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When I saw that the editor of InterfaithFamily.com was looking for a piece called "My Jewish Mother-in-Law Loves Me Even Though I'm Not Jewish," I wanted to write it. The title doesn't really work for me, however, and frankly, I don't think it would work for my mother-in-law either. My mother-in-law loves me because I'm not Jewish. She loves me because I make her son happy. She loves me because I am her daughter now, regardless of whether I was born into her faith or not. In other words, she loves me for who I am, and doesn't worry about what I'm not. We are part of each other's clans now, part of each others lives. I can't imagine my life without her.
|A wedding photo of Amanda and her husband with her in-laws.|
My husband and I were friends for a long time; we met in high school. I knew his mother for years before we started dating. Weren't we lucky that we never had to do the "Meet the Parents" thing? She knew me; she certainly knew I wasn't Jewish! My friendship with her son deepened and one summer turned into something more. She was wonderfully supportive of our relationship from the very beginning. I think that's truly a testament to her and her faith.
I will not pretend there weren't bumps along the way. I know it was hard for her, and even more so for my father-in-law, to accept the fact that their son was becoming very serious with a Catholic girl. I know they feared that my husband would abandon Judaism. I know they expressed these things to him both before he popped the question and after. I think they just began to see beyond my religion and see a person that not only loved their son, but loved them too. I also think they remembered they had raised a good, smart boy who would make good, smart choices, including the choice of whom to marry. I think she was the one who led them to remember this.
I think my relationship with my mother-in-law deepened during my engagement. I included her in the planning process with my own mother and we visited florists, photographers, venues and everything in between together. She was there when I bought my gown, and as I stood in the dress, there weren't just tears of pride on my mom's cheek, but my mother-in-law's as well. We had so much fun together planning my wedding and I came to respect her so much. She even bought me a few books about interfaith wedding celebrations that I used in planning our non-denominational ceremony.
Since my husband and I married over a year ago, my mother-in-law has continued to be a source of love, support and laughter to me. Our husbands are both certified public accountants, working together at a firm that Daniel is the third generation to join. His great-uncle founded it. During February, March and April, my mother-in-law and I both become "tax-season widows." We have tried to make the most of it together, calling each other during the late nights in late March. We shared dinners, lunches, shopping, even a wonderful afternoon at the Elizabeth Arden Spa. While everyone in the family has heard the tales of tax season, only someone married to an accountant can know how it can stress a relationship--and a husband! Having my mother-in-law as my comrade-in-arms, so to speak, has been such a relief for me. I think it has been for her, too.
|Amanda, right, at her wedding shower with her mother-in-law-to-be Andrea.|
I have learned a lot by watching my mother-in-law over the years: how to find humor in the dark hours, when putting yourself first is important and how above everything, love and family know no bounds. This past year, we all celebrated the winter holidays together. My parents came to Hanukkah at my in-laws and my in-laws came to Christmas and sang carols by the tree. As I glanced over to my mother-in-law during the second rendition of "Winter Wonderland," I felt so proud of how she has embraced me and so lucky.
I am reminded of a story in the Book of Ruth: During a time of famine in Israel, a woman named Naomi, her husband and two sons left to find food in the land of Moab, where people practiced a different religion. Hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. Over time, her two sons both married local women and they all settled there for a time. The death of Naomi's husband and both sons left them all destitute and fearful and Naomi decided she needed to go back to Israel. She encouraged her daughter-in-laws to remain behind to find new husbands and then return to their own families. She said, "Go back, my daughters … even if I could offer any hopes, or if tonight I had a husband or had borne sons, would you then wait and deprive yourselves until those sons grew up? No, my daughters! My lot is too bitter for you!" One daughter-in-law complies and returns to her family. The other, Ruth, says, "Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge, I will lodge, your people shall be my people and your God, my God." Ruth: 1-18. While I hope we are never destitute and without our beloved husbands, I know that as Naomi and Ruth stuck together, so will my mother-in-law and I, no matter what life throws our way.