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By Dr. Ruth Nemzoff
Q: I am having a family reunion. Half of the youngest generation has married people of other backgrounds. How can I use this opportunity to educate the Jewish members of my family about their heritage? And also to help those who do not currently identify as Jewish to understand how important Judaism has been in contributing to their lives?
A: I can only share my own experience in response to this question. A confluence of eventsâ€”a bar mitzvah, a graduation, a wedding, a trip to Maineâ€”brought four of the seven lines of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of my grandparents, Zelda and Shmuel, to Boston. Thus, a long talked-about family reunion was planned and executed. It involved 54 cousins of four generations from ages 2 to 88 with two in utero. I was the host for the meal.
Like so many assimilated families, progeny of a once very close extended family had scattered across the States. Though many of us had never met each other, family behavior immediately kicked in. Everyone volunteered to either bring food or to pay the expenses. Many of us, including myself, found old insecurities coming to the fore. Though my self concept is not â€śhostess with the mostest,â€ť I worried whether or not my family would approve of my choice of paper plates. After all, a gracious table could mean china and silver for some in the family and for others, matching paper plates. Of course, no one cared.
We used the opportunity to tell our family history, which few of the third or fourth generation knew. My family owes its existence to the courage of two people who separated themselves from their families and all that was familiar to chance life in a strange new land. My family is also a product of world events beyond their control.
My grandfather left Russia because he heard at the market that the Russo-Japanese War had broken out. He sent a note to his pregnant wife and three children under six that he would send for them. He had already served four years in the Czarâ€™s army and was not interested in fighting in a war which meant nothing to him. Over fifty future lives were changed by that decision, changed by a war that many of us had never heard, or knew only as a footnote in a history book. Our familyâ€™s history is also the story of their progeny, growing up with one foot in the Old World culture of their parents and one in the new.
I used the food, too, to educate about our grandparents’ customs. It did not seem fitting to mix milk and meat at the event, since my grandparents kept a Kosher home. Their lives revolved around Shabbat and the holidays. I knew a meat deli platter would horrify the younger generation, some of whom are vegetarian, which is, after all, the new Kosher. Like Kashrut, vegetarianism adds meaning to the daily task of eating. It makes us think about what we do and how we live in the world. I pointed this out to the attendees.
Kugels, garden salad and mandel bread were the solution, a way to bring back the smells and tastes of weekly gatherings for all the aunts and uncles and their families: the grandparents and great-grandparents of many of those in the room. Planning this menu proved to be a wonderful way to manage conflict. We were able to compromise and accommodate the needs of everyone, despite their gastronomical preferences.
Food gives sustenance to families both literally and figuratively. It allows us to pass our customs on generation to generation. Food is both a way to control children andÂ to educate them. We used the food to teach the younger generation about kashrut: how it helped Jews to maintain their community, and how the lack of itâ€”more recentlyâ€”is one way of demonstrating their assimilation.
There was, for the older generation, emotional memory in the food. It connected us with the past and honored our grandparents. Food was a way of including our progenitors and bringing religion and culture, into a family in which only some of them considered themselves Jewish. The food was also a way of reinforcing identity. It was a reminder of family life. But, also, of a more gendered time: a time when women were in the kitchen and men sat in the living room. In the English aristocracy, a family meal meant work for the servants. For Jewish peasants, a family meal meant the women gossiping, preparing and cleaning, creating both memories and nourishment.
We spent the day connecting and fantasizing about a simpler time, much as our grandparents would have done as they told stories of the old country. In both cases, the nostalgia glossed over the difficulties. In der haim (in the old country), my grandmother would nostalgically recall the family Shabbat, despite the fact that their life involved hunger and dirt floors. We explored the losses and gains of assimilation.
The food provided a way to manage conflict and a way to reconnect. As we collectively produced the food and cleaned up, it gave us a shared task and a way for us to act like family.
