Rochelle & Mike Sullivan
First Date: May 1986 to the movies
Wedding Date: March 11, 1995
Venue: Columbia Interfaith Center
Jewish Wedding: May 26, 2013
Location: Beth Israel Congregation
Favorite Activity: Cooking together
Before Rochelle Jacobs and Mike Sullivan married at the Interfaith Center in Columbia in March 1995, they had talked extensively about the future, ultimately agreeing to keep a Jewish home and raise a Jewish family.
Erin’s birth in May 1996, Mike said, was the start of his “Jewish journey.”
Mike, an Irish Christian, honored the matriarchal lineage and the fact that their support system was in Baltimore, not North Carolina with his family. Erin’s baby naming was held at Oseh Shalom in Laurel, where they lived in the early years of their marriage, and after Abby joined the family in February 2000, they joined B’nai Shalom in Olney.
But it wasn’t until they moved to Eldersburg in 2003 and joined Beth Shalom Congregation that his journey really began. Beth Shalom is a very “inclusive” interfaith synagogue, and he felt comfortable.
After Rochelle became involved with the Federation of Jewish Men’s Club’s Keruv initiative, Mike was intrigued. He began working with an interfaith group through the FJMC and felt very included there as well.
“I found out a lot of interfaith families were struggling with their identities, not just [with] Judaism, but [with] raising Jewish families,” said Mike, 52, an audio engineer for Maryland Sound.
In 2011, while Rochelle was in Israel on a trip sponsored by the Macks Center for Jewish Education, Mike was in California facilitating an interfaith breakout session for a federation convention. Someone asked him why, as he was raising Jewish children and participating in Jewish services, he wasn’t “Jewish yet.”
That got him thinking. “It would really be a wonderful thing if I was,” he thought. “I’m already living the life.”
When Rochelle returned to town, Mike told her he wanted to be Jewish, and he wanted to get remarried as a Jew.
“I had never thought about it,” said Rochelle, 45, a high school teacher. “He was so involved in Judaism, it didn’t matter.”
Mike realized it went deeper than that, and he contacted Rabbi Jay Goldstein at Beth Israel Congregation in Owings Mills. He took the Introduction to Judaism course through the Board of Rabbis, and on Sept. 6, 2012, he was officially converted at the Mikvah.
At Abby’s bat mitzvah in April, Mike gave the d’var Torah, and on May 26, they were married in a Jewish ceremony. They stood under a chuppah Rochelle’s father brought back from Israel, and their 50 guests joined them afterward for a champagne toast and cookies.
Mike surprised Rochelle with a diamond anniversary band.
“We did it for each other, not for anybody else,” said Rochelle. “Neither of us realized it until somebody else said it. I love him for him — he was always so giving and willing to raise our children Jewish.”
Their relationship also centers on support for each other and helping each other along their journeys.