I have recently started becoming more religious, and have been really enjoying exploring my faith. All along, I just naturally assumed I would marry a Jewish man although I have dated other non-Jews before. I know that our different religions is an obstacle, but I want them to be one that we can overcome. To that end, when we started talking about marriage to each other, I brought up the “religion question,” but whenever I bring it up, he shuts it down or shrugs it off, saying that it doesn’t matter what religion you raise kids with, as long as you give them good morals. I’m sure he thinks that now while he isn’t married and doesn’t have kids, but his tune could change when he realizes he wants his kids to have a Christmas tree and an Easter bunny as much as I want them to have Rosh Hashana and Passover. Or maybe he thinks that he can later convince me to go his way. Or maybe he actually is OK with raising them Jewish. But I have no idea which it’ll be. And if we aren’t going to be able to come to some agreement on this matter, I would like to know that now, not five years into the relationship, or worse, five years into marriage. This issue is standing in the way of me feeling all-in in this relationship, so is there a way I can actually get him to talk about this subject? Or, am I crazy for making this something we discuss now? — Inter-faithed
You certainly aren’t crazy in thinking this is something you can discuss now, one year into a relationship in which you have started to seriously discuss marriage and children (with each other). To be honest, it wouldn’t have been crazy to discuss this subject much, much earlier on — say a month into your relationship (at least, in an abstract sort of way). I don’t know if you’re aware, but my husband, Drew, is Jewish and I’m not. I was raised Lutheran, though I don’t practice any religion at all now. I can’t say for certain, but it may have even been on our first date that Drew said he was adamant about raising his children Jewish. I respected that he put that out there so early on, so that I could choose whether to invest in a relationship with him or not, knowing that that could be a deal-breaker.
Luckily, I couldn’t care less what religion my kids are raised in (as long as they get some sort of spiritual base). Like your boyfriend, I’m much more concerned with the values and morals they’re instilled with, rather than the religious traditions they learn and practice along the way. It doesn’t hurt that I also happen to have a lot of respect for Judaism — as much as I understand it, that is — and know now, even if I didn’t know the first day I met him, that Drew will be an amazing father and my kids would be lucky, lucky, lucky to have a dad like him. The Jewish thing? It was really secondary to that.
But! I want my kids to have a Christmas tree … and visits from the Easter Bunny! In my mind, these are more cultural things than religious things, anyway. I mean, there’s no Easter Bunny in the bible. Santa is not a Christian invention. So, I told Drew way before we got married that I was fine with raising our future kids Jewish — I’ll even take some Judaism classes before then — but the deal is he’s got to be the driver in that regard — I’ll be a passenger along for the ride — and we have to incorporate some of the cultural traditions that are important to me.
So, how do you and your boyfriend come to making similar agreements that work for you? First, you need to know exactly what you want and what you’re willing to compromise on. If your boyfriend, like me, is willing to raise your kids Jewish but wants them to have a Christmas tree, are you okay with that? If not, you need to be ready with a good argument why. Once you’re certain about how you want to raise you kids, think about your wedding. Do you want a strictly Jewish wedding? This, more than raising kids, may be a more immediate concern for your boyfriend and could get him thinking about the larger picture. I’d suggest the next time you’re having one of your conversations about marriage, you come out and ask him how he’d feel about being married by a rabbi – assuming that’s what you want. If he isn’t okay with that — and he’d have to be willing, obviously, to have at least some pre-marital counseling with a rabbi — then that’s a pretty good indication he wouldn’t really be okay with raising his kids Jewish and there wouldn’t be any sense in you continuing your relationship with him.
So, start there, my dear. Start with the idea of your wedding and build from there. Keep pushing him to have these discussions. Explain to him how important they are — how serious you feel about him and how much you need to have these issues resolved before you can move to the next stage in your relationship. And if he isn’t ready to be thoughtful about these topics, it may be time for you to think about moving on. A year is a pretty long time to invest in someone who’s afraid to move forward. Having serious discussions about your future at this point is normal and if he can’t handle it now, he probably won’t be able to handle it five years from now either… Not that I’d ever advise waiting that long for some resolution.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected].
Lydia March 17, 2011, 9:07 am
Although I think Wendy’s advice is spot on, I do have to point out that Santa does, in fact, have Christian roots. He is largely based upon Sinterklaas, a Dutch figure who gives gifts around December 6. Sinterklaas is in turned based upon Saint Nicholas, a Greek bishop of Myra (now in modern day Turkey), who had a knack for secret gift-giving.
convexed March 17, 2011, 10:02 am
I thought Wendy was pointing out that Santa doesn’t have Biblical/scriptural roots. You’re right, since Christmas is a crucial part of many mainstream Christian traditions, it does have Christian elements in its history—but Santa and Christmas were melded into the Christian tradition later on, after the events described in the Bible.
anna728 March 17, 2011, 8:50 pm
Christmas itself precedes Christianity…
ReginaRey March 17, 2011, 9:16 am
REALLY great advice, Wendy…you painted an excellent picture of the steps the LW needs to take in this situation.
I might add that perhaps the reason your boyfriend is shutting down when you bring up the discussion of marriage and religion is because he isn’t *quite* comfortable with those ideas yet, especially the notion of children. A year is a solid base from which to begin discussing those notions, but your boyfriend would be FAR from the first to get a little wide-eyed and breathless at the thought of marriage and kids…even if he CAN see himself doing those things with you at *some point* in the future.
Maybe when you bring this issue up next, in the ways that Wendy advised, you could preface it by ensuring him that you certainly aren’t pressuring marriage or children before he or both of you is fully ready, and that neither is something you need to do very soon. Rather, you just want to ensure that if this relationship DOES take that route in some point in the future, you’re on the same page about how you might handle those things. I know some people get nervous just talking about the IDEA of marriage and children after a year of dating (even if they really love and are committed to their partner), so making sure he isn’t secretly feeling pressured would be a great place to start.
Ally March 17, 2011, 3:01 pm
Really well put! I think this would be a great place for the LW to start addressing her concerns. 🙂
Golden_Key March 17, 2011, 9:35 am
Great advice, Wendy. I agree that it is perfectly reasonable for the LW to be having these discussions with her boyfriend at this point in their relationship.
LW, if this is preventing you from being fully comfortable in this relationship, I say you should just sit your boyfriend down and let him know that you need more concrete answers to these questions. For a little inspiration on possible solutions, here’s one that our family friends came chose. In their case, the mom is Episcopalian (which is what I was raised as) and the dad is Jewish. Both partners cared for their own religions, so they attended their own worship services each week. For the kids, they went to Hebrew School in order to have their Bar Mitzvahs, and then would switch off and on each week between our church and the synagogue. We also had very loose confirmation classes at my church (mostly youth group sleepovers), and I believe none of the boys chose to get confirmed at the end of those (which the parents were fine with). However, all three of the kids had strong ties to both communities–the eldest even chose to make his eagle scout project something that would benefit our church. This family is very close and the parents have a wonderful marriage. Their religious differences really are not an issue. Whenever we did any kind of social justice or charity work of any kind, their father would always help out, since it was teaching his kids good morals. As long as you are open with your partner and potential future kids, compromise can very much be reached. In case this wasn’t inspirational enough, my old pastor even had a Jewish wife who regularly attended our church (she never converted, and was never asked to).
My point with all of this rambling is that inter-faith relationships involving children are totally possible. You just need to figure out with your boyfriend whether or nor it will work for the two of you, and if so, what that will look like, realistically. Good luck!
ArtsyGirl March 17, 2011, 10:01 am
I guess the Jewish/Episcopalian mix is popular since that is also what I wrote about!
ArtsyGirl March 17, 2011, 9:43 am
My bother- in law is Episcopalian and his wife is Jewish. They have been big on mixing their religious beliefs for both their wedding and raising their son. They got married in a hotel (neutral ground) with both a priest and a rabbi leading the service. Their son had a brit milah and a baptism.
Actually it works out well because they don’t have to split the holidays between families (Christmas and Easter is spent with the Christian side of the family and Passover, Yom Kippur, and Rosh Hashanah are spent with the Jewish side).
