Episode 4 - Breaking the Glass
I love to plan anything, especially a party. And I think it's fair to say, Rimini, you did not have like dreams as a little girl of planning your own wedding, right?
Definitely not. I knew, I assumed rather that I would be married someday but I didn't ascribe any attributes to who that person might be or what that person might be. Until I met Reza
Welcome back to Breaking the Glass. I'm your host, Emma Newbery, and this is episode four, also titled Breaking the Glass. This is, for shorthand, the wedding episode. Because this is an episode about celebrations, we want it to be celebratory. As I and others have pointed out in earlier episodes, if a couple has made it to the altar, chances are they have worked out their own plan for a life together. And while the wedding itself is the most public declaration of a committed relationship, it's really about the two spouses—meant to reflect themselves and how they see the other person they're committing themselves to. This episode features couples who have made their weddings uniquely theirs, and faith leaders who want to provide those couples with a space to do that. The stories inevitably include hurdles that both couples and their families have faced but the takeaway is how those hurdles have been transformed by people determined to have their day really be theirs, whatever that looks like. This is not to say that people should be forced into alternatives to a traditional ceremony, but rather that many couples choose this because their understandings of their union is more expansive and personal than adhering to communal standards.
I’ll start… Hi, Emma, thanks for having us. This here to my right is my lovely, beautiful, wonderful wife Dr. Rimini Breakstone. Rimini is an oncologist at the Lifespan Cancer Centers at the Miriam in Rhode Island. She is a super doc, super mom, super wife, and she is our anchor at home and the sun which we all spin around.
Now I kind of wish I would have gone first… that hard to follow
Reza and Rimini Breakstone are the kind of couple who, when I told people I was interviewing them prompted the response, “Oh fun, you'll like them.” It's a common trope that opposites attract. But I've never encountered the kind of immediate sense of balance that the two of them afford each other. I only spoke with them for an hour or so. So what do I know? But afterwards, I found myself thinking about my high school physics class, which I can tell you right now rarely happens. Rimini is a kind of grounding wire to raise his electric energy. And the two of them offered a loving and thoughtful take on their own relationship and others that make it to the marriage stage.
This to my left is my wonderful husband, Reza Breakstone. He is a super lawyer, he is pretty much the best husband and father anyone could ask for.
We're starting with Reza and Rimini because the two of them really embody the sort of Mosaic elements of an interfaith ceremony, even though they may not call it that. Reza grew up in Massachusetts and lived in what he called a “composite identity” household. As he described it to me in an email, his mom is Persian with a nominally Muslim background, although grew up secular, and his dad is American Jewish. So there was both the hyphenated American identity in his household, as well as different religions. Rimini’s family is Indian, and she was raised Roman Catholic.
I think, of the two of us, I had the most religious background. I grew up as Roman Catholic, we went to church every Sunday, I had completed all my sacraments up until that time. It was very important to my parents, especially my mother, and when my mother was diagnosed with cancer when she was in her early 40s, and I was in my early teens at that point, and I think that made her even more religious. And so when she passed, that religion was important to me, because of the importance that it was to her.
You may remember in Reza’s introduction of her that Rimini is an oncologist now. So it's clear that family impacts a lot of her outlook on life. And that's also important to start with because, if you remember back a few episodes, Jana Knibb, Ryan Foreman's partner who's a sociology professor, mentioned the importance of family and community in public displays like weddings
Our families important. Is the community important for a marriage? Absolutely. Like I teach this to my students all the time. I'm like remember, the one thing that marriages overwhelmingly have in common is family and community.
