Holidays in JP: Expert: Holidays are opportunity for interfaith couples

Holidays can be a stressful time of year, even more so for some interfaith couples. But Paula Brody of Reform Jewish Outreach Boston, which is based in Newton and has a JP program, said the holidays are not a problem for interfaith couples, but an opening.

“Holidays are opportunity for interfaith couples to really talk about issues that they face,” said Brody, a Jamaica Plain resident, in a recent Gazette interview.

The Reform Jewish Outreach runs a support group called “Yours, Mine and Ours” that hosts interfaith couples, specifically where one partner is Jewish. Brody said often the other partner is Christian, but the group has also worked with other faiths, such as Buddhism and Hinduism.

The organization runs this group in Brookline, Newton and Boston, including JP.

Brody said sometimes issues surrounding interfaith couples that are not in the forefront in June and July become more prominent as the holidays approach. And, Brody said, sometimes the couples don’t want to discuss those issues because they are “afraid to rock the boat.”

“It’s important they communicate what their holiday means to them,” she said.

Brody said that couples need to take a meaningful and respectful approach to the holidays as they are a significant source of memory. She said people want to transmit the sweet childhood memories of holidays they have to their children.

“We are here to help them to do that,” said Brody.

Brody said not only is there tension sometimes within the couple’s relationship, but also with the extended family. She said holidays are an important time for parents of the couples because they want to be around their children to celebrate. She said the “Yours, Mine and Ours” helps the couples navigate that.

Brody gave an anecdote of an interfaith couple who came to the group several years ago. The woman in the relationship was a Catholic while the fiancé was a conservative Jew. Brody said the woman expressed a need in the group for having a really big Christmas tree.

The group gave her support to explore why the size was so important, said Brody. The woman realized when she was a child, her parents had divorced and her memories of the holidays after that were filled with stress. Before the divorce, she had sweet memories of the holidays. Because she was little, the Christmas tree seemed big.

“Her need was not so much for a big tree, but a need for the holidays not to be a time of stress,” said Brody.

Brody said they encouraged the fiancé to understand and to meet that need.

Brody said she is not advocating that couples celebrate all the holidays, but that they communicate and fill the needs of each other.

Brody said “Yours, Mine and Ours” is an “excellent opportunity” for interfaith couples not only to deal with the holidays, but other issues as well. She said the biggest issue is “transmitting a religious identity to their children.”

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