Jewish Rhody Media launches podcast on multifaith relationships

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Intermarriage. It’s been whispered about for years. Who we marry and their faith or spirituality can divide families and communities.  But intermarriage is growing.

“Breaking the Glass,” a new six-episode podcast from Jewish Rhody Media, will explore multifaith relationships. With religious engagement in decline and polarization becoming more common, podcast producer and host Emma Newbery talked to people who are making these relationships work despite challenges and the experts who are helping to carve out new communities of understanding.

“We don’t want to present multifaith partnerships as something happening parallel to the Jewish experience – they are a crucial piece of it, and they aren’t going anywhere. In the U.S., the rates of multifaith marriage among Jews who are not Orthodox hover around 72% in the last decade. More and more Americans are marrying outside of their religion,” Newbery said.

“In highlighting the voices of couples, faith leaders and community advocates for the inclusion of multifaith couples in religious life, our goal is to not only validate and share the experiences of our guests but also to break any silence or sense of taboo around the subject of multifaith relationships and family constellations.” 

It’s a subject that is near and dear to Newbery. She grew up in a progressive Reform Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York. Her Jewish mother and Episcopalian father raised Newbery and her sister in a community where many of her friends had multifaith parents. Yet she encountered many of the same issues of intolerance faced by the couples she interviewed in “Breaking the Glass.”

“Within my family, we would talk a lot about the different religions and cultures in our household, but among the larger community, I kept it to myself,” she said.

“So, many years later, when it came time to do this project, it was very cathartic for me personally – and I hope for our team [at Jewish Rhody Media] as well – to coax some of these stories out of each other as we were learning from our series guests about their moments of frustration, growth or joy.” 

“Breaking the Glass” has been a year in the making, during which Newbery said she went through a process of learning and unlearning.

“The first thing I learned is that there is no one understanding of what it means to be ‘multifaith.’ We had to set a scope for the series so that it wasn’t sprawling, but I’m glad we were able to capture the ways in which couples, families and leaders are pushing at the edges of more traditional definitions in religious life.”

The project involved input from a team at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island and experts who are featured in the series, including Denise Handlarski, a Humanistic Jewish rabbi with an online multifaith community, and Edmund Case, founder of The Center for Radically Inclusive Judaism and an advocate for multifaith families in their Jewish engagement. Also featured in the series are local interfaith couples and clergy from several faiths.

Newbery said she hopes the series will help those in relationships, or associated with those in a relationship, to understand their experiences.

“My greatest hope for the series is that someone whom I didn’t interview – whom I’ve never spoken to – listens to it and hears pieces of themselves and their experiences in it. The array of stories we have in the series and the intricacies of these couples and individuals demonstrates the richness and variation of  ‘interfaith’ or ‘multifaith.’ ” 

Find the first three episodes of "Breaking the Glass" here or where you get your podcasts.

FRAN OSTENDORF(fostendorf@jewishallianceri.org) is the editor of Jewish Rhode Island.