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by Mishka O
According to the Gaston Gazette, a Walk for Peace arranged by the Gaston Interfaith Trialogue attracted more than 75 Muslims, Jews and Christians who walked side-by-side in Gastonia, North Carolina on Saturday morning. The procession was to symbolize peace and co-existence among the three religions.
The Gaston Interfaith Trialogue is an interfaith group formed 15 years ago and comprises of members from the three Abrahamic faiths in Gaston County. They have held regular meetings in the past 9 years and sponsored many educational and spiritual activities.
“I think this walk for peace can be meaningful not just for relationships between Christians, Muslims and Jews, but it’s a model for how people from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs can come together and be a meaningful community,” said Sydnor Thompson, the former pastor of Myers Memorial United Methodist Church and a member of the interfaith committee that organized the walk.
The 5-mile walk made stops at holy places of worship for the three faiths along the way. Their stops included the First United Methodist Church, St. Stephens AME Zion Church, First Presbyterian Church, Temple Emanuel and the Islamic Society of Gastonia.
A police escort accompanied the walk and a shuttle was provided for those who could not walk, but wished to be a pert of the event.
In light of recent violence, the walk demonstrated the need to be united and was a call for peace. Bruce Cansler, a Muslim convert from Gaston told the Gaston Gazette, that the walk gave him a chance to show others that Muslims believe in love and peace.
“It’s my duty as a Muslim to go into the community because that’s the best example that you can do is to show and prove,” he said. “As human beings, before we judge somebody we need to get to know them and what they believe in.”
by Mishka O
With the increasing number of interfaith marriages and communities spreading across the country, it comes as a shock to hear reports of discrimination against interfaith couples. Sadly, they still persist and surface from time-to-time.
A couple were refused a non-religous service at a hotel in Illinois because of their faiths.
Interfaith couple, Alexandra Katzman and Jonathan Webber of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, planned to hold their wedding at the Bernadine’s Stillman Inn in Galena, Illinois. Katzman (who is Jewish) and Webber (who is Christian) were engaged at the inn, and wished to celebrate their marriage at the same place.
They had paid a deposit for a non-religious wedding in May 2016, but when they finalized details the hotel owner refused to allow them a ceremony per their wishes. Owner Dave Anderson is said to have told them that he would only allow a Christian service.
Katzman and Webber, who who then went on to have their wedding elsewhere, have filed a religious discrimination complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, according to a report by The Associated Press on Wednesday. The couple are being represented by the American Civil Liberties. They hope the complaint will prompt a state ruling against the inn which will facilitate future couples.
Talking about being rejected from having a non-religious wedding at the Bernadine’s Stillman Inn by Hotel owner Anderson, Katzman told WGN-TV: “He just kept saying that he wouldn’t allow it or he would only allow ceremonies that allow God or religion… He said your wedding is not a good fit.”
In response, Anderson told WGN-TV that he can “only do religious weddings” because of a city regulation in Galena, Illinois. The city has denied such a rule, saying that they no such regulation. The Associated Press attempted to contact him for comment, but Anderson declined.
by Mishka O
Our planet might just be a speck in the infinite universe, but it’s massive for us. It holds a spectrum of cultures and religions with different customs and traditions. Each has their unique way of celebrating both happy and sad occasions. With the world becoming more connected than ever, so have our societies and values. We’ve all learnt and borrowed something from different cultures, and one thing that’s winning non-Jews from Judaism is the ketubah.
A few years back, The New York Times published a report on non-Jews embracing ketubahs in their wedding rituals. Not interfaith couples, but couples who liked the meaning of a ketubah and its significance in life of the promise you make with God.
Some Christian couples have adopted ketubahs because of their shared spiritual history. The Austins were one such Christian couple who signed a ketubah after exchanging vows and rings. “Embracing this Jewish tradition just brings a richness that we miss out on sometimes as Christians when we don’t know the history,” said Mrs. Austin, 29, a business manager for AT&T. “Jesus was Jewish, and we appreciate his culture, where he came from.”
Gentiles embracing ketubahs coincides with recent social trends in the rise of Christian Zionism, the increasing numbers of interfaith marriages, and the search for spirituality in the customs of multiple religions. Because of the rise in awareness of Jewish practices, many non-Jews have adopted other Jewish traditions like the holding of a Passover Seder, kosher food and learning about kabbalah.
The Austins became aware of ketubahs when Mrs. Austin’s elder sister had one at her wedding a few years earlier. She loved how the contract is a permanent reminder of their covenant with God. As she says, “One of the characteristics of a covenant is a tangible sign. And this piece of paper, this beautiful piece of art, is the sign of our covenant.”
by Mishka O
As per Jewish law, witnesses have one of the most important roles in a wedding ceremony. For a Jewish marriage to be valid, there must be signatures from two witnesses on their ketubah. Who they are can differ per your perspective and values.