Whether family members considered themselves Jewish or â€śof Jewish heritage,â€ť the serendipity of our births rested on the more than the accidental coming together or a particular sperm and a particular egg. It was a result of the kindness of Christians who protected our grandmother in the shtetl as the Cossacks came through on a killing spree. She had stayed long enough to experience the rampage resulting from the Czar’s blame of the Jews for the losing theÂ war.
The existence of each one of us was owed to the kindness of the Jewish community as Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) supported my grandmother when she was waylaid in Germany while my six-year-old Aunt Alice was cured of trachoma. My grandfather Shmuel had finally saved enough money working as a Kosher butcher to send passage for her and the kids. No one could deny that being Jewish was an integral part of their story, nor that each of us owes a debt to the organized Jewish community.
Zelda and Shmuel had seven children in total. The two boys won scholarships to college. The five girls settled for post-high school training. Who knows how far and how fast those five remarkable sisters might have gone had women had equal opportunity. We are indeed products of the opportunities our times give us.
What was evident as we sat and chatted, was that this family was built on Jewish values. Unlike most peasants, both my grandmother and grandfather could read. This gave them, and subsequently each of us, a leg up here in America. These values focused on family and education and involvement in their community.
My generation spanned thirty years. Our varied stories were a lesson in historiography. What is truth, what is memory, and why do they differ? Our various interpretations of our past was also a chance to reinforce a collective identity, and remind the youngest generation of their debt to Jewish values and to the Jewish community. We talked of how the lessons passed on to us influenced our life choices, why so many of us volunteered our time and so many of went into helping professions. We knew our lives depended on others.
I cannot reverse the tide of history, nor the results of assimilation. But, I think our reunion was powerful tool for educating even those family members who do not identify as Jewish that they owe a huge debt to Judaism and the Jewish community for their very existence and for some of their opportunities. My hope is that each person who attended was inspired to tell this story to their children.
You can use your family reunion to demonstrate that as marvelous, brilliant and creative as we may think we are, we are also products of our current time and place, as well as cultural-historical past.
This post originally appeared onÂ The American IsraeliteÂ and is reprinted with permission.
By Steven Fisher
This is the story of how a Jewish couple added to and became part of our changing America. But more important, this story is about what I learned when my wife, Robina, and I were introduced via our son to a religion, culture and traditions that we thought were so different from ours. Itâ€™s also a story about love, respect and acceptance.
On October 17, 1971, I married my high-school sweetheart. Nine years later, after two miscarriages and years of fertility treatments, our son, Jared, was born. Because we didnâ€™t want Jared to be an only child, we continued our fertility treatments and suffered another devastating miscarriage of triplets that nearly cost Robina her life. We then looked into adoption to complete our family.
While on a business trip, Robina called to tell me we had 24 hours to make a decision about adopting a little girl.Â A month later, we received a birth certificate for Judith. After completing a mountain of paperwork, we were on our way to Paraguay, South America, to bring home our little Latina daughter, Elana Judith.
Fast forward to 2006, whenÂ Jared arranged a lunch date with Robina. During lunch, Jared began the conversation with the words every mother wants to hear: â€śI met a girl.Â I think sheâ€™s the one!Â Her name is Jaina, sheâ€™s a teacher and sheâ€™s Indianâ€”South Asian, not Native American.â€ť
Like any Jewish mother, Robina wanted our son to marry a nice Jewish girl. She was shocked and disappointed, and it showed in her expression during lunch. That evening we discussed the situation and decided to stay neutral and take a wait-and-see approach, not wanting to drive our son away.
Their relationship grew.Â Jared learned to eat vegetarian Indian food and experienced the Hindu religion and culture at Jainaâ€™s family home and temple.Â Jaina, for her part, ate latkes and matzo brie and came to our house for Passover and Hanukkah, and attended High Holiday services at our synagogue.Â Their love grew, and in 2008 they became engaged.
