Finding Love of a Different Faith
FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
So, what do some of these couple deal with on a day to day.
I'm joined by Dara and Oded Pincas. She's Baptist and African-American. He's Jewish and immigrated from Israel 10 years ago. Both are attorneys in New York. They met at the office and now they've been married for almost three years. They're expecting their first child and their second in December. Congratulations and welcome to you both. They're twins?
Mr. ODED PINCAS (Lawyer): Thank you.
Ms. DARA PINCAS (Lawyer): Yeah. Yeah. Double blessing.
CHIDEYA: Yeah. Yeah. So, what did you guys do for your wedding?
Ms. PINCAS: We actually - we eliminated a lot of the drama and we went to Hawaii and got married on a beach. We basically eloped.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CHIDEYA: That works a lot. Oded, what did your parents think?
Mr. PINCAS: My parents fully accept their - they have some issues with the children not being Christian - sorry, not being a Jewish and hopefully we'll be able to solve them in the process.
CHIDEYA: Now, I know that according to most interpretations of Jewish law, if the mother is Jewish the kids are Jewish, but I supposed the children could always convert.
Mr. PINCAS: Correct.
CHIDEYA: Now, this is kind of jumping ahead, but do you expect to offer your children a choice at some point and say, well you can follow this path or that path, or how are you going to go about it?
Mr. PINCAS: We will definitely offer them a choice. I think that the most important principle is to embrace our different religions and to - and our different ethnicities in this case. So, this is going to be a challenge but I think that we're up to the job.
CHIDEYA: Dara, what has been the most difficult and the most surprisingly easy aspect of being in an interfaith relationship?
Ms. PINCAS: You know, I felt that I understood Oded's ethnicity from my friends or colleagues who are Jewish here in the states, but I realized that is being Israeli, it's very different from being an American-Jewish person. And it took me some time to really understand and fully appreciate those differences.
The most wonderful things about it has been, you know, the fact that even Oded and I, on the outside looked very different, we are very, very similar. We have very similar interest. We're both attorneys. We're both attorneys in the same field - that's how we met. And I just feel like all my boyfriends before Oded had been African-American, I feel like I have more things honestly in common with Oded based on our interest that I had with any of my other boyfriends before him. So, I realized that, you know, we just - finding someone is finding someone who really understands you and that may not look like you on the outside.
Mr. PINCAS: Right. And many times the differences make you close to each other, which is the reward of what you get at the end of a relationship between two people that come from different background.
CHIDEYA: I guess for both of you, what do you think has been the most - maybe a question where it's both, but was it more difficult to navigate racial politics than interfaith politics or the other way around?
Ms. PINCAS: I think with - for me, it was more difficult to navigate racial politics than interfaith politics or the other way around?
Ms. PINCAS: I think with, for me, it was more difficult trying to overcome the interfaith issue. Because living in New York City, quite honestly, I see a lot of interracial couples. But again, since our Oded is Israeli, his ethnicity, it's his cultural. A lot of us is really not familiar with and didn't really understand. And that was a challenge at first to really, truly be able to understand that. You know, the interracial aspect was difficult as well. But not as much for challenge, at least for my experience.
Mr. PINCAS: Right. And me, it's the same. Jews don't belong to a specific race. There are black Jews, there are Caucasian Jews. So that's - and in Israel, maybe at least 60 percent of the Jews are either black or Eastern Jews. So that's never been an issue. I do admit that it takes a lot for, I guess, every newcomer to the U.S. to get used to the, I guess, race lingo and to understand the concept of, you know, living - or racial awareness, let's call it. But that's not part of - our relationship. That's not the challenge that I feel that we have in our relationship, but rather for me to adapt to life in the U.S. in terms of our relationship. Religion is more challenging on every day basis than the race.
Ms. PINCAS: I did give Oded a copy of Cornell's West's "Race Matters" for (unintelligible) and it kind of…
CHIDEYA: The briefing book.
Ms. PINCAS: …speed up on like racial issues that he had no awareness of, obviously, being an Israeli.
CHIDEYA: Now, let's think about family, which is so much a part of this. Have you both been back to Israel?
