children should be raised without any religion and when the times comes that they are old enough to choose if they want to willingly participate, then let them.

    I was raised born and raised Catholic though I no longer practice that faith and I can honestly say that as an adult, I resent the religious beliefs that were imposed on me without my consent. With religion comes hang ups that aren’t easily overcome.

    Females seem to get the short end of the stick in every religion and I find that extremely unfair and something that could effect them for their entire lives in a negative way. Religion places limits on the lives of women rather than opening up further possibilites.

    If your children are raised with love and discipline, they will turn out to be good people. Of course, this is my own opinion and there are some who are very serious about their faith, but I see no value in it.

    Just my $.02 cents.

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      Hana March 25, 2011, 2:40 pm

      i completely agree with you. I went to Catholic school, temple and church (non-Catholic) as a child and I was allowed to chose what religion I wanted. I am very spiritual but do not attend church regularly- my boyfriend’s family is religious so we go with them sometimes.

      I love that my parents gave me a choice, even though it was hard for my mother when I said I was not going to follow all christian beliefs. I have studied buddhism and I love it, although I do not participate very much now that I am older. I can appreciate every religion because I was never taught that one in particular was great while all others are bad. I also had a great time as a kid being Jewish and Christian! Double the fun holidays 🙂

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      anna728 March 26, 2011, 1:06 am

      Loved your comment Landy. I know people have good intentions in wanting to pass down their religious beliefs to their children, but some would call that indoctrination.

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    ArtsyGirl March 25, 2011, 2:26 pm

    Ok I am going to probably get burned from this, but I feel like we are getting a little overboard here.

    I posted early and mentioned the perks of celebrating secularized holidays – but now we have gotten to the point where we are accusing the LW of not allowing the kids contact with their Catholic grandparents. Yes the LW comes off as controlling but it is just as likely she is fine with her in-laws having a Christmas tree and letting her children visit (she just said that THEY will not have a tree).

    Unless she planned on blindfolding her children for months at a time there is no way for them not to come into contact with the holidays – Target is stupid with Easter as we speak.

    Also, while I think she sounds harsh in her letter, I don’t think she is completely disrespecting her BF’s religion. Hopefully since her faith is so apparently important to her, she is also respecting her BF’s. Honestly they aren’t even engaged at this point so all of this will be years down the road and opinions can shift and life intrudes in ways that will make them adapt their stances.

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    • avatar

      sarolabelle March 25, 2011, 3:00 pm

      We aren’t accusing her of not the kids contact with their Catholic grandparents we are just wondering if she will allow the kids contact with their Catholic grandparents. We don’t know….but we hope she allows contact with them!

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        ArtsyGirl March 25, 2011, 3:46 pm

        I don’t disagree with you. The LW does come across as controlling and not a little dominating, but I wanted to slow down some threads which were snowballing.

        Like person A says “Wow so you won’t be celebrating any Christian holidays” and then person B reads this and says “Yeah, but what are you going to do with the Christian family?” and then person C says “Wow I guess it seems like you are so controlling that you aren’t going to let your kids see them because they might pick up some Christian dogma which you don’t want” and so on until you get to person Z “Holy Crap you crazy lady, I can’t believe you are going to fire bomb your inlaws because they purchased stockings and filled them with delicious but subversive chocolate Santas” not that it had reached that point yet, but I wanted to make sure we didn’t start accusing her of things she isn’t necessarily guilty of.

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      • caitie_didnt

        caitie_didn't March 25, 2011, 3:49 pm

        LOL at “delicious but subversive chocolate santas”!

        mmm….subversive…..

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      WatersEdge March 25, 2011, 3:05 pm

      I don’t want to burn you. But it’s very weird that she’s willing to go to church with her boyfriend today but somehow it’s different for their future kids to go with him in 10 years. Who ever heard of a parent forbidding their child from attending their other parent’s religious services? If you are that strongly opposed to someone’s religion, then DUH don’t marry them!

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        ArtsyGirl March 25, 2011, 3:56 pm

        Yeah that stopped me for a bit. But maybe they are planning on doing this while their children are young and then letting them have more freedom to explore their father’s religion when they are better able to process that there is no one way to worship. Hopefully they are both willing to be flexible with any plans and will see what children are able to absorb. If she really dislikes her BF’s religion then definitely she should find a partner who is non-practicing or Jewish.

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      anna728 March 26, 2011, 1:10 am

      I was thinking along the same lines, ArtsyGirl. I think people are being really harsh on the LW.

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    JennyTalia March 25, 2011, 2:29 pm

    Not raising your kids to appreciate two faiths is like not teaching your kids your native language in order to assimilate them. This is 2011, there is a middle ground. Give your future kids more credit – it sounds like you’re ready to brainwash them for the sake of simplicity.

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    Hana March 25, 2011, 2:35 pm

    My father is Jewish and my mom is Christian. I grew up learning about both religions, and that included all Jewish holidays and all Christian holidays and I am incredibly thankful for that. It made me well-rounded and unbiased. I am able to see the good in different groups of people and different religions. I think you should consider more of a dual-religion household. Not meaning you have to practice both religions, but meaning your children should be raised to know their dad is Christian and what that entails. It will be good for them as well as a learning experience for you and your husband (if you do get married and have children). I have met too many people over the year that say if you do not believe like them you are automatically going to hell (Christians of different denominations) and disowning family members for not being Jewish because it is wrong (happened to my mother by my uncle’s parents- long story). I see no reason why a Christmas tree and lights would hurt your children’s faith. Many of my Jewish friends had them as well because they were fun things to have around that time of year. They celebrated Christmas not for Christ but as a time to show love, give gifts and be with family/friends. That in no way is half-assed and if I knew your boyfriend and he said that to me in person I would be seriously offended. I think that actually takes more work than just drilling children with one religion and keeping the other a secret, like a hidden porn collection or drug problem.