Many of the couples featured in this series who chose to get married have blended their different backgrounds to create a mosaic ceremony. As you may remember from the supercut, at the end of last episode,
The breaking of the glass at the end
The breaking glass
Break the glass
Breaking the glass…
The tradition of breaking the glass, after which this series and this episode are named, has been at the heart of many ceremonies. A common Jewish tradition, this practice and variants of it are also commonly used in other cultures. Like this episode, the meaning of this tradition can take on sort of whatever tone the couple wishes. It does traditionally stand for a few things, including symbolizing the length and happiness of a marriage, meaning as long as it would take to collect all the tiny fragments of glass, or the sanctity and fragility of a relationship that requires work and dedication, the bitter memories of Jewish history, you name it. Some couples use the glass to make a mezuzah. Some people use a plate, and others get a light bulb from the hardware store for easy cleanup and disposal. It's really up to you. The structure of this episode is similar, it follows the form of broken glass. It's a mosaic of stories and insights from faith leaders and couples alike, on how to make your wedding day yours. We're going to continue with discussions from couples about how they decided what to incorporate, interspersed with faith leaders discussing similar experiences, personal or otherwise, about how to construct the ceremony itself to reflect the couple and their relationship.
So I did want to be married by a priest. And, but I also wanted it to not be so overly religious that it would be off putting to anybody because not only are we from a multifaith family, we also have a lot of friends who are from different faiths and different backgrounds. And so we also wanted to be married outside, which is not technically allowed in the Catholic faith to be a real registered marriage. In Catholicism, it has to be in a church to fulfill I guess, the sacramental requirements. In many ways from the outside, it looked like a fairly traditional Christian ceremony, but it was outside it was. It was it was more secular than it was religious. And that's what worked for us and our family.
Yeah. And, you know, I got to break a glass at the end with my foot. And like, you know, we, I think you know, at the wedding, we were lifted on chairs, like, you know, so at the party, so we tried to be mindful of some things that were important, you know...
Traditions from both aspects.
Yeah, I would say that in, in the wedding planning, I was like, super focused on the things that really super duper mattered to me. So like, the party and the guest list and the venue and how that was all gonna go and trying to bring it together. And so the like, it being outside, it wasn't like I had a vision for what I wanted, as much as I had a vision for what I didn't want. And since Rimini, wanted this figure at the helm of the wedding, and he was able to do it in a fairly considerate way that wasn't overtly or overly religious, I guess, maybe to her side or whatever. It worked. It worked out. And yes, technically, it's not accepted because we were not in a church and we were outside but you know—again, he wore the collar. We, we did it. We did some other things, too.
And it was a blend of religions and a blend of cultures. We had the, I wore a white wedding dress, but then afterwards, we had Indian clothes and
There was Persian music, Indian music, there was dance music, there was all you know, like, the last song was Al Green’s, “Let's stay together,” which is my parents wedding. So you know, like so there's so much going on. There's, it's kind of, it's kind of awesome that way.
Reza and Rimini’s description of their wedding highlights one of the points our guests have already been making throughout the series, that every wedding or relationship as a union of two people is going to be a blend of honoring aspects of each partner's identity. And it's important to remember that people have been breaking with the typical or traditional pretty often, and that should be celebrated. As Rabbi Handlarski pointed out to me, weddings themselves have changed a lot over the past couple of years.
Rabbi Handlarski 09:44
It's interesting, you know, the pandemic has shifted weddings in such a profound way. They're much smaller, sometimes much, much smaller. You know, some 400 people wedding they became 10 people weddings, far fewer bells and whistles. You know over the past year, I've done so many like cute little backyard weddings, or just immediate family present. Folks are often very happy to have taken the stress out of the process. And then of course, for those who want big weddings and have done that, or will do that, when that, you know, things are opening up now. So some some more weddings are happening. And so that's been one great like, I don't want to rain on your parade. But I just really think that you don't have to do it the way other people have done it.
Even prior to COVID. Couples have made decisions about what's right for them about everything from menu to venue. Religious elements are just another component that is up to the couple to navigate for their own day.
So we knew right from the get go, we were not going to have the typical wedding.
This is Courtney and David Nicolato talking about their wedding. They've been briefly featured in earlier episodes. But here's a formal introduction. Courtney is the President and CEO of United Way of Rhode Island. If you listened to one of our earlier series, Chutzpah!, you may remember her as a guest on that. Here, she offers a more personal take with her husband, David, about her experience converting to Judaism, which will also unfold over the next couple of episodes, and about how they decided to make their wedding reflect their partnership.