Planning a wedding is difficult any time, but blending cultures and religions is a real challenge. Jaina wanted a traditional Hindu wedding, and we wanted a Jewish ceremony.Â In the end, it was decided that there would be no combined ceremony; instead we would honor both religions and traditions and have two separate traditional ceremonies with one reception to be held after the Jewish ceremony. What we learned from the process of planning these weddings was that although we came from different religions and traditions, we had so much in common.
Our families worked together on every aspect of both ceremonies and the reception. The year leading up to the wedding was crazy!Â We were immersed in Indian cultureâ€”we ate Indian food, learned about the Hindu religion and discussed the differences and similarities with Judaism. We attended services at both a Hindu and Jain temple, we attended Punjab ceremonies at peopleâ€™s houses and even attended a Hindu funeral.
Jainaâ€™s family joined us for Passover dinner, and we had our first Hanukkah party together.Â At this first party, Jainaâ€™s niece and nephew, ages 4 and 6, surprised us by singing the dreidel song. They had learned the song at school, and from their mother learned it was a song for the holiday they were going to celebrate with Jaredâ€™s Jewish family.
As the wedding planning evolved, we learned how the bridal party reflected the diversity of Jared and Jainaâ€™s friends. It was made up of friends white and black, Indian and Hispanic, Hindu, Christian and Jewish. It was a snapshot of ourÂ changing America.
Today we have beautiful granddaughters. You may wonder, â€śWill the girls be raised Hindu or Jewish?â€ť The answer is they will be raised learning and respecting each religion and culture, as they are part of both.Â They will learn about the mezuzah on their front door and the Hindu shrine in their house.Â Jewish and Hindu traditions will be celebrated with both families watching them with pride. Although we are not social friends with Jaina’s parents, we have become family!
Jared and Jaina are my inspiration. Together they live a life of acceptance. They are an example of how America and the world could be if we looked past our differences and embraced our similarities with understanding, respect and love.
Steven Fisher is in sales and lives in Deerfield, IL with his wife of 45 years.
By Elizabeth Vocke
When my husband and I first started dating I was what you might call a serial monogamistâ€”I had a string of long-term relationships that never really went anywhere. So when we met, I decided to change things up and ignore some of those relationship â€śmilestonesâ€ť that Iâ€™d sped toward in the past.
First on this list was meeting my family. I love them dearly, truly I do. But, weâ€™re a large group that some (i.e. my husband) may call intense. Iâ€™d had previous boyfriends feel overwhelmed by the number of family events and obligations.
Second was religion. My husband is not Jewish and I am, and while Iâ€™m OK with that, I didnâ€™t know how he felt.Â Now, this isnâ€™t a conversation I typically rush into. Iâ€™m not the most observant Jew. I donâ€™t keep kosher or go to synagogue regularly. But, I do go to services during the high holidays and celebrate all the holidays with my family, and Judaism is definitely a part of my upbringing.
So, I decided these milestones could wait.
Until they couldnâ€™t, and both converged just a few months into our relationship.
Passover was coming up and my sister was planning a big seder with all our family at her house. That meant my parents, sister, brother, in-laws, nephews, niece and more would all be in town just a few miles away for a big, raucous Jewish family event.
My husband (boyfriend at the time) knew I was going but I had already decided not to invite him. Who wants to meet a big family of another faith at a religious event that includes taking turns reading out loud, singing and speaking Hebrew? Apparently my husband.
As Passover neared I could tell that he actually wanted an invitation. That should have been my first sign that he was a keeper. But I resisted until it finally became more awkward not to invite him. And? It was great. He met my entire family at our Passover seder and the rest is history. So what did I know?
What I do know, now, is the importance of communication. While I initially waited to bring up the conversation about religion, we eventually did talk, long before we got engaged, then again once we were engaged, many times throughout the wedding planning process, again when planning our family and after, and we continue to have these discussions today.
