Good evening everyone and Shanah Tovah. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Ginger Roehrig. My husband Drew Chavinson and I have been members at PTS since 2005. Our children Malia and Keli’i have both been at PTS since before taking their first steps – starting with the Mommy and Me class (yeah, Teacher Bambi), the preschool and now religious school. It has been a wonderful journey so far.
When Heidi Schell contacted me about speaking tonight and sharing a personal connection with PTS, I was both honored and pleasantly surprised. My surprise arises from the fact that I am the non-Jewish half of an interfaith couple. I grew up in Hawaii with essentially no religious background, while my husband was raised in a culturally Jewish mid-west home. When we decided to get married, I really was starting from ground zero, knowing next to nothing about Jewish history and religion. Drew was a patient partner, and we used my educational journey as a means of honing our vision and values of just how Judaism, with all of its wonderful layers, would be incorporated into our family.
Laying the groundwork for a spiritual home was an undertaking that lasted many months and truly continues to this day. What to honor and appreciate, what lens by which to view the world, is very much an individualized decision for each interfaith couple. And that is what makes an interfaith marriage both challenging and rewarding. The chance to create your own vision, a special space, that encompasses the traditions and values you wish to harness for your family’s journey.
Personally, my PTS connection is reinforced daily, often in subtle ways. For example, I find a certain dignity in being able to say “we” or “our” instead of “me” or “their” when discussing my family with clergy or other temple members. This, I believe, stems from one of PTS’s core values – inclusivity. While initially apprehensive during my initial foray into all that is PTS, the transition was easier than expected. Upon joining over 12 years ago, my husband and I found a community that was warm and accepting. For us, the preschool was a perfect way to engage as an interfaith family, especially since a significant percentage of the preschool students aren’t Jewish and are learning about a new culture and religion as well. I jumped in and soon the running joke was that I was at PTS far more than my Jewish husband! I always felt comfortable asking what a particular tradition, holiday, symbol, song, or custom meant. It was clear, early on, this community was interested in nurturing my Jewish family, and saw me as vital to that process.
So surprised when I got the call from Heidi, yes – but not really. After all, that is who we are at PTS, who we strive to be. I stand before you tonight as a proud representative of our community, grateful to PTS for supporting our Jewish family.