1. How did you and your husband meet?
Scott and I met as undergraduates at Stony Brook University. We were both dating other people at the time but socialized in the same circle of friends. After graduation we reconnected and he asked me out on a date.
About two months into dating we took a road trip to North Carolina. After being in the car for such a long time I just blurted out, “So is it important to you to raise your children Jewish?” I said it so casually, like if it was important to him to put pickles on his burger. It turned out to be a great conversation starter for such a long drive and it really helped us make sure we were on the same page in regards to the future.
I fell in love with my husband on that road trip as well as his love for Judaism. My husband will tell you he fell in love with me on that trip too, but it was for a very different reason. The road trip landed during Passover and the hotel we were staying at had a waffle maker. I love waffles but because he was observing Passover I passed on it. Four years later, we got married!
2. How do you feel about your family being labeled “interfaith”?
I actually enjoy being labeled as “interfaith.” I find that people are always curious about our situation and it makes for good conversation. They are usually surprised that I am not Jewish, given my married name is Rachel Stein. Being labeled as “interfaith” gives us the opportunity to shine light on our similarities, how we make it work for us, and as an added bonus we usually end up educating people on Jewish traditions.
3. What did you think would be an issue about being an interfaith family that really hasn’t been?
I thought for sure that choosing to raise our son Jewish would be a huge disappointment for my family. After all, I was the first person in my family to not get married in a church, not baptize my child, not use the family heirloom Christening gown, and my nativity set from my childhood will no longer be passed down to my son.
In reality, the exact opposite has occurred. My family has embraced many aspects of Jewish traditions. My mother attends temple with us and is excited about all the holidays. Considering my family associates all good things with food, and many of the Jewish holidays have amazing food (hello, macaroons?), they have been nothing but supportive. Usually Easter and Passover overlap, which one would think is a problem but somehow the matzah lasagna I make specifically for my husband is the one that is always gone first.
4. What’s your word of advice to other interfaith families?
Always keep communicating. Sometimes you think everything is going according to the plan you worked out with each other but then life will throw you a curve ball. Listen to your partner’s concerns with the goal of understanding rather than responding. Too many times we are already thinking of our response while the other person is still talking. Interfaith families can illustrate to others what unconditional love and acceptance look like in a family. And that is a beautiful thing.
“Up Close” is a photo and interview series on Kveller aiming to put a face on the interfaith conversation. We’ll be highlighting interfaith families and hearing their stories all month. If you’re interested in participating, send an email to email@example.com with the subject line “Kveller Up Close.”