    Please keep in mind that while it is excellent you and your boyfriend sat down and discussed this, when children come it is a completely different story. You never know how he, or you for that matter, will feel when looking into your baby’s eyes. Also, children will surprise you. They will not always turn out how you want. Without giving them an option to choose between or at least experience other religions (we got a choice as teens, after years of going to Jewish and Christian services) they will probably rebel against the religion you force on them.

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    Addie Pray March 25, 2011, 2:49 pm

    We can say all we want about this LW’s apparent refusal to expose her children in even the slightest way to her husband’s religion, but it sounds like LW and her SO are on the same page (for now), which is all that matters. If it works for them, it works for them! … BUT… I just hope in the future this LW will be as understanding and considerate toward her SO if/when he develops a need to share JUST A LITTLE BIT of his family’s faith and culture with their children. Any time you have in inter-faithed (or inter-anything for that matter) relationship, you have to be willing to compromise – on at least the little things – like having a Christmas tree or an occasional trip with dad to see where he goes every Sunday morning.

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      mf March 25, 2011, 4:55 pm

      Yes, both parties MUST be flexible, at least to some extent, to make an interfaith family work. I hope everything works out for her, but it concerns me that she doesn’t seem willing to compromise.

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  • Heather

    Heather March 25, 2011, 2:54 pm

    She is coming off as very controlling, and personally it seems like she should not be in an inter-faith marriage.

    But at the same time, he’s allowing himself to be controlled. She told him that she’s not willing to compromise. And he’s going along with it. So…best wishes I guess?

    I’m more worried about the kids than the spouse, TBH

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    Emjay March 25, 2011, 3:04 pm

    I was raised Catholic, but found my way to a completely different religion that is not hugely accepted. I still have a Christmas tree and things like that, but they do not have anything to do with the Catholic faith, they are there as symbolism of the Holiday season. So I do not understand what the big issue is with the letter writer. Yes, she does sound controlling, Yes, she got her way, BUT it is her attitude that is gonna get her kicked to the curb. There are so many interfaith marriages out there, and I know a good number of people who have/are bringing their children up with both religions or no religion until the child is old enough to choose for themselves. And even though there really is no right/wrong answer to religion, the way she is going about it is totally wrong, and she needs to re-access her relationship. She would be better off marrying someone with the same beliefs, instead of making this guy suffer down the line (if they even stay together, but I highly doubt they will) Just MO

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    Painted_lady March 25, 2011, 3:06 pm

    I have a good friend who grew up in an interfaith house – her dad was Catholic, her mom charismatic non-denominational Christian – which wasn’t confusing for her at all. She was aware that one church believed one thing, and that was what her mom believed, and the other believed another thing, which was also what dad believed. Kids can play Candyland and understand that Chutes and Ladders doesn’t work the same way. I also remember specifically that the mom’s chuch friends told her to pray for her father and vice versa, and so I wonder if well-intended church friends will do the same, only your kids won’t have the other perspective to balance it out. If you really are openminded enough to accept this man’s religion as no better or worse than your own, then what would be the harm in letting your kids experience his religion? If not, then I’m not sure an interfaith marriage is for you.

    The great thing about living when and where we do is that we have so many faiths and cultures and belief systems to choose from, and unless you’re going to lock your kids up in the house till they’re 18, there’s no way to ensure they won’t find out about other faiths. There’s no way to ensure they won’t be curious about their father’s faith, and what the heck are you going to say to them? “No, Timmy, daddy’s faith is bad and not for you?” Both my parents were Baptist, and I was still curious about other faiths from about age 7. I had friends who were Jewish – both parents – and the three of us shared holidays. I would go to their Passover and Hannukah dinners and they’d come over and do the Christmas tree and Easter egg hunts with my family. They’re both still Jewish, and no less so because they did an Easter egg hunt when they were 9 and 10. It’s your business how you raise your kids, but it’s not like you’re raising them in a vacuum and stripping them of their free will by preventing them from seeing an Easter egg or the inside of a Catholic church before the age of…I don’t know. Whenever you plan on releasing the chokehold on everyone’s lives, I guess. But even marrying a Jewish guy isn’t going to ensure that they grow up to be Jewish, and showing them other spiritual options won’t guarantee that they won’t be.

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      marthamarthamartha March 25, 2011, 6:28 pm

      But there is a huge difference between celebrating someone else’s holiday with them and celebrating it as your own. I decorated my neighbor’s christmas tree every year (still do) and loved it. We handmade ornaments every year (with all the secular christmas themes of candy canes and penguins with santa hats, etc) and I can see the first 18 years of my life through these ornaments. I wouldn’t trade that and it didn’t make me any less jewish either. That is being “accepting” and embracing other’s faiths or whatever. However, if it was in my living room, it would be different. Its not about her teaching her kids that daddy’s religion is bad… but it means something to her to raise them fully jewish. You didn’t say what religion your friend was, which (and I could be wrong) might be because she doesn’t affliate herself with one religion. That is exactly the problem that LW forsees. Yes, her kids might choose not to be religiously jewish, but she probably wants them to self-identify that way, at least culturally.

