Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

How Can We Avoid Alienating our Families and Breaching Our Values?

Posted on | December 15, 2010 | By Guest Contributor | 197 Comments

Dear Beyond BT

My husband & I are the only frum people in our respective families, except for an emotionally unstable brother who is somewhat estranged from the family. We have sheltered our kids from as much as we could while still having a loving & close relationship with our parents & siblings.

However, something that has been a huge issue the last few years is interdating & intermarriage. We’ve got it on both sides, from both our siblings & our nieces/nephews and it’s rampant. We straddle the line between guarding our kids and not insulting the relatives, but it is getting harder & harder to do that.

Even the ones who marry Jews live together first. It gets increasingly sticky b/c we receive regular financial help (as compensation) from a relative whose children are ALL married/in serious relationships with non Jewish women. In their eyes, it’s just not important to marry a Jew; the most important thing is to be “happy”. Nothing I’ve said or done has made a bit of difference; I’ve tried.

What I still hate most about being a BT is not having frum relatives who embrace Torah & live by the same values. I want to have frum family to share Shabbat & holidays with. One would think after 30+ years I would just get over it but it just gets more and more difficult to the point of resentment. Baruch Hashem, my own kids will always be able to come to us (or each other) and I’m thrilled but I’m actually a little jealous of them as well.

Also, my daughter herself married a BT and I see her having to deal with the same issues with her in-laws I’ve had to deal with my entire life and I feel terrible, because it is so stressful for her. In some ways it’s even harder for her than it was for me b/c as an FFB she is less equipped to deal with it.

I would love to hear how others on Beyond BT deal with these issues. It seems that the only choice is to alienate the family or breach our values, neither of which are a solution.

– Susan

First published 12/15/2010

Comments

197 Responses to “How Can We Avoid Alienating our Families and Breaching Our Values?”

  1. ross
    December 15th, 2010 @ 10:47 am

    I’ve never had one frum relative (except my wife and kids.)My two siblings haven’t spoke to me in years since I refused to go to their church wedding (and I have tried to reach out to them), and my father, also remarried to a nonJew, took a looooong time to get over it. (Mom always loved me, bless her soul.)

    I don’t believe there’s anything you can say to one getting intermarried…it’s an emotional thing, and I cringe at comments like, “Well, the kids will be confused,” and “But you were born Jewish!” etc. There was no way I could explain it without deeply hurting them.

    But if you are going to be resentful over this, then also hold a grudge about G-d not not making you frum earlier, and why did I have to be mechallel Shabbos for the first twenty (or thiry, or forty) years of my life? Why did I need to learn the aleph beis when I was 22, or 32?

    The answer is because you are a certain neshama, which, according to your mission in life, needs to be in these circumstances. This means no frum relatives, and pain dealing with family, and this is your specific lot in life.
    Accept it and deal with it the best you can.

    I wrote on this site about the geneology and the importance of looking backwards for frum relatives. It could really be a source of pride for yourself and your children if you succeed, and I have only had encouragement from every rabbi I ask.

    Frum people with loads of frum relatives have loads of other challenges. Appreciate who you are, represent Yiddishkeit proudly, and daven, daven, daven.

  2. Bob Miller
    December 15th, 2010 @ 11:44 am

    The trick is to stay on speaking terms with them but not to give their lifestyles a stamp of approval. Some are hostile to Judaism while others are neutral or indifferent, or even sympathetic. The really hostile ones are best kept at a distance.

  3. Shmuel
    December 15th, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

    The way I approach this is to be as open and accepting as possible to my non-frum relatives while being careful to remain within the guidelines I get from my rabbi from time to time (I’ve discussed the general topic with him many times over the years, but naturally I still consult him on specific issues as they come up). I don’t worry too much about giving a stamp of approval as it just doesn’t come up for me. One of my siblings is married to a non-Jew, the other is married to a Jew and leads a similar lifestyle to that with which we grew up (non-observant). We see them regularly and I know they do things I wouldn’t do myself or want my children to do. But my siblings have never asked me for any approval for anything they do so it just doesn’t come up. While it would be nice to have frum parents and siblings for a lot of reasons, I don’t worry about it because I cannot change the situation.

  4. Migdalah
    December 15th, 2010 @ 12:59 pm

    I agree with all of the above.

    Your children must have enough ethical sense to know that inter-marriage is not right. So why do you have to avoid spending time with family members who inter-marry? They are still your family and you can still be nice to them.

    I have plenty of friends and family who inter-married and I have them over for Shabbos dinner all the time. They love it and I love them because they are my friends and will always be my friends. I would not cut someone out of my life because of a life decision they made. Although I may not agree with it, I would never avoid being with them.

  5. Susan
    December 15th, 2010 @ 1:02 pm

    Thanks Ross & Bob for your chizuk. I want to explain some things, b/c my situation is not typical for a BT.

    I started my BT journey at 18 (over 30 yrs ago), while in college. I come from a very traditional home. My becoming frum was actually a form of rebellion. I loved my early Yeshiva education, Yiddishkeit, Hebrew language & learning Torah in any form; it never made sense to me that we did things “half way” so I took it to the next level. I am the youngest & the irony is that by the time I came along, my parents observed less than when my siblings were young (yet I’m the one who became frum). We kept kosher (inside the house–something I never understood), went to (Orthodox, then Conservative) synagogue regularly, celebrated most holidays & changed dishes for Pesach until I was a teenager. My mother was raised religious, my father less so; Torah observance was NOT a foreign concept to them or me.

    The problem is that when Yiddishkeit is lived by rote it does not transfer well to the next generation. There was always the prevailing theme of “G-d will understand” every time my family went down a notch in observance.

    For me, becoming a BT was to go back to the familiar territory of my early childhood. What baffles me is that my siblings (& their spouses) were all raised with more Yiddishkeit than I was, yet abandoned most of it when they established their own homes. They know quite a lot, but virtually nothing was passed on to their kids. The farther they strayed from Yiddishkeit, the more they forgot.

    Although we are from the same cultural background, my husband was raised with exposure to Orthodoxy, but much less observance than I. In his family, there is intermarriage among his siblings, whereas in my family it did not hit until my siblings’ kids.

    We are not thought of as “religious fanatics” & are respected even though our lifestyle is “inconvenient” to the family at large. We are (mostly) close, which actually makes things more difficult than if we were estranged.

    My frustration & resentment lie in the fact that the beautiful neshamas of my nieces and nephews are slipping away–lured by the shmutz of modern society. We try to set a good example of what defines a religious Jew but ultimately there’s nothing we can do to make them appreciate the beauty of Torah. And, selfishly, I wish that I could share Shabbat & holidays (the experience & the work!) with ALL the family.

  6. ross
    December 15th, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

    That’s selfish?! I don’t want my brother at my house for Shabbos for fear that he’ll mock something or talk about inappropriate things. Now THAT’S selfish, because really I should want to share with him, like you do!

  7. Elm
    December 15th, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

    Susan, if it’s at all helpful, I’m a Catholic woman engaged to a (secular) Jewish man. The discomfort you feel by not being able to share your traditions and holidays is just as keenly felt by your in-laws who probably sense your disapproval! It takes a lot of patience and biting-of-tongues to make a smooth family life, but if you’re gracious to your in-laws (which I’m sure is the example you want your children to follow) they will want to spend those holidays with you, because they love you and recognize their importance to you.

  8. Susan
    December 15th, 2010 @ 10:56 pm

    Elm #7
    I think you misunderstood; my husband is Jewish from birth as is my daughter’s husband.

    I’m not uncomfortable sharing holidays with my family. Our families are all Jewish; it’s my SIBLINGS kids (BH, only 1 so far) that have intermarried/interdated. We don’t even live in the same city so holiday celebrations are not an issue.

    I just wish the JEWISH relatives had a little more interest in celebrating the JEWISH holidays and the Shabbat with us.

    Please do not be insulted by what I am about to say here. I would seriously reconsider your impending marriage a deeper look. Believe it or not, even secular (read–non practicing) Jews who are “thrilled” with the non-Jewish spouse beforehand get “funny” afterward, sometimes farther down the road, like when there are grandchildren involved. Although religion may not be important to either you or your fiance now, you may feel differently (as may he) when you are raising children. Motherhood plays upon your emotions in ways you never would have dreamed.

    I am embarrassed to say it’s almost always the Jewish relatives who want the non-Jew to convert, which I find insulting. Conversion is a very difficult & personal decision & who has the right to ask someone to change who they are?? And, a conversion not in accordance with the Torah is not worth the paper it’s printed on; I wouldn’t even bother.