There will be a lot of compromise no matter who you marry so if you are willing to meet him halfway (and he you) I am sure it can work out.
convexed March 17, 2011, 10:12 am
I am glad to read the comments containing success stories of interfaith families. I think it may be hard to know yet the LW’s boyfriend’s depth of feeling about his own religion. Though they’ve talked about marriage together, his reluctance to talk about the concrete aspects of that future suggests that, while it might be a natural balking because the idea of marriage is HUGE, it might also be that he hasn’t dedicated much soul-searching yet to what elements of his faith he needs to keep and commit to, and which he is willing to discard—for instance, would he be comfortable if you and your kids didn’t regularly participate in confession? Is he devout? Though of course he respects your faith, does he truly believe it is as valid and true as his own? I’m not implying that he doesn’t, or that these are questions unique to Catholics, but I do think you and he will both need to determine clearly the extent of your singular attachments to your own faiths, examining what your lives of religious practice have looked like and included so far, and what you expect your own life of religious observation to look like in the future, with or without each other, and what the differences and similarities would be.
I think for these unions to work, both parties need to be of somewhat progressive or liberal orders of their faith. For instance, if one partner ardently believes anyone outside his/her own faith is going to burn in hell for eternity, then I would hate to be the nonbeliever in that marriage. But you can be serious about your faith and practice without being rigidly dogmatic or close-minded to others.
MissDre March 17, 2011, 10:16 am
I knew a guy whose mother was Buddhist and his father was Muslim. They seemed to make it work, so I definitely any couple can if they are willing to compromise.
Skyblossom March 17, 2011, 10:21 am
The real problem here isn’t that you have different religions but that he doesn’t seem willing to discuss the issue. It is an issue but a very workable issue and I think most of us know happy marriages between a Jew and a Christian.
Is it just this issue that he has trouble discussing or is it all major issues? Being unable to discuss problems/conflicts is a red flag for me and I’d watch carefully for any problems in this regard. Life is full of conflict and this first real issue you’ve run into is a great learning experience for you both in how to work through differences. If you can do this you will be learning to work together to find solutions to other problems in the future but if you can’t this relationship probably won’t work.
Maracuya March 17, 2011, 10:26 am
Unrelated: Love the hat.
Wendy March 17, 2011, 10:28 am
Thanks! Credit has to go to Drew.
WatersEdge March 17, 2011, 10:37 am
“I’m sure he thinks that now while he isn’t married and doesn’t have kids, but his tune could change when he realizes he wants his kids to have a Christmas tree and an Easter bunny as much as I want them to have Rosh Hashana and Passover. Or maybe he thinks that he can later convince me to go his way. Or maybe he actually is OK with raising them Jewish. ”
Is it just me, or does the LW sound like she doesn’t really want to compromise? Like she is open to the idea of compromise in theory, but what she really wants is to flat-out raise the kids Jewish? I think that the LW needs to really figure out what she wants from her boyfriend. Unless he genuinely doesn’t care and wants them to be Jewish (doesn’t sound like it?) she should open herself to a middle ground. Would you really forbid the Easter Bunny? What kind of a message does that send to the kids about respecting others’ beliefs and opinions, their own parents’ beliefs and opinions in particular?
I personally think that unless religion is not at all important to one parent, then both parents need to respect and embrace the other parents’ cultures and religion. That means get educated on the religion at least on a basic level, and encourage your children to explore both religions and observe both holidays. I don’t think there should be any forbidding a Christmas tree or forbidding a menorah. I think that sends a very negative message to the kids, that “Daddy’s religion is wrong, and it’s not ok to be open to other religions”. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people use religion as a means of being closeminded or negative. Maybe you should work on finding the positives in Christianity, and helping your boyfriend find the positives in Judaism, to embrace religion instead of letting it become an obstacle.
Sarah March 17, 2011, 12:12 pm
Sorry, I don’t think it’s a question of not “compromising,” if you’ve already settled on “raising the kids Jewish,” to say no Christmas trees or Easter bunnies. It’s not unreasonable to say that since Jewish people don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter, they don’t have Christmas trees or Easter baskets. If the kids are both, or neither, or a mix, that’s a separate question. But I don’t think children who are being “raised Jewish” need to get their very own Christmas tree in order to learn how to “respect others’ beliefs and opinions.”
If the OP wants to “raise the kids Jewish,” and that (for her) means no Christmas, I don’t think that makes her a bad person. I just think that, if the bf WANTS Christmas, they are not going to find common ground and someone will have to give (or they break up). But I don’t think it needs to be her, in the name of “teaching tolerance.”
elisabeth March 17, 2011, 1:02 pm
Agreeing with Sarah here. I think there are a lot of things that can and *should* be compromised in a relationship, but for some, religion is not one of them. Compromising how you handle a situation is VERY different from compromising your belief systems. And a belief in respecting other’s beliefs does not have to be taught in place of a religious system. The two can and should go together. I think you’re right on the ball when you say parents of different faiths need to be very careful not to discount the other’s religion, ESPECIALLY in front of their children.
The LW isn’t even married yet. If she were married, yes, she should push forward and do her best to compromise, to keep her marriage intact. But she’s only just exploring that idea with her partner, and she has every right to question whether or not she’s willing to compromise her religion.
Guy Friday March 17, 2011, 3:42 pm
“She has every right to question whether or not she’s willing to compromise her religion”
Speaking as a Jew — and as someone who is actually going through the exact same thing as the OP with his fiancee, but in reverse — I’ve got to say that I resent the characterization of potentially allowing a Christmas tree or an Easter bunny as “compromis[ing] her religion.” Let’s be frank here: if she’s adopting the Orthodox viewpoint as her “religion”, she won’t be marrying a non-Jew; and if she’s adopting the Conservative or Reform or Reconstructionist viewpoint — and I say this as someone raised as a Conservative Jew — then she’s already “compromised” her faith, so to speak, based on what the Torah teaches is the proper way to practice one’s faith (though I want to be clear in stating that I don’t necessarily agree with everything in the Torah; I’m just saying we need to be honest about their positions, as they are.) I read this the exact same way that WatersEdge did, and I feel the same way: suggesting that you can’t raise your kids Jewish while at the same time still observing certain Catholic rituals is sending a very pointed message that there’s no room for tolerance or acceptance of other rituals and customs.
OP, I’d agree with others in that it’s absolutely a conversation worth having, and I’d agree with others in that it’s completely valid to say that it’s a deal-breaker if you can’t come to an agreement on how to proceed. However, if I may suggest an approach to take, my fiancee and I have agreed that when we have children, we will raise our kids Catholic, because the specific faith of her children matters a great deal to her and not as much to me. And I’m fully on board with being a regular parishoner at church, having the kids go to Sunday school, having them get baptized and go through Communion, etc., because it’s important for them to see that both parents take faith seriously (which we both do, albeit in differing forms.) However, we’ve also agreed to three basic rules:
1.) NO ONE is allowed to try to convert me to Catholicism. My kids will be Catholic, but I will not be, and if a parish can’t accept that, we’ll find a different one.
2.) If our children have questions as to why Daddy doesn’t take Communion or why he wasn’t baptized or why he fasts on Yom Kippur, we’re going to be honest and explain that I was raised in a different faith and that Judaism is what I practice, but that it doesn’t make one faith right or wrong; it just makes it different.
3.) While we’re not going to be doing a dual-faith thing with our kids, we’re going to teach our kids about both faiths so that they can understand both her Catholic family and my Jewish family. Granted, we’ll likely go much more in-depth on Catholicism, but my kids will probably go to a Passover seder or a Chanukah celebration, and that means they’re going to have to know what that crunchy cracker thing is at the seder any why we have to put horseradish on it. Plus, the stories are really fun to tell to kids anyway 🙂
I’m not saying you can’t do the “no symbols of the other faith” thing, but kids are smart, and they’re going to figure out that their family is different, and in the long run I think it’s better if you just own that fact. And if they see it not as a fight between cultures but as a blending of what you both consider the important parts of each of your faiths, they’re going to come out of it with the tolerance and patience and love BOTH faiths proclaim to be a core value. And, in the end, isn’t that what you really want? Not just practicing a faith, but EMBODYING a faith?
