Sometimes couples figuring out how to celebrate religious holidays, raise children and deal with extended families in an interfaith household can be a problem.
A play called “Love and Faith and Other Dirty Words” may shed some light on the issue.
The Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia in Fairfax is hosting a reading of the play on Wednesday.
“It’s funny, poignant, emotional and thoughtful,” said Jeff Dannick, the center’s executive director.
“We’re hoping that through the play, people have an opportunity to learn and gain some perspectives,” he said.
The event is a first-time collaboration between JCCNV and Theatre J, a program of the Washington DC Jewish Community Center.
The readings are free, but donations are welcome.
Reading the parts will be six Washington-area professional actors who take on multiple roles, said director Shirley Serotsky, Theatre J’s associate artistic director.
The idea for presenting the reading locally originated with Marion Usher, a professor, therapist and long-time facilitator of interfaith workshops.
The Adas Israel Congregation, a conservative synagogue in the Cleveland Park area of northwest Washington, also will host a reading on Tuesday.
Usher will moderate discussions after both readings.
“The play follows three couples [in their 30s] and some of the characters in their lives [a mother, infant daughter, Conservative rabbi, a Unitarian Universalist minister and others],” Serotsky said.
Two of the couples include a Jewish person and a Christian person, and the third couple includes an agnostic and a Muslim.
The couples are dealing with questions about what religion to raise their children in, how to celebrate holidays and how to deal with a change in the relationship when a spouse begins to get more deeply involved in his or her faith.
“We’re hoping people recognize themselves in these conversations,” said Serotsky, noting that much of the dialogue is humorous but still respectful of the seriousness of the subject.
Written by Kent Stephens, the fictional play is partly based on real interviews with 26 interfaith couples in the Boston area that were conducted by Stephens and members of Prism: Young Adult Network, a division of the New Center for Arts and Culture in Boston.
The idea for presenting the reading locally originated with Usher, a clinical professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
Usher said she learned about the play at a recent conference hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
“The play offers us another avenue for discussion around interfaith,” said Usher, who for 19 years has hosted workshops for interfaith couples.
She said she works with couples who want to make religion a greater part of their lives.
“I try to make them feel comfortable and help them create a religious life for themselves,” she said.
For interfaith couples in which one spouse is Jewish, she said she “encourages couples to think about raising their children as Jews,” while acknowledging and honoring other religions.
“The level of interfaith marriages is growing,” said Dannick, citing the results of a survey released in October 2013 by the Pew Research Center, based in Washington, D.C.
The survey concludes that among Jewish respondents who married before 1970, 17 percent report having a non-Jewish spouse.
For Jewish respondents who have married since 2000, the percent is 60 percent, according to the survey.
“At top of mind is how to best welcome members of other faiths when they marry into our faith,” Dannick said.