    If you are a regular reader of this site, you surely realize that as a non-Jewish woman, your children will not be universally recognized as Jews. Even if the family accepts them as such, it’s not the same in their eyes, although most Jews will not admit that to themselves. That’s a very big burden to place on your kids. I have personally known several people raised with strong Jewish identities whose mother or grandmother converted not in accordance with Jewish law. They were devastated as (young or not so young) adults when they found out that they are, in fact, NOT Jewish. Talk about an identity crisis.

    Most people do not understand that this in no way means that the non-Jew is looked upon as inferior or less of a person. I think quite highly of my (non-Jewish) niece by marriage; she is an outstanding individual. She’s just not the bashert (destined partner) for my nephew akin to the way an oboe player doesn’t belong in the string section of the orchestra. All the instruments are equally important.
    Think about it.

    Susan

  9. Judy Resnick
    December 15th, 2010 @ 11:36 pm

    One of the many ugly things about intermarriage is that it more frequently involves a Jewish man marrying a non-Jewish woman, and that often the justification given is some kind of bashing of Jewish women and Jewish mothers: e.g., if Jewish girls are spoiled princesses, and Jewish mothers are neurotic harpies, then of course Jewish men are going to run to “marry out.”

    The rabbis said, “Stolen waters are sweet.” Water usually has no taste at all. However, when water is stolen it acquires the excitement and allure of being something forbidden.

    Philip Roth and Woody Allen examined the idea of how the enticement of the blonde non-Jewish woman serves as a symbol of success to the striving “Sammy.” The same idea pops up in The Education of Duddy Kravitz by Canadian author Mordecai Richter.

    It’s interesting to note that an article in the New York Times Magazine once compared this to how Black women feel when successful Black men marry white women: that somehow the white, blonde blue-eyed Christian female is being described as the ultimate symbol of beauty and desirability to the man from the hated minority group.

    I know that Elm #7 is going to say that she and her fiance truly love each other and are determined to make their marriage work. The sad thing is that intermarriage means the end of the Jewish people. Due to the rule of matrilineal descent, Elm’s children will not be Jewish, so there goes all of the Jewish descendants that could have come from this one Jewish man. Gone.

  10. Mordechai Y. Scher
    December 16th, 2010 @ 11:07 am

    Judy, I’m not sure your ‘stolen waters’ theory is at all relevant. Maybe it was in the ’40s or ’50s. By the time I was a child in the ’60s and beginning to date in the early ’70s, most of my friends were simply incognizant of a ‘Jewish identity’ being anything more that mere ethnicity. The non-Jewish friends whom we dated were simply the same kids we had grown up and gone to school with. Even today, looking back and thinking about it, I say it had no meaning to us one way or the other at all. Even when our parents, who weren’t observant anyway, insisted we not interdate/intermarry; we wrote that off as some form of bigotry held over from a previous age.

    We weren’t escaping any stereotypes, and we weren’t even apathetic or uncaring. We were simply unaware that there was a real issue to address. I can tell you that out here in the hinterland, that is exactly the situation. The Jews I meet, many many of whom are intermarried, simply have no idea that there is anything substantial in the issue. In the Western world of the 20th and 21st century, why would they think otherwise?

  11. Mordechai Y. Scher
    December 16th, 2010 @ 11:39 am

    Susan, I think many or most of us share your sense of isolation or loneliness at least sometimes. Observant Jews are a minority by far; and in many places we are simply a rarity.

    I have been a hozer b’tshuvah for over 30 years. Yes, every year, several times a year I am reminded that there is no good way to share holydays and celebrations with most of my relatives. This is in stark contrast to having grown up near all my cousins, and having spent many celebrations during the year together. Once I chose my different, general path as a teenager – all that changed. Today? My wife and I are in our fifties, with no observant relatives that we know of. And of course, most of our colleagues at work are either non-Jews or non-observant.

    From your fourth paragraph I’ll dare to say that intermarriage, though a glaring issue, isn’t the core issue. (I didn’t understand the brief comment about the money at all.) It is the overall isolation. It is the stress response. Intermarriage is a bit of a distractor in all this.

    The behavioral or practical aspect is easy. We must treat everyone involved (or not involved…) with derech eretz – simple, normal good manners, decency, and dignity. The stress comes from feeling a vague, definite conflict while we try to maintain our internal integrity. It comes from resentment which is the product of loneliness or isolation. If we feel that sort of stress in such a situation (where there is no real threat to us), then it is a good sign that our attitude needs adjusting. It is a good sign that our understanding of the situation doesn’t help us cope with the circumstances. Maybe I am projecting or reading into your narrative; but I certainly have been/sometimes am there.

    In Orot Hateshuvah we learn that true, deep teshuvah should bring about a certain clear internal sense of satisfaction and security. A sort of ‘all is okay, because it is Hashem’s world; and I have my part in it.’ But that comes from a real sense of closeness to Hashem. Many of us who’ve been observant for so long lose some of the freshness of Torah that makes us feel like we are moving in that direction. We are well-settled into the mental and behavioral routines of Torah, in our commitment. That should be a good thing; but now we see how many things challenge that, threaten that. Somehow, we have to renew the dynamism and inner mobility required to grow closer to Hashem, and in the process adjust our attitudes to deal with the challenges around us.

    And in the end? I think a certain loneliness remains. Rav Soloveitchik called one of his greatest essay ‘Lonely Man of Faith’ for a reason. For him, even a frum person in a frum family could be deeply, existentially, religiously lonely at times. A truly religious, spiritual life will always bear some of that aspect. For us hozrim b’teshuvah that is compounded by the more mundane factors; but it is possibly part of the same path and experience. A certain loneliness or isolation at some level of our lives is an inevitable price for the religious aspirations real, deep teshuvah demands. I think that is apparent in writers as different as Rav Soloveitchik, Rav Wolbe, Rav Kook, or the Piacezner.

    So, some of this is normal and inevitable; and some of it is a signal that it is maybe time for an attitude adjustment and renewal. And the experience is probably far more common than many of us stop to realize.

  12. Elm
    December 16th, 2010 @ 12:59 pm

    Don’t worry Susan I’m not insulted, I’ve heard it before, I just think the perspective of the non-Jew might be valuable to you. Since you ask, we’ve had a lot of conversations about religion and what it means to us and our eventual children, we also understand that for the purpose of the Orthodox community and the State of Israel, our children are not Jewish, and that is fine with us.
    I did understand your position though, what I mean is, your Jewish nephew is more likely to want to participate in Shabbat and holidays with you if you’re welcoming and loving to his wife. If she feels that you consider her an oboe in a string section, how will she encourage her husband to spend time with your family celebrating his heritage and religion? We enjoy Shabbat dinners and holidays with our observant relatives, but they would stop in a heartbeat if someone were to question the legitimacy of our marriage.

  13. Orthonomics
    December 16th, 2010 @ 4:17 pm

    Rabbi Scher, your points are so eloquent.

  14. Bob Miller
    December 16th, 2010 @ 4:23 pm

    Elm,

    You wrote, “We enjoy Shabbat dinners and holidays with our observant relatives, but they would stop in a heartbeat if someone were to question the legitimacy of our marriage.”

    Were they invited to the wedding? If invited, did they go to the wedding? If they were invited and did not go, how did you react?

  15. Susan
    December 16th, 2010 @ 8:01 pm

    To MYS #11
    I’m baffled. What brief comment about money?

    To Elm #12
    As I mentioned before, we do not live in the same state so the issue of spending holidays/Shabbat together does not arise.
    BTW, I was the only one in the family who would give my nephew’s wife the time of day to answer her many questions about Judaism when studying for her conversion. She feels closer to me than any of the other aunts/uncles. As far as the oboe player in the string section, the rest of the instruments can make the oboe player feel as comfortable as possible, but an oboe is still an oboe. It’s not better or worse, it just IS. As far as my nephew goes, he’s not interested in pursuing his heritage which is common b/c if he was, he would not have gone out with a non Jew in the first place.
    I wish you clarity in all your decisions; you sound like an intelligent thinking person.

    Susan

  16. Elm
    December 16th, 2010 @ 9:19 pm

    To Bob# 14
    Sorry for the confusion– we’re not married yet. Our only observant relatives will not be attending the ceremony but will be attending the reception and of COURSE they are invited. At this point I don’t really know how I feel about it…I sympathize with the conflict she must be feeling to miss her brothers wedding, but I’m a bit confused why the reception is somehow ok (yes we will be making sure a Kosher meal is available for them) but the ceremony is beyond the pale. That alone won’t keep me from cooking appropriate passover meals and attending holidays with them, but it will certainly strain the relationship…as I said in an earlier post, bitten tongues! Family and religion are a part of our lives and one thing I have learned, reading this site and others, is the importance of a happy home life. I want him to be as close to his family, and his religion, as he wants to be.