So we actually got married aboard a Carnival cruise ship in the middle of February, in the Port of Miami. And we opened it up to anyone who wanted to come with us. And amazingly, we had 50 people join us on a cruise ship. And long story being short we enter it was a justice of the peace, not the captain because we were still on land. And we did embrace you know, the like the breaking of the glass at the end. And we did you know, we didn't have a ketuba or anything like that present. But we did pick and choose a few of the Jewish-y type of things to have at the wedding. But we it was not, you know, under a chuppa. It was not so you know, so we did sort of pick and choose…
It was based on really what you wanted to do.
What we wanted to do…
Yeah, but you know when it came to the Jewish traditions, that was your call, really.
And and so, you know, you you determined kind of what, how you wanted to interweave those in
Courtney is specifying this because she converted after she and David got married. But as she and David explain, not only was she taking an interest in the Jewish aspect of the ceremony for David's sake, but also because as a part of him, his family, and then eventually their family. It meant something to her too.
I like I said, fell in love with a man and then fell in love with the faith. But I think that it was really when the kids started being more activated in the faith is really where I started my journey. And so before kids, I was involved in some of the traditions and the holidays and that type of thing, but I didn't really go deep. Right? And and so I leaned very heavily on him because I was still in such a learning phase at that point.
And it didn't hurt that the Nicolato’s made the traditions they chose to incorporate fun and personal to them.
Almost dangerous breaking the glass with flip flops on.
That was problematic. But we did okay.
It was fine.
Yeah. And the JP was, you know, justice to the piece was awesome and working with us.
And we had blue margaritas afterwards, which is fantastic. So yeah, we did do like the challah and stuff.
Oh, yeah. You know, we did a lot of those things.
I think the best word to use to describe the different considerations in weddings and in relationships in general, is one that Rabbi Handlarski uses, “values.”
Rabbi Handlarski 13:42
I say like, let's lead from your values. What are your values? Right? Like, what do you want for your wedding? What's your vision? What are what are the things that are important that gets said for the most part, like the vast vast majority of folks that I've worked with in my rabbinic capacity, the partner who isn't Jewish is delighted to learn about Judaism and participate… You do things to show up for your partner, right?
As one of my best friends told me when she was getting ready to get married last year. The wedding itself actually felt to her and her now husband like a nice icing on the cake. But it didn't change too much fundamentally about how they lived their lives. They already knew each other and their values, and the ceremony was an opportunity to share that with the people closest to them. As David Nicolato puts it…
What is it? ….It’s more about the marriage and not the wedding. What’s the old saying?
Yes, the marriage not the wedding… The wedding was fun though.
We'll be right back.
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The goal of this episode is not to tell you how your ceremony should look from a religious perspective or otherwise. But to give people some ideas of how they can look. What the voice is reflected in this episode have taught me is that your ceremony can be about celebrating your melded selves. It doesn't have to be a moment to prove yourself to your community to prove you're Jewish enough, or that you're checking all the right boxes, or you're recognized by a religious entity, the marriage will be Jewish or Catholic or Muslim simply by virtue of one or more of the partners identifying that way, a ceremony between two people will be about those two people. As David said, it's about the marriage, not the wedding. Here, Jenni Greenman talks about how the ceremony doesn't have to be the be-all-end-all and can be personal to you and reflect your current circumstances.
