Who knew that talking about Interfaith Marriages around the holidays would spur so many phone calls! As I was furiously answering phones today I wasn't able to listen to the show in its entirety... but it's clear that UCONN sociologist Arnold Dashefsky has touched upon something with his latest study on Jewish/Christian interfaith marriages. We heard from a lot of interfaith couples - jewish, christian, atheist, hindu, etc. Many of them said that at the end of the day - it's something they are able to work through. One caller said "No Way." She is no longer with her husband because they couldn't resolve the issues that arose from having different faith backgrounds - especially with raising kids. For some people those differences are too great. And even though our guest Sarah Milch, who was raised Methodist, has agreed to raise her children Jewish - she herself is not going to convert. When I was talking to Sarah before the show she told me that soon enough her three year old daughter will far surpass her in knowledge of the Jewish faith, and for her that's a little bit strange. One of the main findings of the study was that it is to the advantage of the Jewish community to be open to interfaith marriages. Sarah has gotten support from the local Jewish Community Center with "The Mothers Circle" - a group for non-Jewish women raising Jewish children.
But this conversation goes beyond the Jewish community. Daisy Khan from the American Society for Muslim Advancement in NYC chimed in with some wise words that she uses when she counsels Muslim interfaith couples:
The world in this day and age is characterized by cross-cultural and cross-religious conflict. Interfaith marriages undermine this dominant state of affairs by promoting respect and harmony acorss the lines of religion.
She tells couples that their mandate is larger than their own marriage now - and that they function as ambassadors for each others faiths in the principles of promoting tolerance. "Once you tell them that" she says, "They leave with a heightened sense of responsibility for each other by preserving and respecting each others traditions and also promoting that understanding".
In many cases, she says, it's not about the religion so much as the culture and values that cause tension in interfaith marriages. In any case - it seems that a lot of you out there are making it work. And that we certainly have a lot to learn from each others cultures as well as religious traditions. Thanks for sharing your stories - and we'd love to hear more!