“I’m in an interfaith marriage. I’d like to keep kosher for Passover this year but my husband isn’t interested. Is it possible for me to keep kosher for Passover in a house in which chametz (leavened food) is still being consumed?”

What a great (and multi-layered!) question. I want to address two pieces of your question. First, YES, you can still keep Passover, even if you are living with someone who isn’t following the same kosher guidelines. More on that in a bit. Second, let’s dive into the question of how you might navigate differences in religious observance and expectations within a single family unit.

Keeping Passover in a non-kosher kitchen:

It is not uncommon for Passover-observant Jews to find themselves living with folks who don’t want to keep kosher for Passover. There are a number of traditions that everyone in the house can take part in before Passover begins, such as cleaning in preparation for the holiday, cooking favorite holiday foods, setting the table, designing the seder, etc. These actions help family members and housemates feel engaged with the traditions and habits that you’re taking on.

As for the food itself, it might feel important for you to designate your own food and food space, where chametz isn’t going to get mixed in. This will allow you to keep whatever level of kosher for Passover you would like while not infringing on what other people want to do.

If you want to make the distinction even more apparent, consider purchasing a few inexpensive plates and silverware for you to use with your Passover kosher food. While certainly not ideal, you should be able to keep kosher for Passover for yourself, even if your partner doesn’t.

Navigating religious observances and expectations:

Your question leaves me wondering how you and your spouse navigate other issues of religious difference, for yourselves, for your house, for your (future?) children, and for your respective families. Everyone’s situation is unique; what works for one person might not work for another. But it is unlikely that this will be the last situation that you and your spouse try to sort out.

My first recommendation is to be continually discussing these issues with your spouse. As we grow and change, so do our answers and solutions. A compromise that you made last year might need some revisiting this coming year. Some people find it helpful to explore these issues with a rabbi or marriage counselor. Others find support from friends or relatives in similar situations. One online resource you might find useful is InterfaithFamily, in particular; they have a Passover Guide that might speak to you.

Whatever you do, know that you’re not alone in trying to merge two religious traditions into one, and that lots of folks are here to help you through it! Chag sameach to you and your family!

created at: 2013-03-23

Rabbi Rachel Silverman is the director of congregational learning at Congregation Kehillath Israel, a Conservative synagogue in Brookline.

Visit InterfaithFamily’s Passover Guide for help navigating the holiday.