Forty-five years ago, my older sister announced her engagement to a Methodist. My mother wasn’t sure she would fund such a union let alone attend. Aunt Ruth helped my mom put aside her concerns about an inter-faith marriage, and a lovely wedding resulted.
I don’t want to suggest that Aunt Ruth was thrilled about my sister’s choice, but she put her feelings aside, and she wasn’t even invited to the small, immediate family affair! For years, my mother and Aunt Ruth drove to visit my sister, Jane, and her husband in Connecticut with a trunk load of home cooking. Brisket, Daddy Cake, Rugelah, and other delights of Jane’s childhood. Those sisters never went anywhere without food…lots of food! All worries about the mixed faith marriage were lost over dinner!
In the recent New York Times Book Review,‘Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America, by Naomi Schaefer Riley, was reviewed. Aunt Ruth was way ahead of this comprehensive study, but she surely agreed with the result about whether or not interfaith marriages were good for America: “To the extent that it dispels ignorance, punches holes in stereotypes and deflates bias, I would say it surely can be.”
Last year, Aunt Ruth and Jane came to see my youngest son get married. He fell in love with the daughter of an Episcopalian priest. Unlike Jane’s wedding or Aunt Ruth’s, my mother’s, or even mine, our son and his bride celebrated their love in front of over 100 guests. All watched as a priest and a rabbi spoke from their respective religious texts. It was a glorious day.
Aunt Ruth’s will to live came from loving people. All people. She came from an orthodox Jewish home and was raised to keep an open mind and heart. In her library was this collection of books that speak to Aunt Ruth’s desire to learn, to grow, and to accept. Most of all, she believed that love was the greatest gift of all.
This was a courageous leap of faith 45 years ago for Aunt Ruth and my mom. As Aunt Ruth said, “Always make sure you have love in your life.”
Thank you, Aunt Ruth.