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Her Muslim dad helped build a synagogue
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Her Muslim dad helped build a synagogue

Duryan Bhagat-Clark of Aberdeen, seen with her husband Russel, will speak about her experiences growing up with a Jewish mother and a Muslim father.
Duryan Bhagat-Clark of Aberdeen, seen with her husband Russel, will speak about her experiences growing up with a Jewish mother and a Muslim father.

It’s not remarkable that mixed-faith marriages are sometimes tinged with the poignancy of “Romeo and Juliet.” But they don’t always have to end tragically, or even fail, said Duryan Bhagat-Clark, who has a Muslim father and a Jewish mother. To further the interfaith mix, Duryan’s husband is a Christian.

“Families come in all shapes and sizes. A shared religion is not the only component to a happy union,” Duryan said in a phone conversation with NJJN.

For her parents, things didn’t work out and they eventually divorced. “But not before my dad, who was born and raised in India, had helped build a synagogue for Beth Haverim, a Reform temple that was then located in Waldwick,” she said. It has since merged with Shir Shalom and moved to Mahwah.

With the gift of hindsight, Duryan now believes that each of her parents had cultural expectations that strongly clashed with the other’s. She said she remembers frequent arguments about whether her mother, a children’s librarian, should work outside the home.

In her own marriage, now headed for its 17th anniversary, Duryan believes there is less potential for this kind of conflict. “My husband Russel is of Welsh descent, but, like me, he grew up here, and we share an American sensibility and similar points of view.”

Also, Russel is not very active in religious practice. “That makes it easier for me to indulge those aspects of Jewish culture and religion that are most important to me,” said Duryan.

Currently, the couple is looking forward to the bat mitzva of their 11-year-old daughter, Nansi, in two years. The family is active in Temple Shalom in Aberdeen.

On Wednesday, April 20, Duryan will present “Matzoh Balls and Basmati: Growing Up in a Jewish Home with a Muslim Father.” She will share her insights and experiences with members of the Central Jersey Section of National Council of Jewish Women at its general membership meeting at the Monmouth County Headquarters Library in Manalapan. 

Noting that this is the first time she will be telling her story in a public forum, the 44-year-old cost analyst for Scholastic Books confessed to being a little nervous. 

At the same time, she said, “It is important for people to hear about the value of tolerance, particularly in a political campaign season when some candidates are emphasizing our differences rather than our common needs and goals.”

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