    Susan

    Your niece-in-law is so lucky to have someone willing to, as you put it, give her the time of day. There is a lot to take in when one marries into a Jewish family! I hope she passes this along to her husband– as I have passed along to my fiance about similar Jewish relatives of his who have been uniquely welcoming of me in their lives– and that draws you all even closer…it might even bring your nephew closer to his religion by your example, even if you never agree about his choice to date, fall in love with, and marry a non Jew.

  17. ChanaLeah
    December 16th, 2010 @ 11:22 pm

    Thanks for this post, Susan. I relate very strongly–in my case we already have 3 intermarried kids of siblings, 1 same gender “married”, and an assortment of other abnormal situations. It’s depressing; sometimes you have to ask, What does Hashem want from me? Am I really supposed to influence them, when they are so attached to their lifestyles? And how about not letting them influence my kids? What a nisayon. We only became BT about 16 years ago and our older kids who had already tasted secular life feel a connection to these nieces and nephews. That’s a parsha in itself. Chazak, Susan, and thanks again for bringing a stinging issue forward.

  18. ChanaLeah
    December 16th, 2010 @ 11:45 pm

    One other thought, I hear you saying that even after all the years of being BT, you can’t help resenting the absence of close family. I think as we reach middle age we are facing new challenges that magnify the desire to consult with close siblings, etc, but there is only so far you can go in your conversations with them, until you need to discuss values that they won’t relate to. Some of these challenges are: caring for elderly parents, marrying off children, the msturing and “seasoning” of our own marriages, and you can probably add to the list…

  19. Belle
    December 17th, 2010 @ 9:50 am

    Susan,

    I would like to echo Ross’ comment #1. I think the only way to get nechama when feeling like our pekele is too much to bear, and that other people don’t have to go through what we go through, and beginning to envy others, etc. is to realize that EVERYONE has one challenge or another, and that Hashem has put you into this family situation for a reason. I also used to be envious, resentful, etc. of other frum families. (Not only are my family members all not frum, my parents are still ANTI-frum after 25 years.)

    Anyway, with life experience it dawned on me that even frum families can have major discord and as well as minor challenges that we don’t face. I once read an article that opened my eyes to this — about a chosson marrying into a family where all the brothers-in-law had some sort of unspoken competition about who was the best learner, etc. And the feelings of inferiority that went with being a working boy in a learning family, and visa versa, etc. There are challenges we don’t even know about, and we shouldn’t minimize them.

    Basically, family relationships in all families can be straining. And on another level, dysfunction happens everywhere. It is the blessed families that manage to get along wonderfully, and they are not so common. Being frum does not prevent having family problems, it just changes the nature of them.

    Anyway, I totally understand where you are coming from and sympathize with you. I give you a blessing that the extended family you create through your children will continue to give you tons of nachas ad meah ve esrim shanah.

  20. Susan
    December 17th, 2010 @ 10:09 am

    Yes, middle age brings its own unique situations. The most glaring for me right now is caring for a sick mother while still having young children @ home (my kids span 16+ yrs).

    There is a VERY big difference in the way modern medicine looks at the value of life & the Torah perspective. It’s been challenging to make sure Torah standards are upheld, which is very important to my mother. Unfortunately the only sibling I have who is peripherally involved does not share the Torah view. The other sibling (who does) is permanently disabled.

    I am resigned to the fact that the only thing I can really do (for anything) is to set an example in every aspect of what a Torah Jew is. If I behave kindly, friendly & respectfully to all I make a kiddush H-shem–always a good thing! I downplay my observance level to the family. Even though they (mostly) realize where I’m coming from, I speak of Torah concepts mostly in terms of Derech Eretz.

    BH, the family’s response has been very positive, realtives are very impressed by our wonderful friends & community & I have learned to appreciate people for who they are & where they’re coming from. I feel that I have grown tremendously in middot as a result.

    Of course, I hope that this will affect my close relatives enough to bring them to a greater awareness of Torah. Still, as always, it’s in the hands of HKBH who is the Creator & Master Conductor.

  21. Judy Resnick
    December 18th, 2010 @ 11:29 pm

    To Susan #20: I admire your ability as part of the “sandwich” generation to care for your sick mother while taking care of your children. Surely this is the most powerful lesson ever on Kibud Eim. How you treat their grandmother gives them insight about how to treat you.

    To Elm #12: You stated that you and your Jewish fiance understand that your eventual children will not be recognized as Jews by either the State of Israel or by observant Jews, and that is “fine with us.” I read your comment with great sadness.

    You understand what this blog is about, of course. It’s a support group for people who voluntarily accepted upon themselves greater levels of Jewish observance, either non-Jews who became Orthodox Jewish converts or born Jews who chose to take on Orthodox Judaism even though they were born and raised in less observant or non-observant homes. So you are throwing yourself into the fray, so to speak, of people who oppose your position and do not agree with either your actions or your reasons. Sorry. But that’s who we are, that’s who you are.

    I grew up with many other nonreligious Jewish kids from families that had two children each. The idea was that two Jewish children meant four Jewish grandchildren, eight Jewish great-grandchildren and so forth. That’s only maintenance level, by the way. It’s Zero Population Growth for the Jewish people.

    Most of those two-child Jewish families didn’t have four Jewish grandchildren, though. In many of those families, one or both of the children never married, or never had children, or had only one child, or married a non-Jew and had children who were not Jewish. This means negative population growth for the Jewish people. You and your Jewish fiance have made a conscious choice not to have Jewish children.

    Caroline Kennedy is married to Edwin Schlossberg, the son of Holocaust survivors. Their three children Rose, Tatiana and John Kennedy Schlossberg have all been baptized and raised as Catholics. Others less famous have also made that choice for their children.

    Those of us who believe that there are too few Jews in the world already, find it tragic when anyone makes a decision to “cut off a branch” of our people, through intermarriage or not getting married or not having any children at all.

  22. tesyaa
    December 18th, 2010 @ 11:47 pm

    How does a Jewish man marrying a non-Jewish woman cause there to be fewer Jews in the next generation? If you accept matrilineal descent, the non-Jewish wife could never have produced Jewish children in any case, whether she married a Jew or a non-Jew. What really determines how many Jews are in the next generation is the number of Jewish females in THIS generation.

    I can understand the concern if a Jewish woman marries a non-Jewish man and raises the children without any Jewish identity. However, this problem can exist if two totally assimilated Jews marry, as well.

    I suppose in the case where a Jewish man marries a non-Jewish woman, one could make the argument that the non-Jewish woman is taking the Jewish man away from a Jewish woman who will then never marry – but this argument is weak. The percentage of women who never marry is probably pretty stable across populations and cultures, and has more to do with the overall ratio of women to men than anything else.

  23. Judy Resnick
    December 19th, 2010 @ 12:44 am

    I find it interesting that I’ve gotten negative feedback from both Mordechai Y. Scher #10 and tesyaa #22, but not from Elm #17. I highly respect both Mordechai Y. Scher and tesyaa, so I will attempt to respond to their responses.

    There were a lot of Jewish women in my generation who never married. They wanted to marry but somehow never found a husband. Part of this could be, and should be, attributed to Jewish men who didn’t marry, or who chose to marry non-Jewish women.

    I have read one set of statistics showing that the rate of intermarriage for Jewish men is twice as high as for Jewish women. So yes, I would make the argument that every Jewish man who intermarries is potentially denying a Jewish woman her partner in life. If the numbers of Jewish male births and female births is about even, then every Jewish man who chooses a non-Jewish spouse is causing some Jewish woman to go without a husband.

    One noted rabbi (and I’m sorry that I don’t remember the name) commented that there were three great destructions of Jews in the last century, each one analogous to one of the three great sins.

    Hitler holocaust – corresponding to the sin of bloodshed.

    Communist persecution – corresponding to the sin of idolatry.

    Intermarriage with non-Jews – corresponding to the sin of giluy arayos, illicit or adulterous intimate relationships.

    It is worth noting that out of the thousands of Jews who came to the United States between 1654 and 1880, first the Spanish-Portuguese Jews fleeing the Inquisition, and then the German and Lithuanian Jews, most assimilated and intermarried and were lost to the Jewish people. There is a rumor that Elvis Presley’s maternal grandmother was Jewish, for instance.

    I think there is some anecdotal evidence that young Jewish men dating in the 60s and 70s were influenced by the negative stereotypes of Jewish women versus the perceived glamor and excitement of dating non-Jewish women. I particularly remember one young Jewish man telling me he had dated a non-Jewish woman thinking he could quote-unquote “get something out of her.” While this crude notion that non-Jewish women are somehow more “easy” than Jewish women has been vigorously denied by the women themselves, it was definitely something that young Jewish men were thinking about.

    We sorely need a return of groups like Bnai Brith Youth and AZA which held get-togethers for unaffiliated young Jewish men and women. NCSY and Hillel are both wonderful, but there is still a definite lack of social programming for teens, twenty-somethings and young Jewish adults.

