Choosing Love Was About Them, Not Us

Tami and her family

There was never a question of whether Nathan or Mary liked David. They loved him from the start—as Tami’s peer and friend. But because he wasn’t Jewish, they didn’t see the potential for a romance, despite how well they got along. That is, until Tami said, “Mom, I’m afraid that if I don’t follow my heart I’ll regret it my whole life.”

Nathan and Mary weren’t the type of parents to tell their daughter how to live her life. They trusted her to make her own decisions. So after Tami had been dating David for three months, it came as a shock for her to hear her father say (in synagogue on the High Holidays, no less) that he thought she should break up with David. Tami was already struggling with how her family and friends would feel about making this relationship permanent; everyone knew how important Judaism was to her.

This was not a simple situation, and she knew her dad thought he was doing the right thing by voicing his opinion. While she hated to go against his wishes, she knew in her heart that David was her soulmate.

Tami read every book she could get her hands on about interfaith relationships and raising kids—this was the ’90s and there weren’t the support systems for interfaith couples that there are now. She and David spent many hours meeting with counselors and rabbis, having long conversations together and with their parents. When David finally approached Nathan with “the big question,” it was a moment that was a long time coming. He and Tami felt confident that they could make the choice to get married, without him converting, and create a Jewish home together and raise their kids Jewish.

Acceptance didn’t happen at one specific juncture—it happened over time, with the building of trust, soul searching and a lot of honest conversations. Mary and Nathan eventually came to realize that they were no longer worried about this thoughtful, devoted couple and that their biggest remaining concern was really how this interfaith relationship affected them—how they would be perceived in the Jewish community.

When David stood there that day, ready to ask the “big question,” Nathan thought, “How difficult this must be for David, and yet true to the genuine and wonderful person that he is. And how much he must love Tami to go through this arduous process of asking me (which other people might not even consider necessary). How could I possibly think other than to voice my approval?”

Choosing love has been one of the most rewarding and enriching decisions Tami, David, Nathan and Mary ever made. Tami and David have been married for 18 years and Tami now helps educate newer couples by leading 18Doors’ Love & Religion workshop in Philadelphia.

Lindsey Silken

Lindsey Silken is the director of content at 18Doors based in Natick, MA.


Author: Lindsey Silken