Traditionally both witnesses should be male, but there are certain Rabbis, in more liberal communities, that allow them to be female. They should be Jewish adults over the age of bar mitzvah. The two witnesses should not be related to the couple to be married, nor should they be related to each other. No relatives by blood or marriage of the bride and groom can serve as a witness on a ketubah. That includes your
- father, mother, step-father,or step-mother;
- grandfather, grandmother, step-grandfather or step-grandmother;
- great-grandfather, great-grandmother, etc.;
- sons and sons-in-law, daughters, and daughter-in-law;
- grandsons, granddaughters, grand-sons-in-law or grand-daughers-in-law;
- brothers and brothers-in-law, sisters and sisters-in-law;
- uncles and great-uncles, aunts and great-aunts (by blood or marriage);
- cousins (by blood or marriage); and
- nephews, nieces, great-nieces or great-nephews (by blood or marriage).
Who to choose as your witness?
Witnesses hold a special place in your life. You will forever see their signature besides you and your spouse’s on your ketubah, which is why they need to be someone who is important in your life. In interfaith marriages, with permission from the rabbi, you can ask for a non-Jewish witness to be there to sign your wedding document.
“When my husband and I sat down to talk about who would sign our interfaith ketubah, we agreed that we didn’t just want to ask close friends. After all, there are many ways to honor those you love at your wedding, but signing a ketubah is a special responsibility. So instead, we each spent some time thinking about which friends of ours had the type of marriage that we wanted to emulate in our own relationship.”
by Mishka O
With over 40% of marriages in America being between individuals of different faiths, the idea of interfaith marriages should be easy to absorb. Yet couples struggle with resistance from their families who do not accept their union. To help interfaith couples deal with the negativity around them, several support groups have come forward.
The best way to come to terms with your problems and solve them is by discussing it with others who have been or are going through it. Interfaith Community aims to bring couples from different religious backgrounds together and help them beat the negativity surrounding them.
The group based in New York holds couples workshops, private counseling sessions and has an elementary school curriculum designed to teach the fundamentals of Judaism and Christianity for interfaith families.
Sheila Gordon, the group’s president, told the NY Times: “In this multicultural, global, diverse world, where people are bringing many differences into a family, the old post-World War II paradigm, where you married the boy next door and everyone went to the same church, has completely changed.”
According to Dr. Gordon, as much as 100 children are enrolled in the educational programs geared towards bridging an understanding between both religions. But the number of pre-marital couples attending workshops has gone down, despite the number of interfaith marriages going up.
Interfaith Community’s president believes its because of the change in mindset of millennials. “The millennial ethos of fairness and respect means [millennials] don’t feel threatened by entering into this kind of partnership,” she said.
Although some couples may not deem them necessary, others have found such programs life-changing. Especially for those with families. The adult programs by the group stress that adults in interfaith relationships be knowledgeable and appreciative of their own and their partner’s religion. It not only elongates an interfaith relationship, but is “critical to effective, respectful parenting around religion.”
by Mishka O
Interfaith marriages are on the rise. But despite their popularity, children are still only taught to marry within their faith. And when they do otherwise, interfaith couples struggle to balance each other’s beliefs and maintain a stable marriage.
To fill in the gaps, many support programs sponsored by international Jewish organisations have sprung up. Rather than alienate interfaith couples and families, they provide resources to develop a better understanding of both religions and bring couples closer.
Yesterday, the New York Times published an article on “finding common ground in interfaith marriage.” They highlighted a program in particular Honeymoon Israel. Based in Buffalo, the organization offers interfaith partners, as well as homosexual couples, subsidized 10-day trips to Israel.
The trip allows them to connect with other couples in similar situations, whilst exploring Jewish culture and traditions. The couples are grouped by 20, stay in top hotels by the Mediterranean, and visit historic Jewish, Christian and Muslim sites in Israel.
“We don’t care what you believe in,” said said Avi Rubel, a founder of Honeymoon Israel. “You married into our family, so you’re in our family. We want couples to explore the issues on their own terms. We’re not trying to dictate how anybody feels about being Jewish or about Israel.”
Another organization highlighted in the NY Times article was InterfaithFamily, a non-profit based off the website, interfaithfamily.com. It helps interfaith couples who have difficulty finding a rabbi to officiate at their wedding by providing them with one.
In just five years, the non-profit has expanded to eight cities, where they also host couples discussion groups, religious services and social events for interfaith families. “Couples need safe spaces to be with others just like them,” said Rabbi Ari Moffic, who’s in charge of the Chicago branch. “If you Google ‘interfaith marriage,’ you’ll still find negative headlines.”
by Mishka O
The annual Festival of Faiths which brings communities of different faiths together from all over the world will be held from May 17th to the 21st. The event is focused on fostering harmony in society, by exploring the wisdom and knowledge of each religion, to address violence and heal wounds by teaching an active commitment to peace.
World famous spiritual leaders and activists will gather together in Louisville, Kentucky for five days. Week pass tickets are currently sold out, but individual session tickets are still available. The opening event, an interfaith prayer service held at Louisville’s historic Cathedral of the Assumption, will be free and open to the public.
According to the website, speakers will include Karen Armstrong, Pico Iyer, Vandana Shiva, Jim Wallis, Ingrid Mattson, Teddy Abrams, Bell Hooks, Arun Gandhi, Allan Boesak, Anam Thubten, Archibishop Joseph E. Kurtz, and many more.
Speaking on violence, Sarah Reed Harris, managing director of the Center for Interfaith Relations, said, “the vitriol directed at American Muslims as a result of actions by terrorists, and the perilous health of our natural world, violence has become an accepted norm for many.” She also told The Huffington Post, “We believe our Festival of Faiths offers a recipe for the restoration of balance, thoughtfulness and sanity.”
With religious violence becoming a recurring headline in the news lately, the festival has decided to focus on addressing the topic of violence itself. The theme for this year is “Sacred Wisdom: Pathways to Nonviolence.” Speakers at the event will speak on Islamophobia, Black Lives Matter and the interfaith community’s role in creating peace and harmony.
“Our speakers have been invited to share their own spiritual practices and the wisdom that is rooted deep within their faith traditions, and which informs the work they are called to do,” Harris said.
The event is open to the public and can be streamed live on YouTube. It will also be uploaded on YouTube for people who wish to view it later at ease.
by Mishka O
Traditionally, any community you come across wants their children to marry from their own faith and culture. But with people spreading across the globe, it’s becoming more normal now to marry outside your faith. People are no longer partial to the religion and background of their partner, but are more focused on compatibility. If you connect deeply with a native from a tribe in the Amazon rain forest, the way they dress, hunt or worship is the last thing on your mind. You’ll be more interested in building a lasting relationship.
In America, the number of Jews marrying non-Jews is increasingly rapidly. A survey by the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project in 2013, found intermarriage rate to be 58% among all American Jews and 71% among non-Orthodox American Jews. With the number of interfaith marriages rising, it would seem that they would be more easily accepted by rabbis. While some do officiate at interfaith weddings, others flatly refuse.
It can be disappointing for people to not be married in the rituals of the faith they grew up in. According to halakhah [Jewish law], a marriage is invalid if one partner is not Jewish. Based on this rationale, many orthodox rabbis do not perform at interfaith weddings.
But if you don’t find a rabbi, your options do not end.
First of all, not all rabbis are opposed. There are some Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal, and unaffiliated rabbis whom are willing to be a part of weddings where one partner is non-Jewish. Some may require commitment from the couple that they will raise their future children Jewish. For couples who wish to celebrate a wedding of two faiths, there are rabbis willing to co-officiate with a religious leader of the non-Jewish partner’s faith.
A popular option is to ask a friend to petition to be deputized for the day to perform the wedding ceremony. Having a rabbi present is not legally required, and a friend makes the day more personal. Couples looking for a low-key ceremony could go for a civil marriage ceremony officiated by a judge.
by Mishka O
According to the Rabbinical Assembly, no Conservative Rabbi may officiate at interfaith weddings between Jews and people from other religions. The ban has been a subject of controversy, especially with the increasing number of interfaith marriages in recent times.
Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom, president of the Jewish Social Policy Action Network, called on the leadership of the Conservative Movement to drop the ban in a recent article in The Times of Israel. Rabbi Rosenbloom served for 36 years as spiritual leader of Congregation Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania before retiring. Although he was a supporter of the prohibition in his 42 years as an active rabbi, he has since changed his tune and now opposes the notion.
“For a decade or so before my retirement from the pulpit in 2014, I increasingly felt uncomfortable sending young people for whom I had been their lifelong rabbi and our congregation their lifelong place of worship to a rabbi they did not know to perform the most sacred ceremony of their life just because their beloved was not Jewish. I felt I was abandoning them,” said Rabbi Rosenbloom.
The turning point for Rosenbloom came when his stepdaughter got engaged to a non-Jewish man. Although he initially thought about referring them to one of his Reform colleagues, he changed his mind when he saw how committed the couple was to having a Jewish wedding, and their desire to have somebody they personally know officiate the ceremony.
The Conservative Jewish community has opposed officiating interfaith marriage for fear that future children will not be raised as Jews, and hoping it will discourage thoughts of marriage outside Judaism. The fear is unfounded as the 2013 Pew Research Center study of U.S. Jewry shows that sixty-one percent of millennials born to intermarried couples consider themselves Jewish. There is also no guarantee that children born to Jewish parents will grow up to be dedicated Jews themselves.
“The Conservative movement has approached intermarriage with ambivalence. Rabbis must refuse to be part of intermarriage ceremonies (we’re not even supposed to attend such ceremonies, though many of us do), but after the wedding we open our arms to the newly married couple and invite them to become part of our community,” says Rabbi Rosenbloom of the practice. “But those we push away on Saturday night are not so ready to come back on Sunday morning. It is not easy to get over the initial sting of rejection and the stigma of the ambivalent way we view their marriage.”
What way to better celebrate an Interfaith marriage than with a Ketubah with a world map? After all, the whole core of an Interfaith is love and acceptance — not just in marriage, but throughout the whole world. We love this Ketubah from TINAK — the sprawling world map with different textures and colors stunningly highlights the beauty of diversity. This Ketubah beautifully captures the diversity and unity of marriage, especially one that is Interfaith!