Celebrating my mixed marriage

Tomorrow, my husband and I will celebrate our eighth anniversary. Our wedding was, without a doubt, the happiest day of my life. (Yes, having children brings me at least as much joy as having a husband, but after two c-sections, I’d have to say the wedding wins for best day ever.)

I love Jewish weddings, and had fantasized about mine long before I met and fell in love with my non-Jewish husband. While deep down I still wanted a very traditional wedding, I also felt that it was disrespectful to the tradition to pretend that ours was a halachically acceptable union. So Keith and I set out, together, to create a ceremony (and now a life together) that preserved the joy, the history and the culture of Judaism, but was also something new and uniquely ours.


One aspect of that ceremony was our ketubah-like-document, the contract we wrote to articulate our commitment to one another. My friend Jaimie Cohn Sadeh created artwork that illustrates our mixed marriage – you know, because Keith is from the west coast, and I am from the east coast (a difference that has, incidentally, caused far greater strife in our marriage than our upbringings.)

Photo 133.jpg


Here’s what it says (more or less – I had a really hard time typing the Hebrew):

On the twenty first day of the month of July, in the year Two Thousand and Two, Keith Joseph Lepine, son of Carol and Paul, and Amy Beth Meltzer, daughter of Judith and Daniel, entered into a covenant of marriage, declaring:

I vow to place my relationship with you above all else – to be your lifelong friend and companion and to cherish the whole we have become.

I promise to honor the person you are – to see and treasure your gifts, support you in your life’s challenges, and encourage your growth. For you are the one to whom I have given my heart,

I will also honor the person you fell in love with – to care of my whole self and preserve my individual character. For I am the one to whom you have given your heart.


I pledge to create and sustain a complete and profound intimacy – to honestly share my deepest feelings and thoughts and enable you to do the some.

We will establish a loving home dedicated to peace, hope and respect for all people, always in thoughtful dialogue with the traditions of our ancestors.

In giving you this ring, I joyfully enter into this covenant.

I will love you until my last breath.

wedding invitation chuppah
the invitation (I made it myself!)
wedding2.jpgthe “tisch”
the bedeken
wedding shtick
the shtick
I recognize that intermarriage is a terrifically controversial topic. I agree that it is one of many challenges to Jewish continuity. The irony, or perhaps the significance, of posting this on Tisha B’av is not lost on me. But this piece isn’t about the Jewish people. It’s about me, the man I fell in love with, and our wedding. Happy Anniversary, Keith. I will love you until my last breath.
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Fern @ Life on the Balcony

posted July 20, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Happy Anniversary!
All of my grandparents’ children intermarried, and all of my fellow cousins (11 of us) strongly identify as Jews. Obviously intermarriage doesn’t have to be the end of the Jewish people. :-)

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Ben Plonie

posted July 21, 2010 at 3:11 am

This will definitely make it easier to explain to your kids about the difference between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews as related in
(I didn’t say it will make it easier for them to understand it)

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Morah Mary

posted July 21, 2010 at 7:11 am

Amy, Mazal tov to you and Keith!
My husband and I will celebrate our 32nd anniversary this September. It, too, was an interfaith wedding ceremony, incorporating prayers and traditions from both our backgrounds. What wasn’t included? No ketubah, no bedeken, no Hebrew on the invitation….
I converted four years after we were married and have been asked many times if we ever considered having a Jewish wedding ceremony that incorporated (at least) a ketubah (with the implication that our “first” wedding ceremony was “invalid.”) We’ve said “no” – our ceremony was reflective of who we were at that time and we honor that.
PS – my husband became a more knowledgeable Jew in the first four years that we were married than he had been since his bar mitzvah. I ask great questions – and he found out he had to look for answers!
Your mindfulness and Keith’s active participation in Jewish life are a model for ALL of us. Thanks for sharing.