      PS Easter candy is just mean to jewish kids because they always came out just in time for Passover… not fair.

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        anna728 March 26, 2011, 1:14 am

        Yes yes yes!

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        Painted_lady March 26, 2011, 3:04 pm

        No, she’s Catholic. But that was her individual choice. My point was, a refusal to acknowledge other religions, right or wrong, isn’t going to guarantee that her kids will be Jewish. Kids still leave the faiths of their parents without external influences, and a child of two faiths will choose the one that is right for him or her. Which can also include no faith.

        Actually, food for thought, the people I know who are the most staunchly anti-religion were the ones whose parents forced them to attend services and told them what faith they were going to be. So I suppose to me it’s a choice between risking her children becoming Catholic or becoming atheist. Which I am (not out of a particularly negative religious experience) but obviously she isn’t, and I would assume – perhaps wrongly – that Catholic kids would be preferable to atheist kids.

        You can raise your kids in a particular faith but can’t force them to choose it as adults. What you can do is teach them tolerance and open-mindedness, which I think if that’s all you can expect, worst-case, those are still amazing qualities and values to instill.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom March 28, 2011, 8:59 pm

        You’re right about celebrating others holidays with them but not celebrating those holidays in your own home. I don’t know any reason why a Jewish family should have to have a Christmas tree in their own home even if some of the relatives are Christian and have one. It would be nice if you could give Christian relatives Christmas gifts and for them to give Hanukkah gifts to you. It is wonderful if each is able to practice their own religion fully and to be accepted in that practice by all of the relatives.

        They also have the right to assume that the in-laws wouldn’t undermine their religion or try to tell their children that there was something wrong or lacking in their religion. I have a Catholic friend whose Baptist mother took her young sons aside to “explain” to them whey Catholicism was wrong. That is intolerable and whatever religion you choose to practice you should be able to expect respect and support from all the in-laws of both families.

        It’s one thing to go to your in-laws for Easter but it would be entirely different to be expected to host an Easter dinner if you were a Jewish family. It would be wonderful to invite the Christian relatives to join you for Passover and to have them happily accept and celebrate your holiday with you and then for you to turn around and share their Easter dinner at their house. But it would definitely not mean that you needed to celebrate Easter in your own home.

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  • caitie_didnt

    caitie_didn't March 25, 2011, 3:16 pm

    I don’t know much about the Jewish faith, so please correct me if I’m getting things wrong, but it seems like the LW would like to get married in an orthodox synagogue/ceremony and because they are quite conservative they’d expect her boyfriend to convert prior to marriage. In the catholic church, once you’ve taken communion with another denomination (or converted, obviously), you can’t take communion at mass. My dad couldn’t take communion at his father’s funeral mass with the rest of the family, because he’d gone with my mom and us kids to a different church and had taken communion there.

    I wonder how okay the boyfriend will be with all of this?

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      missarissa March 25, 2011, 6:04 pm

      Just a terminology note: (not being snarky, trying to be helpful for clarity’s sake)

      Using the term “conservative” as you did here when talking about issues pertaining to Judaism could wind up being confusing.

      Using the same “left-right” designation that we do with politics, it goes Right= “Orthodox”,
      Center= “conservativ[ism]”
      Left = “Reform”. (This is crazily oversimplified for clarification).

      Thus, saying “quite conservative” actually means that they’re more centrist.

      But to your actual point, it depends. An Orthodox Rabbi would not marry them without a formal conversion. A Reform Rabbi would. Conservative — depends on the Rabbi and the level of Conservatism.

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      • caitie_didnt

        caitie_didn't March 25, 2011, 6:38 pm

        Ah, that is actually really helpful! Thank you 🙂

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      SpyGlassez March 25, 2011, 11:06 pm

      If I remember correctly, the boyfriend wasn’t that committed, and so who knows? He might choose to convert someday, he might just stop attending his church….but at least he knows what to expect. Was the main character “controlling” in My Big Fat Greek Wedding because she wanted to have the Orthodox wedding and send her kids to Greek school? The LW is within her rights to want to raise her children within a cultural identity. My parents made a similar choice in sending me to Catholic school, and my parents’ friends who chose to have Spanish spoken in the home (even though both parents and the kids were fluent in English) because it was their native language and the language of the grandparents back in Mexico. I think she was fair; she let him know EXACTLY what he was getting into by remaining in a relationship and by letting that relationship continue onto marriage and children.

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  • sobriquet

    sobriquet March 25, 2011, 4:31 pm

    Growing up, there was a woman who was an active member of my church, yet her husband never attended because he was an atheist. People talked about it like it was the saddest thing and “hopefully he’ll come around.” Religion is not just a hobby for most people (and it definitely doesn’t sound like the LW is just doing it for the traditions). Your religion tells you where you’re going when you die and religious people are pretty damn judgmental because of that. I don’t know how people who have strong faith in their religion can marry a person who doesn’t share the same beliefs.

    Religion teaches great morals and values, but what better lesson to teach your children than to have an open-mind?

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      anna728 March 26, 2011, 1:18 am

      I think there is a difference between having an open mind as far as accepting people of other religions versus in accepting the beliefs themselves.