  24. Belle
    December 19th, 2010 @ 9:41 am

    Tesyaa,

    As a shadchan I see the unbalanced numbers of unmarried Jewish women to men, at least in the nominally Orthodox community. There is also an imbalance in the numbers of unmarried Jewish women in non-orthodox circles. Jewish men marrying “out” is a contributor to the problem. The argument is stronger than you think because in Jewish circles the Jewish woman might never marry, because she is dedicated to limiting her marriage prospects to only a Jew. Women in other cultures do not accept that limitation upon themselves, so they are more likely to marry at an older age. The combination of homosexuality and intermarriage I believe is affecting Jewish women more than others because their pool of available men is limited, whereas gentile women have a much much larger pool of available men to marry.

  25. Bob Miller
    December 19th, 2010 @ 1:30 pm

    Tesyaa, you know better, or ought to. This lame sophistry won’t fly.

  26. Mordechai Y. Scher
    December 19th, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

    Judith, please don’t take my comment as ‘negative’. We simply disagree. And ultimately (since you didn’t cite any hard sources) our disagreement is one of perceptions, so I don’t think we can really know between us what the truth of the matter is. It seems we had different experiences.

  27. tesyaa
    December 19th, 2010 @ 7:43 pm

    A few observations: African-American women often complain that white women are “taking” black men away from them, so Jewish women are not the only ones limiting themselves and remaining unmarried.

    Also, how many of the women who are remaining unmarried because they can’t find a Jewish man seriously consider all candidates, including baalai tshuva, divorced men, and gerim? Obviously I would expect readers of this site to be open minded, but many Jewish women from more insular backgrounds are not.

    Additionally, a man who is considering intermarriage today is clearly far from his roots. The reason for his current situation started decades ago. It’s not very practical to ask him to suddenly start considering only Jewish mates.

    Finally, I stand by my statement that two assimilated Jews who marry are just as likely to produce unaffiliated children than a Jewish woman who marries a non-Jewish man. In fact, I know several baalai tshuva who have non-Jewish fathers, just as I know many non-frum and intermarried Jews who have two Jewish parents.

  28. Mr. Cohen
    December 19th, 2010 @ 9:33 pm

    tesyaa said (in message 27):

    “I stand by my statement that two assimilated Jews who marry are just as likely to produce unaffiliated children than a Jewish woman who marries a non-Jewish man.”

    my response to tesyaa:

    That could be true, but because I am a kohen, and I tend to view situations from that perspective even when other Jews do not.

    When a Jewish woman bonds with a Gentile man, they produce a daughter who is 100% Jewish, but she is not eligible to marry a kohen, and if the daughter does marry kohen, then the children are Safek Chalalim, which means they have all the halachic restrictions of Chalalim, plus all the halachic restrictions of Kohanim, but without any of the privileges of Kohanim. In other words, a first class Halachic mess!

    These children transmit their Safek Chalal status to their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren, etc, forever and ever. Oy vey!

    So do not say that two assimilated Jews marrying each other is not better that a Jewish woman bonding with a Gentile man!

  29. Judy Resnick
    December 19th, 2010 @ 10:20 pm

    As I said before, I have the highest respect for Mordechai Y. Scher #26 and for tesyaa #27, except we disagree. That’s what this blog is all about (I hope): discussing ideas, agreeing to disagree.

    Mordechai, you are correct in that it could be a difference in perceptions. I’d like to add that gender differences might cause some of the perception differences. Jewish girls might see Jewish boys dating non-Jewish girls and think, “Oh, that’s because of all of the stereotypes about what Jewish girls and non-Jewish girls are like,” whereas the actual truth is that none of this is going through the boys’ heads at all.

    tesyaa #27: There is an organization in Eretz Yisroel that devotes itself to rescuing Jewish women trapped into marriages with abusive Muslim men; the group also does its best to get the children as well. All of these children, being born of Jewish mothers, are completely Jewish al pi halacha. The organization helps the kids get into appropriate yeshivot and even makes brissim (“britot” ?) for the babies of these women. Everyone agrees that the progeny of Jewish women and Muslim men are 100 percent Jewish.

    Regarding the issue of whether a Jewish woman marrying a Gentile man is worse than two assimilated Jews marrying each other, the halacha says it is worse. I didn’t make this up: you can ask a Rav or one of the many people who comment on this site who know how to find the relevant passages in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Mishna Brurah and Igros Moshe. This is not to show disrespect to the many fine Baalei-Teshuva and Talmidei Chochomim who were descended from non-Jewish fathers: that list starts with Rabbi Akiva, the sages Shmaya and Avtalyon, Onkelos, and goes on through modern day. People are not held responsible for the omissions and commissions of their parents, that’s basically what this site has been saying all along. What I am saying is that intermarriage and assimilation is a tragedy causing loss to the Jewish people.

  30. tesyaa
    December 20th, 2010 @ 8:50 am

    Judy, I thought it was clear that I wasn’t arguing halacha. I was arguing about how the number of females in a population determines the number of [Jewish] offspring in the next population.

    So far, the rebuttals all say that if Jewish men intermarry, there are not enough Jewish men for all the Jewish women who want to marry only a Jewish man. (The fact that homosexuality and autism take men out of the marrying pool crosses all cultures, so this problem affects non-Jews too – in other words, there are not enough marriageable men in the world for all the marriageable women – period.)

    If Jewish men and Jewish women intermarried at the same rates, presumably the number of Jews who wanted to marry only other Jews would remain in balance.

    The obvious question is, do more Jewish men choose intermarriage than women? The answer might very well be YES. If so, outreach should be specifically directed towards young Jewish males.

    From the NYT marriage announcements I see plenty of Jewish females marrying non-Jewish men. I’d need a population study to convince me that Jewish males intermarry more than females – but it’s certainly possible.

  31. Elm
    December 20th, 2010 @ 12:43 pm

    Judy

    Apologies for the slow response I hadn’t kept up over the weekend.

    I do know what this blog is about. My fiancees only observant relative is B’T so I read it an an attempt to better understand where that individual is coming from, particularly when inevitable difficulties arise. When I read Susan’s original post, I felt that she might benefit from the perspective of one of those intermarried wives, and I found it so encouraging that she is closer to her nephews non-Jewish wife.

    I’m sorry my comments saddened you, but there is nothing that would make my children Jewish in the eyes of the observant population or the state of Israel, why would I be anything but fine with my children, with the man I love, for what and who they are?

  32. Susan
    December 20th, 2010 @ 12:49 pm

    Tesyaa, I think you are missing the point of the comments.

    Jewish men are actively CHOOSING more & more to seek out non-Jewish women or are indifferent to the importance of carrying on our Jewish lineage. Although not ideal, a Jewish woman will have Jewish children even if her husband is a non Jew, but for Jewish MEN it’s the end of the line.

    I have seen this in my own family. There is only 1 Jewish male in the next generation with my maiden surname. On my husband’s side (& he’s a Kohain), there is only 1 male (Jewish) grandchild & he is totally estranged from both the family & Yiddishkeit. So, it’s the end of the family name AND the Kehuna.

    My mother is one of 7 siblings who had a total of 17 grandchildren, all Jewish. Of those grandchildren, 21 of 25 are Jewish. Of those 25, 3 married Jews. The next generation (kids of the 25) has 4 Jewish children & that includes kids from an intermarried granddaughter whose kids (2 boys)are being raised marginally Jewish at best.

    Numbers don’t lie. If those 17 Jewish grandchildren, had 2.11 kids each (Zero population growth) & they had 2.11 kids each, there would be 75 Jews instead of the 4 that exist in that generation. If 75 Jewish offspring would be Zero Population growth, 4 is not only negative population growth, it’s genocide.

    There was a study done called Will Your Grandchildren be Jewish? To see, copy & paste onto your broser:
    http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/will-your-grandchild-be-jewish-chart-graph.htm

    It shows that out of 100 Jews, by the 4th generation, there will be over 3,800 Jews who affiliate as “Orthodox” versus 17 who identify as “Reform” or “Secular”. And, I believe the intermarriage rate among Reform & Secular, is understated. A more accurate rate of 60-70% makes the numbers, of course, much worse. This qualifies as a crisis by anyone’s definition.

    The survey shows that anyone committed to bringing Jewish children into the world can make an impact on the Jewish people.

    The current “spiritual Holocaust” of assimilation & intermarriage is killing Jewish souls.

    Susan

  33. Susan
    December 20th, 2010 @ 12:58 pm

    Elm, as the non-Jewish fiance, the responsibility of furthering Judaism is not yours. The responsibility to propogate the Jewish people lies with your Jewish fiance.

    I give you a lot of credit for following this site in an attempt to understand the BT relative. But, I have not noticed here that your fiance shows the same interest, which is basically my point.

