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The Many Kinds Of Intermarriage

The Many Kinds Of Intermarriage

The last Super Bowl I watched was in 1980, when I was in third grade. I know the Steelers won, but that’s about all I can tell you.

Frankly, the only reason I even watched was because the previous year, my first in sports-obsessed Pittsburgh, I had been humiliated the day after the Super Bowl when our teacher had us draw a picture of our favorite part of the game. Knowing virtually nothing about football or the Steelers, I had simply colored some generic football players standing awkwardly in black-and-gold uniforms.

“But what exactly are they doing in the picture?” Miss Ossler, normally pleased with my work, demanded. To my classmates’ amusement, I answered merely, “Um, they’re winning.”

While I like to exercise and recognize that for most people athletic competitions are fascinating, I’d rather do just about anything than watch, or hear about, sports. When, at 3, my daughter Ellie tried soccer and didn’t like it, I was secretly relieved; alas, at 6, she’s rediscovered it, and while I’m thrilled she’s found a fun way to get exercise, I’m the mom chatting on the sidelines rather than paying attention to the game.

Fortunately for me, my bookish lapsed Catholic husband shares my sports aversion. On weekends, while other guys are camped out on the sofa watching ESPN, Joe is either taking our daughters on excursions, browsing in bookstores or grading papers (he’s a teacher).

While, according to the Jewish community, Joe and I are “intermarried,” our relatively harmonious relationship has made me consider the many ways marriages can be “mixed” versus endogamous.

Early in our courtship, when I was determined to end up with someone Jewish, I contemplated breaking up and refusing to date non-Jews. Yet I’d had enough boyfriends and flings to recognize how unusually compatible Joe and I were. On my way to Israel for a year and a half, I knew that if I didn’t stick with Joe, there was a decent chance I might end up with an Israeli. Such a marriage, while Jewish-Jewish, brings with it a whole other set of challenges, from culture clashes and language barriers to deciding in which country to settle. Even Jewish-Jewish couples from the same country frequently disagree over how Jewish to be and what traditions to observe.

I decided that given all the potential conflicts and differences in a relationship, I’d choose religious differences — particularly since Joe was not particularly committed to Catholicism and was perfectly happy to raise Jewish children — over something potentially more intractable.

Of course religion is not our only difference: like any married couple we bicker about minor childrearing issues, money matters, him working too many hours, whose turn it is to do the laundry and so forth.

I don’t want to minimize the challenges that being interfaith can pose for many couples. For us, however, the many things we do share – such as our passion for history, good writing, vegetarian food, New York City and of course our kids — more than compensate.

Now if he were a football fan, I might feel differently…

(For more “In the Mix,” including an archive of monthly columns about intermarriage, go to

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