Is your family a mixed religion family- Come weigh in!

To be quite honest, I never thought I would marry outside my religion. Being Jewish and growing up in an area that was 90 percent Jewish, I knew I was definitely going to marry in the religion. I have never dated one non-Jewish guy until I met my husband.  While my parents didn’t necessarily completely advocate for me marrying outside my religion, they were extremely open to me doing what would make me happy in my life. Whether Jewish, Catholic, Black, White, Asian, Russian, or any other religion or race, marriage should be about who you love and they conveyed that to me early on.

When my husband and I met about two months before Christmas, he warned me that his family were devout Catholics. My husband never went to one day of public school- it was always Catholic school.  His dad to this day still goes to Church every single day. I remember vividly entering their house for Christmas 2003 and seeing crosses all over. I felt so out of my element but I also knew that this was a man who I was beginning to really like, and potentially love.

As my husband’s and I relationship began to take off, I realized this was the man I wanted to marry. However, I had one condition if we were going to marry, and that was to raise our kids Jewish. Being the mom, I knew the kids automatically would be Jewish but I wanted my husband to be supportive of my decision and not because the rules dictate they would be Jewish. We talked long and hard and both agreed that they would be raised Jewish, however, they would be equally exposed to all the Catholic holidays including Easter and Christmas. I guess you would say- they would get a little of both worlds.

Fast forward 7 years and I am beginning to notice a slight problem. Hayley and Zane are tremendously exposed to the Catholic holidays since my husband’s family are a big Italian family and no holiday goes without a big hoopla on their side. However, I feel like they don’t even know they are Jewish. We hardly have any Jewish friends here and no one makes a big deal out of any of the Jewish holidays. Today, was our biggest holiday of the year, Rosh Hashana, which is  our Jewish New Year. I felt so alone and so sad today.

You might ask why I felt sad. Truth be told, that while my husband is fully supportive of my religion, he never really comes with me to temple. It is not his religion so I completely understand. Today though, I sat alone and noticed all of these families coming together to pray and there I was sitting by myself. I felt really sad thinking I will always be the one sitting alone with no support. I went home after services and called my husband.

I told him that I really want to join a temple and start introducing my children to the Jewish religion. I want them to understand that the Jewish holidays are just as important as the Catholic holidays in our home. I don’t even think they know that today is Rosh Hashana which upsets me greatly. He understood my concerns and in the next year or two, we will be joining a temple and hopefully, getting a good core group of Jewish friends, so I don’t need to sit alone at the holidays anymore. My husband also told me he will come with me next week to Yom Kippur which made me very happy.

I think it will all get worked out but I really feel it is important to balance both religions. So, if you are from a mixed religion family- How do you handle it? Do you have any advice?

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  1. says

    My husband and I met in high school in Utah! I grew up LDS (mormon as most people know it as) My husband is agnostic, but really dislikes mormonism. At first I hated it when he would bash the church and everything I had grown up knowing. But because we met so young, we were both developing as people. I went to college and he taught me to question more. Over the years I have become agnostic as well and religion isn’t something we focus on. However, I’m not sure what will happen when I have children. Having religion in my youth helped form who I am today and I don’t want to deprive my children of that. Unfortunately I do not have any advise as I am so young and inexperienced and a newlywed. But I hope you find the balance in your life and the lives of those in your family.

  2. says

    My husband and I are both Jewish, so although I can’t relate to the mixed religion family, I can definitely relate to feeling distanced from the Jewish community. Where we live, there are hardly any Jews, and most people here have never even met anyone Jewish. Our parents and siblings live across the country, and so our Rosh Hashanah also kind of went unnoticed. It’s very sad, because although I am not a particularly religious person, I do want my daughter to grow up being exposed to the same traditions that I grew up with…I think that’s so sweet of your husband that he is going to go to temple with you for Yom Kippur. It sounds like you have a good plan for getting more involved in the Jewish community where you live. It will be great for your kids as well. Shana Tova! :)

  3. says

    As a Christian I can understand why this is hard. The Bible which is what your husband is familiar with says to marry equally yoked (someone w/ the same religious views) because of instances like this. Do you go to church with him? I hope your family finds a happy medium. :)

  4. says

    My mother is half Italian, half Jewish…her parents raised her Catholic, mostly because there was not a huge Jewish population in their town. But, they also belonged to the local temple and they all went to temple on the Jewish holidays. They celebrated both sides, even in the 1950′s which was unheard of! So I think it is totally “do-able” these days to show your children both sides and to respect both sides. I grew up celebrating all the Christian and Jewish holidays and I think I got the best of both worlds. Happy New Year!