  34. Mark Frankel
    December 20th, 2010 @ 1:01 pm

    Elm, thanks for participating in this discussion and sharing your thoughts and observations.

    If you underwent a conversion according to Jewish Law then you would be a full fledged Jew and your children would be full fledged Jews according to the observant population and the State of Israel.

    According to Torah, people can change their spiritual status, so who you are today is not who you will be tomorrow. In fact all of us here at Beyond BT have upgraded our spiritual status through increase observance of mitzvos. A non-Jew can change their spiritual status through a Torah based conversion which involves accepting to perform mitzvos.

    Putting aside practical considerations, there is a spiritual incompatibility when a Jew and a non Jew marry.

    Your personal rejection of spiritual realities does not take away from the fact that they exist and are true. It is also worth noting that your spiritual existence will last for eternity, while your physical existence will last a maximum of 120 years.

    Understanding the ramifications of these spiritual realities is important and it might make sense to investigate this subject especially regarding intermarriage. If you want, I can locate resources for you.

  35. Elm
    December 20th, 2010 @ 1:08 pm

    Mark,

    Please correct me if this is wrong, but my understanding is that the children of converts do not have the same status within Jewish law pertaining to marriage (something about a priest caste?) but please correct me promptly if I am wrong on that point– I am very lightly informed on this subject and owe most of what I know to this blog!

    As for the spiritual realities, I do not reject them, but I have been raised to believe that the immortal human soul/spiritual existence has as much to do with your actions and beliefs than any coincidence of birth.

    Finally, thanks sincerely for your welcome on this blog.

  36. Elm
    December 20th, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

    Susan,

    I’m sorry I missed your message when I responded to Mark.

    I appreciate that I have no role in furthering Judaism, but as a wife and mother I consider I will have a very strong role in my family. There have been a lot of conflicts with the B’T relative that often seem to imperil the family relationship–though, so I’m clear that it’s not about our wedding, I will point out that they were firmly in favor of our marriage and dating before their move towards stricter observance, even frequently asking when he was going to propose– and I feel that I do have a responsibility to someone who will be my family to understand them as best I can.

  37. Mark Frankel
    December 20th, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

    Elm, converts can not marry Kohanim (Jews of the priestly class) but other than that they are full fledged Jews. There are additional requirements which disqualify many Jewish woman from marrying Kohanim and only a small percentage of the male population are Kohanim. Note: converts are also disqualified from becoming King, but on a practical day to day basis they are full fledged Jews.

    Judaism agrees 100% that the immortal human soul/spiritual existence is greatly dependent on your actions and beliefs. But the yardstick of measuring those actions are the spiritual realities described in the Torah.

    Jews and non Jews have different spiritual obligations and it is how we fulfill those spiritual obligations that determines our external spiritual existence. Spiritual realities are not determined by the actions and beliefs that we might think is proper, but rather by what G-d has communicated to us in the Torah. And the Torah describes the spiritual obligations for both non-Jews and Jews.

  38. ross
    December 20th, 2010 @ 1:41 pm

    And, may I add, being Jewish is not what we would call a “coincidence of birth”. It is a puposeful act of G-d placing a Jewish neshama, or soul, into a being, and this directs him towards his mission in this world. Whether we recognize this or not doesn’t change, as what Mark had said, the “spiritual reality”.

    Part of fulfilling this mission of one’s Jewish neshama is being connected to someone else with a Jewish neshama. It’s not just the actions of two people together, it’s the intermingling of their spirital existances which accomplish. This is part of what we believe to also be a spiritual reality.

  39. Judy Resnick
    December 20th, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

    To Elm #31, #36: You are an incredibly noble soul, as I can see from your thoughtful responses to what others in your situation might deem to be intolerant or offensive statements. I am so glad that you fully understand that my remarks are not meant to be barbs against you personally, or against your right to make your own life choices.

    Some of the greatest members of the Jewish people were those who were Jewish by choice, not by birth. Those individuals who exercise their Free Will to get past all obstacles and to join the Jewish people in the observance of Torah and mitzvos, they will merit a tremendous reward after 120 years.

    On a practical level, if one truly believes that a life of mitzvos and Torah is the best possible life, that individual benefits in this world as well, raising children and grandchildren with a sense of values and purpose. Many successful Orthodox Jewish families share a special inner happiness and satisfaction; you can sense it around the Shabbos table or in the Sukkah or at the Pesach seder.

  40. Elm
    December 20th, 2010 @ 6:03 pm

    Thank you Judy that’s so kind of you to say. I also appreciate all of the commentators patience with me on the forum as I realize I’m well behind the curve.

    I also appreciate your point about the happiness of a family around the table for Shabbat and Passover– we hosted Passover last year and it was a genuinely remarkable experience!

  41. Mark Frankel
    December 20th, 2010 @ 7:13 pm

    Judy and Elm

    The emotional or inner happiness that comes from Shabbos, Succos, Pesach or any Jewish experience is a wonderful thing, but it is not the goal of the mitzvos.

    As Elm points, many people can experience happiness or inner happiness through many different family or personal events.

    Happiness in this world may be a by product of proper spiritual achievement but it is not the ultimate goal of Judaism.

    The goal for the Jew is to live on a spiritual level as much as possible and to spiritually connect to G-d. This is accomplished through the 613 mitzvos which although they often involve the physical world, primarily have a spiritual orientation.

    If somebody performs a mitzvah that they were not commanded to perform, they and the world does not get the spiritual benefits of that mitzvah. Likewise only those who transgress commandments designated for them do spiritual harm to themselves and the world.

    The commandments for a Jew and a non-Jew are different and these define their spiritual responsibilities and spiritual rewards and punishments.

    G-d loves his entire creation but he has designated different roles and responsibilities for different entities of His creation.

    If a non-Jew is willing to accept the responsibility of keeping the mitzvos, then Judaism welcomes them with open arms. When a Jew and a non-Jew, who has not converted according to Torah law, live together they are spiritually damaging themselves and the world. This damage is constant since their living together is constant.

    This is the primary Torah Judaism objection to intermarriage.

  42. Judy Resnick
    December 21st, 2010 @ 12:28 am

    Regrettably, it’s much more difficult, even impossible, for a Jewish man to fulfill certain mitzvos if his wife is not Jewish (and does not convert to Judaism).

    A man can only observe the intricate halachos of Taharas Hamishpacha if his wife is knowledgeable and observant of these laws. Otherwise, they are violating the Torah.

    Similarly, fulfilling the mitzvah of teaching one’s sons Torah – if one’s children are not Jews, then there is nobody to teach Torah to.

    Within the Jewish kitchen, there are many Kashrus laws that involve whether a non-Jew cooked the food, baked the bread, or touched the wine. Just preparing extra food for a non-Jewish Yom Tov guest can be iffy.

    Of course, if a less observant Jewish man thinks that being Jewish is something that is only done in the synagogue and not at home, he won’t care at all whether it’s a Jewish wife or a non-Jewish wife running his home.

    But if you believe that performing mitzvos is serving G-d, and that serving G-d is the purpose of our lives, then it follows that intermarriage keeps Jews from achieving all that they are capable of achieving in this world.

  43. Susan
    December 21st, 2010 @ 12:37 am

    To Elm, re: #36
    I hope more than anything that this blog has given you some food for thought. There are so many insightful posts here; I never would have expected the thread to go in this direction.

    It’s important to differentiate the conflicts– which issues are because BT relative is religious and which issues are because maybe they are a difficult person in general?.

    I sometimes hear people say that they are not close to their family b/c their family is not religious, to which I say, were you close before you became religious? They were usually not close, before, during or after they became religious.

    Love is not enough for a successful marriage. The shared heritage defines who you are more than you would think. Also, as Mark & others said there is a struggle on a spiritual level difficult to understand unless you & your fiance do some serious soul searching. It sounds like he doesn’t know much about Judaism himself. He would be wise to do some research about the belief system of Judaism himself.

  44. tesyaa
    December 21st, 2010 @ 8:13 am

    Love is not enough for a successful marriage.

    Susan, are you arguing that an intermarriage cannot be successful? Anecdotal & statistical evidence says otherwise. I understand what you are trying to say to Elm, but when you make statements that can be easily refuted, your argument is undermined.

  45. Elm
    December 21st, 2010 @ 8:42 am

    I feel like I need to be quite careful in representing what my fiance has said on these subjects, firstly as he’s an adult and can (or could if he was on the forum) speak for himself and secondly because I perceive by some earlier posts that this might be a very sensitive topic, so I will tread lightly and ask you all for patience. I just want to lay to rest the idea that my fiance and I have ignored this part of our relationship.

    In our conversations on the subject of religion (and there have been many because we were both raised in very multicultural environments) I was told that he had never wanted to marry a Jewish woman. I absolutely did not hear any of the stereotypes in Judy’s post #9 on the subject, and would have been appalled to hear anything like that sort of stereotyping out of my extremely intelligent fiance!

