WITH JEWS AS the most likely to marry outside of their faith, the trend doesn’t appear to be slowing down. My twin sister, Chelsea, will become one of these interfaith marriages in October. She identifies as a Reform Jew while her fiancé, Sean, identifies as an atheist. Regardless of their differing faiths, their love has stayed strong for seven years now.
Amidst being goofy with my sister and their three cats fighting in the background, I managed to conduct an interview with the two of them, gaining insight into their relationship.
In the Beginning
Chelsea: It was difficult because I was under the impression that I would be with someone who was Jewish. And the idea of being with someone who didn’t believe in G-d was hard to get over, but what became important was that we shared the view of being a better human being.
Sean: I didn’t have a litmus test. I don’t think I could be with anyone that was a fundamentalist. I am not an atheist per say. I am a humanist. I believe in the capacity of humanity to do good and make the world a better place.
Chelsea: My parents mainly cared about him having a good head on his shoulders and that he treated me right.
Sean: My parents had never been exposed to Jewish culture or people. My mom looked up what “kosher” meant and freaked out. For them, it was “I don’t want to offend her” and they would go overboard when they first met Chelsea.
Chelsea: I explained that I mainly don’t eat pork, and his parents went out of their way to accommodate that.
A Jewish Wedding
Sean: We’re having a traditional–
Chelsea: No, it’s not traditional. We’re doing the ketubah, breaking the glass, the circling ceremony, our chuppah will have our Pop Pop’s tallit and our zeide’s tallit. It will be more modern because we will get a pretty glass to break, and keep the shards. The ketubah is typically not supposed to be between a Jew and a non-Jew so that is another modern aspect.
Chelsea: We celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas together. Last year, I made menorahs for his family and celebrated with them. We will celebrate the major Jewish holidays with our kids because it’s important for them to experience that and to go to Hebrew School and have Bar/Bat Mitzvahs.
Sean: Christmas and Easter for my family isn’t about Jesus. It’s about the family getting together. I like Hanukkah and a lot of that is because [your mom] is an excellent cook. The first Hanukkah, she made awesome brisket, latkes, and the green beans and donuts. It was a good time.
Chelsea: They’re going to be raised Jewish, but I won’t push them to believe in G-d.
Sean: It’s not my place to tell them what to believe in or to deny them their birthright.
Chelsea: Bubbe and Zeide And his parents will be G-Ma and G-Pa.
Sean: Well, whatever your mom wants to be called.
Chelsea:No, she’s going to be called Bubbe.
Sean: Don’t sweat the small stuff, and remember that you love each other.
Chelsea:What he said.
Dvorah Lewis is a contributing writer who wishes her sister and future brother-in-law the happiest of marriages!