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Newly Dating

Monday, March 12, 2012
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Dear Miriam,

I've recently started dating someone who is not Jewish. For the moment, it's not super serious, making this question mostly hypothetical for me. But this is my first foray into dating non Jews (I've never been opposed to it in principle, but I've just happened to only date Jews in the past), so I am wondering when and how to bring up the topic of religion. I'm relatively observant and being religiously Jewish is a big part of my identity.

Signed,
Newly Dating

Dear Newly,

I've gotten a lot of feedback on my recent "Interfaith Dating" post, including some debate about the true definition of "interfaith." I think it's fair to say that you are describing the standard definition here, and your question is one that many have faced before you. What's not standard, though, is the Jewish community's response to your question, and while I am a Jewish professional, I can only speak for myself and don't deign to answer on behalf any communally-accepted position on the subject. Also, notably, you're not asking whether or not you should date this person, so I'm not even going to go there.

Given the role that Judaism plays in your life, I imagine the subject will come up easily and naturally, not to mention soon. The first time this guy wants to hang out on a Friday night, you're going to have to mention your Shabbat practice. Passover is right around the corner, and you're not going to be able to hide what you're eating from him for an entire week.

The sooner you start casually talking about your Judaism with him, the more the topic will feel integrated into the natural course of getting to know each other and the less it will seem like you're trying to avoid the subject. If you're ready for him to meet your friends, maybe that could happen over a Shabbat meal. When you're learning about him and his background, you can ask casual questions about what holidays were like for him growing up and share your answers with him as well.

Ok, I have to go there after all: If being a committed Jew is an integral part of your life, I think you need to spend some time on your own envisioning what a future would look like with this person. Being non-Jewish isn't a deal breaker for you, but what is? What do Shabbat and holidays look with a non-Jewish partner? What about your future children's Jewish identities and education? It's not impossible to have a Jewish family with a non-Jewish partner, but that person has to be interested in and supportive of your vision, and before you get serious with someone, you need to find out if that's a possibility.  So after you've dropped a lot of casual Jewish-isms into your conversations, ask him what he thinks about the role of religion in your life. You'll learn a lot from how he responds in content as well as tone,and then you can decide how, or if, to move forward.

Be well,
Miriam

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