    We also discussed the topic of conversion, and thought it preferable to have a household where our children are exposed to multiple religions rather than one of us abandoning the faith in which we were raised. If our children want to explore their Jewish heritage, we will be on hand to answer questions, we will continue to celebrate those holidays we already do, and happily we have that B’T relative I’ve discussed living nearby so if they are curious about an Orthodox lifestyle, they have a positive influence towards that end as well, and perhaps one day they will chose to convert, which they will do with the loving support of both of their parents.

  46. Mark Frankel
    December 21st, 2010 @ 9:32 am

    Elm

    You seem to be ignoring any real consideration of spiritual realities.

    Is that because:

    a) You don’t really believe there are spiritual realities – i.e. if you can’t measure it, then it doesn’t exist

    b) You don’t believe that we can know what are the true spiritual realities – i.e. – you can’t clearly prove G-d communicated to any people

    c) You believe there could be multiple truths when it comes to spiritual realities – i.e. G-d communicated different spiritual realities to different people

    d) You believe in a different set of spiritual realities – i.e. the true spiritual realities are the ones G-d communicated to your people and not to the Jewish people

    e) Some other reason

    Just to clarify the Torah observant Jewish position is that G-d communicated one unified spiritual reality and different people in the world have different obligations based on that communication.

  47. Bob Miller
    December 21st, 2010 @ 10:32 am

    Many people nowadays (I can’t know if that applies here) base their actions on emotional and utilitarian considerations, and not on some clear concept of what the truth is.

  48. tesyaa
    December 21st, 2010 @ 10:41 am

    Bob, WADR respect, EVERYONE bases their actions on emotional and utilitarian considerations, even believing, observant Jews.

  49. Elm
    December 21st, 2010 @ 11:50 am

    Mark,

    I’m sorry I wasn’t trying to avoid your question, let me see if I can take it point by point.
    a.) yes I believe spiritual realities exist
    b.) yes I believe they can be understood by man, although in an imperfect way
    c.) I think there are universal spiritual truths
    d.) I think I’m unqualified to answer this question, given that I do not know exactly what G-D communicated to the Jewish people and would not risk insulting anyone by assuming I did.

    The spiritual reality in which I believe is that our spiritual selves are judged based on what we know, and what we do. I do necessarily think this is inconsistent with the idea that there is one spiritual reality which places different obligations on different individuals.

  50. Bob Miller
    December 21st, 2010 @ 12:20 pm

    Tesyaa,

    I agree that this is a general problem, but don’t agree that every group suffers from it equally.

  51. Susan
    December 21st, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

    I am not arguing that an intermarriage cannot be passionate or loving. Success depends on how it is defined. I am arguing that there are spiritual factors which affect this life & the afterlife which may not have been considered due to ignorance of Judaic beliefs.

    Marriage is about much more than just companionship; it’s a deeply spiritual connection with obligations & ramifications too involved for this type of forum.

    Elm, I’m not sure what you mean by “multicultural environment”. We have friends from Israel, Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, Iran, Morocco, Egypt, Spain, France, England, Germany, Russia, Greece, Turkey, Africa etc. as well as Americans. Sounds pretty multicultural to me. Yet, all of these people are Jewish (we have non Jewish friends as well). The whole “multiculturalism” idea has nothing to do with religious upbringing.

    IMHO, when “multicultural” is used as a SUBSTITUTE for religion, it leaves kids with a warm fuzzy feeling, emphasis on fuzzy. Kids need to know who they are & what they believe in as a family, just as they need structure & predictability in daily life. A solid religious belief system gives kids a feeling of security and a greater sense of self & how they fit into the world. Otherwise, all they end up with is confusion. Most kids when exposed to 2 (or more) religions, choose nothing–this way they can’t offend either parent. They look for their “religion” in other ways–money, various physical pleasures, “causes”, exercise, etc.

    Elm,
    I did not mean to imply that you & your fiance are unintelligent or have ignored this part of your relationship. I’m sure you have spoken about it a lot. I don’t know at what point in his life he decided he “never wanted to marry a Jewish woman” or what that decision was based on. I don’t know how much your fiance knows about his heritage, but you have given the impression that he is not extensively Jewishly educated.

    Even IF your fiance had a 5 year after school “Hebrew School” education (most secular Jews have MUCH less), that’s about the equivalent of a 2nd grade Jewish Day School education. Would you make the most important decision of your life based on what you knew in 2nd grade?? Most people do more intense research when buying a car than they do when it comes to their religion. They base their beliefs or lack thereof on stereotypes & their own experience, which may have been presented by people with a very limited amount of knowledge. It seems from your depiction of BT relative that they are just starting their own journey. You say they were in favor of the marriage before their move toward stricter observance. This leads me to believe they may not know a whole lot themselves.

    You mentioned you are Catholic. The tenets of Catholicism are in direct conflict with the tents of Judaism. I do not understand how one can possibly observe anything from both religions & not be confused. The only way that works is if they are just going through the motions, which is meaningless & an insult to BOTH religions. This never made sense to me about interfaith families. Also, you have not mentioned how YOUR family feels about your impending marriage. It sounds like you are already living together; if so, I guess everyone is used to it by now. It is virtually impossible to do any kind of soul searching once a relationship reaches that level; emotions are too intense & preclude clear thinking.

    I think what everyone is trying to point out here is that you are underestimating the significance of one’s heritage as a role in marriage & the spiritual consequences of intermarriage.

    It seems you are oversimplifying these points & your fiance is ignoring them altogether. Unfortunately, this has become more & more prevalent.

  52. Elm
    December 21st, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

    Following Susan’s post I think I will return to observer status on this forum. I deeply appreciate all of the insights I was able to derive from many of you, but I think its unhelpful for me to remain to participate.

    Susan, I would be happy to explain how my personal religious views and my fiance’s have been made to work in harmony in a way that is certainly not an insult to Catholicism, but I don’t think that’s what you’re trying to determine. I emerged from observer status this blog to try to be helpful in response to your post, in which I heard so many echos of the other side of that very real conflict. I sincerely regret having given you the impression that my fiance and I oversimplify, underestimate and ignore these issues.

    Again, thank you so much to everyone for some genuine insights.

  53. Mark Frankel
    December 21st, 2010 @ 7:46 pm

    Elm,

    I think your continued participation here would be helpful for us and for you. Thoughtful discussion helps gain clarity among the participants.

    It is a fundamental tenant of Torah Judaism that the marriage of a Jew and a non Jew is a mistake by both parties.

    Many of our non-observant relatives and friends insist it is not a mistake but their usual justification is to dismiss the existence of a spiritual reality.

    You are not dismissing spiritual realities as evidenced from your responses in #49, so continuing to hear and understand your viewpoint is extremely valuable to us.

    In comment #49, you said
    “The spiritual reality in which I believe is that our spiritual selves are judged based on what we know, and what we do. I do necessarily think this is inconsistent with the idea that there is one spiritual reality which places different obligations on different individuals.”

    Torah Judaism also believes that our spiritual selves are judged based on what we know, and what we do, and we think that *is consistent* with the idea that there is one spiritual reality which places different obligations on different individuals, so let me try to clarify.

    Judaism is monotheistic and therefore believes there is one G-d that always existed and created the Universe.
    Our belief in one G-d necessitates that there is only one spiritual reality, communicated to mankind by that one G-d.

    Man was created to earn an eternal connection to G-d through his free choice decisions.

    The universe was created as the environment in which man would be challenged to exercise that free choice correctly.

    First man (Adam) failed in that mission.
    After 20 generations, Abraham achieved a unique connection to G-d, that warranted that he and his descendants would lead the world in it’s collective mission of perfecting the world and eternally connecting to G-d through their free choices.

    Abraham was followed by Issac, Jacob, the 12 tribes and the descent to and Exodus from Egypt which culminated in the receiving of the Torah by the Jewish people

    After the giving of the Torah, a Jew has a responsibility to fulfill 613 mitzvos (commandments) and an a non-Jew has 7 mitzvos (commandments).

    From those 613 mitzvos for Jews, some are obligatory on the communal level and some on the individual level.

    For the individual the mitzvos/obligations depend on whether the person is a Kohen, Levi, Yisroel, man, woman, child, mentally capable, blind and many other classifications depending on the individual mitzvah.

    Every time a person performs a mitzvah for which he (or she) is commanded he (or she) creates a spiritual connection to G-d and through that participates in the spiritual rectification of the world.
    If a person performs a mitzvah obligated by their classification without the knowledge and clarity that it is a mitzvah from G-d, a much lesser spiritual connection and rectification is achieved.

