Rabbi Malka Drucker

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Dear Rabbi,

I have a Catholic, female friend who is dating a Jewish man. She is 27 and he 31. Scott loves Aimee very much and wants to marry her. However, he feels that she must convert to Judaism and raise their children as Jews. She loves Scott very much and said she is willing to raise their children as Jews but feels very strongly about her faith. She believes that they can have a multi-faith marriage as long as they both respect each other's beliefs. Scott is very worried about what his family will say and Aimee feels the same about her's. She would like their children to learn both religions and thinks that their lives would be enriched growing up in a loving, tolerant home. She is willing to go to temple with Scott but Scott refuses to step into a church. So, that is the impasse that is keeping them apart. They are aware of what they are going to lose by not coming to some agreement. Religion and politics often make for strained relationships.

I suggested to Aimee that she speak with a reform Rabbi in her area for advice. She is willing, also, to go to classes to learn more about ourfaith. She is very open-minded and is willing to go just so far. I think Scott is too worried about his family and cannot see outside the box. She has a good relationship with his family and love her.

Is there any advice you could give them that would help them close the gap? Scott needs a way to be less parochial in his thinking. Aimee is a wonderful women. His life would be greatly enriched with her as part of it.

Thank you for listening.

Dear _____,

I'm in the midst of finishing a book so my answer will be perhaps too brief for your thoughtful letter. You may forward my remarks from Aimee. Your advice about her seeing a rabbi is a good one.

Scott needs to remember that he's an adult, and while he loves his parents, that is not a good enough reason to ask Aimee to become a Jew. The problem is that Jews often don't know enough about their tradition to love it and want it for their children as a gift, not just an identity tag. Scott has some work to do in examining his own reasons for being insistent about his religion and closed about hers.

Raising children in two faiths may work. Anecdotal information doesn't assure me of its success. Few of us can manage to be both Christian and Jewish: history and theology make it probably impossible. Emotionally, it would seem that most children feel best knowing that they are boys or girls, Americans or Canadians. You get the idea. No hierarchy here. Some may say that the children should be Jews because there are so few of us. Some say that they should be raised as Christians because being Jewish has always been complicated, at best. Whatever the decision, I support a family with one faith path that is respectful of all.

Many people may be ready to commit to marriage but not yet to conversion. They agree to learn about Judaism and have a Jewish home. Their children will be raised as Jews. Some rabbis will agree to marry under these circumstances. I have agreed in the past, but in seeing that I didn't do the couple a favor by deferring the decision, it becomes an unfinished conversation in the marriage. That being said, I'm glad that some rabbis do perform interfaith weddings, because there will be people that will take the step somewhere down the road, and they just aren't ready at the time of the wedding.

I still keep thinking that Scott is the problem here. If they lived here, I'd suggest that Aimee study with me for a while, and Scott should also study since he probably doesn't know much. And--I'd tell him to leave her alone and not discuss the C word at all. Only by study will Aimee have any idea of whether becoming a Jew will ever be a decision that she will make.

I hope that I've been helpful.

Rabbi Drucker