We talked about what religion meant to us as individuals and as a couple, and most important, as a family. We made decisions early on, before we were married, about how we would raise our children. We talked about if and how this would impact our extended families, and what that meant to us as a couple. Mostly, we both felt strongly about respecting each otherâ€™s beliefs and needs.
We are lucky. Our religious backgrounds are widely different, but what is important to us about religion is the same. For us, itâ€™s first and foremost about family. Then, tradition, history and heritage; and those are things we both respect and believe in regardless of the formal aspects of the religions.
We decided early on to raise our daughter with aspects of both religions. My parents disagreed, thinking it would be confusing, but my husband and I had already discussed this and felt strongly about our decision.
We believed that our daughterâ€™s generation would be filled with kids from different faiths, races and combinations and that she would fit into this evolving world. And so far that has proven true.
Now, our daughter is 8 and we need to make decisions about joining a synagogue, Hebrew and/or Sunday School and a bat mitzvah. We also continue to celebrate Christian holidays and make that religion available as well. Because weâ€™ve already talked about much of this, those decisions are easier to make and typically in line with our shared beliefs.
This is what works for us.Â I will not tell you that an interfaith marriage or a mixed religious upbringing is right for everyone. And Iâ€™m sure weâ€™ll face obstacles and have to redefine our thinking and our plans. But, the best advice I can offer is advice that will fare well in any aspect of a marriage or relationship: Communicate openly; communicate often.
By Stacey Zisook Robinson
Editor’s note: This author describes difficulty finding a rabbi to officiate her wedding in Chicago. We urge couples to utilize our free rabbi referral service, available here. If you are in the Chicago area, or any of our InterfaithFamily/Your Community areas, our rabbi/directors can help guide you.
Iâ€™m dating. Again. Post-divorce, post 50, Iâ€™m dating. I suppose itâ€™s fittingâ€”I didnâ€™t do much dating during the prime dating years of adolescence and young adulthood. My teens and 20s (and if weâ€™re being really honest, most of my 30s) were relatively unscathed by the trials and tribulations of this particular social lubricant.
Not by choice, mind you. I wanted to date. Would have loved to dive into the dating pool. I envied my friends who wept and wailed and crowed with delight, sometimes all in the same conversation. I was just weird enough and insecure enough to assume that no one would ever actually want to date me, so I remained everyoneâ€™s confidante and confessor. I gave awesome advice and my ears grew muscles with the constant stream of listening that they did.
By the time I was dating, it was less â€śdatingâ€ť and more a series of negotiations over a meal or three to determine relationship status. I mean, come on: Who dated at my age? Who did small talk and boundaries? Time was ticking; letâ€™s get a move on. In or out, whaddya say?
My criteria read something like an EEOC banner: any and all applicants accepted, regardless of race, color or religion. I probably would have given pause at political leanings; that is (still) a deal-breaker. But all the other stuff? Not a whit did I care. I fell in love, deeply, passionately, forever and for always with someoneâ€™s soul.
It was probably no surprise to anyone that when I finally found The One, he was not Jewish. It was a huge surprise to me when I called my rabbiâ€”the man who had been my rabbi throughout most of my childhood and young adulthoodâ€”and he refused to marry us.
â€śWhat?â€ť I criedâ€”literally criedâ€”into the phone. How could that be? Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that my rabbi (whom Iâ€™d not seen in more than 20 years, but whoâ€™s counting, right?) would refuse. â€śMazel tov,â€ť he said, kindly and with finality. â€ťI wish you luck.â€ť And he hung up the phone.
It took a while, but I found a rabbi, apparently the one rabbi in Chicago who performed mixed marriage ceremonies. On a magical day in May, there was a chuppah and a glass and a rabbi, and my somewhat befuddled bridegroom who wasn’t Jewish.
Nine months and a day laterâ€”exactly nine months and a dayâ€”we had our son. But as time went on, I watched as my world, my marriage, fell apart. I forgot that if you have a relationship based upon need (because really, who on earth could ever love me; need was almost as good, right?), when the need goes away, whatâ€™s left to hold all the pieces together?
