Thursday, January 10, 2013

Doublelife - From Intermarriage to In-Marriage

When Harold and Gayle Berman married 23 years ago, neither would have guessed that their family would one day be living the lives of Torah Jews in Israel's Judean hills.
Brought together by their love of music, Harold was an assimilated Jew from upstate New York, and Gayle was a Christian farm girl from Illinois
But after more than a decade of searching and learning, growing and evolving, they became, as Harold wrote, "a Jewish family, not by fate, but by choice, by design and by destiny".
Their journey was not a simple one. It was filled with challenges, heartbreak and miracles. During the majority of their early married years, they lived a double (even secretive) life of an interfaith family, involved in both Church and synagogue, Christian institutions and Jewish community, until they realized their double life could not continue. They decided to become an in-faith family. And to their own surprise, they both wanted the foundation of their home to be an Orthodox one, filled with all the beauty, chesed and values of an observant Jewish family.
Harold and Gayle have brought their story to the public in a touching and eloquent dual autobiography, Doublelife – One Family, Two Faiths and a Journey of Hope. This is Harold's second book. He authored Jewish Adoption - Unique Issues, Practical Solutions, plus articles that have appeared in numerous publications. He is also the former Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts. Gayle was a celebrated opera singer and Church minister of music. Today she teaches privately, and serves as music director of Emunah v’Omanut College and the Raise Your Spirits Theater production of "ESTHER and the Secrets in the King's Court".
Through a series of letters written to one another, Gayle and Harold detail with great sensitivity and candor, the path along which they walked and tripped, plodded and ran toward a new life. Harold said, "To have a book that would be interesting and credible, you need to reveal some things. Otherwise you're left with, 'We were an intermarried couple. We woke up one morning, and saw the light.'" Gayle agreed, "We had to give examples of issues that arose, and how we dealt with them."
The Bermans have met many intermarried couples over the past two decades. Lots are totally and unchangeably assimilated, Harold said, but others are searching and don't know how to access help. Both Harold and Gayle hope Doublelife will be a kind of guidebook for those looking for a real life example of the journey toward Jewish family life. It is also an inspirational book that reminds everyone of the beauty and meaning of a Torah life.
And the Children Shall Lead the Way
Despite the fact that Gayle was not Jewish, the couple, like many intermarried families in America, sent their son Micah to a Jewish preschool. Perceiving Micah's enthusiasm and love of Biblical figures and Jewish tradition, plus Harold's growth in Torah-observance, Gayle understood their lives would be better if they were a fully Jewish family.
As she explored the path to Judaism, Gayle explained that she sought out "every convert story I could. I wanted to find someone who had dealt with the dilemmas that I was experiencing."
She and Harold decided to be the guideposts of future couples who may be considering changing their inter-married to an in-married status. Harold hopes Doublelife,, will be "a living example of what Judaism and living a Jewish life could be."
After writing the book, Harold founded J-Journey, , to provide a peer mentoring network with couples like themselves who can guide inter-married families who are interested in “taking the journey, or are already on the journey”. The idea is to complement rabbinical law, not replace it. So the site will include an Ask the Rabbi feature (with a rabbi involved with conversion for 25 years) and an Ask a Friend feature for questions like, "What did you tell your parents?", "How did you know it was the right time to convert?"
As the Bermans grew in interest and dedication to a Torah lifestyle, they began looking for a stronger Jewish environment than their Massachusetts community. They considered moving to New York and New Jersey, and then decided to explore a future in Israel.
Harold had visited Israel several times, leading groups from the Jewish Federation of which he was a regional director. They'd also visited as a family. On August 14, 2008, Gayle, Harold, Micah and Ilana Berman moved to Efrat.
Happy new beginning.
Doublelife will enliven your spirit, remind you to appreciate the values of the Torah, and inspire you to grow further in your Jewish identity. Totally absorbing and surprisingly honest, you’ll laugh and cry with the Bermans, and then cheer at their triumph of faith.
Doublelife will soon be available in bookstores, on and Kindle. In the meantime, Harold and Gayle invite you visit to register for a discount coupon.

Watch VOICES-TV's interview with Harold and Gayle Berman:

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