Meet My Interfaith Family: The Hills

May 30, 2024Crystal Hill

I’ve been pretty open about how I discovered my Jewish heritage and my subsequent decision to convert, in part to reclaim that part of my family’s identity. However, that decision took a while to begin verbalizing. One reason I needed to be certain that I wanted to convert (aside from the obvious reason that formally taking on a new ethnoreligion is a big deal) was the knowledge that, if I were to convert, I would be creating an interfaith family.

Being in an interfaith relationship wasn’t something I was worried about on the surface, but, having been raised in an evangelical Christian environment, it had been ingrained in me that a marriage between people of different faiths was doomed to fail. I had deconstructed my Christian faith a couple years before, but Ben, my husband, was just beginning his own deconstruction from evangelical Christianity. I knew that he’d still love me, but “Hey honey, I want to change religions” isn’t a conversation many people expect to have, especially after they get married.

I’m grateful to have a partner who supported me throughout my conversion and has agreed wholeheartedly to raise our son as a Jew. This isn’t to say our journey has been all “sunshine and rainbows;” there have been a couple fairly intense discussions. But in the end, we have emerged from those conversations stronger as a couple and with a deeper respect for the other’s convictions.

So I asked Ben some questions about how my conversion has affected our marriage, our parenting style, and some of the things he appreciates about Judaism. Without further ado, may I present “Meet My Interfaith Family: Hill Edition!”

  1. What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

    I think my favorite would be Tu BiShvat, which celebrates trees and the arrival of spring in Israel. It was the first Jewish holiday we celebrated together, as well as the first one I had absolutely no clue about beforehand. I think that unfamiliarity plays a big part in why it’s my favorite. I’m not lumping it in with Christmas or Easter in my head; it’s something new and specific.

  2. What’s your favorite Jewish tradition?
    Chinese food on Christmas. Christmas, while lovely and full of memories, is also a headache and a half. I’d much rather just enjoy the day off from work and have good food that I didn’t have to make.
  3. What is one of the most interesting aspects of Judaism for you?
    I love the Talmudic story “The Oven of Akhnai,” especially the line: “the Torah is not in Heaven.” Growing up, I was taught that religious law was set in stone: God’s will had been decided and you either complied or burned for eternity. 
    The concept that humanity had the power (and the permission!) to interpret and wrestle with the Torah after it was given at Sinai was eye opening and freeing.
  4. When I told you I was planning to convert, what were your initial thoughts?
    “Oh no, not this again.” You had about a two-year head start in terms of deconstructing from Christianity. I initially thought that you were just going back to the same basic belief structure, but minus the element of grace. As we talked and I learned more about Judaism and what it meant to you specifically, most of my worries were laid to rest.
  5. From your standpoint, what are some ways that my conversion has affected our marriage?
    The Jewish side of you just feels like another facet of what was always there. You’ve always been opinionated and insightful, so a religious practice centered around having an opinion and defending it seems a perfect fit. 
    In the day to day, not much has changed. We still get up in the morning and try to survive while doing the best we can by our son. Judaism hasn’t changed that; it’s added different prayers and holidays I didn’t grow up observing but enjoy celebrating now. 

    Every once in a while, we have long conversations about what we believe, why we believe it, where we differ, and how that jumble of rhetoric will affect things moving forward. That’s been one of the most intense parts of our marriage…but it’s also one of the most rewarding.
  6. What are some ways my being Jewish has affected our parenting choices?
    Our son is still young, so most of the issues arise from our extended family and communicating expectations. Both sets of grandparents are still deeply Christian, so getting them to understand that our son is Jewish and that it isn’t their job to convert him to Christianity has been a perilous road. Thankfully, we seem to be past the worst of that.
  7. What advice do you have for other interfaith couples?
    Listen to your spouse…really listen. Recognize that neither of you is acting in bad faith and that you’re both trying to be the best you can be. Learn why your partner believes what they believe, explain your reasoning, and find common ground. You’re in this together. Also, challah and wine help smooth over a LOT of conversations!

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