I have been happily married for over 45 years. My husband and I have three children, two boys and a girl. Their upbringing consisted of going to a Jewish day school and Jewish summer camp, and my husband and I are involved in our synagogue. But that’s just the beginning of our story. I never imagined the journey that would bring me to becoming an interfaith grandma (a grandma with grandkids raised in interfaith families).
Though I grew up with a strong connection to Judaism, it wasn’t until after I married that got a proper Jewish education. Our kids went to a Jewish Day School and I learned through them. And the more I learned, the more I wanted to know. I learned to make the wonderful holiday meals, and I started teaching in the religious school. I even became an adult bat mitzvah, taught at the JCC Preschool, and eventually became the director.
One time, we were out with friends when our kids were young and talking about our hopes that our children would marry within our religion. My husband said, “No child of mine will ever marry out of our religion.” I smiled to myself and thought, “Oh, yeah?”
Not one, but two of them ended up marrying partners of different faiths. And true to form, my husband didn’t attend either wedding. I was mortified; this was the first time we were not on the same page.
I felt that I couldn’t talk behind my husband’s back, so I kept it inside not knowing what to do. Finally, I decided to go to our rabbi, who told me to include my children’s significant others in our home for every holiday. Though my husband wasn’t happy, I told him what the rabbi said. I also pointed out that the only difference between me and our son’s fiancé, Christy, was religion. I needed guidance and so did she.
I asked Christy if she would like to help with the cooking and she was thrilled. At first, I asked her to make a fruit salad and then I realized she was interested in something more challenging. I asked if she would like me to purchase kosher ingredients, or if she wanted to take it on. She loved the respect I showed her, and we grew even closer.
The wedding was wonderful. Christy’s father included me in everything. The whole experience was beautiful. I grew from the experience, and the more my husband and I communicated, the more our marriage grew as well.
When Christy and Andrew had kids, we followed the rabbi’s advice again. We had celebrations galore and we truly loved being together.
Christy’s parents were always so understanding. Christy even suggested to my son that since their kids loved the Jewish religion, they should convert. And they did. My 10-year-old granddaughter called the mikvah, a ritual bath, “the naked place!”
One year, Hanukkah and Christmas fell at a similar time, and our 5-year-old grandson said, “Zaida, where is your Christmas tree?”
My husband said, “We celebrate Hanukkah at our house. We do have trees in our backyard that we love. They remind us of happy times we have had out there.”
When our grandson was a bit older, he said, “I know I converted to being Jewish, but I really love having Christmas with Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop.”
I reassured him “Joseph, you’re right, you did convert to Judaism. But that doesn’t mean you’ll stop celebrating with your mom’s parents, and having those wonderful times. It is meaningful to them and to you!”
Another year, my son and his family were going to a Christmas Eve church service. I picked the kids up from daycare, gave them a bath and dressed them up in their holiday finery. My husband, who has gotten to know Christy better over the years and has always been smitten with our grandkids, was still shocked that I would be asked to help with Christmas activities. I responded that it was such a joy to get them ready for this special service and to see the kids all dressed up and excited.
Fast-forward to today. My daughter-in-law is a physician who bakes challahs on Fridays. My son says, “This is the only thing good about the pandemic.”
Our other kids have turned out just as well. Our daughter Beth married a man who is not Jewish but is interested in raising Jewish children.
When our youngest son, Josh, was a child, he said: “Mom I am never going to disappoint you like the others did.” I sat him down and told him they did not disappoint us. Recently, he got married to a wonderful girl who is from an interfaith family.
Interfaith couples want our love and acceptance. Respect their wishes and decisions.
I have three wonderful children-in-laws. I am truly complete. Each of their parents are good people and like us, want the best for the kids. Who could ask for anything more?