Image: Aaron, Linda, Ruth, and Jim, at the Alameda County Courthouse for our civil wedding on July 19, 2013. Photo by random stranger.
My family is an interfaith family.
I became a Jew over 20 years ago. At the time I had two middle-school-age sons who already had a sense of who they were, and they were not interested in becoming Jewish. I put my rabbi’s business card up on the refrigerator and told the boys that they were welcome to contact Rabbi Chester if they had any complaints about me.
They were charmed. Middle schoolers love to have options, especially for complaining about their parents.
Both guys became knowledgeable about Judaism. They visited Israel with me. Jim picked up a little Hebrew. Aaron asked thoughtful questions about Israeli life.
When I decided to apply for rabbinical school, they were supportive. “Go for it, Mom!” Part of my attraction to the rabbinate was that I loved learning ways to make our home both authentically Jewish and authentically their home, too. The difficulties in doing that with integrity were marvelous puzzles. I wanted to do that for more families. The creativity of good rabbinic work appealed to me, still does.
I moved to Jerusalem in 2002, just as the younger son, Jim, started college. The second intifada was at its height. Someone asked Jim what he would do “if your mother gets blown up.” I was horrified by the question. He coolly said, “I’d call our rabbi, of course.”
OUR rabbi. I have to admit, I loved hearing him say that.
Periodically one or the other will call me and say, “Mom, I have a rabbi question.” Usually it’s a question that a Jewish friend has asked them. (Ironies abound.) Occasionally, they are curious about how something looks through a Jewish lens. They keep me on my toes.
They aren’t Jews. They aren’t interested in becoming Jews. That’s fine. They are part of the “mixed multitude” (Exodus 12:38) that left Egypt with the Jews, traveled with the Jews, has always been part of the Jewish community.
Neither one is particularly comfortable with ritual or formal religion. They don’t come over for Shabbat dinner, and they don’t celebrate Jewish holidays with us. As a family, we celebrate birthdays, and national holidays, and fun things like Pi Day.
When I was ordained they came to the service. When I stepped out from under the chuppah and Rabbi Levy announced me as Rabbi Ruth Adar, Aaron hollered from the back of the sanctuary, “WAY TO GO, MOM!”
When Linda and I were married under the chuppah at Temple Sinai, nine years ago this month, they were both there. They could not witness our ketubah (since they aren’t Jews) but they celebrated with us. When the State of California finally decided to let us get married in a civil ceremony, they were our witnesses.
A couple of summers back, Jim married to his sweet bride in a civil ceremony. There were Jews, and Catholics, and Episcopalians, and assorted Christians and agnostics – and that’s just the family.
Our interfaith family.