Sarah March 17, 2011, 5:58 pm
“[S]uggesting that you can’t raise your kids Jewish while at the same time still observing certain Catholic rituals is sending a very pointed message that there’s no room for tolerance or acceptance of other rituals and customs.”
Again, I completely disagree. If an individual person feels that, in order to raise his or her children as Jewish, this precludes observing the kids (not learning about, not watching others observe) certain Catholic rituals (even “secular” ones like having a Christmas tree), I don’t think that approach sends a message of intolerance or lack of acceptance of other rituals and customs. I think that sends a message of “This is what we, as Jews, do and do not do. Others do other things; even other JEWS do other things; that’s fine, but this is what we do.”
convexed March 17, 2011, 6:20 pm
What Guy Friday writes about compromising religion is kind of what I meant when I said a successful dual-faith marriage (or marriage of two people from different religious traditions) can’t work if one is deeply devout to an interpretation of the faith that requires disclaiming the validity of other faiths, OR that the practices of one faith will be reduced or weakened by incorporating the practices of another. I do not believe that two equally active, orthodox practitioners of different religions can find enough common ground to sustain a marriage and child-raising—if the tenets of the religion require NON-compromise.
I know many successful unions where one partner is ambivalent or nonpracticing, and so easily defers to the other’s preference, or both value tolerance and plurality above legalistic adherence to scriptural teachings. I don’t know any that have worked where both partners put their individual religious practice above the partnership.
A direct conversation, perhaps with a non-affiliated (or multi-faith) counselor present, or with the couple consulting a Catholic counselor and a Jewish counselor to moderate or suggest possible solutions, might help bring the issue to clarity.
LSS86 March 17, 2011, 2:35 pm
But if she’s not willing to compromise, why is she bothering to write into an advice columnist? If she insists that her children must be raised Jewish and they can’t have a hint of Christian culture in their upbringing, no need for advice. Just tell your boyfriend that.
elisabeth March 17, 2011, 2:39 pm
Maybe it’s not that she’s willing or unwilling to compromise – maybe she’s still undecided. Maybe she doesn’t know how it could affect her long-term and wants to hear from those who have more experience in that area?
LSS86 March 17, 2011, 2:37 pm
Oh also, if she’s willing to DATE someone who’s Catholic, I find it hard to believe she’d be completely unwilling to compromise.
WatersEdge March 17, 2011, 3:09 pm
I was thinking that she thought she was ok with compromise, but now that push has come to shove, she’s less comfortable with it than she thought she’d be. She also said that she has explored her faith more recently, so that may have something to do with why she got into the relationship v. how she’s feeling now.
I don’t know, that comment about how “he may think it doesn’t matter to him but what if he wants a Christmas tree” <—- I think it shows a lot of insight into what she really wants… just Jewish kids. not an interfaith compromise.
Quakergirl March 17, 2011, 7:42 pm
Re-reading this letter, now, I think you make a great point WatersEdge. It seems like a lot of people see the idea of celebrating Christmas as a “compromise” that she should “allow,” but it really, really isn’t. Are we seriously suggesting that she forbid her Catholic future husband from celebrating his own religious holiday? In what world would it ever be okay for her to not allow Christmas if she doesn’t insist he convert? And unless he agrees to wall off Christmas into one room of the house and forbid the children from going in there, they’re going to “have” the Christmas tree too.
Raising your kids Jewish is fine, and it definitely seems like she wants that. But in reality, it seems like what might make her more comfortable is a Jewish husband. Absolutely nothing wrong with that at all, but if it’s really true, she needs to realize it sooner rather than later.
Inter-faithed March 18, 2011, 3:25 pm
Maybe this is my lack of understanding of what “celebrating Christmas” entails, and granted I have never done so before, but in my understanding the actual having of a Christmas tree is secondary to other observances– attending mass, having a big family dinner. If our kids would be raised Jewish, there would be no Christmas tree in my house. Most years I imagine we would take the kids to visit his parents for Christmas and there would be the big family dinner, their family would all attend mass, and yes there would be a Christmas tree. My kids and I would probably not go to mass, but we would participate in everything else. After all, its nice to visit with grandma and grandpa. I wouldn’t prohibit anyone from giving them Christmas presents, hell I have gotten a few Christmas presents myself over the years, and given quite a few as well.
And what about the years we just couldn’t afford to travel back to his hometown, or we had to work, or just couldn’t do the trip? Would I encourage their Catholic father to go to church? Yes. Would I prepare a nice family dinner? Yes. But would there be a christmas tree in the living room and lights on the front of the house? No, because I don’t think these are required for one to celebrate Christmas. It would be like you telling me I couldn’t have presents on Hannukah- its a tradition for the holiday but is in no way a requirement. Correct me if I’m wrong, though, because I will have to reevaluate my position.
I would never stop him from observing the holiday or pretend I could keep the kids from seeing Christmas. They would just know its a nice holiday, fun to celebrate, fun to see family, but not their holiday.
Kate March 18, 2011, 3:29 pm
No, you are correct, IMO. I know many people (most I know, in fact) that “celebrate” Christmas with absolutely NO religious rituals, etc. I do not understand this at all, maybe because I was raised in a Catholic family.
Quakergirl March 19, 2011, 4:49 pm
You’re right that from a religious standpoint, things like Christmas trees, lights, cookies, etc. are not essential, although many have some religious origins. But for a lot of people, they’re the reminders and outwardly celebratory aspect of Christmas and the Christmas season. The entire Christmas season is a very holy time for Christians, not just Christmas Eve/Day. And I’d bet your boyfriend is at least as attached to these outwardly celebratory things as he is to the going to mass part of it. Most Jewish holidays don’t work this way (or at least, they didn’t in my house), but a lot of Christian holidays do. It just doesn’t *feel* like it’s actually the Christmas season without these outward things. For example, would you let him listen to Christmas music in the house? That’s one thing I’d ask him about, because it’s probably going to get him thinking about what it really means to live in a strictly Jewish household. While YOU may not think it’s essential to have a Christmas tree or lights or music, HE might.
Think about it this way: It’s your birthday, and you loved your birthday as a kid, but your boyfriend wants his kids to be raised without birthdays. You’re allowed to go to the park and meditate on what an amazing gift it is to be alive, but you can’t have any banners or cake or happy-birthday singing at home. When you go to your parents, you can celebrate there, but not at home. It’s kinda like you’re being forced to celebrate in secret, no? Wouldn’t it make you feel sort of second-class to not be able to outwardly celebrate your birthday because it’s special to you?
Similarly, by telling your boyfriend that you wouldn’t allow any Christmas celebration at home when it means something to him is likely to make him feel pushed aside and like his background isn’t welcome in his own house. Even if he’s perfectly fine with his kids being raised Jewish, it doesn’t mean HE’S perfectly fine being Jewish. By essentially forcing him to hide his Catholicism in your house, that’s pretty much what you’re asking him to do.
Quakergirl March 19, 2011, 4:53 pm
And again, no judgment whatsoever no matter where you land. I’d completely understand if you asked him to convert (or if you ultimately decide you only want to marry someone who grew up Jewish). But it’s only fair to be upfront about what you actually want from him so that he can decide if he’s willing to do it.
evanscr05 March 17, 2011, 10:49 am
One of my co-workers is Catholic and his wife is Jewish. They have been married for 30+ years. They agreed early on to raise their daughter to understand and respect BOTH religious traditions, so she celebrated Hanukah AND Christmas. It ABSOLUTELY can work out, it’s just a matter of understanding how important your religions are to each of you and what kinds of things you want to instill in your kids. Having good morals is one thing, but what does having “good” morals actually mean to each of you? Religion plays a big role in determining how we view the world, and it’s possible to have completely conflicting ideas about the very same subject. Even within the same religion there are differing ideas (example: my fiance and I are both Christian, but we still cannot agree on whether or not our future children will be christened as infants as we don’t have the same viewpoint on original sin). If he is okay with raising his kids to go to Temple and to celebrate the cultural and religious traditions of your faith, that’s great. But does he also want to celebrate the cultural and religious traditions of his faith, as well? Is it important to him to have his children raised Catholic and to become confirmed members of that church? To attend church every Sunday? To send his kids to Catholic schools? Is it important for him to be married in a Catholic church? Are you okay with raising your kids in a multi-cultural, multi-religious household? The married thing can be handled much easier, though. My roommate’s sister is Catholic and her husband is Jewish, so they opted not to get married in a church OR a temple, and to have an officiant that was non-denominational (her parents were PISSED that she wasn’t getting married in a cathedral). I’ve seen couples have a Rabbi and a Priest preside. You can do a lot of different things with a wedding, so that is so much easier to compromise on. Religion is a deeply personal thing, though, and if he is unwilling to make compromises for the sake of your relationship, that’s okay. Perhaps it just means you are not meant for each other, and better to know now before you get too entangled.
