Two Faiths, One Couple
Intermarriage – marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew – has long been a divisive subject in the Jewish community, although it was relatively rare in the United States until the 1960s. The issue has been debated over the centuries, with most authorities arguing against its sanction; it can still be difficult for couples to find an officiant who will perform their ceremony.
Even when both members of the couple are Jewish there are plenty of pitfalls. Different movements, and even congregations within a movement, have different, and occasionally opposing, customs and expectations. If an Orthodox woman wants to marry a Reform man, or a boy from an Ashkenazi family gets engaged to a Sephardic girl, choices will have to be made, and compromise may be required… but how many compromises can be made before a custom or ritual loses its meaning altogether?
And if compromise is not enough, whose choices ‘win,’ and what are the consequences? Despite these challenges, Americans have braved the difficulties and created their own meaningful ceremonies for over a century.
Cantor Siegfried Rowe of the Columbia Jewish Congregation performs a sunrise marriage ceremony for an interfaith couple on Federal Hill, Baltimore, circa 1995.
Cantor Rowe began performing interfaith marriages in the 1970s; in a 1998 interview he said, “This isn’t an ideal thing, but it’s happening, and we can’t sit by idly.”
Photo by Mary C. Gardella. Gift of the Baltimore Jewish Times. JMM 2012.54.200.2
Maude McGovern and Paul Reinstein were married in “a small wedding at home” in Rockville on June 15, 1991. It was an interfaith ceremony, officiated by Rev. Tracie Wilde, minister at the bride’s Episcopalian church, and Rabbi Ian Wolin, who requested only that Jesus not be mentioned. It was conducted in Hebrew and English, with traditional Christian vows as well as the Sheva Brachot and a Jewish double-ring ceremony; Maude says, “we were lucky to be able to blend our two faith traditions in a lovely way. (Or as I put it, we covered the Old and New Testaments in 18 minutes.)”
Wedding gown, worn by Maude McGovern when she married Paul Reinstein, June 15, 1991. The dress was custom-made with ivory taffeta purchased by the bride, after she concluded that local stores did not have the informal (but still bridal) look she wanted.
Tallit and kippah, worn by Paul Reinstein when he married Maude McGovern, June 15, 1991.
On loan from Montgomery History. JMM L2017.15.1-.4