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    missarissa March 25, 2011, 5:51 pm

    I am a little confused by the overwhelming negative-leaning comments on this board, calling her “controlling.” I guess my issue is that I do not think she should have to compromise her religious beliefs at all, and to not do so (infinitive split on purpose, for emphasis) is her right and privilege. She has an opinion that she feels strongly about, she is being honest and upfront about her opinion and her boyfriend is in a position to take it or leave it.

    I guess I don’t understand the virtue of compromise in a situation like this. Basically, she wishes that he would convert but she knows she cannot and should not, morally, ethically or otherwise, ask someone to give up their faith. So she isn’t. But, for her to have a fulfilling and meaningful life, she wants to raise her children under her faith. There is nothing closed-minded about raising your children according to the values you were raised with and the beliefs you hold to be true.

    But what I think most people don’t realize is that Judaism is a culture as well as a religion, and it is one being rapidly lost to assimilation. Progressive thinkers (such as many on this site) value diversity and inclusion. Which is great. whoo hoo diversity and inclusion, generally. However, Judaism, as well as any culture that can foster in its people a sense of identity, must be at its roots, in some form, exclusionary. You cannot become Italian-American because you decide you love Italian food and Columbus. You cannot become Latina by learning traditional Colombian folk dancing. You cannot become any Cultural group that is based on race or origin just because you want to. You can accept them, you can embrace the culture, you can celebrate it, you can open-minded the pants off of it, but you can’t be OF it.

    Judaism is complicated because its a religion, a race and a culture, all rolled into one. And members of the tribe, so to speak, are not able, nor are they often so inclined, to separate these aspects of themselves. They are just holistically JEWISH, whether recognizing they have higher risk of carrying the Tach Sachs gene (racial), their belief in the five books of moses (religion) or their love of their Aunt Yetta’s Stuffed Cabbage. It is their identity.

    And it is an identity that is quickly being lost to assimilation. Intermarriage is decimating the Jewish population, because fewer offspring of intermarriage self-identify as jewish than non-intermarried. I am not saying whether this is good or bad. (See Bullworth for further support of the “good.”) It is just a fact. And I’m betting, to her, as someone who was raised Conservative but chooses to attend an orthodox shul, she sees it as a sad event and one she cannot stomach being a contributor to. I am betting, to her, having a christmas tree is the ultimate sign of assilimation of her culture and that, rather than a lack of desire to compromise, is her reason for her stanch rejection of all things Santa. Yes, there is no (generally perceived) intrinsic Catholic-ness of a bunny giving out eggs or a stocking on a mantle. But culturally, she was most likely raised that they are symbols of Christianity and that those who celebrated such things were, in at least a very small way, different and separate from her. No better, no worse — but a little different and separate. After all, It is not a tree but a CHRISTMAS tree and not just a bunny but an EASTER bunny. Her refusal to welcome them into her house, pretending that they have no meaning, when, to her, they are symbols of losing herself, is not controlling. It is self-affirming of her identity.

    LW fell in love with someone who doesn’t share that identity. For her, that identity is something she is unwilling to compromise on. Good for her. Not so great for the boyfriend. But her standing up for her needs, early enough in a relationship that they can both leave with relatively few battle-wounds, doesn’t make her “controlling”, that makes her honest and empowered. Like I said, she’s laying her cards on the table and its his choice whether to walk away. I agree that it might not turn out so well, because she has set the bar high, in terms of expectations. But that doesn’t make her controlling.

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      sarolabelle March 25, 2011, 6:13 pm

      I just hope he really is okay with everything.

      I think the reason we say she is controlling is because she is going to forbid her children from ever going to church with their father. Which is sad and makes dad look like an outcast.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Wendy March 25, 2011, 6:21 pm

      Just wanted to say this is very well-written, and thank you for giving such an eloquent explanation and argument from your perspective. It makes perfect sense to me, not just as someone who married a Jew and will raise Jewish children, but simply as an open-minded person who respects other people’s beliefs and cultures — even the ones that must actively exclude others for the sake of their own survival.

      Selfishly, though, I am really happy that Drew is okay with us having a Christmas tree. This past December was the first time in his 40 years he had a tree in his own home, and he actually liked it. But that’s him, and he certainly isn’t representative of all Jews married to gentiles! I guess we just got lucky with each other that we truly are open to compromise. I am okay with raising Jewish kids, and he’s okay with us having a tree three weeks out of the year.

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        marthamarthamartha March 25, 2011, 6:54 pm

        Who wouldn’t like it? They smell good and they’re shiny! Christmas time is my favorite time of year, and living in New York, with all the beautiful decorations, makes me so happy. I’m not a humbug and sometimes wish I was comfortable decorating my apartment with holly. But I’m not. Symbolic meanings do take on real meanings and it isn’t closed-minded, petty or unenlightened to allow yourself to recognize that. If you can move past the symbolic representation, like (I’m guessing) your Drew did, then it really becomes a Tree-that-makes-your-wife-happy-but-makes-the-floor-messy, complete with pretty lights and a star on top, rather than a “Christmas Tree”.

        But, (to the readers who don’t understand why the LW can’t do the same), a cross is just two pieces of wood nailed together. But it has meaning to a lot of people, but no meaning to others. Now imagine someone sets it on fire and puts it on a lawn. Different meaning to different people, and no meaning to some. People attribute meaning to symbols and words, and people can’t and shouldn’t be expected to ignore historical, cultural, and personal impact they have, without being considered intolerant.

