Ken and Yolanda are a couple whose married life has taken a number of surprising twists and turns. Married nineteen years with two children, Yolanda was raised in an active Conservative Jewish community, while Ken was raised in a Protestant denomination. At the time of their wedding, Yolanda was a believer in the Messiah for barely a year, and Ken was not particularly interested in any religious faith.
“I was a very young believer when we were married,” admits Yolanda. “I knew that Ken was a moral and upstanding person, and the fact that he didn’t express an interest in spiritual things was not terribly important to me. By then, I had placed my Jewish identity on the back burner. It was there, but I just didn’t know how it fit into my life at the time.”
About three years after they were married, Ken and Yolanda became friends with another couple, Joe and Kathy. Joe and Kathy seemed to be more than just regular churchgoers. It seemed to Ken and Yolanda that some special quality exuded from them. Although they were not Jewish, they had a great interest in the Jewish roots of the New Testament message, and their vibrant faith had an impact on Ken and Yolanda.
Yolanda began to take a greater interest not only in growing spiritually, but also in her Jewish identity. Ken came to realize that, despite his upbringing in church, he had no faith to call his own.
As Yolanda’s faith strengthened, Ken could not help but notice the difference. “It was through her life that the life of the Messiah was revealed to me,” he recalls. Less than a year later, he became a believer as well.
To Be or Not to Be Jewish?
There was still the matter of her Jewish identity. How did it relate to the new life that they were beginning to forge together? Ironically, it was Ken’s initiative that made the difference.
Not long after Ken became a believer, they attended a messianic conference in Pennsylvania. It was there that Ken began to form the desire for a life of faith that included far more of an emphasis on Jewish observance. Within the framework of their belief in Jesus the Messiah, Yolanda’s Jewish roots became a source of joy for both of them. They began to keep the Sabbath and to celebrate the Jewish holidays, stressing the way in which Jesus the Messiah had fulfilled their meaning. They also found a messianic congregation* and joined.
Since then, their marriage has been a mutual commitment to create a home that brings the world of faith in the Messiah and the world of Jewish heritage together. They both agree that it has enriched their lives immeasurably to be able to raise their children with such a large degree of spiritual unity.
In a world where intermarriage so often means no religion at all, it’s refreshing to see that it is possible to keep a Jewish identity, and also share the faith of one’s non-Jewish spouse. That is…when belief in Jesus the Messiah is the foundation for it all.
* A worship setting in which the message that Jesus is the Messiah is viewed in its framework of Jewish understanding, where both Jew and Gentile can explore and celebrate the rich heritage of Jewish culture and faith.