SherBear400 March 17, 2011, 10:51 am
I grew up in a neighborhood with a large number of inter-faith families (it wasn’t until I was much older that I learned this was not normal). It was fun as a child to learn about all of the different customs and celebrations. The key was the respect amongst all of the adults for different belief systems. If your boyfriend can truely respect your religion then yes it can work, but if there is any type of resentment then your future kids will start feeling like they have to pick sides. It’s not like when he first started dating you he didn’t know you were Jewish and hopefully he understands that the religion is passed down through the mother so this conversation shouldn’t be a huge surprise to him. I agree with Wendy that discussing being married by a rabbi is a good test for his willingness to put his belief system aside for you.
Mainer March 17, 2011, 10:53 am
Man, kids. Always complicating things. I don’t see what the issue is with raising them as both. It’s no different than teaching your kid to speak two different languages. In fact, it’s funny. We see bi-lingual children as gifted, yet we have this huge issue with raising our children to practice two religions. What are we afraid of, that they’ll create some sort of middle-east conflict inside their own head? The only thing it does is expose them to more of what the world has to offer so they are that much more culturally rich. When they get older, if they are more into one religion over the other, then let them choose. I’d say let them chose when they’re young, but they’ll just go with whichever gives you more presents. Then later in life they’ll switch to the one that gives you less guilt. Actually, that sounds like a pretty good deal…
brendapie March 17, 2011, 2:48 pm
I don’t understand why children are raised to follow the religious beliefs of their parents. I don’t say that with any hostility and I respect and appreciate families partaking in religion together but I would rather focus on teaching a young child the core beliefs of love and respect than a specific religion (the golden rule, etc). As they get older, I would hope any child of mine would have been exposed to a myriad of cultures and beliefs and found one that made them feel spiritually whole.
elisabeth March 17, 2011, 10:12 pm
I don’t understand why a child wouldn’t be raised to follow the religious beliefs of their parents. If the parent truly believes it, why wouldn’t they want to instill that belief in their child? That goes for anything. If you believe that your child shouldn’t eat food off the floor, you tell them that they shouldn’t eat food off the floor, and that’s that! You’d be remiss not to share your knowledge that you believe will ensure their safety. While not everyone holds the same religious views, they have a right to hold them and a right to teach them to their kids. Why would a parent do anything else?
Exposure to a myriad of cultures is not dependent on somehow shielding your child from a solid belief system, whether that’s religious or simply “moral” or anything else. They can be exposed to different thought processes and ways of life while still keeping family life grounded in one belief.
brendapie March 17, 2011, 11:42 pm
I’m not saying a child should not be exposed to the religious beliefs of their parents – if it’s an important part of the parent’s life it is only natural to share that with the child. I think it’s beautiful to include a child in experiencing your beliefs and partaking in religious events – for me that is like any family event and I would certainly want to include my child in that.
However, I want to share my beliefs but not force my child to follow them – I want them to discover what is important to them and to develop their own spirituality. I feel that you can share your core beliefs with a child apart from your religious beliefs and that is how I would choose to raise my child. I am not negating in any way the right of a parent to raise their own child to follow their beliefs but I also have the right to respectfully disagree with it (and I would certainly not tell another parent how to raise their child).
I also feel that some children can not properly grasp the importance of spirituality in their lives at a young age but I would certainly not prevent them from being introduced to it. My argument is that a child should not be forced to follow a religion because the parent believes in it but that does not mean a child should not be introduced to their parent’s beliefs.
anna728 March 17, 2011, 9:18 pm
I really disagree that it’s the same as learning two languages. Religions are not just holiday traditions, each religion makes claims about the world and they often conflict with one another. Is there original sin or not? Is Jesus your savior or not? Are there saints or not? You can’t simultaneously hold both beliefs.
Amy March 17, 2011, 11:03 am
Another thing that would be worthwhile to consider is the level of acceptance your families will show your relationship. And then – whether any lack of acceptance will cause relationship problems between the two of you. Families and friends can have such an influence on a relationship – for the good or the bad. If his Catholic mother can’t stand the thought of her children being raised other than Catholic – the two of you might be in for a rough ride. I’d consider not only whether your boyfriend will be a good fit religiously but also whether his family will be accepting of this change and probably more importantly – if they won’t be accepting, can he stand up for his decisions and your relationship.
Diann March 17, 2011, 12:44 pm
Good point. My EX-hubby didn’t give a fig about religion and never went to church but he caved faster than a chocolate bunny in the Las Vegas sun when his parents started moaning about how they didn’t want their grandchildren rotting in purgatory. He may not care but is he strong enough to stand up to familial pressure? Will he want to? Will you?
sarolabelle March 17, 2011, 11:11 am
really the only way you can know if feelings on the subject is to force him to talk about it. Just ask “if we were to have kids will you want them to have a Christmas tree?”
Wendy March 17, 2011, 11:11 am
It’s actually totally different from raising your kids bilingual! Speaking Spanish doesn’t mean that speaking English is less true; there’s nothing contradictory about it. On the other hand, a big part of modern Judaism is about believing that the world is still waiting for the Messiah… something directly in conflict with Christian beliefs.
It’s easy enough to raise kids as culturally both Jewish and Christian, but on a religious level, it’s much more complex.
The fact that the LW only brought up Christmas trees and the Easter bunny make me think that either she has an extremely poor understanding of her boyfriend’s religion, or he isn’t religious at all (in which case it shouldn’t be much of an issue). That said, in my experience this question is much more complicated for Jews. Catholics (and Lutherans and a few other denominations, as well as individuals in any denomination) have a healthy respect for Jews and do not believe they need conversion, because of the previous covenant. Many Christian beliefs and traditions are based on the Jewish beliefs and traditions from which Christianity sprung, and anyone who grew up going to Catholic (etc) Sunday School probably knows all about that. Jews are more likely to see the Christian beliefs/values/traditions as something strange and different and conflicting than vice versa. Also, unfortunately, in this society there’s necessarily a certain amount of emphasis on Jews being not-Christian, because Christians are so much the majority. It’s going to be easier for a Catholic to accept this his new family is “also kinda Jewish” than it is for a Jew to accept that his family is “also kinda Christian”.
Mainer March 17, 2011, 11:24 am
Right, but a person who only speaks Spanish is likely only to be sensitive to Spanish culture, and vise versa for English. But if a person speaks both, it is likely that they understand and respect each of those cultures. In that sense, I guess I was speaking more along the lines of culturally religious. On the one hand, you could practice a religion very devoutly and have a heavy emphasis on that particular way of life being “more right” than any other; you work toward a life where your end goal is only particular to that given religion.
But on the other hand, practicing religion in a much lighter sense entails an understanding of the history and respect for the practices, as well as belonging to a community of fellow followers. As long as you are not emphasizing that one is better than the other, or one way of life is better than another, I think they can practice both. I think that understand and respecting the historical significances of each will put them on an intellectual level similar to a bi-lingual child. So I guess it’s a difference of following a religion and practicing one. How this couple approaches religion is tough to tell from the letter.
elisabeth March 17, 2011, 12:54 pm
“As long as you are not emphasizing that one is better than the other, or one way of life is better than another, I think they can practice both.”
