Last weekend, MTV debuted a new installment of their documentary series: True Life, with the topic, “I’m in an Interfaith Relationship.” I commend MTV for bringing such a prevalent issue to light, but I wonder if the producers of the show could have shown a more typical example of an interfaith relationship (although the couples featured were extreme, they do make for good television).

The show followed the journeys of two couples as they explored the difficult decision of choosing a faith for their families. The first couple was comprised of a Lutheran man and a woman in the process of conversion to Jehovah’s Witness; the other couple featured a Jewish man and Christian woman. While both couples faced different struggles, the common theme of the woman taking the lead in the religious life of the family played out in each situation. The woman converting to Jehovah’s Witness went to church and Bible study, while her Lutheran husband wanted to go out with his friends, and the Christian woman (who belonged to a Christian Fellowship Church that celebrated all the “Jewish feasts and holidays” in addition to Christian holidays)—who happened to be pregnant—fasted on Yom Kippur while her Jewish husband only did so reluctantly. (According to Jewish law, pregnant women should follow their doctor’s advice regarding fasting on Yom Kippur in Judaism, and should never endanger their health or the health of the fetus.) These women underlined the significance and need for The Mothers Circle, JOI’s program for women of other backgrounds raising Jewish children.

At the end of the program (spoiler alert), the Christian woman was seven months pregnant, and she and her Jewish husband decided to raise their children “Jewstian”—celebrating Jewish holidays, while at the same time teaching that Jesus is the messiah. While the husband seemed uncomfortable with his son growing up with Jesus, he deferred to his wife’s decision. Their new son will have both a bris and a Christian dedication ceremony.


  1. Obviously the producers look for “sensational” couples. Our experience is that many so-called interfaith couples do not, in fact, practice any religion. That is what caused Rabbi Harold Schulweis to call them “interfaithless.” Perhaps his comment is extreme, but it does remind us that interfaith families look more like most Jewish families who are unaffiliated and not engaged by the Jewish community.

    Comment by Rabbi Kerry Olitzky — January 19, 2007 @ 12:39 pm

  2. The downside of this is that it showcases the complete ignrorance of the Jewish male. If he is rasing his child to believe in Jesus as messiah, then his child is a Christian. It strengthens the often erroneous belief that patrilineal descent is a sham, and will further convince hardliners such as Steven Cohen that outreach to interfaith is a waste of time and funds. Yuch.

    Comment by Eric — January 22, 2007 @ 10:45 am

  3. Hi,
    I’m not sure if this is the right forum to find someone, but I’m a student from Toronto doing a radio documentary for class on interfaith marriage. I’m just wondering if there is anyone out there who could shed light on the issue of interfaith relationships, or if someone is in an interfaith relationship and would be able to contact me.
    Many thanks.

    Comment by C — February 16, 2007 @ 2:07 pm

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