And so my husband became my ex-husband, and I jumped back into the (non)dating pool. I wound up with a handful of relationships to call my own. Though now there was a difference: These were all Jewish men.
Itâ€™s not that I had refused to go the Jewish route when I was younger. This was no misplaced rebellion from God or my parents. Had some Jewish man, in need of fixing or just plain in need, offered, Iâ€™d have been all over that. Iâ€™d have loved that. Maybe it was timing or luck. Maybe it was my subconscious. Regardless, Iâ€™d never dated within the tribe before.
At some point in my more desperate attempts to find healing with the ex of note, however, I had found, much to my surprise, God. And with God, synagogue and Torah and community and services and committees and temple politics and devotion and Talmud and chanting and teaching andâ€¦ OK, Iâ€™ll make this easy: I found my Judaism. I felt as if I had finally come home. Outside of being a mother to my son, being a devoted, mindful Reform Jew was the central fact of my life, and I was determined to make â€śJewishâ€ť central to my dating criteria from now on.
So, of course, when I least expected it, there it wasâ€”love. Again. Dating. Againâ€”no, not again.Â For the first time. Actual dating. The Iâ€™ll-pick-you-up-and-weâ€™ll-go-to-dinner-and-then-Iâ€™ll-take-you-home kind of a date. The Iâ€™ll-call-you-in-a-few-days-and-weâ€™ll-make-plans-for-another-day kind of date, because we donâ€™t have to do everything right now; later is also good, because there will be a later.
And now here I am, dating. Heâ€™s kind and funny and smart. He loves me, which is awesome, since I love him. We met in junior high and we found each other again in a hailstorm of good timing and strange coincidence. He likes pizza and the Cubs, has a cat named Einstein, and heâ€™s not Jewish.
Dammit, heâ€™s not Jewish. And it never, ever mattered to me before. But I found God, and Judaism, and mindful devotionâ€”shouldnâ€™t it matter?
â€śI donâ€™t know about him,â€ť I said to my son, now 17. We were talking just after Iâ€™d come home from a dateâ€”not the first one, not even the second or third, but right at that tipping point of figuring out where it all fit, having no idea if I was doing it right at all, since Iâ€™d never actually done this before. â€śHeâ€™s not Jewish. That feels kinda weird.â€ť
My son, filled with that heady mix of cynicism and ennui that pervades every 17-year-old, said, â€śMom, you just want someone who believes what you believe.â€ť
â€śNo,â€ť I replied, with a growing sense of wonder, â€śnot that. I want someone who thinks like I think. Someone whoâ€™s willing to dive in and learn and argue and discuss and discover. Heâ€™s devoted to his faith and to what his faith calls him to doâ€”serve those in need, fix whatâ€™s broken in the world. How is that different from what I want?â€ť
I wonder sometimes if I am betraying my faith, my people. He and I, we talk about it from time to time. He comes to synagogue with me on occasion. I go to church every once in a while with him. I think we are both a bit smugly sure, in a most loving way, that each of us is right about the whole God thing, and we kindly indulge the other in their misplaced faith.
Thereâ€™s a chance that God smiles indulgently at the both of us, too.
But we dive and struggle and wrestle with faith, with God, with love and our imperfectionsâ€”not to change the other, or to prove our rightness. We wrestle because it is part of the thing we share: devotion and faith.
We are completely together, differently. That is, ever and always, enough.
This article was reprinted with permission from Kveller.com, a fast-growing, award-winning website for parents raising Jewish and interfaith kids. Follow Kveller on Facebook and sign up for their newsletters here.