From a cultural, tolerant stand-point, this makes sense. Blacks aren’t better than whites, Irish aren’t better than Polish, Spanish is not superior to French.
I think religious conflict is truly different, though. How can you instill a belief system that hinges on the belief that your religion is “correct” (*not* better, but correct) when your other half wants to emphasize that *their* religion is correct? How can a parent teach a child anything but what they believe to be true without feeling as if they’re doing their child a disservice? I wouldn’t say, “I believe you need to look both ways before you cross the street or else you’ll get hurt, but I’ll let you make up your own mind about the value of that advice.” No, I’d tell my child that that’s the right way to do it, because that’s what I believe, too.
Mainer March 17, 2011, 1:09 pm
In keeping with the street crossing analogy: You tell your child to look left, then right, then left again before crossing the street. Your husband teaches your child to look right, then left, then right again before crossing. Both are correct and perfectly reasonable methods for crossing a street, though they do differ slightly. One is not better than the other, they are just different. You were raised one way, your husband another. And in the end, your child has been exposed to both “correct” ways to cross the street, and they’ll likely have an advantage over others.
elisabeth March 17, 2011, 1:32 pm
I think this is where it gets personal, and each individual has to evaluate how they view their religion in respect to others’.
I see your counter-example, but the slight differences in those ways of crossing the street reads to me like the slight differences between different denominations of protestant Christianity. The operate on the same principle but go about the action in a different order (for instance, infant baptism vs. believer baptism). But if my SO wanted to teach my children that they can cross the street by facing one direction and looking in the other with a mirror, I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with that.
Mainer March 17, 2011, 2:47 pm
Valid point. And I agree, I think it is 100% a personal decision. Raising children under two different religions may work for some but not for others.
That being said, it’s a beautiful day, so I’m going to take my dog to the beach and then go out for some St. Patty’s beers.
elisabeth March 17, 2011, 2:51 pm
It is a beautiful day. I just had my lunch outdoors, and it was gorgeous. ♥ Thank you for an intelligent debate!
WatersEdge March 17, 2011, 1:43 pm
A lot of people, even some devoutly religious people, do not believe that their religion is the only correct religion. A healthy skepticism about the idea that any one religion has got things absolutely perfect and all other religions are incorrect (and according to your street analogy, potentially dangerous) implies an underdeveloped sense of what belief in God is truly about. The rituals surrounding HOW to worship God are different across religions, but the idea there there IS a God and you SHOULD worship him transcends rituals passed down from different cultures. I think that’s what Mainer’s getting at, too…
elisabeth March 17, 2011, 9:37 pm
I think you’re saying that not questioning what you believe and automatically accepting it to be true implies underdeveloped belief? If I’ve misunderstood, correct me, but from what I’m gathering, I agree.
I think doubt and questions, along with education about other religious practices, are integral to “believing your belief” as opposed to just parroting it, or following it blindly. I think it’s possible to hold a belief while simultaneously questioning it, just as it’s possible to teach your child what you believe as truth while also teaching them to test that belief. To avoid that kind of deep thinking is detrimental.
anna728 March 17, 2011, 9:30 pm
The “correctness” thing is what I was thinking, too. Religions contain more than just cultural traditions. There are some denominations of Christians that believe the bible is literally true. If they marry someone who interprets it very metaphorically, do they tell the kids it’s half literal? Especially in the LW’s case, where the two religions in question are fairly traditional about things like that. I mean we’re not talking about flexible Unitarians and Taoists, they’re a Catholic and a Jew. There is more, too, than the correct way to worship, but each religion believes different things about the universe that are either true or are not- there is no in between. This is not to say that there is no way to make it work, but it certainly is not like languages and it not just about Christmas trees.
Inter-faithed March 17, 2011, 2:35 pm
Letter writer here, wanted to comment on this:
“The fact that the LW only brought up Christmas trees and the Easter bunny make me think that either she has an extremely poor understanding of her boyfriend’s religion, or he isn’t religious at all (in which case it shouldn’t be much of an issue).”
Just want to clear up that I mentioned these things only, not because I don’t know more. I didn’t want to be disrespectful of some of the more important religious tenets of Catholicism by enumerating them in a brief letter. I was trying to be inoffensive, but re-reading it now, I guess it was a different kind of offensive. No, I do not think Christianity is only painted eggs and electronic reindeer.
However the rest of your post is very true… Jews are emphatically Jews because we are a minority, and because of familial pressure to continue the faith– my great-grandparents narrowly escaped Nazis by coming to America from Poland in the 1930s, and they and their children (my grandparents, some who were not yet born some who were only babies at the time) will carry that survivors guilt forever.
Before anyone scolds me for bowing to familial pressure… my reasons for wanting Jewish children, though I’m sure not entirely separate from the family pressure, is not a direct result of it. I have a personal relationship with my religion that I developed in the past few years, after I’d moved out of my parents house, and that is my main motivation.
WatersEdge March 17, 2011, 3:18 pm
I think that the tone of your comment here is very different from what you wrote in your letter. In your letter, you implied that you were looking for a way to come to a compromise with your boyfriend. But now it sounds like you’re saying that you want to raise your kids Jewish for personal reasons, and you want to come to the decision with your boyfriend that if you have children, that they will be raised Jewish. So I think the advice becomes much more direct at this point. It sounds like a dealbreaker for you, so you should probably tell your boyfriend that you want to raise the children Jewish. And if that’s not something that he can agree to, then the relationship should probably end. Good luck!
spaceboy761 March 17, 2011, 4:18 pm
This. If the religion of your children is non-negotiable, your relationship is reaching a turning point pretty soon. I hope it works out. Again, encourage your boyfriend to not spare your feelings. We need real honesty here.
caitie_didn't March 17, 2011, 5:12 pm
I have to agree with WatersEdge. Compromising on how to raise hypothetical children is a different thing than “talking to your boyfriend about how you want your future children to be raised in a strictly Jewish household”.
Also, I totally understand that people’s relationships with their faith change over time, which may have not made this an issue when you started dating. But if this doesn’t work out, if a Jewish household is a non-negotiable for you, it might be helpful for you to a). disclose this very soon into a new relationship or b). limit your dating pool to only Jewish men. I have heard many success stories about JDate!
Langeah March 17, 2011, 11:13 am
The LW said when she’s brought up this topic that her BF’s response is “it doesn’t matter what religion you raise kids with, as long as you give them good morals.” I wonder if she’s thought about the possibility that her BF is in fact saying what he means, that he doesn’t care, and there’s nothing else going on there. Obviously the LW cares what religion her future children are, but it sounds possible to me that her BF isn’t avoiding the topic, he just doesn’t have anything else to add. Wendy’s advice to get specific about things you’d want, like being married by a Rabbi, might help you figure that out.
For the record, I was raised Catholic and my boyfriend is Jewish, and it has been great. Other than Thanksgiving, we have no competition for holidays. It can work out very well!
spot March 17, 2011, 11:22 am
Interfaith marriage can definitely work, but I think a lot of what determines that is the extent to which each partner feels connected to their religion. If both partners feel strong ties to their own religion, it might complicate things when kids and raising a family comes into the picture. If one or both feels somewhat indifferent toward their respective religious traditions, that lends itself to more flexibility in a marriage.
I am Jewish and come from a pretty religious upbringing, and both my dad and my mom’s mother converted to Judaism–so clearly we have a history of dating non-Jewish people in our family. That said, I don’t think it would be acceptable to my family, or me, to marry someone who didn’t convert. It is nothing against non-Jewish people, but I think that raising a Jewish family is too important to me to marry someone who didn’t want the same. It just wouldn’t be practical in the long term.
If he was willing, to convert, would you be thrilled, or would it not make a big difference, as long as he is okay with raising your kids Jewish? I ask you that not so you consider asking him or hope that he might convery, but to see how important his religion really is to you. If you find yourself wishing he would convert, that might indicate that him “settling,” for lack of a better word, to allow you to raise your kids Jewish, isn’t a strong enough commitment to the culture and religion that you want to bring into your future family. If his simple compliance, or willingness, to raise Jewish children, without adopting the religion as a family, is enough for you to feel content, then I think an interfaith marriage could work.
