During our last pop culture and Judaism discussion, we watched clips of old sitcoms that included interfaith relationships.
Relationships always have their ups and downs, their strengths and difficulties. Aspects of our personalities, lifestyles, and morals influence the problems within our relationship. Religion included. Religion can affect relationships in multiple forms. And while this is a common issue among couples, it can also be humorous. Popular sitcoms and TV series constantly use this theme. We see the issues among interfaith relationships when it comes to their family, practices, and views, along with the progression of popularity of interfaith relationships.
Bridget Loves Bernie aired in 1972 and only ran for one season due to its controversial theme. Taking place in New York City, Bernie, a Jewish cab driver, falls in love with Bridget, a wealthy Catholic teacher. The couple is ready to get married when their religions make things a little more complicated. In the first episode, we see the interfaith relationship struggle mainly in relation to family. Bernie’s Jewish family is not pleased their son is marrying a Catholic woman. During dinner Bridget is asked constantly if there is any Jewish in her. She listens to the jokes with Yiddish punch lines with a perplexed expression and stuffs herself with Bernie’s mother’s cooking. But not fitting in with Bernie’s family is not the worst of their problems. Bernie’s mother cries over the idea that her son is not marrying a Jewish woman.
This is a common issue most Jewish adolescents can relate to. We constantly hear our family ask if our significant others are Jewish. And if not, our mothers are sure to remind us the difficulties of marrying someone of a different religion. Bridget Loves Bernie portrayed exaggerated, but accurate concerns when dating someone of a different religion while using humor to lighten the mood.
Curb Your Enthusiasm aired an episode about Larry’s friend converting from Judaism to Christianity for his fiancé called, The Baptism. Larry did not interrupt the baptism on purpose, but inadvertently stopped the baptism, along with the potential marriage of the couple. This hilarious episode depicted the difficulty of converting for a loved one. When given a second thought to consider being baptized, the man changed his mind and was willing to call off the wedding. Many couples convert from one religion to another for their spouse, and while this is a kind gesture, it can be detrimental to the relationship. Converting purely for the happiness of your spouse is not your choice and could cause resentment within the relationship. Looking at the religious perspective, you are also not converting by choice, and without your heart in this huge life changing commitment; you are not receiving the full experience.
Seinfeld is popular for its Jewish humor, with Jerry Seinfeld, a Jewish comedian, as the main character, random life intrusions are always occurring. This particular episode included Jerry’s new girlfriend who kept kosher. This episode is an example of how a couple within the same religion can also have different views. This was not as much of a problem for Jerry, but as a way for George to get revenge on the girlfriend after humiliating him. This is a realistic issue since it is common for couples to have one person more religious than the other. While this is not nearly as big a problem as totally different religions, it is still a clash since Jerry does not keep kosher. On a positive side this can also be a learning lesson for the individual less religious. Relationships are all about growth and progression; gaining knowledge and an understanding about your religion included.
It is so common to have an interfaith relationship today. The issues we see on TV sitcoms are realistic, and something to consider when starting a relationship with someone of a different faith. And while religion is no reason to not date or marry a person, it is important to take these potential problems into account. Relationships are hard as is. The best advice is to listen to yourself and do what you want. Do not change your faith for the love of someone else, and do not leave someone because your relatives don’t approve of their religion. Think about what you want in a relationship, where Judaism plays a role in your life, and how you see a future with this person and their religion.