Stacey Zisook RobinsonÂ is a single mom. She sings whenever she can. She writes, even when she canâ€™t. She worked in Corporate America for a long time. Now she works at her writing and looks for God and grace, meaning, connection, and a perfect cup of coffee, not necessarily in that order. Stacey has been published in several magazines and anthologies.Â Her book,Â Dancing in the Palm of Godâ€™s Hand, has just been published by Hadasah Word Press. She recently launched a Poet in Residence program designed to work with both adults and kids in a Jewish setting to explore the connection between poetry and prayer as a way to build a bridge to a deepened Jewish identity and faith.Â She blogs athttp://staceyzrobinson.blogspot.com, and her website can be found atÂ www.stumblingtowardsmeaning.com.
By Laura Baum
The most popular days to get engaged are Christmas (and I assume Hanukkah!), New Yearâ€™s Eve, and Valentineâ€™s Day. That means this time of year is one when rabbis like me get lots of phone calls to officiate at upcoming wedding ceremonies.
One of my favorite parts of my rabbinate is officiating at weddings. It is such a joyous time in peopleâ€™s lives, and they are eager to share their stories, to plan a wedding that celebrates their values, and to bring their friends and families together for a wonderful celebration. As a rabbi, I get to learn about people and to work with couples to think about their future together and the family life they are beginning to create.
Of all the weddings that I do each year, most are for interfaith couples. This makes sense, since most couples getting married include partners with diverse backgrounds and religious identities. As my colleague and friend Rabbi Jesse Gallop often says, â€śinterfaith families are modern Jewish families.â€ť I agree; they are not outliers or some group that needs to be treated as outsiders to the Jewish community.
Todayâ€™s Jewish community is beautifully diverse. Whether a Jewish person marries another Jew or someone who identifies with a different background, what I believe matters more are shared values. Yes, it is possible for a person who is Jewish and a person who is Christian to have very different values, just as it is possible for two Jewish people to have very different values. It is also possible for someone who identifies as Jewish and someone who identifies as Christian to have common values. At the end of the day, conversations about values, traditions, rituals, and frameworks for living oneâ€™s life are more important to me than a conversation exclusively about religious identity.
It is for these reasons, among others, that I am happy to officiate at interfaith marriages, including some ceremonies where I co-officiate with clergy of another faith. In recent conversations with InterfaithFamily, a group that (among other activities) matches couples with prospective of officiants, I learned that they get many requests for rabbis to co-officiate and that many rabbis are unwilling to do so.
Of course, I respect that my rabbinic colleagues can and should make individual choices about which ceremonies they are comfortable officiating. That said, I am here to say that I have had only positive experiences working with co-officiants. When I officiate any wedding, whether between two Jews or a Jewish person and someone who is not Jewish, I make case-specific choices about whether itâ€™s a wedding I am comfortable officiating. There are times that I say no because I am not comfortable for any of a number of reasons; a couple wanting an interfaith ceremony or a co-officiant is not a reason in and of itself for me to say no.
In those ceremonies, I bring Jewish elements and my clergy colleagues bring elements from their tradition into the ceremony. We make sure we are all comfortable with the specificÂ elements chosen. Â We each explain what we are doing so that all of the people there understand the elements of the service. We work with couples to talk about what matters to them â€“ so they are very intentional about the choices they are making for their ceremony, which is really just the beginning of a series of choices they will make throughout their married lives. I would so much rather an interfaith family hears welcoming and positive messages from a rabbi rather than being told â€śno, I canâ€™t be there for you.â€ť
Throughout my rabbinate, I have seen how amazingly involved parents who aren’t Jewish often are in their childrenâ€™s Jewish identity. They are often the ones driving kids to Hebrew school, helping them prepare for their bar or bat mitzvahs, and volunteering at synagogue. There are so many parents who do not identity as Jewish who still strongly cultivate their childrenâ€™s Jewish identity. Letâ€™s celebrate that. Letâ€™s also celebrate the families where couples choose not to become parents and have a wonderful marriage celebrating both of their religious identities, learning from one another.