Right now it’s easy to brush aside these types of issues which very likely may arise farther down in the relationship, when these issues become part of the present instead of something of the future.
spaceboy761 March 17, 2011, 11:32 am
As a practicing Catholic who married a practicing Jewish woman, I have some experience here. Wendy is absolutely right about this being the perfect time to resolve ‘the religion issue’ in the relationship. Not after marriage, not during your third trimester, now… while nobody is working under a deadline and you have time to work out the necessary compromises.
Because oh, there are going to be compromises. My wife and I decided to raise our future children Jewish (currently too broke for kids, but that’s another story), but also decided that our family will celebrate Christmas and Easter while explaining that these are the traditions that daddy, Grandma,and Grandpa have. Our families give both of us gifts on both Christmas and Hannukah. My parents have attended the Passover seders at my wife’s mother’s house just as her parents have had Easter dinner at my parent’s house. It can work. As an added bonus, all “We went to YOUR parent’s for Christmas last year! Why does your family HATE ME?!!!!” arguments are over before they start!
Considering the families is the toughest part of the decision. My parents were pretty crushed when I told them that their only grandchildren were going to be Jewish, complete with “I don’t want my grandchildren going to hell” comments. This is no easy way around that conversation, and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Everybody interfaith family has to figure that one out on their own.
The big issue here is the fact that your boyfriend effectively shuts down when you try to bring up the issue. You have to force his hand. I cry over exactly three things: Death, anything that makes me happy enough, and the thought of letting my family down. You’re both going to scream and cry and fight as much as I did because you’re both fighting for the same thing: To not let your family down. This is going to hurt, but it’s a necessary step in the relationship. If it winds up being a dealbreaker, it’s better to have i happen now when you’re only a year intothe relationship instead of five years from now when there’s a marriage, home, and potential child at stake.
If you can get through this, your relationship is for real. Any guy that is willing to put up any kind of a fight and still choose you over his family to that extent is never going to cheat on you or hide money from you. “Whatthehellever” is not the answer you want unless your boyfriend is essentially non-practicing and could honestly care less (in which case, problem solved anyway). You need to lay out the terms hard and clean.
Having that said, be prepared to bend. You can’t just smack down the law as in “No house of mine will ever have a Christmas tree” and expect him to just roll over for you. The last thing you need is to get everything you want in terms of agreements on how to raise the kids and have him be resentful forever. Everybody has to give a little for a real compromise to be reached, because if either of you are unwilling to do so, you may as well stop wasting time this relationship and hit up J-Date, because you’ve hit a non-negotiable obstacle.
JustMe March 17, 2011, 11:41 am
First, you need to decide what you want for your children. There is nothing wrong with you wanting to bring your kids up strictly in the Jewish faith if that is what you feel. Nothing wrong with that, and don’t let anyone else make you feel guilty for not wanting your kids to be brought up in an interfaith household. You are not an ignorant bigot because your faith means something to you and you want your kids raised in it.
If that is what you indeed want, then you need to be very clear to your boyfriend. You need to let him know you don’t expect him to propose to you tomorrow and start having kids next year, but this is what you want for your children, and this is a non-negotiable for you.
Then, listen to him. And if it comes out he is not comfortable with that, then respect him enough not to try to change his mind or browbeat him. He has every right to want his children brought up in his faith as you do yours. Part of that respect would, sadly, be moving on from the relationship. If both of you have expressed what you want for your children and that’s in conflict, then staying in a relationship means one of you is hoping to change the other’s mind. That’s not right and not fair to either of you, and you are just prolonging the hurt.
And I would definitely follow Drew’s lead in any following relationship. Once you get back into the dating pool, if you continue to date non Jews, let them know up front this is important to you.
elisabeth March 17, 2011, 12:31 pm
I like Wendy’s advice. I think it would be good to really dig deep as to why he’s uncomfortable, though. Is he uncomfortable because he doesn’t understand it, is he uncomfortable because he doesn’t want to rock the boat, is he uncomfortable because he’s deeply situated in his own faith and isn’t sure how to discuss the differences?
It’s a frustrating feeling, I know. My last relationship ended partially because of religious differences. I’m happy to be tolerant and accepting and open-minded in my friendships, but for me, my faith changes not only my behavior, but how I view conflict, my actions, and others’ actions – it colors how I see my world and how I handle situations, and in a relationship, that’s an important thing to see eye-to-eye on. So I’m a bit more selective when it comes to SO’s.
That said, I have a story. Just food for thought, I don’t mean to imply anything particular by it.
My mother’s best friend at church is in a disfunctional marriage because of religious differences. When she married, she was agnostic, and her husbad is Jewish. When they married, she had had no problem with raising her children in the Jewish faith, as her husband wanted. A few years later (before they had children), she converted to the Christian faith. She didn’t predict or foresee this before the marriage, but it’s taking quite a toll on their relationship now. Her husband is raising their children in the Jewish faith, but on top of that, they’ve been taught that their mother is “weird” to believe in Jesus, “just a guy who doesn’t exist,” and my mum’s friend is really hurt by that exclusion. She’s missing parts of her son’s lives, and they don’t respect her because of her religious point of view.
If you guys are able to mesh those parts of yourselves comfortably, more power to you. I know I personally have had trouble with it, but that’s just me. Your experience is your own.
I guess my point, in the end, is not to discount his or your feelings of discomfort.They SHOULD be explored! The end result is up to the both of you, but don’t avoid discussing your religious differences and expectations because it’s difficult or uncomfortable or because you think it might yield an answer that you’re not ready for.
elisabeth March 17, 2011, 12:39 pm
And after reading other commenter’s notes, I’m really impressed and pleased that this community is taking the issue so seriously. It’s probably a very personal perspective, but I feel like religion and what it means is so often dismissed in an effort to be “tolerant” and to uphold the ideals in today’s culture. And while tolerance and respect is truly important in platonic relationships, I can’t let go that it should matter in romantic relationships. It’s not “wrong” or “prudish” or “intolerant” to seek out someone of a like-mind in that regard if it’s truly important to you.
I just have so many people scoff over the fact that I have little-to-no interest in dating men who don’t share my religious views. It sounds so intolerant in today’s world, to admit that to people! Several times now, I’ve let others persuade me that it doesn’t matter when there’s love involved. And each time I push aside my worries to date someone who doesn’t share my faith, I’m slowly made to realize that that is *not* something that I am willing to compromise on. It underminds the relationship, and affects more than just what we do with our Sunday mornings. It’s IMPORTANT, and if it’s important to you, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
Kate March 17, 2011, 1:48 pm
I agree with you, Elisabeth. I don’t see how it’s any different than not wanting to date someone whose lifestyle is incompatible with yours, yet I don’t think people tend to think that’s “intolerant”.
elisabeth March 17, 2011, 9:42 pm
I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the course of the day. There’s a definitely a double-standard, at least in popular culture, when it comes to using religion as a make-it-or-break-it factor in a romantic relationship vs. anything else. I know that I want a man who knows how to wash his own dishes and laundry, and if he didn’t know how, I’d take a large step back. And be applauded for sticking up for what I need in a relationship. But if I say I’m reconsidering a relationship because of religious differences, I’m called out for being intolerant, judgmental, or discriminatory.
Being tolerant, nonjudgmental, and unprejudiced are all great and healthy and important in most relationships, particularly friendships and public relationships. But in a close familial relationship, there are some things that you SHOULD hold your ground on! For a lot of things, it’s up to the individual what is important to them and what isn’t. Why should religion be any different?
JustMe March 17, 2011, 2:23 pm
I totally agree with you Elisabeth.
I always get wary when religion comes up (who doesn’t though, right?) because it was important to me to marry someone of the same faith, and I have had people say I was bigoted or intolerant because of that. Really?
There are plenty of good men I missed out on because of the faith issue, but you can say that in regards to any criteria you have set for yourself. What was important to me was that my children be raised in a home where the parents were in complete agreement in their spiritual lives.