Jenni Greenman 15:50
I just I don't think it was ever an issue. I wasn't super religious, I knew how she felt about religion, just in conversations that we'd had, there were some religious traditions that I would have liked to have upheld at our wedding that didn't happen. But I think that that was more a representation of the political climate at the time and less about us. Because I think that those things Karen would have been okay with. Like, we never broke a glass, and that disappoints me, like it would have been nice to have that. It was a different experience. But we also, we, because of the political climate at the time, we got a marriage license for fear of that right being taken from us. And then we had it so we thought why not use it after we calm down a bit. And so we didn't plan like a formal wedding. We got married at City Hall, a friend of the family was the judge that married us. So it was still very personal, and more so than if we had just gone to City Hall and gotten married—we were allowed to have more family there because we knew the judge, and it was still perfect and great. And I actually, the only thing I would change about it is breaking glass at this point. Well, we can do that anytime.
I want to acknowledge that a lot of the couples we've heard from so far have used officiants that are sort of tangential to religious institutions. They're either retired faith leaders, personal connections, a justice of the peace, a judge at City Hall, it is true that the couples we've heard from so far did not pursue traditional routes. And that does not necessarily mean that that's because those routes were not available to them. Though it's important to know in Jenni and Karen's case that there was a real politicized threat to their ability to get married. One of the main points that's been coming out over the course of this series so far is that as religious communities grow, and as religions grow, meaning not necessarily in size, but maybe in breadth of understanding and acceptance, there's a melding of the personal and the institutional. Sometimes that melding doesn't go smoothly, and institutional avenues aren't always aligned as closely as they used to be with more modern understandings of partnership. But other times, that sort of allows things to relax a little bit. It's not such a big deal if you're not inside the church, you're outside—or you're not on land, you're on a boat, you know, whatever it is, there is this availability and flexibility for couples that allow for some really special and personal ceremonies to take place. And as Jenni’s story shows, not only did this flexibility not used to apply to multifaith couples, and still doesn't in some scenarios, but not everyone got to have the kind of choices that they wanted to for their special day. So it's worth pointing that out. We're here to celebrate. We're here to be joyous, and Jenni’s ceremony was beautiful. We're also here to acknowledge the things that some couples have experienced in the past.
For many multifaith couples hoping to incorporate religious elements in their ceremony, the first step is finding an officiant. And for too many, that's been somewhat of a minefield. So how do you find an officiant who works for you? How do you find someone who would have the same kind of reaction that Reverend Tim Rich, who you may remember from previous episodes, has had in the few multifaith ceremonies he's conducted?
Reverend Tim 19:29
We got done two weddings in my 28 years that involve the Jewish/Christian union, and I've got a third coming up. For me, they have a particular beauty to them. And, and it's people like well, can we break the glass and can we get married under a chuppa and all that stuff? And I'm like, Heck yeah. I mean, all of these ... All of these symbols and acts tell a story and the more we're telling the story about the holy, the richer the celebrant is.
Here's what Rabbi Handlarski has to say…
Rabbi Handlarski 20:15
There are many ways to extend the meaning was to fit the values and beliefs of both partners regardless of their cultural origins. And there are many traditions that do have resonances, breaking the glass is a great example. There are lots of cultures that have a tradition around breaking a glass of some kind, or plates or something like this. And the truth is probably a lot of it came from similar origins of scaring away evil spirits, and you know, beliefs that contemporary Jews don't really talk about as part of their wedding ceremony. But the shared origins are meaningful, the practices can resemble each other, and how fun to come across that kind of commonality. So that can be that can be really wonderful. And then I get, it's kind of like the Christmas tree—when a Jewish person was like, I finally get a Christmas tree. There are a lot of people who aren’t Jewish, who are like, I get to stomp a glass, that's so much fun. It can be really great.
If you've been following along with this series. You've heard a lot from Rabbi Handlarski. She's really one of the most grounding voices on all of these issues. So it was really nice to have a moment of personalization in her story, when she talked about her own wedding, and how she and her partner went about the process for deciding what that would look like.