  5. says

    My husband wasn’t religious when we met. But he now supports mine and is coming around to the idea. It must be hard to have a different religion than your husband. I’m glad you’ll be finding more people to share yours with.

  6. says

    I was raised a strict Catholic, but my boyfriend is Protestant. He’s never gone with me, and I’ve never gone with him, but after being raised to strictly, I stay a little further away from church now, because it just wasn’t a fun experience for me growing up.

    I hope that you are able to work things out for the best.

  7. Jeff Wilfong says

    I’m non-religious (secular humanist, if you need a label), and my wife is Catholic. We have a young son who my wife wants to raise Catholic, which is fine with me. I’m not foreseeing any problems with it.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with most religions – it’s just how people interpret things; that’s when things get messy.

  8. says

    We are a non-religious family but encourage our children to explore their spirituality in all forms – one of my daughter’s good friends is Jewish and is preparing for is bar mitzvah and she is learning a lot about Judaism from him right now. Her boyfriend was christian and she explored a little about that religion…

  9. says

    When DH and I started dating, we had a moment of uncertainty when he was so sure the kids would be raised American Baptist (of course they would!) and I was so sure the kids would be raised Jewish (they’ll be Jewish!). Since neither of us is house-of-worship-going (we’re both spiritual and observe some rituals/traditions but don’t hew to organized religion), it took some time for us to get to a place where we both agreed that we would raise them with both. I totally get your chafing at the sight of all those crosses; I still have that every time my MIL gives the kids books about Easter or Christmas – really? What we ultimately decided to do was to focus on just a few things for each religion and make it more about family than about religion. For example, given that dd’s birthday is in early Nov, she was overwhelmed with gifts that first year between her birthday, Hanukkah & Christmas. So, starting when she was 2yo, we changed Hanukkah to be a “light the candles” but no presents deal. Instead, the kids pick out animals from the Heifer Int’l catalog. Easter is about doing dinner with family and getting baskets, not about going to church.

    IMHO, kids’ exposure to religion should be a reflection of what you yourself believe, since anything else can be hypocritical (I wouldn’t feel right about putting them into Sunday School when I, myself, don’t go to synagogue – and I’m SURROUNDED by synagogues in my town!). We’re keeping things loose but observing some traditions, more secular than religious, and that works for us for now.

    In your case, I think attending each others’ houses of worship may help, if it’s so important to each of you that the other embrace your religion. For the kids, you just have to be willing to have “the talk” with your husband. You each need to state really clearly what you want them to have and then, in a sense, negotiate. It’s not easy, but think of how much more rounded your kids will be for having seen and learned more about others from being exposed to both! **hugs**

  10. says

    My husband and I are both of the same religion but my brother-in-law had this issue. He was raised Lutheran and his wife is Mormon. They continually had conflicts over this because they never really talked about it before they married. After they had kids, everything just blew up and they ended up divorced.

    It sounds like your husband is very supportive. I hope that all ends up well for you guys and that your kids are able to grow up embracing both your religions.

  11. Anita Anderson says

    that is so true. I was dating a man that was greek and I was catholic. well we had just started to date when he said to me if we get married its will be at the greek church. also if we have kids they will have his mom and dad’s names as is tradition. I just smiled and said ok. I was very young at the time and didn’t think about. That is a question that needs to be discussed with your partner so a foundation can be established.

  12. says

    i was raised catholic and my husband doesnt really subscribe to religion…we have 2 little boys…they’ve been to sunday school but my husband isnt overly supportive…no advice here but i hope you guys can come to a happy medium =]

  13. says

    My experience isn’t quite the same, as The Mr simply is not religious. I am very religious, and before we got married, we discussed how our children would be raised. He has no religious preference, so it was easy to defer to my beliefs. He attends church with us every Sunday, and supports any activities. He doesn’t do it to please me or my children. He does it because he agrees with me that going to church is a family thing – we don’t go as individuals, we don’t go as a couple, but as a family. We feel strongly that it’s important to do things as a family – just like you wouldn’t separate your family for holiday meals, gatherings or vacations. In the end, I want my children to remember the importance of family, because who knows what religious path they will choose, if any at all, when they are old enough to decide for themselves.