I don’t disagree with anyone who is a lot more relaxed in that regard. What is a dealbreaker for you may be a shoulder shrug for me. What really constantly irked me was being labeled in less than flattering terms because of my choice.
elisabeth March 17, 2011, 9:43 pm
Exactly this, I love everything you just said here. ♥ The game changes when you’re thinking about a lifetime of commitment!
WatersEdge March 17, 2011, 1:49 pm
Do they REALLY call Jesus “just a guy who doesn’t exist”? I thought that other religions saw Jesus as a prophet, just not THE prophet. Is that just Islam? I thought the world was in agreement that he lived, but not in accordance with whether he was speaking God’s word, etc.?
elisabeth March 17, 2011, 1:52 pm
You know, I couldn’t tell you. I know the basics of Judaism, but I don’t practice it, and I certainly can’t claim that all denominations of it do or do not believe the same way. As it relates to this story, the comment was meant as an illustration for the dismissal their mother feels that her kids think she’s weird (or inferior to them) because a man that they’ve been taught is just a man is central to her faith. I see that my made-up quote was poorly worded, but maybe you can see what I was getting at now?
WatersEdge March 17, 2011, 3:27 pm
Yeah, I see what you mean. And I agree that it’s been nice to debate religious issues without nastiness! While I provided a counterviewpoint that others may not have agreed with, all I meant to say was that people should embrace and respect each others’ religions if they love each other and want to make a family. I think my perspective is tainted by a similar situation to the one you described, where my ex-boyfriend was raised Jewish and the non-Jewish parent’s beliefs were totally dismissed and marginalized.
elisabeth March 17, 2011, 4:40 pm
“people should embrace and respect each others’ religions if they love each other and want to make a family”
I agree with you wholeheartedly there! Respect is imperative in any relationship. I think the reason I keep pushing my point is because the LW is not married or engaged. If you’re lucky enough to foresee an issue and you know that it’s personally important to you (regardless of what any of us say), then you should absolutely re-evaluate your situation! She’s lucky that she gets to work through these difficult issues now, when she can break off the relationship or slow it down if she needs to without such serious consequences as she might experience if she *were* all ready married.
anna728 March 17, 2011, 9:49 pm
Yeah I think that is just Islam. Jesus isn’t a prophet in Judaism. I don’t mean to knitpick over what you said, but I just wanted to point out that many people are not a part of Christianity, Islam OR Judaism, and certainly those people (such as myself) are not in agreement that Jesus lived.
Inter-faithed March 20, 2011, 10:57 pm
I don’t think most Jews question his existence; just the whole son of G-d part. Actually to me it seems pretty obvious he did exist, as in was a real person 2000 years ago. Virgin birth, divine orgins, performing miracles, resurrection… those are another matter entirely.
AKchic March 17, 2011, 2:18 pm
Ah, mixed religions. My first marriage didn’t work out well in that regard, but, my first marriage was a disaster for numerous reasons.
My second marriage was better on the religion front, except for one key part: my MIL. I’m pagan. A lot of my family was pagan until about 3-4 generations ago when they all converted to Christianity (maternal grandfather’s side), Catholic for at least 13 generations back (maternal grandmother’s side), pagan/Lutheran (mixed together on paternal side). My 2nd husband was raised in a non-practicing Christian home. He really didn’t care about religion as he personally was an athiest. Christmas to him was cultural not secular.
We spent a Christmas across country with his parents. It was a disaster. He hadn’t told them that I was pagan (we’d been married for three years by this time) and when she found out, she insisted on making everything as religious as possible in an attempt to convert me. Anytime I was out of the room, she would insist to the kids that “your Mommy is going to hell unless she starts teaching you kids right and stops with that Devil stuff”.
To this day, even though her son initiated the divorce, she blames me for it and is still upset that I am raising the kids in a pagan environment.
My point? Make sure that even if HE is okay with raising the kids in a Jewish setting (even with cultural celebrations like Christmas w/ Santa and Easter w/ the Easter Bunny), that he is willing to be the one to stand up to his family should they balk at the idea and start to complain and throw fits and try to influence things.
LSS86 March 17, 2011, 2:55 pm
I think the thing that’s missing from the letter is how YOU want your kids to be raised. We don’t know if you want them to be completely Jewish with no hints of Christian religion or culture, or if you’d be willing to compromise at least on the culture side of things.
“…but his tune could change when he realizes he wants his kids to have a Christmas tree and an Easter bunny as much as I want them to have Rosh Hashana and Passover,” indicates that maybe you don’t want them to have any Christian culture at all, or are you just using the Christmas tree and Easter bunny as examples of Christianity and you’re saying that your boyfriend might change his mind and want the kids to be raised Christian? What I mean is: you’re comparing two cultural aspects (totally non-religious) of Christianity to two very serious religious Jewish holidays, so I’m not sure what exactly you want for your kids.
If you don’t want any Christian culture, you need to be very clear about that with your boyfriend. Since you’re dating a Catholic though, I’m assuming you are willing to make at least some compromises. And if that’s the case, you need to decide what those compromises are.
LSS86 March 17, 2011, 3:27 pm
Just noticed the LW’s reply up above. I still think you need to explain better what exactly it is you want, because we’re still just speculating how exactly you want your children to be raised. Maybe you’re not 100% sure of what you want, and if that’s the case, you should put a lot of thought into it.
Inter-faithed March 17, 2011, 5:16 pm
Honestly I don’t think it matters what I want, for the sake of the advice I was asking for. I purposely didn’t put alot of information on that into my letter because, as one poster mentioned above, people judge you in an unfavorable light for wanting certain things that seem intolerant.
However, if your advice changes based on the wants, here’s what I want: Jewish children. I want them to go to Hebrew school, I want them to become bar/bat mitzvah… and even more importantly, I don’t want them to be raised with two religions because I don’t want them to be confused.
Life is confusing enough, it would be more confusing if you threw more options into the mix. Christianity and Judaism are often in direct conflict with what to believe; especially on the important matters like life after death, and I want them to have a secure foundation when bad things happen. It is not enough, for me, to raise children in a spiritual vacuum and hope that everything stays sunshine and roses until they are old enough to develop a faith.
So yes when I say that to me, Passover and the Easter cannot exist together in my house, I mean it. When I was a kid we had some close family friends who were Catholic; they came to our house for Passover, we went to theirs for an Easter egg hunt, for Christmas dinner. In each family it was clear.. this is what they believe, this is what we believe. I consider myself tolerant of other religions and alot of it is owed to our two families sharing our traditions; but at the end of the day, I was a Jew and they were Catholics and we never for one second considered switching.
For my kids I would do the same if their father was of a different religion: the Christmas tree can be at his parents house, or his sister’s, we can go there and celebrate with them and enjoy the holiday and the traditions, but it would not be the religion of me and my kids. Grandma and grandpa believe something different. This is what they believe, this is what we believe.
I don’t mean for this to be harsh to anyone who holds different beliefs, I am perfectly happy being friends with people of different religions, and with exposing my future children to all manner of other ideas and traditions and systems to beliefs. But I am Jewish and they will be born Jewish by religious law, and I want them to have the foundation of these beliefs.
I know what I want. I didn’t tell everyone in the email because I didn’t want to be judged by an internet full of strangers for wanting what I want.
I was holding back from discussing it with my boyfriend because his attitude always seemed to indicate that it was too soon and I thought maybe I was wrong for trying to push it so early. But alot of the advice above, especially Wendy’s and Spaceboy’s have made me decide- I will sit him down this weekend and we will have this conversation. And if we can’t come to a plan for raising these hypothetical children that we would both be happy with, then it’ll be time to walk away.
LSS86 March 17, 2011, 6:17 pm
But see, I think knowing all that is extremely helpful! From your letter, I couldn’t tell how much you’d be willing to compromise, so it was hard to know if you were even totally sure of what you wanted. Knowing that you have very firm requirements for your childrens’ religious upbringing, I think that yes, you have to talk to your boyfriend about it and make sure he understands that you won’t change your mind.