Rabbi Handlarski 21:24
I'll share my own wedding was exactly what I wanted, it wasn't tiny. We had 130 people, but it was at a very simple DIY venue. That's like a daycare center during the week, we had to set up all the folding chairs and tables ourselves. We did not have chair covers. We had a friend do the flowers. I had friends make the dessert, and we essentially had a barbecue and it was perfect. And it was what I cared most about was the ceremony that what God said, was a true reflection of our values. As a couple we did include Jewish traditions, and they were fully explained. So everybody would be on board, my partner and I made our choices together, along with our Rabbi, and it was perfect. And that that can be the wedding. You don't have to make it stressful. I had one of my teachers for rabbinical school with whom I'm quite close do it. So I knew exactly who I wanted to marry me. And in fact, I don't think I've ever spoken about this publicly before. We had a venue, that venue where we got married, we really wanted in a place that's special to us. And I called them to see what dates were available. And there was just one summer date. And it happened to be on a long weekend that was available. So I called the person who was our Rabbi, her name was Rabbi Miriam. But before I even spoke to my husband about it like, are you free on this date, like we can't book the wedding without you.
Sometimes you find an officiant because they are someone you know and trust. And sometimes you find them through talking to people that you know, and trust. Here's Reza and Rimini talking about their experience
It was… there was, like research. We just asked the venue that, that we were having our wedding in if they were aware of anyone who would perform a wedding outside because many Catholic priests who will not do it outside because it's not considered you know, by the book, I guess. But so they recommended this person to us, I guess, I mean, kind of semi-retired, who was willing to perform our ceremony outside and while wearing the collar… Yes, while you know wearing the traditional ornamental uniform.
No matter how couples find them the process for finding an officiant who works for you should not have to be a guessing game. As Rabbi Handlarski said…
Rabbi Handlarski 24:00
Those are those internal conversations that communities need to have knowing that in some cases, the line that's right for that community is not going to be right for some family. My goal right now is making sure everybody has a place that serves them. It might, it might be with me, and it might not be with me, but I want you to have a rabbi or a community that fits with your values and the way you want to identify in practice.
Not everyone will be a good match. But no one should be receiving harmful messaging in the process of making that match.
Reverend Tim 24:27
If people know me they're not they're not super timid about asking if they can merge or blend the two, but But you know, sometimes people who know me less are a little bit like sheepish and sort of trying to read the tea leaves before they go too far out on a limb and for the fear of getting thrown out of the tree.
It's understandable that people may be sheepish as Reverend Tim said or maybe even just nervous based on past experience. If you remember Ed Case and his, at the time fiancé, Wendy's experience with their rabbi. It wasn't so welcoming. There are ways that may feel safer or more comfortable to source, a good officiant, who will do the kind of ceremony that you're looking for. And as Rabbi Handlarski points out, that's easier than ever after the advent of the internet.
Rabbi Handlarski 25:17
More and more rabbis, or Cantor's are happy to do intermarriages. There's also if you go to 18 doors.org, which is formerly InterfaithFamily.com, then they have a rabbi referral service so you can type in where you are, where you're getting married, and they will plug you in with rabbis in that area. So there is help available for that.
If you recognize the title Interfaith Family, that's because that's the organization that Ed founded. It's now called 18 Doors and offers a wide array of resources to multifaith couples looking to plan their wedding and beyond. Their Rabbi referral service is excellent. I used it preliminarily in some of my research for this series. And you're able to do it from the comfort of your own home and find people who have already publicly affirmed that they are welcoming, and they're happy to help you. We'll have a link to that resource in the show notes for this episode. Another great option is social media, which is how I found Imam Imaad Sayeed, his Instagram, which is the account for his organization, the London Nikah, shows, photos, videos, pictures, travel logs, all of these sorts of exciting documentation of the multifaith ceremonies that he's performed around the world, both as a sole officiant and a coefficient with other Imams or religious leaders, making those things public and celebrating those ceremonies, not only in the moment with the couple, but on the internet as well, really serves to bolster a more positive and accurate narrative of what multifaith partnership looks like.
Naturally, a lot of these couples also have only ever been hearing one narrative, that it's not allowed, that they're going to go to hell, that they're going to lose their faith, like all of these things that when they do come to me to be able to understand that there is number one, somebody who's willing to conduct their ceremony. And number two, that there is a wider community of people out there that are doing you know, married in such marriages as well and that they're not alone. I think that in of itself really provides them a lot of peace and comfort.