        [PS above: I wasn’t speaking for all Jewish people, but for some (mainly, the ones who believe what I stated 🙂 ].

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        marthamarthamartha March 25, 2011, 6:57 pm

        oops. I was trying to actually pick a name with a Gravatar and my original one is unavailable. didn’t mean to switch names mid commenting.

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        missarissa March 25, 2011, 6:58 pm

        crap, i did it again! ah! how do you delete comments??

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        missarissa March 25, 2011, 7:04 pm

        wow, i’m batting 1000 today. I realized my follow up comment came off less … friendly than I meant it. thank you for your kind words and I’m really happy that you both get what you want/need. I didn’t mean to tag a big ole “but” to that like i just did.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Wendy March 25, 2011, 7:40 pm

        No worries. I totally get what you’re saying.

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      Kat March 25, 2011, 6:47 pm

      I get what you’re putting down, and yeah, good for her because she’s laying her cards down. But the problem I had with their exchange isn’t that she’s laying them all down, it’s that she’s assumed that now they’re down so things will flow neatly. They aren’t even engaged yet – marriage is a ways off, let alone kids. I get that it’s a culture, and assimilation is watering it down and transmuting it into the general “western” culture instead of the Jewish one she wishes to remain in. But part of marrying someone outside of her culture is accepting that he’s coming with his own cultural norms and values. Raising a family isn’t raising them by one culture if you have parents of 2 cultures. I just feel like this is just going to be bad news bears in 3-5 years.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom March 26, 2011, 10:00 pm

        Especially bad news because while she was prepared for this conversation he wasn’t. She had thought about the issue and formed an opinion, he hadn’t. She is certain about how she wants to practice her faith but I think he is ambiguous. He isn’t sure what he wants when it comes to his own faith and can’t really agree to anything completely until he does. Many people don’t practice their faith during their twenties and some never do but others become more religious during their thirties and he hasn’t yet made up his mind what he wants. It’s great to get the issue out in the open but as he begins internalizing all that she wants he may be fine with it or he may not at all agree in the long run. They definitely needs lots more time for him to think about the issue and plenty of discussions about how it will all work.

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    • caitie_didnt

      caitie_didn't March 25, 2011, 6:56 pm

      I think for people who don’t practice or identify with a particular religion, and who do not necessarily view religion as a defining aspect of their life, it is certainly possible to interpret the LW as being “controlling” because she is insisting that there will be no compromise in the upbringing of her children. We often forget that for deeply religious people, religion is the foundation on which the rest of their life is built. But, like you said, the LW has a right to raise her children in her own faith. The thing is, so does her boyfriend.

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        anna728 March 26, 2011, 1:27 am

        But it doesn’t seem that he cares to…?

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      • caitie_didnt

        caitie_didn't March 26, 2011, 7:56 am

        He said he’s okay with the LW’s rules for now, so that’s all that matters I suppose. But if the boyfriend is connected enough to Catholicism that he and the LW needed to have this conversation in the first place he must attend mass reasonably frequently? I just wonder if he said he was okay with it so she would stop talking to him about it, but this isn’t something that can be resolved in one conversation and I’d be curious to see if he remains okay once he’s thought about it or once they’re planning a wedding and he’s expected to convert (if that ends up being the case).

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      applescruff March 25, 2011, 8:58 pm

      Thank you, Missarissa, for eloquently laying out what I wanted to say. I am not married, nor am I in a relationship at the moment. However, from a Jewish perspective, I can’t imagine having a Christmas tree in my home. Christmas CAN be a time of alienation for a lot of Jews, and for me personally to have a Christmas tree would feel like I was rejecting MY faith, MY culture. I recognize not all Jews would feel the same way. Let me also say that as a child, I enjoyed Christmas celebrations with (religious and cultural) Christian relatives, and I still do. I admire this LW for laying out what she wants from her boyfriend. From this point, it’s his decision if that’s ok or not.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Wendy March 25, 2011, 9:17 pm

        I have to say, reading your comment made me nervous, so I asked Drew just to triple check that he was okay with having a tree and that he didn’t feel like it was a rejection of his culture. He replied: “No, it’s not like I was wearing a Red Sox hat or something.” This is why I love him.

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        applescruff March 26, 2011, 12:55 pm

        Drew sounds awesome. 🙂 I’m glad you two were able to come to a comfortable middle ground for both of you.

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        demoiselle March 28, 2011, 11:36 am

        I am glad that this has worked out for you. It’s true that intermarriage is a fraught issue. I am raised Christian/now Unitarian/atheist, and my husband is Jewish/athiest.

        I benefited a lot in my relationship because my husband’s aunt had married a Catholic some thirty years before. Apparently, her father objected to her bringing home the wrong kind of man … and she responded that it was too bad, “Since he’s just like you, Dad.” They accepted him into the family, their daughter raised their kids jewish, the (jewish) grandmother hosts a Christmas Eve party every year for the whole family, and then everyone goes to decorate their cousins’ Christmas tree.

        It was a beautiful compromise. It has made it a lot easier for me to join the family. No one even raised an eyebrow.

