The cheery Easter Bunny — white, with turquoise jacket, carrot and bonnet — hanging on the front door tells only part of the story. As is customary for Jewish homes, affixed to the right doorpost is a mezuzah, a cylinder containing sacred passages.
Inside the St. Petersburg home, Mary Jo and David Baras talk about plans for the upcoming confluence of important religious festivals. They'll attend Easter Vigil Mass at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church, breakfast the next morning on Scotch eggs and treat a toddler to an Easter egg hunt.
The Barases are also preparing for Passover, the eight-day Jewish festival that begins Monday at sundown. They're stocking their pantry with varieties of matzo — special unleavened bread — Kosher for Passover candies and are planning to join friends for seder gatherings on the first and second nights of the holiday.
She is Catholic. He is Jewish. Married for 30 years and the parents of three children, the Jewish and Christian holidays have been an important part of their family life.
For more than two decades, David has played the accordion for the annual Christmas caroling at Westminster Shores, a retirement community in their Bahama Shores neighborhood. Mary Jo, 55, planned the bar and bat mitzvah celebrations for their two children who chose the Jewish faith. He made certain that their oldest, who is Catholic, attended Mass.
Interfaith relationships are increasing, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life. Nearly one in four Americans who are married or living with a partner are in a religiously mixed relationship.
Lance and Mary Jeanine "M.J." Lubin, who own Lubin Team Realty in St. Petersburg, married 12 years ago. He is Jewish and a member of Temple Beth-El in St. Petersburg. She belongs to St. Nicholas Antiochian Christian Church in Pinellas Park.
Lance Lubin said he enjoys the pageantry of the special services he attends with his wife. He will be at St. Nicholas for the Easter service, which starts at 10 p.m. on Easter Eve. The night will end with a breaking of the Lenten fast around 2 a.m.
"I'm happy that he does come, even if it is just to be by my side and socialize with the people,'' M.J. Lubin, 54, said.
"My experience going to temple is probably more religious and spiritual than his coming to my religious services.''
As usual, David Baras, 54, will accompany his wife to Easter services. "He's a Christmas-Easter Jew,'' Mary Jo joked.
"To me, it's like watching an opera,'' he said of the liturgical pageantry. Though he enjoys it on one level, he concedes that the occasion is not entirely comfortable.
Jim Barrens, who is Catholic, understands. His wife, Ruth, who teaches English at Lakewood High School, and their two children, Jacob Patrick, 21, and Hannah Maureen, 19, are Jewish.
"Easter is very challenging for Jewish people. In the past, Ruth and the kids have accompanied me to Palm Sunday and Easter services. But it's very difficult for Jewish people to sit there and listen to the Passion (the reading about Jesus' trial and crucifixion) where they're traditionally thought of as the culprits. It's very different from Christmas,'' said Barrens, 55, chaplain with Suncoast Hospice at Woodside and a member of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in St. Petersburg.
The couples find commonalities in their faiths. For the Barases, it's a commitment to Faith and Action for Strength Together, or FAST, a countywide interfaith organization that holds public officials accountable on social justice issues. Each represents their individual congregations and serves on the organization's affordable housing committee.
"At the end of the day, it's all ethical monotheism,'' said Lubin, 55, referring to the common threads of the Abrahamic faiths.
"On one side of the coin, it's wonderful when you are with your own congregation, but it's also nice when you have sort of different flavors of God being discussed,'' he said. "They all play off each other and can strengthen each other, but it all depends on how you view it, if you have an open mind and an open heart.''
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2283.