Ms. PINCAS: We actually go every year because his family is there. And it was actually a very enriching experience the first time I went there because, as a Christian, there are so many historical sites. And I went to the Jordan River and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. So it's very enriching for me. You know, my family accepted Oded. They are really happy that, you know, I found someone that I finally wanted to spent the rest of my life with. I think, you know, with his family, I think it's been a growing process for all of us. I mean, I think the issue of religion was a big issue for his family or some members of his family. But I think, over time, we've grown to kind of learn to accept each other. We're still growing. But I think it's much better than where we started and I think it will get better.
CHIDEYA: Oded, are you still a practicing Jew? I don't mean culturally, I mean religiously.
Mr. PINCAS: Well, the answer is a bit more complicated. I belong to a denomination of secular Jews, which is not the most - not the strongest, you know, Jewish denomination in the U.S. So it's - while I'm not religious, my identity is Jewish. And it's a very strong component of my - who I am. So even if you think, at first, that actually there is no problem, I mean we can practice Christianity because I don't care. I am secular. That's absolutely not the case. I'm definitely in this regard, you know, very, you know, practicing my Judaism.
CHIDEYA: And Dara, do you practice Christianity now?
Ms. PINCAS: I do. You know, I go to church every Sunday. I give tithes. I'm very spiritual, very religious.
CHIDEYA: Do you foresee a moment when you've got these twins - I'm sure who'll be wonderful, gorgeous, little challenging people - like all of the ones who enter this world, where it's like, well, I want to do this. I want to do this. Why don't we both go to the same place? Well, you know, I'm going to split up. I'm going to go over here and my twin's going to go over there.
Ms. PINCAS: Yeah. You know, I think it's important that they understand both, you know, religions, and they have a full appreciation for it, just like they have to understand that - as far as I'm concerned - they're black. But they have a component of them that Israeli in a sense of their ethnicity. And I think it's important for them to understand that component of them. And, quite honestly, if they're 18, they decide they want to run off and shave their heads and, you know, do whatever, that's fine. I think my responsibility is to expose them to what I believe and I'm sure Oded believes the same thing for him.
Mr. PINCAS: Absolutely. And that always what's important is communication between each other and with the children. It's hard to predict what challenges we will face in the future. But as long as we have, you know, the general agreement that we will embrace both identities, I don't see any problem.
CHIDEYA: And Oded, both of you, specifically, sought out something called Interfaith Community. What exactly is that and how did it help you with your path?
Mr. PINCAS: Right. This organization, unlike some similar organizations, doesn't have a hidden agenda, doesn't try to convert you to one religion to another, but really to explore the whole array of issues that interfaith couples face in their, you know, day-to-day living. And from the moment of getting married and how to set - how to arrange the wedding ceremony, to, you know, how to raise the children. The interfaith community offers some sort of a Sunday school or…
Ms. PINCAS: Well, they have an educational school that gives them - expose them to both religions, actually. It goes from kindergarten to eighth grade.
Mr. PINCAS: Right.
Ms. PINCAS: And what we were looking for, really, was to find other couples, really, who kind of looked like us or dressed, you know, had to debate about is there a Christmas tree for Christmas or, you know, how do we deal with those issues. And they had a couples' workshop. And that they've been a great support for us here.
Mr. PINCAS: Right.
Ms. PINCAS: And he's never been in New York.
Mr. PINCAS: And I'm not aware of a better place to send your kids to really let exposed equally to, you know, to the Christian background and Jewish background.
CHIDEYA: Well, just briefly, do you feel like learning about each other's faiths has helped you in a larger sense as our country, and as the world is in so much strife over religion?
Ms. PINCAS: Oh, absolutely. I mean, there's so much - I mean, so much in Christianity comes out of Judaism. And I see so many common issues and common, you know, I guess principles between the two religions. And I grew up in New York City. It was a very diverse, you know, community. But I think, actually, marrying and living with someone from a different background has really enriched my life. And it's certainly showed me the value of kind of transcending your own community.
CHIDEYA: Well, I want to thank both of you. Dara, Oded, appreciate it.
Ms. PINCAS: Thank you very much.
Mr. PINCAS: Thank you, Farai.
CHIDEYA: That was Dara and Oded Pincas, speaking with us about their interfaith and interracial marriage. They came to us from NPR's New York Studios. And you can hear our entire series on religion at our Web site, nprnewsandnotes.org.