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posted July 21, 2010 at 10:14 am

Happy anniversary! In love with your ketubah! :)

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posted July 21, 2010 at 10:45 am

Thank you, Mary. I really appreciate your comments, and your sharing of your own story. Because Keith is an athiest, we didn’t have other religious traditions to grapple with. But, he did play French canadian music on his accordion….

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posted July 21, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Happy Anniversary! It’s none of my business (so obviously feel free not to answer) but did you guys discuss conversion? Was Keith’s atheism the barrier or were there other issues?
It’s funny, this post was in my RSS feed right after the interview with Margarita Engle in the Jewish Books for Children blog — you may recall that her book Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba was my favorite Jewish chapter book of last year (’-books-part-ii/) and later a winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award. Her parents are intermarried (Cuban Catholic mom, American Ashkenazi Jewish dad) and it’s clear that her connection to Judaism fueled the writing of this fabulous book.

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posted July 21, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Keith has a pretty frum approach to conversion…. without my ever bringing it up, he explained to my mother that although he looked forward to raising Jewish children, he was not converting because he thought it would be disrespectful convert to a faith he didn’t believe in. One of the many reasons I love him.

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posted July 21, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Happy Anniversary!
I don’t know how you reconciled yourself to a man who plays accordian. That seems much tougher than intermarriage. 😉

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Minnesota Mamaleh

posted July 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm

mazels to you and your beshert! every moment of your day looked blissfully happy and *exactly* the way it should– *love* the pictures! all the best, amy!

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posted July 21, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Happy anniversary!!! And thank you so much for this blog! I love reading what you write :)
Aliza (I got no time for no stinkin’ blogs, I have enough email already in my inbox)

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posted July 22, 2010 at 12:08 pm

I am glad your marriage has lasted 8 years, and I hope it may last another 112! Not all mixed marriages work out so well. My daughter, who was raised Jewish, left her son’s then-atheist father after both lost custody of their son for drugs. My daughter got clean and sober within a year but my husband and I raised our grandson for nearly 5 years until she had custody returned. Her ex relapsed repeatedly for 3 more years but in March he remarried, was born again, applied for and got visitation alternate weekends, and now wants shared custody.
Two years ago daughter married a Jewish atheist. They live at the bare poverty level, and my husband and I often have to help out. They wouldn’t set foot in a shul even if they could afford it, but they let me take my grandson to services. Her husband of two years is more a father to my grandboy than his own father was for most of his life.
But now, over my daughter’s strong objections her ex takes T to a very strict church on his visiting weekends. The boy is nearly 6 and says church isn’t so bad, but he really wants to go to Sunday school at my temple too so he can “learn what the rabbi says to G-d when it’s not in English”. He has not yet been baptized, but the time is not far off, I fear. If that day comes, the father plans to apply for full custody on religious grounds. The victim here is my dear grand because of his mother’s mistakes.
All this is by way of saying don’t jump into a mixed union blindly, especially if children are involved. My Catholic father vowed to bring up my sister and me Jewish, even if my mother were to die. He never wavered from that vow in spite of grief from his family. But they went into marriage with their eyes open. My daughter went into it with her glands, both times, and now my grandson may end up paying for her mistakes.

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posted July 22, 2010 at 1:19 pm

My husband and I are married 53 year….They said it would’nt last.
Interfaith marriage takes a little more work….

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posted July 22, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Congratulations to you both, Amy. A question, if I may. When raising Jewish children in a home with a Jewish mother and a father who does not believe in G-d, how does a conversation about faith, G-d, prayer, etc go? Does Keith say, “well, you should believe that, but I don’t”, or “Go ask your mother” or something else entirely? I respect him for not converting when he does not believe, by the way. Kudos to him.

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posted July 22, 2010 at 3:10 pm

It sounds like a painful situation, and I appreciate your sharing your story.
I agree that one should not go into any union blindly, including an interfaith relationship. We married quickly, but we talked about many issues and possible areas of conflict before we did.

