My mind drifted to our courtship those many years ago. She just wasn’t sure she wanted to convert, that’s all. Discovering the beauty and depth of Torah at those classes was part of the tap on the shoulder I had felt.
As a favor to her, I had sung in her church choir one Sunday morning. I sat on that bench a long time, thinking about all the other intermarried couples I knew. And yet – there was almost always an unspoken chasm, a place in the deepest part of one’s soul where Jew could not follow non-Jew, and vice versa. One day, she had confided to Gayle that there were times she found it hard that he couldn’t fully share in something that was such a deep part of her. I was doing just fine, when I felt this kind of tap on the shoulder, nudging me to connect with You, pushing me to learn more about Judaism, putting me in certain situations where neither I, nor Gayle for that matter, felt satisfied in a less traditional setting where we might have fit in as an intermarried family. Another part was meeting the several now-grown children of intermarried parents who attended those same classes, who felt like they were not fully in either camp, and had come to Aish to figure out where they belonged. After my rant at God, I suddenly remembered something that Rabbi Turtletaub, one of the Aish rabbis, had said to me nearly six months before. A couple of months later, God tapped me on the shoulder again with the same message.
If we're so worried about losing Jews, what are we doing to make things easier for interfaith couples who want to bring up Jewish children?
But as things stand now, it won’t work.” I walked out of the rabbi’s office, asking myself what I should do next. Harold in the Air Force The rabbi’s three awful parting words were the only answer that came to me. But we fell in love, and suddenly it didn’t matter that I grew up in New York and she grew up on a farm near Peoria. At the church, she’s been connecting more and more to the music and less and less to the religion.
While waiting just outside the church’s sanctuary for the service to begin, a friend of mine in the choir leaned over and said, “So tell me, what’s a nice Jewish boy like you doing in a place like this? My mind turned to a woman in Gayle’s church, married to a Jew. Gayle in church I stood up and took a few steps from the bench, now a bit defiant. You’re the One who brought Orthodox Jews in my path, just at the time we were in the midst of adopting our son. That had been when the chasm had started to widen, when our hours of talking had gotten us far but not far enough, and we needed to find someone who might help us figure it all out. Ever since the rabbi had told me “it won’t work,” I had stayed away from his synagogue.
You’re the One who put the idea in Gayle’s mind that we’d raise our son Jewish even as she continued directing the music for a church. Rabbi Turtletaub met with each of us together, and then privately. Then one Shabbat morning, for some reason, I felt I wanted to go. And sitting among hundreds of people, the rabbi’s words seemed tailored just for me. But like pieces of a puzzle, everything started to come together.
Since apparently all of us over the ripe age of 20 walk around with visible and obnoxiously loud ticking analog biological clocks, it’s no surprise that the issue of marriage is constantly smacked into our faces as though it is the sole defining moment and relationship of our lives. Unfortunately, as noted in the Abbass article, pushing Muslim women in interfaith marriages outside the community forces them also outside the faith.
Marriage for Muslim women, whatever shade of practice, belief and color they come in, is a big deal. What was, however, most interesting in the Abbass article was the particular inclusion of Taj Hargey, an imam at and director of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford.