The findings of the recent National Jewish Population Survey indicate that there is a strong trend toward
intermarriage between those who are Jewish and those who are not. Although some may view interfaith
marriages as troubling, I see this phenomenon as an opportunity to help couples deepen their commitment
to spiritual principles that will serve them well in their new life together.
As a practicing pulpit rabbi who conducts Jewish interfaith weddings, I am always deeply honored to officiate at
interfaith ceremonies where a couple has a strong desire to invite God into their partnership. When a couple
views their marriage as the beginning of a God-guided, sacred journey, I work with them to create a ceremony
that will honor both their Jewish and Christian (or Buddhist or Hindu) heritage. As a result of creating and
conducting dozens of these special and beautiful weddings, I’ve found that there are several important issues that
interfaith couples who plan to marry should consider:
1. Contact Clergy First –Before you set the date, call your rabbi and, if your plans include a co-officiated
ceremony, call your priest or minister as well. Since there are only a very few clergy who will perform interfaith
ceremonies, before you do anything else, make that call.
2. Meet and Talk – even if you and your fiancé agree on the elements of your interfaith ceremony, it is
important to continue the dialogue about your interfaith marriage and your interfaith life. When I counsel couples
I speak with them about the “Interfaith Milestones” that all couples face and together. We share ideas and make
plans to help meet these challenges. These milestones include not only the wedding ceremony but also the
celebration of religious holidays, the birth of the first child and issues surrounding baby naming, circumcision
ceremonies and/or baptism and the practice of each partner’s respective faith both in synagogue/church and in
3. Discuss Myths and Misconceptions – As a rabbi and a counselor, I let interfaith couples know that the
conventional wisdom of our parents’ generation regarding “mixed marriages” just doesn’t hold up in today’s
world. The divorce rate among couples of the same faith versus couples in interfaith marriages is virtually the
same. These statistics indicate that issues such as honesty, loyalty and shared values have more to do with the
success in a marriage than having a common religion. In fact, a 1999 study of 97 couples found that those who
saw marriage as sacred and participated in religious experiences, even when their religions were different, had a
significantly higher rate of marriage longevity.
4. What About the Kids? Celebrating both Jewish and Christian traditions in the home does not seem to
confuse children. My experience indicates that when children see their parents respectfully sharing in family
holidays, they learn tolerance and acceptance in the best way possible; through the example set by their own
parents. Remember, if you have a glass of champagne on Bastille Day, that doesn’t make you French! Sharing
Mom’s Christmas or Dad’s Chanukah is not detrimental to a child’s spiritual development.
5. Include Your Families – Avoid “If it’s not a Catholic/Jewish/Protestant Wedding then I’m not coming!”
When parents set ultimatums, their children suffer and what should be a beautiful family occasion can become a
battleground. As part of the counseling process, I often meet with both sets of parents and help them understand
that an interfaith wedding does not mean that their son or daughter has abandoned their family or their birth
religion. Instead, a couple’s desire for an interfaith ceremony often indicates a real love and respect for the birth
6. Combine Traditions to Make Your Ceremony Special – With a basic focus on the unifying theme of the
one God above, I encourage interfaith couples to include those ritual items from both religions that will make their
ceremony unique. I once conducted a ceremony that combined a Kiddush (wine) cup from the groom’s Russian
Jewish tradition, with lace on the chuppah (wedding canopy) from the bride’s Irish Catholic tradition. Together
we choose those religious items that will make their interfaith wedding a special blend of religion and culture.
During the ceremony I explain their origin and use so that both families and all the guests can share in the joy of
|Some Thoughts for Interfaith Couples
Rabbi Barbara Aiello
|© 2005-12 Rabbi Barbara Aiello, All rights reserved.
Rabbi Barbara Aiello
Rabbi Barbara Aiello currently directs the IjCCC (Italian Jewish Cultural Center of Calabria) and serves Synagogue Ner Tamid del Sud.
She is the first Non-Orthodox and first woman rabbi in Italy.
|Rabbi Barbara conducts Jewish & Interfaith Weddings,
Commitment Ceremonies, and Renewal of Vows in
Italy, United States and will travel around the world.
Contact her for your personalized ceremony.
“A Glass of Champagne on Bastille Day Doesn’t Make You French”