  14. says

    We are of the same religion and I’m sure that makes things a little easier for us. That was something that was very important to me before we were married though. I wish I had some advice!

  15. says

    I don’t have a lot of experience with this I grew up Catholic and my hubby Christian. He became Catholic after we married. It was his is nice we are both the same. He actually knows more about our religion than I do even after all those years in Catholic school.

    I wish I had advice for you. You both need to have a talk and see if there’s a way to hopefully celebrate both religion’s holidays.

  16. says

    I do not have experience with mixed religion but I want to praise you and Greg for what you are doing. Talk about a hard task for everyone involved. I think you should make the Jewish holidays a big deal just as the Christian holidays have been in your husbands home.
    Also, maybe if the kids came with you to temple they would meet more kiddos who are Jewish?
    I hope that you guys can come to some agreement/plan.

  17. says

    Kinda… I’m a Cradle-to-Grave Jacobite (Roman Catholic), Mike is Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) and our daughter CHOSE at age 12 to be baptized in a non-denominational Church.

    We are also of the belief that we are Adopted Jews — we were taught o believe that one cannot be a good Christian unless one embraces and believes in the never-ending, unbroken Convenant between G-d and His People.

    We never argue about religion. I will attend the Kirk with Mike, he goes to Mass with me. Our daughter goes to any Church and comes with us as well.

    His biological Mom disapproves of my Catholicism. I don’t care. :)

  18. says

    I was raised Catholic, while my son’s father is a non-practicing Catholic. I never planned to end up pregnant by another Catholic, it just happened that way. Since we celebrate the same holidays, we have yet to run into this issue. But who knows, since I’m open to marrying outside my religion, we’ll see how this could change…

  19. says

    Well we are both the same religion, Christian Methodist so I can’t say that we have or will run into this issue. However, I’d like to think if we were we would be supportive enough to be participate with the other. I think that would be super important.

  20. says

    I can understand how you feel. I’m sorry you were so sad. Sometimes, those deep heartaches bring great blessings. I’m Catholic and my husband is Christian. He is uncomfortable going to a Catholic church, which I can understand. So we find a place where our whole family can worship together. I do miss the Catholic church a lot because it is what I grew up with. Thanks for sharing your heart and I look forward to reading about your kids learning the Jewish culture!

  21. Ann B. says

    I was raised Catholic and married a Jewish Man. He wanted his children raised in the Jewish Faith and because it was so very important to him, I agreed. We celebrated both holidays and the kids loved both. Our Children are now 28 and 23 and one has embraced the Jewish faith and the other has not. So, by having both, they ultimately chose for themselves.
    I’m sorry you felt alone. I wish you the best of both worlds, because I truly believe God loves us all and there are many roads to the Kingdom and we need to follow the one which rings of truth in our own hearts.

  22. says

    I sort of married out side of my religion the 2nd go round. I believe in God, he was agnostic. Now, he believes in God, but really, we don’t attend anywhere but we do teach our children tenets of my faith via what I know (I went to Seminary back in the day) and we pray, etc. Honestly, this is as much as I am wanting at this point. However, my sister married a devout Muslim while she is Devout Christian, and I feel I have some insight based on living with her a while, and what she did that really worked.

    I don’t know how Temple works, so I am unsure what day it is, if kids can attend, etc. However, I would HIGHLY recommend educating your children on BOTH religions as well as celebrating BOTH Holidays.

    I would have a heart to heart talk with DH explaining how important to you it is that your children know HIS religion, then delve into how you would love them to know yours as well since it is such a rich heritage. You know as a wife how to word it and he will be on board with some coaxing ;P. This being said, I would take my children to Temple, explain different aspects of the religion in your day to day play with them: again, I am sadly naive about Judaism, but I think things like building a Lego Menorah and explaining about it as you play, etc.

