Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wedding Planning Troubles

As indicated in the title, this will not be a happy post. Sorry. It could alternately be titled "That time I cried my eyes out over wedding planning. No, that other time. No, that other time. Forget it. One of those times that I cried my eyes out over wedding planning."

Yeah, it's like that. Of course, I'm sure a lot of people cry their eyes out over wedding planning, some for silly reasons and some for serious ones. Heck, I've cried over silly ones too. But that's for a different story.

So it all started a few weeks ago when Dan hatched the idea to have a rabbi at our wedding. Yes, my Catholic fiancé suggested that it would be nice to have a rabbi perform our marriage. I had kinda written the idea off before we discussed it, for a few reasons:
(1) Actually it doesn't say anywhere that you need a rabbi to make it a Jewish wedding. All you need are witnesses to sign a document called a ketubah (like the Jewish version of a marriage license). Well, a couple other things, but it's not encased in canon law the way Catholic weddings are.
(2) I can't have a really Jewish wedding per the strictest of guidelines because Dan isn't Jewish, anyways. And because I scheduled the wedding before sundown on Saturday, on the sabbath, and that's not allowed for a true Jewish wedding. But I don't keep shabbat so it seemed hypocritical to suddenly pretend to care for the sake of my wedding.
(3) My own rabbis, who I know and have a relationship with, are very religious and will not perform an interfaith ceremony. So rather than find a random rabbi who would do it, I let it go.

Anyways, Dan thought that since the deacon could attend but not perform the ceremony, it would be nice to have a rabbi do the rest of it. Equal representation. So I went to,which is a Jewish interfaith support website and filled out their rabbi request form.  I'm sure that would have worked wonderfully in many places (like South Florida), but it returned 5 recommendations to me... only one in the Houston area (the others were in Dallas). I emailed that one, who unfortunately already had a wedding planned that night. He recommended another rabbi in the area, who is out of town that weekend. And she recommended a synagogue that doesn't do ceremonies for non-members. I emailed a couple others. The last one I emailed replied with this:
"I am not comfortable with the scenario you have described for your wedding.  If you would like to meet with me and dig a little deeper about why the deacon's blessing is a must at your Jewish wedding ceremony, I would be happy to help."

Yikes.  She has the right to be uncomfortable with it, but the accusation there was too much for me. That I shouldn't allow a deacon at "my Jewish wedding?" No. "Our Interfaith wedding." This really upsets me about the Jews. Their numbers are dwindling. They all talk about how sad it is that people intermarry and don't raise their kids Jewish and we're breeding ourselves out. (I could link to 20 articles talking about this topic with a 2 second Google search, but I don't want to support them in any way.) I do understand why my ultra-religious rabbis are not able to. They do everything by the book, and I respect that. But the conservative movement follows the midline between very religious and very permissive and in it's official literature it claims to welcome interfaith families and the non-Jewish partner to be involved in the synagogue.
Yet here we are, trying to incorporate Judaism into our wedding and our future... and they won't let us. They're pushing us away. They're insulting my wonderful fiancé who is willing to help me raise Jewish children, saying that's not good enough, we need more. We need you to give up your own faith.

Of course it's not all rabbis or all Jews that feel this way. After all there were those rabbis who would have officiated if they weren't busy, or if we attended their synagogue. But too many are flat against it.

So after I cried on Dan's shoulder for awhile (he's wonderful, and always says the right things even when I'm soaking his shirt in tears), we decided not to look for rabbis anymore. I'm sure if I kept trying I could find one. Another smaller congregation where the rabbi would be willing to do a wedding for nonmembers or a rabbi without a congregation. But after how many more rejections? How much more judgment? Forget it. We can do this without their help.

So we have solved part of the problem. But that still leaves the question... who will officiate? This also makes me wonder if we will find a congregation to belong to. The more religious congregations where I am most comfortable from a religious standpoint are not welcoming to our family. So what do we trade? Observance or belonging, if we can't have both?

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