When Jewish parents have done everything “right” – sent their children to Jewish day school, had them bar or bat mitzvahed, attended synagogue on a regular basis – it can come as quite a shock when a child announce they are going to marry someone who isn’t Jewish. This was the situation Karin Kasdin found herself in a few years ago, when her son, Dan, fell in love with “a blond, green-eyed beauty named Kristin.” Writing in the online newspaper The Faster Times, Kasdin explains the range of emotions she felt, and how she ultimately decided the best course of action was to simply welcome them enthusiastically, with love and excitement.
While having tried to instill a strong Jewish identity in her children, Kasdin said she and her husband also raised them to be “independent thinkers.” They taught Dan to “put family on top of his priority list,” and they encouraged him to “treat everyone he meets with equal respect and kindness.” So it wasn’t a surprise when they met Kristin and learned she shared all the same values.
Kasdin and her husband “could have made a stink.” They could have rejected the relationship, or they could have pretended to be happy while keeping their true emotions bottled up. But they also realized that their dreams of “standing under the chuppah with Dan” were just that – their dreams. Kasdin writes that a “new dream was being created,” and that dream belonged to Dan and Kristin. Although the wedding didn’t include references to either Judaism or Christianity, it was nevertheless a spiritual affair between two people who “believe in the value of family and feel a strong connection to the infinite.” These are the elements of strong, confident people who will raise children to identify with the same set of values, Kasdin writes. “Is there anything more important than that?”
In that moment when a child says they are dating or in love with someone of another religious background, a parent’s reaction will set the course for any future relationship. They have to decide what’s more important – voicing, or even harboring, disappointment at their child’s choice of partner, or staying involved in their lives? Religious concerns shouldn’t drive this decision. Those conversations, if need be, can come later. But by first choosing a path of welcoming and inclusion, parents will create a positive atmosphere that can help ensure a loving and lasting relationship with their children and grandchildren.