September 5, 2017
By: Colie Weinberger, Honeymoon Israel NYC participant on a May 2017 trip
There’s a phrase our (amazing) tour educator used in Israel: “Jews and those who love them.” He used that phrase to address all of the couples on our trip. But for Jared and me, it didn’t really resonate…
Honeymoon Israel accepts couples of all backgrounds that have at least one Jewish partner. The majority of couples are interfaith, while a few are couples like Jared and me – couples where both partners were born Jewish. The groups are meant to be reflective of what the community looks like at large. So, how did Jared and I end up on this specific Honeymoon Israel trip from NYC – one of the few Jewish-Jewish couples selected – and why was it so special?
The truth is, when we first applied for HMI, we didn’t know we’d be in the minority as a same-faith couple. We applied because we loved the idea and it sounded like an incredible opportunity to travel to Israel together. It wasn’t until months later, on the trip itself, that we quickly realized that same-faith couples are actually the minority in our communities these days, and it made our journey that much more important.
Our soon-to-be friends on our trip all came from different religious backgrounds, and they offered Jared and I so many new perspectives – a chance to look at our religion, traditions, culture and especially Israel, through a new lens that we had never been exposed to before. Sure, because we were were both raised Jewish, we probably knew more Hebrew song lyrics, but it didn’t mean that we cried harder at Yad
Vashem or had a more meaningful time at the Western Wall. All of the couples on our trip felt those moments equally, deep within us, no matter what religion we were born into. That is what makes the Honeymoon Israel experience so unique.
Even though we had our own ideas about what it meant to be Jewish, we didn’t have a Jewish community in NYC to call our own. We grew up eating gefilte fish and going to Hebrew schools, but we weren’t grown-ups in the religion or faith. And even with similar upbringings, the two of us had different opinions about what it meant to be a Jew and start a Jewish family.
The shared Honeymoon Israel journey helped us shape the idea for the type of Jewish home we want for our family. And that it’s okay that it won’t look exactly like what our parents had. Being amongst interfaith couples highlighted this even more – that this next step is ours as a couple and we will make decisions together and without, perhaps, the unwanted influence of others.
We’ve been back home for a few months now and we’ve shared many Shabbats (a tradition we didn’t practice much before), brunches and even wedding weekends with our HMI family. Our tour educator’s words ring even truer now because we love our new friends – the “Jews and those who love them” – like family.