Imam Imaad’s openness during the ceremony conversations and his use of social media is striking. It really allows couples to envision themselves working with an officiant in a way that I don't know was possible before on quite this scale. And it's great because as Imam Imaad points out, the alternative can be kind of tricky if you're going a religious route for your ceremony.
Yeah, I mean, there are definitely many marriages I've conducted where it is a Sunni/Shiite marriage. Right. So I've done quite a few of them. But again, it's very frowned upon, you know, that the Sunni Imam will not like it that the Shiite Imam will not like it. In fact, what they will do is they will, and it's ridiculous, they will actually have two wedding ceremonies, they will have a Sunni one. And then they will have a Shia one. And it's absolutely ridiculous, because when you observe them, they're exactly the same, you know, and the only thing is that they're not done at the same time. They wait for one Imam to leave before the other Imam arrives, and it's just absolutely nonsensical.
Our last episode, episode three showed a lot of the ways that multifaith couples don't get to choose or control the way they're received by a community. And I think one of the reasons why Imam Imaad and I were laughing at this sort of image of officiants sneaking out of back doors and things like that is because in many cases, a couple's wedding is a time where to a certain extent, they can control a lot of the circumstances and affirmations that surround their day. And this sort of tension between pursuing a traditional religious route, or two traditional religious roots at the same time, makes things difficult in a way that is certainly not warranted on your special day. This would be a more joy, less oy moment, for sure. There's a reason why we have a dedicated wedding episode in this series, even though not all of the couples interviewed have gotten married or will be getting married. And that's because weddings are a really interesting site of tension between the communal and the personal in a way that doesn't often happen… If you're just say attending services. There's a level of autonomy, and to a certain extent, that allows for an assertion of individuality as a crucial part of community. That's what makes them so special. And these tensions are present even in more quote unquote, traditional ceremonies. For example, later in the episode, you'll hear Susan Froehlich talk about some of the readings that her daughter Ali had at her wedding to her husband Scott. One of those which Susan read was an excerpt from Song of Songs, just a section of the Torah that is more poetic, and is often used in wedding ceremonies, because it speaks about love and commitment, and all of those more happy and modernly applicable things. Another really common reading from the Torah is excerpts from the book of Ruth, which is the story of continued family love and loyalty within a multi-faith and multicultural marriage. After the death of her husband, Boaz, an Israelite Ruth, a Moabite, chooses to return with her mother in law to the land of their people, instead of returning home to her biological family. The Moabites were historically considered to be outsiders by the Israelites, they were treated harshly, and marriage between them and Israelites was often discouraged. Yet in this story, Ruth chooses to leave behind what she's known, and what she's grown up with, in order to strengthen her new connection to her mother in law, Naomi, in the land from which her new family's people has come. It's a bond that transcends the borders of family, tribe and geography. It's also a passage that's read at weddings both multifaith and not, without an overt acknowledgement that there's multifaith marriage at the heart of that story. So not only is there a biblical precedent for multifaith marriage, but this story is often cited as an incredibly touching example of what it means to be really united with someone and with their family and community.
Rabbi Handlarski 31:14
In the Bible, we have these stories, you know, we can go back to that textual tradition and look at the Bible and say, Look, if Moses could married Zipporah, and be the leader of the Jewish people, Zipporah who wasn't an Israelite, she was a Midianite, then surely, someone like me could also interpreted as being fine. And it's very traditional, in fact, in Judaism to be sort of selective about the stories that we tell and uphold. And that to me is one of the tragedies that we try to make the tradition fit our framework, rather than really mining the tradition for all the beauty that is in it.
We'll be right back.
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When planning for a wedding, there can be a lot of things to think about.
