The Background: Love, Faith and Other Dirty Words
By Jesse Ulrich
I have been hearing it from my parents and my community every sense I was a kid: Marry a Jew, and if you can’t do that, you better raise Jewish children.
It is harder than it sounds. Life takes us in interesting places and we can’t control who we fall in love with. It is an issue the Jewish community has to face; it is not a problem. That was the mindset over two years ago when a small group of Prism Council members met to talk about doing a program about Interfaith relationships.
Our first thought was to screen a documentary, “Who the Jew Are You,” that we had heard about, and bring the creator, Alan Goldman, in to discuss his documentary and his journey. But that was before we saw his film. Anyone who is in an Interfaith relationship, no matter what the religions are, is on a search for honesty and understanding.
The one thing I have learned, after 12 years of being in an interfaith relationship (now marriage), is that I have to truly understand what aspects, traditions and morals of Judaism are important to me before I try to bring them into our shared life. It is a constant discussion, argument, struggle, and joy to meld two lives together, but that is not what this documentary showed.
Who The Jew Are You was a 90-minute ego-driven mishmash of the most inane Jewish identity journey I have ever seen, and while I would happily spend years criticizing it, I won’t. Luckily, I was not the only one there who disliked this film and what came out of that discussion was a better idea. We wanted to tell the true stories of Interfaith couples, the successes, the failures, the struggles and the unique pleasures that comes from creating new traditions and a new way to share one’s heritage.
We set out to interview as many Interfaith couples as we could, and with the help of an amazing playwright out of Maine, Kent Stephens, we have what can only be described as a dramedy, or the more hilarious term seriocomedy. While we will be presenting this play in the fall, a few weeks ago we had a reading where the actors and actresses act out the play with the script in hand. It was an emotionally jarring thing to see.
It is hard to describe what it is like when something in your life seems settled and then in an instant it is not. The feelings and questions it brought up are issues people in interfaith relationships deal with on a daily basis, and even if you think you have everything worked out, this play reminds you that things can always change.
Beyond the bigger discussion of how the American Jewish community embraces, or doesn’t, Interfaith couples, we want this play to show how they live and how everyone creates a new life when they find someone willing to share it with them.