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posted July 22, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Michael- Neither Keith nor I tells the girsl what they should believe. But we are honest about what we ourselves believe, to the best of our abilities. Our children know that mama and papa come from different backgrounds *and* believe different things about God, and that both of us expect that their ideas about God will change and grow throughout their lives, as ours did. Most often I end up telling them that I don’t know what I believe, because that’s the God’s honest truth….

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Matt Zvi

posted July 25, 2010 at 1:05 am

What’s wrong with intermarriage? I hate how being Jewish has less to do with one’s heritage or inner belief, but how you are to be judged by others, be them Jews or Gentiles.
In fact the biggest factor in the stability of a marriage is not ethnic background or even religion- it’s money and class. Do both spouses handle money in similar ways? Do they fight about money a lot? Those are the most important questions to ask.
I married my Bershert even if she wasn’t Jewish.
In fact she made me more Jewish than I was on my own. Too many close minded people don’t understand that Judaism needs to adapt to the modern world.
And you should not beat yourself up about intermarriage. Marrying an atheist doesn’t make you less of a Jew. And marrying an atheist who’s from a Jewish background doesn’t make you more of a Jew. Ditto with marrying a pious Jew. Whatever you call it- racial, ethnic, or tribal criteria, and the blood quartering they demand- those limiting factors are a thing of the past. And if you don’t reject those retrograde paradigms, that will guarantee Jews will not be a thing of the future.

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A Yiddishe Mama

posted July 30, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Dear Amy,
I have chanced upon your blog today and it has immeasurably saddened me. In normal situations I would hesitate to offer my opinion, but as this is a public forum, I assume it is accepted practice. Both my parents are death camp survivors. Each lost family in the most horrific ways imaginable. My father’s side were all distinguished rabbis, my mother’s side was more modern, her sister married a non-jew in war torn Hungary. My grandmother sat shiva and cried every day for the rest of her life. With the grace of Hashem they both survived this holocaust and went on to build a beautiful life blessed with not only material wealth but with a deep abiding spiritual faith that they have bequeathed to their 4 frum children, 12 frum grandchildren, and 10 frum great grandchildren. I wish you the same. Their faith did not waiver, even when tested beyond what most people could possibly withstand. I do not begrudge you the love you share with your husband. But in my beliefs, before you were born, you were paired with a neshama (soul) to be your true mate. By choosing to commit to a non-jew you have torn this soul asunder. You were part of a whole and now 2 broken souls are set adrift. The love that is romanticised by society today is not the same love from which you could have entered into. It was pure and enduring, and was on a higher spiritual plane. You have bestowed upon your children souls that are not pure Jewish souls. May G-d bless them. We have survived centuries of persecution because of our determination not to intermarry. We have held dearly to the tenets given to us at Har Sinai and have survived because of this. You state you had difficulty believing this, but had you listened to your soul, you would have found the strenghth to believe. What our ancestors died to preserve, you broke in a moment. I am sure your husband is a good and kind man. I wish both of you no ill will. But one jew is responsible for the next, and you have broken our collective hearts.

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posted August 9, 2010 at 11:41 am

I’m sorry, but i disagree with the last letter.
I was married to a Jewish man, years ago. He cheated
on me, and barely worked. I have two sons with him.
Both, now in their 40″s; one, near 50. We divorced,
back in the 60’s, and i rarely received child support.
Thirty years ago, i met this wonderful man, not Jewish.
We have been married, nearly the thirty years. He has
treated my children wonderfully, as though they were his
own flesh and blood. What more can one ask! We are happily
married, and i wouldn’t change him for the world.
We all need to wake up, and realize what’s really important
in life.

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posted August 9, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Happy Belated Anniversay! You and others have proven that inter-faith marriages can and do last and no harm is done to children in a situation. There are some that feel children will be “confused” if not raised in a solid, one faith. My sister and her husband of 30 years were from 2 different religious backgrounds. They have 2 girls, and one chose her father’s faith and the other her mothers. All get along and are loving and close. It works. (of course not for all, but then even marriages of a single faith don’t always work!)
Blessed Be

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