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Dear Rabbi: What's in a Mother-in-Law?

Dear Rabbi,

I am planning a wedding for my fiancé and myself, which will take place in his hometown. The only cloud in my sky during our engagement and my conversion has been my relationship with my future mother- in-law. I feel as though she and I are from completely different cultures, and that we miscommunicate on even the most trivial of issues. I don't eat enough for her. I fold my clothes wrong. She feels I should conceal my feelings from my fiancé when I am upset about something, rather than discuss my concerns with him. She is making herself very involved with the wedding plans, insisting that if I don't serve latkes and knishes "my friends just won't know what to eat". She also never says what she means, but instead uses guilt and passive-aggressive manipulation to indicate her feelings. I am sure these misunderstandings are exacerbated by the fact that she is 70 years old, and I am 29, that she is from the west coast, and I am from the east.

My fiancé merely chuckles at our conflicts, and explains to me that she is a "typical Jewish mother." However, I do not intend to be this sort of woman, or mother. I begin to cry when I envision 20 years of seder and Rosh Hashanah dinners with her at our table. What can I do to change my perspective or mend this relationship? I would appreciate any guidance you have to offer.

Thank you, Julie

Hebrew for "Head of the Year," the Jewish New Year. With Yom Kippur, known as the High Holy Days. Yiddish word for a potato pancake, traditionally eaten during Hanukkah. Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation. Hebrew for "order," refers to the traditional course of events, or service, surrounding the Passover and Tu Bishvat meals.
Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson serves as the Dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, and is the author of The Bedside Torah.

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