    When a person transgresses a mitzvah for which he (or she) is commanded, he (or she) creates a spiritual distancing from G-d and creates a spiritual damage to the world.
    If a person is not knowledgeable about the mitzvos, the damage is mitigating depending on the reason for the lack of knowledge.

    So at the end of the day we have one G-d with one spiritual reality. Our individual obligations and their commensurate connections/rectification or distancing/damage is dependent on both our individual classification and knowledge of the Torah.

    Our spiritual achievement is based on our classification, our knowledge, our actions and our beliefs.

    This is why we are pained when our fellow Jews and non-Jews do not actively participate in their personal connection to G-d and in our collective world wide spiritual rectification.

  54. Judy Resnick
    December 22nd, 2010 @ 2:39 am

    To Elm #52: I find your patience to be amazing, that you continue to read and respond to our posts despite the fact that we BT’s disagree strenuously with your life plans.

    You had mentioned in #49 that your future spouse told you that he never wanted to marry a Jewish woman. You state however that this was not due to any stereotypes he might have had about Jewish women.

    With All Due Respect, let’s suppose that a famous Latino man revealed to the media that he never wanted to marry a Latina woman. There would be such a furor. Latina women all over the country would condemn him for his attitudes toward Latina women. Latina women would rightfully claim: “If our own men don’t want to marry us, who will we marry?”

    See the analogy? Just replace one word in the above paragraph….You get the point. What if every Jewish man decided in advance that he was not going to ever marry a Jewish woman? What would become of us Jewish women? What would become of the Jewish people?

    It would be far better for a man to say, “Okay, I’m marrying a non-Jewish woman not out of any ideology or preconceived attitudes about whom I want to marry, but simply because I fell in love with this particular human being and now I want to share my life with her.”

    Love is one thing. Hatred is another.

    By the way, it is December 22, which seems like a good time to bring up another point: The Tree.

    I’m not going to assume anything about what you and your future husband are going to do, other than what you’ve told us straight out. So I will not assume anything about what you and your future husband intend to do regarding Hanukkah and Xmas. Tree? Tree and menorah? No tree?

    Elm, I know you could just tell me, Mind Your Own Business, but you’ve been extraordinarily open about sharing your life plans, even to a hostile audience like us BT’s here at Beyond BT. This ain’t exactly preaching to the choir (more like facing a pride of hungry lions ready to tear you apart).

    Xmas to many American Jews is a reminder that we live in a non-Jewish society. Maybe the rest of the year we can sort of forget about it, push it to the back of our minds, especially if we reside and work in Jewish enclaves. But December comes every year as a jolting reminder that we are only a tiny minority among a large non-Jewish population (maybe 2 percent, not more).

    Maybe we Jews in America have just learned to live with it. As Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan told Congress at her confirmation hearing, when asked about the Xmas plane bomber: “Like most Jews, I spent Xmas Day in a Chinese restaurant.” She got big laughs for that one.

    Suppose you decide one year to attend Midnight Mass on Xmas Eve, the night of December 24th. Would you expect your husband to go with you?
    Wouldn’t it be hard for you to have a husband who wasn’t sharing in YOUR own beloved holiday traditions: decorating the tree, wrapping gifts, attending church?

    This year December 24th falls on a Friday, which makes my choices easier. Like many of the women on this BT site, I’ll be spending my time getting ready for Shabbos on this short winter Friday, like any other short winter Friday, like what I’ll be doing on the very next Friday, December 31st, and on the Friday after that, January 7th. December 25 and January 1 will be Shabbos for us.

    You have been very brave and very patient to continue reading and answering our posts. I wish you a happy holiday season, however you choose to observe it.

  55. Gary
    December 22nd, 2010 @ 8:28 am

    Elm, based on your writing, I don’t sense that your fiance expressed an aversion to Jewish women; it seems that you are telling us that either he never met any Jewish women, or if he did, he did not many any that he wished to marry. Elm, could you please clarify that for us?

    These are two different phenomena; while each contributes to intermarriage, I feel that the “aversion” group can contribute to a negative view of Judaism among the populace in general, and also among their offspring who are not halachically Jewish.

    To repeat, Elm’s fiance appears to be from the “never met” group. I’ll also echo my colleagues’ wish that you continue to correspond with us, Elm.

  56. Gary
    December 22nd, 2010 @ 8:29 am

    correction: fourth line in #55 should read “he did not meet any….”

  57. Elm
    December 22nd, 2010 @ 12:14 pm

    If you were all less thoughtful in your responses and made less thought-provoking comments it would be easier to be an observer! I don’t want to upset anyone by my presence here, and I certainly don’t want to cause MORE tension between B’T and intermarried family, just the opposite!

    Mark, I greatly enjoyed reading your post! I have a few questions for clarification.

    1. Is there scope within the Torah for a persons conscience? Is it considered better to go against ones conscience or the rules for classification?
    2. Is there a trade-off between being a better person (and consequently a better Jewish person) married to a non-Jew, or is it better to be a worse person married to a fellow Jew? Or is the belief that any Jewish woman would be a better spouse for a Jewish man than a non-Jew could possibly be?

    These are both honest questions not attempts to prove anything, I just genuinely don’t know the position on these points.

    Judy, I appreciate the compliment, but I imagine talking to people who always agreed with me would be boring! What I want to avoid, though, is offending anyone.

    I wonder about your point on the Latino man. Is the problem that he says he doesn’t want to marry a Latina, or that he doesn’t marry one? What I mean is, is it any different to say I will NEVER marry a non-Jew? Is it any less problematic? Or is the problem solved by the fact that conversion is allowed, so one can become Jewish, but one cannot become, say, white? Does it have to do with your later points about the relatively small proportion of the population made up by Jewish people in America, or would it be the same if all religions were equally represented? Again, these are honest musings and I’m not trying to prove anything.

    On to the holidays(I notice everyone here uses Xmas is that considered more polite? I am happy to use it on this forum if so) I will not tell you it is none of your business! This December we lit candles in the Menorah for eight days, (if I may pat myself on the back, I make excellent latkes). We put up a tree as well, and hosted our friends–Jewish and non-Jewish– for a night.

    We will travel to see my parents for Christmas, and my mother and I will probably attend Mass. If my fiance chooses to go, he is welcome by Catholics to celebrate in most of the Mass, if he does not choose to go, he is welcome by my father to watch old Leslie Neilson movies with him and probably raid the fridge for cookie dough. I will love him just as much in either location.

    Perhaps this *is* oversimplification, but I don’t understand any fundamental incompatibility in these holidays. Everyone enjoys a good miracle, I don’t see that celebrating the Maccabees victory over the Greeks is somehow incompatible with celebrating Christmas– one assumes the man whose birth we honor on Christmas would have celebrated the Maccabees victory as well?

    Gary,

    You interpreted it more correctly, and reading back I realize I phrased it quite poorly (which is why I hesitate to speak for my fiance! he does it so much better for himself!) the conversation was more that he never wanted to marry any of the Jewish women he had met, and that he did not want to confine himself to only dating/marrying Jewish women as opposed to, as Judy so eloquently put it “This human being whom I love and wish to share my life with” no matter what religion.

    Everyone thank you so much, again, for your patience with me I realize that I am lightyears behind on knowledge.

  58. tesyaa
    December 22nd, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

    Elm, your comments are so well thought out and respectful. Just realize that most of your fellow commenters see what they refer to as “spiritual realities” as absolute truth. There is little or no room for alternate spiritual realities in their world. That is what they have been taught and they are very sincere. But if you are broadminded and believe that absolute truth about religion has not been delivered to man, then you are fundamentally incompatibly with the rest of the commenters on the blog.

    You say you are lightyears behind on knowledge. Yes, you are lightyears behind on knowledge of what Orthodox Jews believe. That does not mean you have to accept what you are taught by them as absolute truth.

  59. Susan
    December 22nd, 2010 @ 2:56 pm

    Elm,
    I certainly did not mean to insult you; please accept my sincere apology. Intermarriage is a very sensitive issue. It’s the single largest threat to the survival of the Jewish people.

    The point of this site is not to bash, but to offer insight about issues relevant to BTs. My intention was to make you aware of certain things that you & your fiance may not have thought about or discussed.

    I assume you & your fiance are fairly young (under 30). Of course I do not know you personally or many specifics of your situation. In general, your generation tends to be “feeling” driven. What I mean by that is that the single most important factor in decision making is how one feels about it. If it feels good, it IS good.

    The mantra of parents has become, “as long as they are happy”, and indeed it is said that a parent is only as happy as their unhappiest child.

    BUT, the most important things in life are often the most difficult. An analogy is given by Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski that equates human beings to lobsters. As a lobster grows, its shell gets smaller & smaller & is very uncomfortable until that growth cracks the shell & the lobster grows a new, larger one. We grow as individuals as a result of discomfort & struggle.

