Strangers to the Tribe: Portraits of Interfaith Marriage

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Joshua Steinberg wears his Jewish identity proudly. His Catholic wife, Maura Fitzsimmons, is strongly attached to her Irish roots. For years, Josh's parents referred to Maura only as "the Catholic." How do Maura and Josh cope? Rebecca Grodin is the only child of two Holocaust survivors, haunted by the events that shaped her parents' lives. Her husband, Rick O'Neill, a Methodist of Irish-Italian descent, grew up in what he calls a "casually anti-Semitic" family. When he converts to Judaism, his relatives become ...
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Overview

Joshua Steinberg wears his Jewish identity proudly. His Catholic wife, Maura Fitzsimmons, is strongly attached to her Irish roots. For years, Josh's parents referred to Maura only as "the Catholic." How do Maura and Josh cope? Rebecca Grodin is the only child of two Holocaust survivors, haunted by the events that shaped her parents' lives. Her husband, Rick O'Neill, a Methodist of Irish-Italian descent, grew up in what he calls a "casually anti-Semitic" family. When he converts to Judaism, his relatives become even more alienated from him and his wife. In Strangers to the Tribe, Gabrielle Glaser introduces eleven interfaith couples, their families, and their dilemmas. These true stories, gleaned from scores of interviews with couples of all ages across America, show the many ways in which Jewish-and-Gentile couples are reconciling their household customs and holidays, learning to understand their in-laws, raising their children, and questioning their own religious loyalties.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Glaser, a journalist who was raised Protestant, married a Jew, and then discovered her own Jewish background, interviewed hundreds of interfaith couples across the country and here presents portraits of a representative 11. She has chosen a widely diverse groupsome young, some older; some practically newlyweds, others married over 40 years and one lesbian coupleall with their own experiences with interfaith relationships. Marriage between Jews and non-Jews is a growing trend, and there is a growing interest in how successfully to blend the two traditions. While there are other books on the subject, such as Paul and Rachel Cowan's Mixed Blessings (LJ 9/15/87) and even a popular new newsletter (Dovetail, Magazines, LJ 5/15/94), this is a worthwhile addition to that literature.Marcia G. Welsh, Guilford Free Lib., Ct.
Kirkus Reviews
An absorbing and articulate study of the special challenges posed by intermarriage between Jews and Christians.

Freelance journalist Glaser (herself raised Protestant and married to a Jew) interviewed scores of couples of various ages and ethnicities throughout the US. The stories of 12 of these couples—all married, with the exception of one lesbian pair—form the core of her presentation. Though each couple is unique, a number of common themes emerge. Among these are the strains between the Gentile spouses and their Jewish in-laws. Even when Jewish parents offer their children little in terms of Jewish observance, most are disappointed when their children don't marry "a member of the tribe." For example, Josh Steinberg has a Jewish identity based primarily on socializing with other Jews in a predominantly Jewish Cleveland suburb. When he finally tells his mother that he plans to marry his Irish Catholic college classmate, she cries, "You're going to kill us." Though not deterred, Josh is overcome with guilt as his wife is spurned by his family. Another notable theme is the ease with which the Christian partners seem to repudiate their religion and embrace Judaism; many have had trouble with Christian theology even before marriage. Rick O'Neil, who decides to convert to Judaism before marrying his medical-school classmate Rebecca Grodin, "especially liked the Jewish notion of man's responsibility to atone for his wrongdoing to his fellow man, rather than praying to God for forgiveness." Among the more unconventional couples are Alvin Wong, a convert to Judaism, and his wife Trudy Schandler-Wong, who are raising two children with strong Jewish and Chinese identities. The only relationship here that ends because of one partner's deepening commitment to Judaism is the lesbian partnership.

An intriguing look into an increasingly common religious dilemma in America.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395727768
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 9/25/1997
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 8.59 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

Gabrielle Glaser is a journalist who has written for the New York Times, The New York Magazine, The Village Voice, and the economist. Raised a Protestant, she discovered her Jewish background in the early 1990s while on assignment with her husband, a Jewish Journalist. She currently lives in Pelham, New York.
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