It has been 16 years since “Keeping the Faith” hit the theaters in April 2000. A story about Rabbi Jacob “Jake” Schram (Ben Stiller) and his two best friends Father Brian Finn (Edward Norton) and Anna Reilly (Jenna Elfman). I imagine many of you have seen the film, nevertheless the summary, is that Anna rekindles her relationship with her two childhood friends after moving back to NY. Anna(Jenna Elfman), who is not Jewish, ends up falling in love with Rabbi Schram (Ben Stiller).
I came across the movie the other day on TV and was struck by a scene towards the end of the movie where Anne Bancroft, who plays the role of Ben Stiller’s mother, confides in him that she made a mistake walking out of her older sons life after he married a non-Jewish woman. The scene bothered me as I could not come to grips with the root of his mothers fear.
The concern that had always been pushed upon me was an argument that centered around the fact that marrying in the faith was the key to a strong Jewish future. The story was that anyone who married outside the faith was leaving their Jewish roots behind and yet we know that today this isn’t the case. A small segment of liberal Jews will point to the Torah and say that marrying outside the faith is a violation of Torah Law, yet I cannot help but wonder why that is the one law that so many Jews decide to hang their hat.
The concern, when you boil it down, is not about klal Yisrael, or the Jewish future, but rather is about our individual families. As parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, we are fearful that our children and grandchildren will not be seen as being Jewish. We want them to have legitimacy and authenticity in the eyes of our community. I get it, I understand it and yet my gut tells me that we need to get over ourselves. Around the country interfaith families are attending Shabbat services, keeping kosher, educating their children at Jewish Day School and so much more…
I still think Jews marrying Jews is easier…as it brings together two people with a common thread. More than ever before, we must remember that we live in a world where being Jewish is just one facet of what makes up an individuals personal tapestry.
The Jewish world has become a place where people seek out Judaism because of its wisdom and understanding…regardless of what faith they were born into. Perhaps pushing those individuals and couples, who wish to have a Jewish ceremony with Jewish rituals, to the fringes should come to an end. I was listening to a podcast recently with Anita Diamant, and while she had a number of very insightful comments would specifically has had a profound impact on me. She said that the holiness of the tallit does not come from the shawl itself but from the fringes…we need to keep that in mind when thinking about the Jewish community, that the holiness of our community comes from the fringes and not the masses.