Rabbi Handlarski 32:27
We have such interesting expectations around weddings. And so when I have a couple who's asked me to officiate… there are a lot of things we talk about. You know. My main purview is the ceremony, of course, but I also will chat with him about like, try not to fight over things that you really won't care about five years from now, nobody's gonna care about your chair covers, or your color scheme at the end of the day, you know, and of course, that stuff can be so much fun. So I don't want to take it away from people. But the stress of like, this is meant to be a joyful celebration. So keep your eye on the prize. The goal is to get married, the goal isn't to have the wedding of the century.
And sometimes there can be other people to think about too. I asked Rabbi Handlarski about this. How often do you have conversations with in laws or extended family outside of the couple?
In this episode, I've tried to keep a balance between advocating for the fact that a wedding day is really about the couple, while also acknowledging the crucial role of family and community. With that said, it's important to talk about how to lovingly approach extended family when the time has come for the ceremony, and they still have some work they need to do with themselves about being comfortable.
Rabbi Handlarski 33:45
I encourage boundaries around it, I really do. And so as much as the family may have strong opinions… I would say, you know, like, listen to their opinion, because we like I want to know what you think. And then ultimately, we're going to make our own decision. So it's very rare. But occasionally, I have spoken to extended family members often over discomfort around the intermarriage piece. So I will sometimes do it, if that's in service of the couple. My advice to those extended family members is to back off, because I think it's kind of like that person at that event I mentioned who after all of the information about, you know, intermarriage and how it can be positive for us and how the trends are clear. Like it's not going anywhere. It's like “how do we stop it?” I think some parents get into the kind of like, “how do we stop this?” And I have never heard of a couple who broke up because their parents wanted them to around the subject of intermarriage, never, I mean, not after your teen years, right? And so if you're engaged, you're not going to break up with your partner, you're gonna break up with your parents. And so, you know, that's the conversation I have with the parents like, is that what you want? Probably not in most cases. And so I really encourage people to lead with their values and their goals.
So we heard that last clip of Rabbi Handlarski talking about breaking up with family versus with your partner. But we didn't really hear about an example of a positive turn that that took for a family. We're going to conclude with a really touching story from Susan Froehlich that I hope will provide somewhat of a salve from the end of last episode, as well as some closure for this episode. As we move forward into the expanded notion of family in Episode Five.
Susan Froehlich 35:25
The wedding was tough, because it was in what was considered a non-denominational church in downtown Chicago, but it really was a Catholic Church. That was hard. I think it was a grieving process. I think the expectation of two Jewish families coming together sharing some of the traditions… I like Catherine's family a lot. I think they're really, really nice people. They're good people. They've raised two nice daughters, and they love my son. It just was… At first I just didn't know where to put it. I didn't know where to put it, not the intermarriage, I think the fact that he was going to be married in a church… that was really hard for me. But I saw two kids really happy. I saw them trying to work this out with two families. It was important that they represented both sides, they didn't skirt the issue. And it actually, the service ended up being absolutely beautiful. It had both traditions. It was hard though, it was hard. And but that was just a moment in time. I mean, every everything else around their marriage and their coming together was completely joyous, was a beautiful service. And it was a combination of the rabbi and the priest. They both did a beautiful job. Ali getting married was very different. Ali and Scott are it's just a different relationship. Scott’s family is not particularly religious. So they actually had a Jewish wedding on Friday. Four Fridays ago, this really just happened… with just siblings and parents. That's all they wanted. Then on Saturday, they wrote their own ceremony. They did beautiful vows and readings. They gave everybody readings and they let me pick our reading, John and I, we did something from Song of Songs, which they loved. And Scott played the bagpipes. But his whole family plays the bagpipes. And then we had a big party.
