This is the story of how a Jewish couple added to and became part of our changing America. But more important, this whole story is about what I learned when my wife, Robina, and I were introduced via our son to a religion, culture and traditions that we thought were so different from ours. It’s also a story about love, respect and acceptance.
On October 17, 1971, I married my high-school sweetheart. Nine years later, after two miscarriages and years of fertility treatments, our son, Jared, was born. We continued our fertility treatments and suffered another devastating miscarriage of triplets that nearly cost Robina her life because we didn’t want Jared to be an only child. We then looked into adoption to complete our family.
While on a business trip, Robina called to tell me we had 24 hours to make a decision about adopting a little girl. A month later, we received a birth certificate for Judith. After completing a mountain of paperwork, we were on our way to Paraguay, South America, to bring home our Latina that is little daughter Elana Judith.
Fast forward, when Jared arranged a lunch date with Robina. Every mother wants to hear: “I met a girl during lunch, Jared began the conversation with the words. I think she’s the one! Her name is Jaina, she’s a teacher and she’s Indian—South Asian, not Native American.”
Like any Jewish mother, Robina wanted our son to marry a nice girl that is jewish. She was disappointed and shocked, and it showed in her expression during lunch. That evening we discussed the situation and decided to stay neutral and take a wait-and-see approach, not wanting to drive our son away.
Their relationship grew. Jared learned to eat vegetarian Indian food and experienced the Hindu religion and culture at Jaina’s family home and temple. Jaina, for her part, ate latkes and matzo brie and came to our house for Passover and Hanukkah, and attended High Holiday services at our synagogue. Their love grew, and in 2008 they became engaged.
Planning a wedding is difficult any time, but blending cultures and religions is a real challenge. Jaina wanted a traditional Hindu wedding, and we wanted a Jewish ceremony. In the end, it was decided that there would be no combined ceremony; instead we would honor both religions and traditions and have two separate traditional ceremonies with one reception to be held after the ceremony that is jewish. What we learned from the process of planning these weddings was that we had so much in common although we came from different religions and traditions.
Our families worked together on every aspect of both ceremonies and the reception. The leading up to the wedding was crazy year! We were immersed in Indian culture—we ate food that is indian learned about the Hindu religion and discussed the differences and similarities with Judaism. We attended services at both a Hindu and Jain temple, we attended Punjab ceremonies at people’s houses and even attended a Hindu funeral.
Jaina’s family joined us for Passover dinner, and we had our Hanukkah party that is first together. At this party that is first Jaina’s niece and nephew, ages 4 and 6, surprised us by singing the dreidel song. They had learned the song at school, and from their mother learned it was a song for the holiday they were going to celebrate with Jared’s Jewish family.
As the wedding planning evolved, we learned how the party that is bridal the diversity of Jared and Jaina’s friends. It was made up of friends white and black, Indian and Hispanic, Hindu, Christian and Jewish. It was a snapshot of our changing America.
We have beautiful granddaughters today. You may wonder, “Will the girls be raised Hindu or Jewish?” The answer is they will be raised learning and respecting each religion and culture, as they are part of both. They will learn about the mezuzah on read tids post here their door that is front and Hindu shrine in their house. Jewish and Hindu traditions will be celebrated with both families watching them with pride. Although we are not social friends with Jaina’s parents, we have become family!
Jared and Jaina are my inspiration. Together they live a life of acceptance. They are an example of how America and the world could be if we looked past our differences and embraced understanding, respect to our similarities and love.