So to all of the couples who just got engaged or are about to get engaged, mazel tov and congratulations! If youâ€™re looking for a rabbi to officiate at your interfaith marriage, we exist and are happy to do it. Donâ€™t give up. Keep calling, and you will find a community that welcomes you.
Well Iâ€™ve gone and done it. I didnâ€™t mean to make you mad, but I can tell that I did.
There I was, a Jewish girl from New York, living my life, building a career, being a young adult in a big city, when out of nowhereâ€Šâ€”â€ŠBAMâ€Šâ€”â€ŠI fell in love with a kind mid-western man.
He was smart and loving and well, raised in a different faithâ€Šâ€”â€Šbut frankly, the fact that we were in love trumped anything else.
But I didnâ€™t expect you to be so disappointed in me.
You see, this man asked me to marry him, and there we were, planning our weddingâ€Šâ€”â€Ša Jewish weddingâ€Šâ€”â€Šbecause that is what we agreed it would be, because it was meaningful to me and I knew, and he agreed, we would keep Judaism in our lives. So I naturally asked a rabbi to be with us on our big day. he said no, he would not, under these circumstances, bless our union. I asked another and another and yet another and the prospect of having our Jewish wedding dwindled. But I struggled through and found a way to have the ceremony we wanted with a cantoral student who helped us create our beautiful Jewish wedding.
And then I got pregnant. A BOY, what a joy to behold! A blessing in our lives! But my husband had questions that I could not answer about mohels and ritual and foreskin and we sought the counsel of a rabbi to help. We called on your synagogues to find some answers. And we kept calling and calling and messages were left from the kind man who married the Jewish girl again and again, but again we were denied access to you. Once again we stood up for our family and the traditions we wanted to uphold and found a mohel that came to our home and we had a lovely bris for our beautiful boy. One fitting for bringing a Jewish boy into the world.
A third time I sought you outâ€¦ to care for this child and teach him. But as you glared at my tattooed body and asked about my husbandâ€™s background, I was told that your communityâ€™s childrenâ€™s programs were reserved for those who were members and perhaps I should look elsewhere.
And somewhere that day, I lost the fight. I gave up on you right then and there, Judaism. You clearly didnâ€™t want me. There are only so many times you can be turned away before you wonder why you are trying in the first place. You did not want my family, Judaismâ€¦ so I gave up trying.
But I was heartbroken.
I know youâ€™re trying to find a way to welcome us, but youâ€™re not there yet. When we encounter your barriers and your walls we struggle to get through them. And eventually we give up, because it is hard and we donâ€™t want our children to hear your clucking or your message that they are not good enough for you.
Yet, your articles and comments and letters to the editor tell us it is we who are ruining Judaism. It stings to hear that we, the intermarried are destroying Jewish continuity.
But I am stubborn, and thereâ€™s something about you Judaism, thatâ€™s too important to let go. So after I gave up on you, a friend and fellow Jewish professional told me that my experience was not the Judaism she knew and loved and encouraged me to try again. I found my own way to keep the faith in you. I created a Jewish home and holidays and traditions in my own Jewish way. And eventually, I found a community that embraced me and supported my family for who we areâ€Šâ€”â€Šand doesnâ€™t punish us for what weâ€™re not. There are so many of us out here making our own wayâ€¦ but also so many who gave up, never to return.
You see, when you denounce intermarried rabbis and talk about the declining vitality of Judaism, we, the families are listening to you talk about how these rabbisâ€Šâ€”â€Šwhose families closely resemble our ownâ€Šâ€”â€Šdonâ€™t count for you. We hear you tell us, yet again, that we are not good enough but that you are welcoming in the same breath.
So while some of your newspapers and your blogs and your institutions (and your commenters, oh gosh, your commenters) whisper too loudly behind my back and wonder what to do with a â€śproblemâ€ť like my family, my boys will bound through the door this Friday, giddy from the waning of the week and ask â€śMOM? What time is Shabbat?