Two kids with two very different ceremonies. And they both are beautiful. It is I have to tell you what… At Ali and Scott's wedding, because it was on a Friday, so Rabbi Adler came, we did it at the house. We were in Narragansett. We did Shabbat we had champagne toast, and we had some challah, some cookies or whatever. …And then we went to the venue it was right at the beach a little, we had a dinner with, you know, the out of town people. So Scott's mother stood up, she was speaking, welcoming everybody because they hosted which was wonderful. And she had a set of candlesticks made by a Rhode Island glassblower. And then she pulled out the candles, then she pulled out a challah, and the kids kiddish cup that a friend had given them as an engagement gift. And she said, I know we did Shabbat at your house, but could we do it here? And Ali and Scott came over and we did Shabbat… It was I was like, Oh, my God, that felt… That was amazing. I think it's important to my kids. You know, I think they saw that my family and John's family, although we're really different, really different families—came together with love and affection. And so I think that's what the kids wanted. I don't think they could understand a relationship where you know, you're, it's not that you're in-law families are your best friends. But you want to have that mutual respect and love for each other.
Susan really took on the responsibility of her emotional experience during these days. As she mentioned in previous episodes, she was very intentional about not sort of sharing that work with her children who were getting married. Susan is an incredibly special person. And unfortunately, her trajectory doesn't represent the trajectory of every parent who has struggled with a multifaith marriage. But I will say in kind, a story of rejection, like once you have heard over the past two episodes, doesn't mean that all experiences are going to be like that. And I hope through this episode that you've been able to see just how much personalization goes into a relationship. That may sound self-evident, but when its declared on this kind of communal and institutional level, there is still a way to keep it about a couple at its core, which is how it should be. My hope is that this episode has reflected how joyous these celebrations can not only be for the couple, but for the family. And for the officiants themselves. This is a time like how I described my Bat Mitzvah, where everyone is on your side, and there to celebrate you. And that's what this episode is meant to do as well. In times of joy, in times of love, moments of commonality can be easier to find than you think. And in my experience, interviewing people, it delights them.
I recently did do actually a, an interfaith ceremony. And it was with a rabbi. So it was a Muslim/Jewish one, it was beautiful, because there were so many things that I learned the commonalities between Islam and Judaism just through that, through that ceremony, like little things, like, we call it the Kitab, you know, whereas in the Jewish faith, they call it the ketub. You know, you know, and then there were things like, I think we were talking about the, you know, the concept of mercy, and, you know, aham, you know, mercy in the womb, the mother's womb, and, you know, and again, I can't remember what the word that the rabbi used, but there was a very similar word, when it came to, I think it was mercy or the womb or something. So, there were so many commonalities, there are so many areas of discovery that we can all have. But we just need to have these discussions, you know, because if we just kind of, you know, if we continue to be passive about it, and to just look at what's out there, you know, there's, there's plenty of things to divide us, right. But when it's, you know, when we force ourselves to come together to have these discussions, I think there's much wonderment that we can find.
Jenni Greenman 41:52
Because I think that that was always their worry is that your kids weren't going to be Jewish.
Next time on breaking the glass,
Emma’s Dad 42:00
I think you two, you and your sister, Caroline were trying to figure out… you knew this was not my background. And I'm certainly part of the family. But what role did I have? Trying to figure it out as kids do, you know, try to try to make sense of things what, how do you how do you fit in?
Having them surrounded by other Jews in a non-Jewish world, especially down in Texas, I think, formed an identity for them.
That was a question that my, some of my family members had asked when I told them that Reza and I were getting married, “what, what about your children? What are you going to what are they going to become?” And what I tell them and the way I feel is that as long as they're loved, as long as they have a sense of morality, and they and they have the root of what I take away from my Catholic faith that you know, love your fellow man, turn the other cheek, tried to be trying to give charity when you can and receive charity when it's needed. That's what is most important to me, whether they are baptized or confirmed or communed that those are to me just semantics.
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Breaking the glass is produced by Emma Newberry
Executive producers are Brian Sullivan and Adam Greenman
Artwork by Alex Foster
Editorial support from Fran Ostendorf
And music sourced from Storyblocks
In-studio interviews are recorded at the Residential Properties LTD Studio at the Dwares JCC in Providence, Rhode Island.