Jewish intermarriages often present a unique set of challenges for the couple and their family. Maybe the challenge is finding a rabbi to officiate, or convincing your parents that this marriage will not end Jewish continuity. Each challenge, though, also provides an opportunity to learn, grow and strengthen the relationship.
That was the case with Ari Epstein and Karimeh Shamieh. It’s arguable that the challenges they face are far greater than that of most interfaith couples – he is Jewish, she is Palestinian. When they first met, according to an article in The J, the Jewish news weekly of Northern California, “they had spectacular fights over Israeli-Palestinian issues.” But matters of the heart overpowered their cultural differences, and they two were married last October.
To concretize both their cultural differences and their connectedness, they decided to have a ketubah (marriage contract) “that reflected both their heritages.” Although it’s a contract, ketubah’s are also pieces of art – the text in calligraphy, with illustrations adorning the border. Ari and Karimeh’s ketubah, designed by Rachel Biale, has two pillars, one in Hebrew, the other in Arabic, supported by the English translation. This design, Biale said, “represents their stories and places important to them.”
They are not the first couple to have a multi-language ketubah (JOI’s Paul Golin has one in English, Hebrew and Japanese in honor of his wife). Nor will they be the last. But Ari and Karimeh’s story, symbolized by the ketubah, shows us that no matter how big the challenge an interfaith couple might face, there is always a way to work past those differences and find happiness. This represents a growing subset of the interfaith population in the Jewish community—marriages between Moslems and Jews. It is part of the diversity of the Jewish community which we acknowledge and embrace.