As we prepare for Passover, I put a hold on ordering another loaf of bread from Freshdirect, order matzah shmurah to get extra mitzvah points and dust off the oyster—yes, oyster—plate we use as our Passover seder plate. This plate for crustaceans—a very, very non-kosher food—makes me chuckle a little and reflect on this life we are creating for our family.
Our family of three is an interfaith one that takes a little extra planning and thought when it comes to the holidays—and now there are A LOT of holidays. While interfaith marriages cause great strife in some nations, communities and families we chose to forge through it and let love prevail: the hippie faith is one we have in common.
My husband and I both come from rich cultures and neither wanted to lose that identity. Actually, the fondness and respect we have for our own cultures fostered an understanding and excitement to celebrate the other’s. While dating we invented a new holiday we named Purim Gras since both holidays are around the same time and have many similar jovial customs. We served hamentashen next to king cake and hung a greeting sign which read “SHOW ME YOUR TZIT-TZITS.”
To celebrate our marriage, we set the tone of our life together by calling it our Cajun-Jewish Wedding. We incorporated traditions from both cultures (FYI: Cajuns originally were Catholic). We were married on the front porch of an Acadian-style home under a chuppah. We had a Friday night Shabbat rehearsal dinner and a fish fry with crawfish étouffée the night of the wedding.
Our goal isn’t to compromise but rather convene on ways to marry our rich cultures—and we’ve given our new baby the best of it all. His name is part Hebrew and part Cajun, with a birthday on the 4th night of Hanukkah and a week before Christmas.
When I began to prepare for our first Passover Seder as a family, I realized an oyster plate has six sections and a Seder plate has six symbolic foods. You can imagine the excitement and sense of victory at this perfect melding of the cultures again. It was a sign from G-d letting me know we were doing things right.
To some our interfaith marriage has diluted our heritage and dishonored our family. Tradition and the tradition of marrying within one’s religion is not something to be taken lightly. I understand the desire and sense of responsibility to preserve one’s culture and religion.
In many cases, preserving this lifestyle is a way to honor your ancestors’ struggles to maintain their beliefs. My family fled France and then British rule in Canada and my husband’s family left Poland before the war to be able to maintain our sense of identities.
Our journeys, thankfully on our free will, led us to New York where we too were trying to connect to an identity found in an urban space where all your dreams come true. When we met, he was looking for a Jewish girl and I was looking for a European prince to make me a princess. We couldn’t help but fall in love.
While our journey was not under the pressure of war or expulsion, still we were searching for the kind of life that allowed us to pursue our own version of happiness. When I look into my baby’s eyes, yes, he’s not Jewish. He’s Cajun Jewish and I am in awe that love created him.
Our Oyster Seder Plate will be HIS tradition that connects him to two resilient cultures and serves to remind him of love, hate, acceptance and the ability to pursue happiness.