Finding Humor in Interfaith Relationships

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At JOI, we take the work we do very seriously. We believe promoting a more welcoming and inclusive Jewish community is vital to our survival and growth, and for over 20 years we have worked tirelessly towards this goal. In that time, we’ve worked with countless families to help them navigate the tensions that exist in an interfaith relationship. While we look at our work as important to the future of the Jewish community, we also realize there is a lighter, humorous side to all types of family dynamics. That’s why we were interested to read about the new stage comedy, “Spaghetti and Matzo Balls — Fuhgeddaboudit!”

The play is set in Brooklyn and is about the “upheaval” caused by the relationship between an Italian boy and a Jewish girl. According to the [New York] Jewish Week, the play “presents the mayhem that ensues when Tony (Peter Marinaro) falls for Sarah (Jennifer Leigh Cohen), only to cause consternation on the part of Sarah’s Jewish-Buddhist mother, Mrs. Burger (Mindy Cassle) and Tony’s old-school Italian father (Paul Failla).”

Of course, this isn’t the first time a Jewish-Italian interfaith relationship has been the subject of a theatrical production – comedy or drama. Steve Solomon’s comedic play, “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish and I’m in Therapy,” ran off-Broadway for many years to critical acclaim, and the play “West Side Story” was originally titled “East Side Story,” and it was going to be about Jewish and Italian Catholic families in New York’s Lower East Side. This dynamic was also the premise of the 1970s television comedy “Bridget Loves Bernie.”

David Lamb, the author of “Spaghetti and Matzo Balls,” told the Jewish Week that his goal is to use an interfaith relationship to “make people laugh about their own ridiculousness and belief in stereotypes.” Finding a moment of levity in an otherwise serious situation can be both healthy and stress-relieving. We offered a similar suggestion in a guide we wrote for interfaith families during the Hanukkah/Christmas season. We said that “taking a few minutes to find something funny in the holidays can relieve the pressure and remind you that this is a time for celebration and joy.”

Plays like “Spaghetti and Matzo Balls” can help us view a serious matter from a different perspective and perhaps even give us deeper insight into the world of interfaith relationships. We haven’t yet seen the play, but would love to hear from anyone who has. We invite you to leave comments on the blog and let us know what you think!

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