A couple who understand the meaning of mediation

Huda and Jeff Karaman Rosen sitting on a couch

Huda and Jeff Karaman Rosen

Jeff and Huda Karaman Rosen have spent a lot of time volunteering at the Dispute Resolution Center. That makes perfect sense, because the concept of mediation is ingrained in their lives.

Jeff was raised Jewish. Huda is a Muslim from Palestine.

They met at Dartmouth's Winter Carnival in 1963, where Jeff was a student. Huda, who was attending Shippensburg University at the time, was there on a blind date with another guy.

Huda didn't like her date, but he introduced her to Jeff, and they ended up in a small party in Jeff's room. She was impressed by the oil paintings on Jeff's walls and the E. E. Cummings on his shelf.

A first argument

Then came their first argument. "He started telling me how wonderful kibbutzes are," Huda remembers. "I told him he knew nothing."

One might wonder how they ever got from that point to their first official date. But, 50 years later, and after 43 years of marriage, they agree that was never in question. The spark they felt that night at the Winter Carnival is still alive.

They have much in common – they both worked at the U-M hospital system for more than 20 years, and they love helping others through organizations like the Dispute Resolution Center – but that religion thing proved to be a big obstacle at first.

Huda knew her father would never grant permission for her to marry a Jew, so they were wed in a civil ceremony in 1970 without telling her family. When her father found out, "He flipped," she said. "He wanted to disown me. He returned all my letters unopened."

A solution

But Jeff found a solution. It began when he attended a conference at the University of Massachusetts in the late '60s, where several speakers made the point that too many people were being exploited by the empires of the world. "It hit me like a ton of bricks," Jeff said, and he gradually turned away from "religion with a capital R."

So he became a Muslim in 1970 – "For me it held no significance at all; it was just a gesture" – and the couple was married in a Muslim ceremony later that year. Huda's father was ecstatic.

As for Jeff's side of the family, his father had died before Jeff began dating Huda. But he remembered his father's words: "I don't care about the background of the woman you want to marry, as long as you love her." That's the best advice he ever got.

By Kyle Poplin.
Reprinted with permission of The Ann, February 2014.