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      Poicelle March 25, 2011, 9:16 pm

      Thank you for saying this. My mother is Jewish and my father is not (he was raised Catholic but does not practice any religion, I think he considers himself an atheist) and she felt very strongly that we should not celebrate Catholic or Christian holidays in our home so as not to confuse me and my sister. We went to my grandparents’ (my father’s parents) home for Christmas and Easter, but were always told that we were there to celebrate with them because it was their holiday and that it was not ours. I respect the decision they made to keep our home Jewish-only

      That being said, my live-in boyfriend is Catholic (again, non-practicing but he does enjoy the holidays) and we have come to the agreement that our children will be raised Jewish, but that we will celebrate Catholic holidays in our house (have Easter eggs and a Christmas tree) so long as we explain to our children that we are doing so because their father is Catholic and we are celebrating with him. Some might call me controlling, because I wouldn’t want our children to go to Church (unless we’re there for some kind of family event) either. Judaism is important to me because, as missarissa said, it’s more that just a religion, it’s a culture. I’m lucky enough to be with someone who respects that, and is willing to compromise on these things in the future, even though it was an adjustment of his expectations because he had always just assumed that he and his children would share the same religion, and I hope that, for the LW, she’s just as lucky.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom March 26, 2011, 9:54 pm

        It sounds like you are compromising here and the way you would explain your choices to your children sounds like an excellent idea.

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      anna728 March 26, 2011, 1:23 am

      Really glad someone made this point!

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom March 26, 2011, 10:06 pm

      I think it’s great that she knows what she wants but it really sounds like she needs a Jewish husband to live the life that she wants. You can fall in love with a person that you could never be happy spending your life with and I think that is what is happening here.

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  • avatar

    anna728 March 26, 2011, 1:44 am

    I don’t think it’s controlling to be honest and upfront about issues that can be deal-breakers. If both the LW and her boyfriend are on the same page that they would prefer to raise children in one religion rather than a mix, then you can’t be criticizing them for not compromising- they both prefer this option to a mix of the two religions.

    My great aunt married a Jewish man and converted. Their children were raised strictly Jewish and so are their grandchildren. The other sides of the family do not see them for Christmas or Easter (although those include less extended family anyway), but every year for decades Thanksgiving has been at their place. The rest of our family ranges from atheist to fairly traditional Lutheran, and it has never been a problem. I’ve been to family weddings done by rabbis, ministers, and judges. But no one has given anyone else crap about having different beliefs or tried to push their own.

    I don’t think the LW thinks her children can be totally insulated from Christianity’s existence, but if she doesn’t want to actively participate in it, she shouldn’t have to. Especially if the boyfriend agrees with her.

    The only thing that struck me as odd here was the “especially any girls” part at the end. Not sure what that’s about but it was a bit weird to me.

    Anyway, overall, it sounds like the discussion went well and that they are in agreement, so it’s none of our business to tell them their kids have to be exposed to more Christianity. If the husband wants to push for that it’s his prerogative to, but it doesn’t sound like he is, so what’s the fuss?

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      applescruff March 26, 2011, 12:59 pm

      I noticed that “especially any girls” part, too. According to Jewish law, if your mother is Jewish, you are automatically Jewish, too. I have a friend who was raised Catholic, Catholic school and everything, but because her maternal grandmother was Jewish, she is considered at least somewhat Jewish as well. So maybe that’s why the LW singled out the girls? Looking further down the line, if her family is going to continue to be Jewish it’s the daughters that will carry that forward, especially if LW comes from a more Conservative/Orthodox tradition.

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      • landygirl

        Landy March 27, 2011, 3:12 am

        I also noticed that she said that at the services she attends now, the men and the women don’t sit together, which is disturbing to me. I don’t know why that is, but I don’t care for it.

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        Inter-faithed March 27, 2011, 5:16 pm

        Ah, ok I can clear that up. In orthodox, extremely religious synagogues the men and women sit separately. Women are also not called to the Torah- for a bat mitzvah the girl’s father reads the Torah on her behalf. Like Landy, this doesn’t sit especially well with me as a way to raise a daughter. I was raised in a more middle of the road conservative synagogue where the women and men sit together and boys and girls are called to the torah equally. Though I went more orthodox after college for a few reasons, I had always intended to go back to a conservative synagogue when I raised kids. I was simply saying that I had always planned to go back to conservative Judaism, and this was just going to take me back there a little earlier.

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        demoiselle March 28, 2011, 11:43 am

        Yes, my husband is Jewish, raised Conservative. He isn’t a believer, but I have agreed to go to synagogue with him if he ever wants.

        However, I drew the line at any synagogue that would segregate me as a woman–saying that if I were to go, it would be to be part of our relationship, and I did not want to take part in something that would make me feel bad or lesser. I’m not necessarily judging the practice, but I know what my emotional response to the situation would be–and I need to protect myself, too, so that sharing our cultures can be a positive experience for both of us.

        This is an issue where you must find a balance between compromise and boundaries.

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        demoiselle March 28, 2011, 5:49 pm

        Hi, Interfaithed. I didn’t notice this morning, when I wrote that reply, that you were the LW. My comment was a general statement, and not intended as a critique of you. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t inadvertently offend or seem to be attacking you.