    Also, who wouldn’t love two sets of Holiday Gifting? 7 days with Mom, and Omg look Santa came and we have a Happy Birthday Jesus cake! If you can get your husband to at least be on board with participating with that aspect, then they have the vast knowledge of both religions and can choose for themselves when they are at an age of accountability.

    Now, there are lots of people (maybe you, I don’t know) who would say a parent should choose the religion of a child, and in an essence we do our best by teaching them. However, as adults we all chose our own path. Me, I strayed away from Church for some very valid reasons, but I believe certain aspects. My sister stayed true, and my brother is all but Atheist. Point is, we take knowledge in and eventually chose for ourselves regardless. Better to do so with a full knowledge then without any!

    GL on this, I can see how important it is to you. Also, maybe ask hubby if he is willing to attend with you. I had a friend when I was a minister’s wife who was Baptist and her husband devout Catholic. They attended Saturday Mass, and Sunday Church. They also joked about whether they would go to heaven or ‘purgatory, etc. I have seen first hand it work, and I hope it works out for you too!

  23. says

    My husband and I have had religion troubles in our family life. I had to cut ties with my dad’s side of the family who are atheist or agnostic–they absolutely hate Catholics, and hate it even worse since I converted.

    On hubby’s side of the family, half of his brothers and sisters are no longer Catholic, and they hate the Catholic half. What is so bad is that after my hubby’s father died, the non-catholic half wrenched control over the mother who had Alzheimers. My dear MIL converted to be a Catholic in the 1940s, but they went against her wishes and buried her in one of their churches, because they wouldn’t step foot in a Catholic Church. Even my mother said she would bury me Catholic if worse comes to worse. We can no longer talk with them, too, because of their hatred of the Catholic religion.

  24. says

    That has to be super hard! I am sure you guys will find a way to make it work :) It will probably take lots of trial and error to find the balance that works well for everyone. Don’t give up and I hope that your future holidays are not so lonely for you!!

  25. says

    Seems like it can be challenging Melissa, but I’m sure you can work it out. Greg is the most supportive husband I know. I did not know the kids were being raised Jewish. I thought they were being raised both. Are you going to try that new temple being built by your house? Good luck!!! I’m sure the kids like celebrating all!

  26. says

    Glad you are working this out! Hopefully you find some great Jewish friends to start celebrating with. Have you ever considered sending the kiddos to a Jewish preschool?

  27. Lauren says

    Our stories are a little different, but I completely understand where you’re coming from! My husband was raised Presbyterian, but is pretty much not into (any) organized religion. His parents aren’t local, so we don’t have the big Christmas hoopla, either. Like you, I’m Jewish, and that is meaningful to me. We agreed to raise our children as Jewish, which we do. He is fully supportive, we joined a temple, and are active there. But our kids are young (4.5 and 16 months), so they’re not quite ready for services. My husband doesn’t feel super comfortable in temple – plus the holidays are inconvenient with his work schedule, having to get a babysitter if he *did* join me, etc.. AND we also live in a part of RI where there are not a lot of Jewish people. So for now, I go alone. And it does feel a bit isolating. But I look forward to when the kids are older, and can participate more with me. And maybe by then, my husband will have gotten more exposure and comfort with it all himself. Aside from kind of being on my own for the holidays, am really happy to have found other Jewish families to socialize with, temple activities for young families, and a temple community that reminds me of the one I had growing up in NY. I actually stumbled upon your blog through a mutual friend here in RI (Laura G, who I know from temple!). If you ever want to chat, I’m around. :-)

  28. Terry says

    My wife is Catholic. At the time we met I was not a religious person. I had been raised Baptist but had not gone to church for years. We have a 16 yr old daughter who goes to Catholic school. I was just 2 years ago that I found my way back to Yahweh. I attend a Hebraic-Christian church. I do not do christmas or easter…..after all those years of doing the holidays as a family….mow I cannot as these holidays are of pagan origins. This will be our 1st holiday together since I have become more involved with the bible abd it’s teachings. I am almost ready to move out for the holidays so I will not be a part of the whole christmas thing……I don’t know what to do. The bible says I am not even suppose to associate with these pagan traditions……KLUELESS !!….I just keep praying !!