Finding Common Ground in Interfaith Marriage


Source: The New York Times


When Dan Diamond was 12, his mother gave him a book titled “It All Begins With a Date: Jewish Concerns About Intermarriage.” At the time, it seemed a bizarre gift for someone so young, but its aim was clear.

Mr. Diamond was expected to marry a Jewish woman one day and raise Jewish children, a view his mother later reinforced, he said, by asking the religion of every girl he dated.

Then, in November 2012, Mr. Diamond, a psychotherapist, met Ashley Mask, a doctoral student researching art museum education. At that time, Ms. Mask had started to reconnect with her Presbyterian upbringing. But after falling in love with Mr. Diamond, she agreed, should they marry, to raise their future children as Jewish.

“I had this naïve sense that since we had the same creation story, it wouldn’t be hard,” said Ms. Mask, 38. But it was. As the relationship progressed, she feared abandoning important holiday traditions. At synagogue services, she said, she felt lost. She worried she would always be an outsider.

Interfaith couples represent a swiftly rising demographic. Before 1960, only 19 percent of American married couples were of two different religions, according to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center. Today, it’s nearly 40 percent.

As a result, there are a number of new programs providing support to these couples. Given that a 2013 Pew study reported that since 2000, 72 percent of non-Orthodox Jews have married outside their faith, it is not surprising that many of the resources are sponsored by Jewish organizations.

“There’s a deep fear in the Jewish community about losing Jews, about assimilation,” Mr. Diamond said. He and Ms. Mask chose to work through some of their issues by signing on with Honeymoon Israel, an organization in Buffalo that offers interfaith partners, including gay and lesbian couples, subsidized 10-day trips to Israel.

The trips cost $1,800 a couple — or about 20 percent of the total cost — with the remainder picked up by a Jewish family foundation in Boston (which prefers to be unnamed), as well as by Jewish organizations in the cities where Honeymoon Israel operates.

Once in Israel, the couples, who are organized into groups of 20, are encouraged to explore Jewish culture and religion. They stay in upscale hotels, lounge by the Mediterranean and visit Jewish, Christian and Muslim historic sites.

They also bond with their fellow travelers, other committed couples also struggling to figure out what role religion should play in their marriages, their homes and in the lives of their future children.

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