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        Inter-faithed March 28, 2011, 7:44 pm

        Oh, no worries at all. Besides, if your comment had bothered me, can you imagine what some of the harsher ones above might have done? 😉

        Actually I started at the orthodox temple at the request of my then-boyfriend who was raised in that environment. I got my feminist drawers in a twist at the very idea of being segregated. But I did give it a shot and found it not to be so bad. There’s a lot of complexity to it that makes it not really so much about women being inferior and I actually have come not to be bothered by it. However, the exclusion from reading Torah, though I understand where it comes from, I can’t really get over. I do not want my daughters to ever feel less than equal. And I don’t want my sons to ever feel like they should be more than equal.
        As I said, I do understand where it comes from, and I don’t fault the people who happilly live that life… but I’m a woman engineer and I was that before I was an orthodox Jew and I just can’t shake the feeling that for me, for my children, it would not be the morals I would want them to have.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom March 26, 2011, 10:07 am

    If you want a home without Christianity then you really can’t marry a Christian because then you have a home with a Christian in it.

    We have friends who have been married over 30 years, he is Jewish and she was Catholic when they married. Because she celebrated Christmas he spent a great deal of time and effort to find the perfect Christmas present for her because he fully embraced her as the person she was. She wasn’t a practicing Catholic and after about ten years of marriage she decided to convert to Judaism. They have a strong marriage and have raised their daughter Jewish.

    We have another friend, also Jewish, who was going to become engaged to his Catholic girlfriend but before getting engaged he told her that he would never go to her parents house for an Easter dinner ever. A few days later when they were going to go shopping for an engagement ring she just didn’t show up. She realized she couldn’t marry a man who totally denied her heritage. He couldn’t accept her for who and what she was and it just didn’t work. A few years later he married a Jewish woman and they have a strong totally Jewish family.

    If you know that you want your family to be totally Jewish then you must marry a Jewish man. If you can’t imagine yourself and your children sitting down for Easter dinner with his family then you need to find a different husband. If you can’t imagine ever giving him a Christmas present because you love him and accept him fully for who and what he is then you need to find a different husband.

    When you consider marrying someone you must either take them fully for who and what they are or you find someone else. You can’t pick and choose which bits of them you will take. If they can’t attend church services with their father does this mean that they would never be able to attend a wedding or funeral in their father’s family? Do you think this would work? Do you think it is right? Would you send your husband off to his own dad or mom’s funeral alone because you wouldn’t allow your children to attend a funeral in a christian church? Would you be able to help him purchase Christmas gifts for his family or would he be all alone in that regard. Would he feel like the orphaned member of your family who was never really a full member of the family?

    You must also realize that if you ended up divorced that any agreement made about religion before you were engaged would be over and done and he would be free to start taking them to church with him and celebrating his religious holidays with them.

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    Elizabeth March 26, 2011, 11:40 am

    My sister and I are both white and Christian. I married a white Jewish guy. She married a black Christian guy. There was so much more interest in her choice than mine (Wow – what do the families think of an interracial union?). The fact is her choice is soooooooo much simpler than mine. They can ignore what others prejudices are and have no conflict in how they raise their children. We, on the other hand, looked “matched” to the haters of the world, but within our marraige have conflicts about religion, baptisms, funerals, etc. Neither of us are even religious enough anymore to attend houses of worship, and still we have occasional debates – I can’t begin to imagine how much conflict there would be if LW and her boyfriend pursue marriage/children.

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    • TaraMonster

      TaraMonster March 26, 2011, 1:39 pm

      I am in an interracial relationship- both Christians, he’s black, I’m white. Maybe it seems to you that your sister has it so much easier than you, but I really resent the implication that being in an interfaith relationship is harder (?) than being in an interracial one. You have no way of knowing that, no matter how close to their relationship you are. I’m not about to lay out all the ways being in an interracial relationship has its challenges because I think, in our case, we’re pretty good at handling them, and comparing the two doesn’t do any good. Just please don’t compare them. It’s unnecessary and it’s offensive.

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        Elizabeth March 26, 2011, 2:31 pm

        @TaraMonster. My apologies – In no way did I mean to offend. At the risk of possibly doing it more, I will try to expand on my thoughts. I only meant to convey that I think some people are more intolerant or questioning of interracial relationships than interfaith ones – when it is the interfaith ones that can often be harder to deal with WITHIN a relationship. Externally, my sis and brother in law have to deal other people’s beliefs and lots of crap (especially because they live in an area not known for its tolerance). However, in their relationship they have the same religious beliefs so there are less internal debates over raising their children, churches/baptisms/etc that my husband and I have.
        I am definitely not saying that bi-racial relationships do not have there own internal strife – atop plenty of depressing external strife. I have several friends in bi-racial or multi-racial unions and internal issues abound related to language, food, money, dress, children and especially acceptance of extended family. I didn’t mean to imply it was easy – I just meant to say that in my experience it has been easier for her to choose type of wedding, how to raise kids etc (my experience, not everybodys). By the way, while her husband identifies as a black man and is perceived as a black man – he is actually bi-racial. His parents got married in the south in the 60’s. I am in awe of them and thnakful to them for what they risked for love.

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        MissDre March 28, 2011, 8:32 pm

        @TaraMonster: Have you ever faced any major problems as a result of your relationship? My boyfriend is black too. I think I must be really lucky because it’s never been an issue. My older brother makes some rude/racist comments once in a while to get me riled up, but both my boyfriend’s family and my own have always been 100% accepting. I’m so grateful for that. I really hope that you two can overcome any challenges you may face. I truly believe that love does not see colour 🙂

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      anna728 March 30, 2011, 1:43 am

      …I dated a guy who was half black and half Jewish! And also foreign. But I was 18 and he was 20, so worrying about kids, our family ,etc. wasn’t an issue.