If you weren’t sure if/how much you would be willing to compromise, it’d be a totally different conversation to have.
princesspetticoat March 17, 2011, 3:25 pm
My question is what did you do last December? I suppose I’m making an assumption that you were serious enough to do family stuff together for the holidays but if you’re in a place to talk marriage, I think it’s a safe assumption. Did you celebrate both Christmas and Hannukah? How did that make you feel? Did the holidays cause any tension between you two? If you happily celebrated both then I think that’s a great starting point in assessing your future together. If you feel that having both holidays in your life seems doable, then that’s awesome and you should bring up that idea to your boyfriend. If you didn’t celebrate both, or if you weren’t happy about having to recognize his Christmas then you need to decide whether you would ever be okay with his Catholic traditions in your life.
I think the reason he’s shutting down and not really answering your question is because it’s a difficult question. He likely doesn’t really know what to say, partly because he’s worried his choice won’t be what you want and partly because he hasn’t quite figured out what it is that he wants yet. Instead of just demanding Jewish or Catholic from him, start talking about all of the alternatives and hopefully that will start a mature conversation about what each of you is willing to compromise on.
The way I see it, there are a few different options as to how you could raise your children:
-Jewish, but also incorporate Catholic traditions
-Catholic, but also incorporate Jewish traditions
-Teach and celebrate both religions equally
I imagine that if you decide on options 1 or 2, one of you will feel slightly resentful for having to give up your religion and, chances are, the relationship won’t work out in the long run. Are you willing to compromise? Which of these options most appeal to you?
Talk to him again. If he tries to shrug it off again, give him a hypothetical. Ask what he would want to do for Christmas if you two were raising Jewish children.
Best of luck!
Inter-faithed March 17, 2011, 5:25 pm
Actually, he went home for Christmas, his parents live in another state, and I had to work. And, to set the record straight, Hannukah is one of the LEAST important Jewish holidays. I did go to his house a couple of the nights of Hannukah, and I brought my menorah and candles with me, lit them, and we went on with our lives. Its a fairly low impact holiday to life.
The real test for me of how he handles Judaism was going to be passover- a whole week of me cooking non-bread foods in my house!? I can’t go to restaurants or to his house because I have to be home with my Passover dishes. Its not an easy holiday- maybe even if he says to me this weekend that he would raise the kids Jewish, he will realize at Passover that its just too ridiculous. I wouldn’t really blame him.
As for me, its really hard to live in this world and not experience Christmas. I have even been to church with him and his parents when we went there for Thanksgiving. And as a child we celebrated Christmas and Easter with some catholic friends. But as I explained above, it has always been with the understanding that these are their traditions not our own. So if we incorporated Catholic traditions into raising Jewish children, it would have to be with the same clarification for them. And that, by the way, is the one of your 5 choices I want.
Mel March 17, 2011, 5:54 pm
Read “From This Day Forward” and “Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families ” by journalists Cokie & Steve Roberts who are different faiths and long married. Both books are beautiful and might give you an idea of how loving and respectful compromise can be reached. You could even suggest to your guy that you read them together.
LSS86 March 17, 2011, 6:42 pm
My new proposal: this weekend is the perfect opportunity to show him just how amazing Judaism is. Of course I’m referring to Purim. The best holiday on the planet. I love trying to explain Purim to my non-Jewish friends. “Well there was this Persian king, and his wife was Jewish, but he didn’t know it. So when his advisor convinced him to kill all the Jews, his wife told him that she was Jewish and he changed his mind and had his advisor killed instead. Oh yea, and we dress up in costumes.”
Eagle Eye March 18, 2011, 11:13 am
And drink copious amounts of alcohol, don’t forget the part where we’re supposed to be too drunk to tell Mordechai from Haman!
And eat Hamentaschen!
Its like Halloween for Jews!
Quakergirl March 17, 2011, 7:17 pm
In the abstract sense, it’s 100% positively possible for two people from two different religions to be married, have children, and be one big happy family. My parents are different religions, and my boyfriend’s parents are different religions. My dad is Jewish (and was raised very conservatively in terms of faith) and my mom is Greek Orthodox (also raised very conservatively). Now obviously I have no idea how things went down before they got married (by a rabbi) or before I was born, but things have worked out well for them. My brother and I weren’t officially raised in any religion, but we celebrated both religion’s holidays growing up and each parent taught us about their holidays’ religious and cultural significance. And while my dad loves Christmas more than many 5-year-olds, he doesn’t go to Easter services with my mom, and she doesn’t go to temple for holidays with him or observe Passover (she still keeps bread in the house, etc.).
My boyfriend’s mother is Lutheran and not very religious, but his father was deeply and devoutly Catholic when they married (although he is less so now). My boyfriend and his siblings were raised Catholic with all the trimmings, and it just never was an issue for them. Granted, it’s easier because his parents have the same basic holidays, but they have very different beliefs and different religious proceedings/traditions/etc. His mother didn’t convert, but she does go to mass with them and observe other religious traditions.
I would keep bring the issue up with your boyfriend and explain the significance to him. If he grew up in a one-religion household, he may not understand how difficult it is or see some of the issues that might come up in the future. Asking about specific points of compromise may help you both figure out where one another stands and get a sense of your ability to make reasonable compromises that make you both happy. Without being condescending, ask him some of the questions Wendy and other commenters have mentioned. Who will marry you? Would he convert to Judaism? Would he be okay with removing chametz from the house during Passover? Likewise, is there anything he’d need from you to feel comfortable and like he has a say in your religious lives together– a Christmas tree? Christmas cookies? Christmas carols? Peeps at Easter? Also, to what degree are you willing to make these compromises for him? It isn’t just about a wedding or children. A lot of these issues will come up if you ever live together, too, so it’s definitely time to get moving on getting some answers.
anna728 March 17, 2011, 10:17 pm
I definitely agree with Wendy’s advice. Those seem like good ways to start discussing the issue.
I am kind of concerned about things like this in my own future. I’m not religious at all, and neither are my parents, though my extended family on both sides is vaguely Lutheran (so I do like, say, Christmas trees). Spirituality is just not a concept I’ve ever been able to relate to at all. It’s actually important to me to not have religion in my life- for example I would be unwilling to get married in a church or to raise my kids in any religion. Marriage is still many many years in the future for me, but I know how I feel on this issue will be a deal-breaker for a lot of guys.
Eagle Eye March 18, 2011, 11:18 am
This is actually the problem that I’m dealing with in the case of my boyfriend, he loves Christmas but is happy that he was raised without any organized religion while I am Jewish and it is important for me to raise my (future) children within the faith…
On the whole, he’s willing to compromise a bit irt my desire for a decidedly Jewish household but he’s maintained that it is important to teach our (future) children that while they are Jewish, they are not “different” but that they are, in fact, citizens of the world so to speak.
Sevilla2010 May 5, 2011, 3:02 pm
How funny, I came across this by searching “I’m Catholic, He’s Jewish” to compare my story with others. And as a matter of fact, I can say that we brought up the inter-religious issue about a month into the relationship, which turned out be such a wonderful thing.
To be honest, I asked early on simply because I was ignorant of Jewish views on inter-faith dating and whether or not to expect a fling or something more. From that conversation, I learned that he wasn’t in the business of dating just to have fun, but to try and meet his wife. Granted, it was a little forward on both ends so early on, but we’ve let things flow since then. We haven’t hit the year mark yet and I don’t plan on getting married for a few years, but at least I know that if I were to end up with him, religion would not be a factor. If anything, it’s made our relationship more fun since we’ve celebrated Rash Hashona, Christmas, Hannukah, Passover, and Easter. Each relationship is different, and if religion is important to either of you, it should be discussed. You never know, you could learn more about each other and fall further in love in the process.
COZY November 11, 2012, 11:54 pm
Yeah Santa also is catholic. Comes from the real St.Nick. So it is very christian
M December 15, 2012, 3:04 pm
I don’t know how I would go about this if perhaps I was dating a Jewish lady. Maybe there is a compromise that you can have both religious holidays you can have Rosh Hashana and Passover and then also celebrate Christmas, Easter etc.