May 18, 2018
By: Sarah Gwilliam, HMI NYC alumna and trip staff

When it comes to faith, we’re pushed as a society to find a way to define ourselves. Many times we’re given a box and we have to figure out how to fit in it. In some ways, I think it’s so we can more easily describe who we are to everyone else.

The challenge is that we’re all a lot of things. For me personally, it’s always taken me one sentence to describe my faith identity. I’m Hispanic, baptized Catholic, practiced protestant-light as a child and grew up in the Middle East.

And then I met my Jewish husband, and everything became much clearer and more complicated all at the same time. The beginning of our marriage was also the beginning my personal journey to add 7 important words to that one sentence description. 

In 2016, my husband and I started a search for opportunities in our city to connect with resources and people who are navigating an interfaith marriage such as ours. We stumbled across Honeymoon Israel (HMI). In a ‘what the heck’ moment we applied and were thrilled to be secured a spot on a trip. We soaked up an intense and exciting 10-day trip in Israel, learning and building connections with our peers of Jewish and interfaith couples, all on hyper-speed.

After returning from our trip, my husband and I had a built-in community at home. More than eagerly setting up Shabbat dinners with our new friends, attending reunion nights, celebrating holidays, hosting outings. We created a supportive network of peers with whom we have ongoing, meaningful conversations about life, love and family. 

What continues to make that possible is the investment that HMI makes in its alumni couples and communities. It is through that thoughtful engagement that I found myself leading a Honeymoon Israel trip from NYC just one year after my very own experience. I, not Jewish, was asked to lead a Jewish trip for diverse young couples to Israel. It was a melding of worlds that I previously believed was impossible, and maybe even worse, not accepted or welcomed.

HMI opened my eyes to the idea that I can be a part of something and I can love something without losing the other important pieces of my identity. HMI paved the way for me, and continues to do so for so many others, to feel a deep sense of belonging in the Jewish community. And that, in and of itself, is what led me on my personal journey to add these 7 important words to my one sentence description of my faith identity:

I’m Hispanic, baptized Catholic, practiced protestant-light as a child, grew up in the Middle East and I am part of a Jewish community.

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