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  • avatar

    Inter-faithed March 27, 2011, 5:47 pm

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by all the backlash I’m getting. I tried to explain myself as best I could in my reply but I suppose there was still room for conclusion jumping.
    We actually had the conversation over several days, with me trying to give him the chance to form an opinion before we talked about it again. We talked Friday, went to synagogue and church on Saturday night and then talked again. Then we actually had a passing conversation this weekend just to close everything out. At this point I have to hope that he is not lying to me to keep me; I don’t think he is.
    Also while it appears that there was no compromise made, I actually made one huge (to me) concession during the conversation. I have never wanted to change my last name and had even suggested to him that we both hyphenate, as a coworker of mine and her husband who married recently have done. Like my religion, my last name is a piece of my heritage that I was not wanting to part with, but I told him I would give up on the last name bit, and he jokingly said “Jewish kids named Smith?” (not his real last name, but its equally generic).

    We also talked quite a bit about his parents, siblings and their future children and how that would be handled. As I said in the comments of my letter, we had a close Catholic family growing up with whom we would share holidays. I told him that I would encourage us to visit his parents or one of his sibling’s houses every year for Christmas so we could celebrate Christmas with the family; that I would encourage his parents to give the kids Christmas presents, that I would happily visit them and have us share in their Christmas tree, Christmas dinner, etc.
    Grandma and Grandpa are Catholic and they celebrate Christmas. We are Jewish, and Christmas is not our holiday, but we are very lucky to get to celebrate with Grandma and Grandpa.
    On years we could not visit, I hope we will find a family to share religions with the same way my family had our Catholic friends.
    In any case, I think that people jumped from “we won’t observe Christianity in our house” to “she thinks Christianity is evil” which is just not the case. And I certainly never said I would forbid them from knowing their grandparents.

    As for the wedding, total non-issue. Its true my current Rabbi would not marry us, but thats a conversation we have had before; I’m not pushing for a Jewish wedding, nor am I against a Catholic wedding (as long as I am not made to convert). Its true I wont compromise on the religion the children are raised with, but I WILL trade just about everything else. You are looking for me to say “fine, Christmas tree it is” as if this is the only issue we will ever face; really its just one of many… a big one, yes, but to say I am not willing to compromise ignores several other things that I WILL give up in order to make this work.

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      Fairhaired Child March 27, 2011, 6:22 pm

      Thank you for responding to clear some things up! I think most people were commenting on the one line “that he could attend church but the kids would not accompany him” but the fact that you would allow the grandparents to share the tradition of Christmas with your children does show that you are not “blocking out” how his family celebrates holidays.

      Perhaps it is best for them to only attend one church (making it easier for them to not get confused about certain traditions etc) while they are younger, but maybe when they are older (set a specific age like 13 or 15 or anything you want) that it will be offered to them to have the choice to join their father on his “sunday excursions” and for this to be told to them when they are younger that they will be allowed to do so at whatever age you both decide so that they do not feel like the Father is purposely “leaving them out” (which to some kids this could be a feeling of “why does only DADDY and Grams/Gramps get to do that? Whats so different about their church.. etc).

      Again – I’m glad you were able to talk to your SO about all the things that were bothering you and that you have worked it out to a degree that you are both currently happy with! Much luck in the future and I hope it all works out for you!

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      Inter-faithed March 27, 2011, 11:07 pm

      Rereading my response, I can definitely see where the “controlling” comes through. But it was after he told me that he didn’t want to raise kids in two faiths that I started kind of enumerating things that in my mind kids raised strictly “Jewish” wouldn’t do. Such as be baptized, have a Christmas tree in their own home, regularly attend church… It was because I wanted him to really understand what he was agreeing to, that I laid all that out. It wasn’t an attempt to steamroll him but rather to give him a reason to take it back… if he heard something and realized it was too much, I was hoping he would realize it wasn’t worth the cost.

      I understand that his feelings could change and I plan to bring this up somewhat regularly throughout our relationship, as long as it continues to progress toward marriage/children so that if he does change his mind, we don’t just brush it under the rug. And I do understand what a sacrifice it would be for him, maybe even overstate it, because of how important it is to me.

      Thanks to everyone for your comments. I know that this wouldn’t work for everyone and might not even work for us, but I have to stick by what I feel is right for myself and hope he does the same. If, in the end, we have some common ground between us, then maybe we can make it.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom March 29, 2011, 1:05 pm

      This sounds very fair and very workable. It is incredibly hard to tell from one letter the full situation and of course as the letter writer you can’t write a book about your situation so that you can include every detail.

      A Catholic wedding wouldn’t work for you because the Catholic church won’t marry you unless you promise to raise your children Catholic. The Catholic church feels you should get married in the religious tradition that you wish to practice as a family so they would send you to a synagogue (begin your marriage as you wish to live your marriage.)

      I hope this all works out for both of you and your families!

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        Inter-faithed March 31, 2011, 2:20 am

        I guess my thinking is that, just like some Conservative rabbis are a little more lenient performing marriage ceremonies- they’ll perform a Jewish wedding even though one party isn’t Jewish- there might be some priests out there with a similar outlook.
        My boyfriend seems awfully confident that he could find one, and so I’m content to let him try.

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