    AND, the Jewish view of life is that while it’s wonderful & important to be happy, it is just one mitzvah. The purpose of life is to fulfill as many mitzvot as possible, whether easy or not–the real test is to do a mitzvah when it’s NOT easy. It is through fulfilling the mitzvot that we become closer to G-d and fulfill our individual destiny.

    Jewish observance is like a muscle; it atrophies with lack of use. And just like a phone loses connection when it’s far from the power source, so do we as Jews lose connection when we are far from our Power Source.

    The reality is that one cannot observe both Judaism & Christianity. Although it may sound reasonable to expose your kids to both and let them decide, it just doesn’t work. They will not be Jewish according to Jewish law and they will not be accepted by Catholicism, which follows patrilineal descent. They will be in no man’s land religiously and will most likely reject ALL religion. It is very difficult to raise children with standards & morals in the absence of religious training. If there is no belief in G-d, one is only accountable to themselves. Hence, the insatiable & hedonistic culture of secular society today.

    As for the “December Dilema”, to celebrate both Xmas & Chanukah is downright absurd. Chanukah is a holiday of combatting assimilation of the Jewish people into the dominant society. Xmas is a celebration of the birth of Christianity. I don’t know if you would celbrate both, but you can see that to do so would be in direct conflict and an insult to either. I assume by exposing your children to both, it would be the true meaning of both and not just the commercial aspect.

    You say that you have found a way for “my personal religious views and my fiance’s have been made to work in harmony in a way that is certainly not an insult to Catholicism”. The only way to do that is to accept J as your messiah and all that goes with that view. That puts one in violation of the #1(&2) mitzvah in the Torah.

    You are very thoughtful and sincere in your plan, but I believe you are naive to think that you will have the best of both.

    The reason why posters on this site are so upset, is that a woman really has the most affect on a child’s religious upbringing. You underestimate the amount of stress an interfaith household puts on kids which is why they abandon religion. And, although your children will not be Jewish, you husband will still be Jewish no matter what. The potential of furthering our heritage dies with your husband. Reread post #22 and you can see how it works. Numbers don’t lie. A fraction of children raised in interfaith families stay Jewish or become Jewish through kosher conversion.

    Every Jew is precious to the Jewish people and every Jew lost leaves a void.

  60. Susan
    December 22nd, 2010 @ 3:29 pm

    Elm,
    I just read #57. Although you did not address me on these points, I would like to respond:

    1. Better person married to a non-Jew than worse person married to a Jew?
    An apples to apples comparison would be “good” person married to Jew or “good” person married to non Jew. Each mitzvah or character trait is judged individually and on its own merit, so this question is irrelevant

    2. Judaism, unlike Catholism is a religion of action not intention. Mitzvot & averot (sins) are about the action itself. Intentions, good or bad, do not a mitzvah make or break. And, you cannot come to a mitzvah by way of an avera (sin).

    3. People here use Xmas b/c Jews do not recognize J as messiah. Using the name lends credence to his status as savior in the Christian world. An Xmas tree is representative of the crucifix. That’s about as religious as it gets. So, you can see how an Xmas tree representing the crucifix & a menorah which symbolizes the return of the Jews to rededication or the Holy Temple and victory over the battle of assimilation, just don’t go together. There is much more to Chanukah than the latkes.

    4. You helped illustrate my point in the last post that the woman of the house has the most affect on the religion practiced in the house. You will attend mass with your mother and your fiance is free to go with & partially participate. When was the last time he went to synagogue to celebrate Jewish holidays? He is more likely to join you eventually than he is to attend synagogue.

    5. The Syrian Greeks that the Maccabees fought decended from Edom, which is where Chrisitanity originates from as well. So I doubt J would have celebrated the victory of the Maccabees. He would have been on the side of the Greeks.

    6. Your fiance sounds like he does not know enough about Judaism to know what he is rejecting by marrying a Gentile, or maybe he just doesn’t care. It seems that you would benefit from more clarity on what you are rejecting in Catholicism by marrying a Jew. Even if you still decide to get married, it’s always better to come to a decision by way of being educated.

    Think about it.

  61. Mark Frankel
    December 22nd, 2010 @ 4:25 pm

    Tesyaa,

    I was under the mistaken impression that you were Torah observant.

    Just so you know, even among the Torah observant there are differences of opinion on many subjects.

    However there are some truths that are absolute, such as there is a G-d.

  62. tesyaa
    December 22nd, 2010 @ 4:44 pm

    Mark: Elm never denied the existence of God. And Orthodox Judaism recognizes many other beliefs as absolute truth, which you have not enumerated to Elm.

  63. Elm
    December 22nd, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

    Susan,

    That was such a well thought out post,please don’t worry that you offended me– my post was more meant to illustrate that I had come to this forum in an attempt to shed light on the other side of a problem that seemed to hurting you, but instead gave you poor impressions of the thought processes of intermarried couples, which was exactly the opposite of what I planned!

    Firstly, so we’re all on the same page:
    Catholicism is not patrilineal– a baby is not Catholic unless and until it is baptized. This is one of the points that I have struggled with in the difference between the two religions– one is Born Jewish whereas one must consciously chose to become a Christian (or, as Catholics tend to be baptized quite young, ones parents must chose it for us). I hope this explains my comment dozens of posts earlier when I made reference to “coincidence of birth”. As I’ve said before, we understand that our children will not be Jewish by observant or Israeli standards, but I certainly plan to raise them with exposure and respect for the religion of the father, grandmother, etc. If they choose to convert, they will do so with my love and support.

    Would you mind clarifying point #2 for me? What does “by way of” mean? Is any good a Jewish man does while married to a non-Jewish woman automatically discounted? If he gives to charity because his wife reminds him, does the fact that he is intermarried cancel out the good of giving to charity?

    I didn’t realize that the Menorah was emblematic of the victory over assimilation, although I don’t necessarily think that it’s inconsistent in a home with one Catholic and one Jew both of whom maintain their own religion. I see that your point is that he is “more likely” to join me, although I consider that to be a very faint possibility and I would never suggest he convert, but if that were to happen, surely we wouldn’t still have a menorah?

    On point number four, would it be somehow preferable if he weren’t welcome to celebrate with me? The last time was Yom Kippur.

    Also, on your 6th point, I consulted quite closely with a priest while we were still in the casual dating stages of our relationship (before, as you correctly point out, feelings become paramount) and was reminded of the significant spiritual heritage that is shared between Catholics and Jews. I was advised on various points of Catholic marriage, but I am not “rejecting” any premise of Catholicism.

    A few posts ago you asked about my parents. While they do not subscribe at all to the notion that the only thing that matters is that their children be happy, they find him an extremely intelligent, devoted, funny and hard working young man who they are thrilled to welcome into their lives.

  64. Mark Frankel
    December 22nd, 2010 @ 4:58 pm

    Elm asked

    “1. Is there scope within the Torah for a persons conscience? Is it considered better to go against ones conscience or the rules for classification?”

    Conscience is an interesting concept which can lie among the realms of emotion, intellect and perhaps intuition. Our various influences such as family, community and experiences shape our conscience.

    As BTs we all had a different conscience before we became Torah Observant.

    When there is a conflict between conscience and Torah our task is to learn and think deeply about the conflict and try to resolve and integrate the the Torah viewpoint into our lives. This can be a lifelong process dependent on the issue.

    “2. Is there a trade-off between being a better person (and consequently a better Jewish person) married to a non-Jew, or is it better to be a worse person married to a fellow Jew? Or is the belief that any Jewish woman would be a better spouse for a Jewish man than a non-Jew could possibly be?”

    Our fundamental belief is the Torah provides the prescription for overcoming our physical self-centered aspects to become a better spiritual G-d centered person.

    The spiritual developed G-d centered person has developed his eternal soul and will often be a asset to his friends, family, community and the world.

    When a Jew transgresses the Torah by marrying a non-Jew he (or she) is taking the stance that their reasoning is superior to G-ds. This removes the person from the spiritual realm into ego-centered physical world which would make you a worse person.

    If you believe in G-d who communicated to man the spiritual laws of the universe, then there is little room for transgressing those spiritual laws.

    The reason that would do fail, and transgress the Torah is because:
    1) We give in to our physical drives
    2) We give in to our ego-centered side
    3) We don’t understand the Torah properly
    4) We need to work on our belief in G-d and His communication of the Torah.

  65. tesyaa
    December 22nd, 2010 @ 5:14 pm

    If you believe in G-d who communicated to man the spiritual laws of the universe, then there is little room for transgressing those spiritual laws.

    Mark, can you understand that some people believe in God, and even that he communicated spiritual truths to man at some point, but do not believe that Orthodox Judaism is the repository of those truths? Or that humans are incapable of fully knowing or understanding those spiritual truths? The world is full of religions. Why are Orthodox Jews so sure that they have the truth?

  66. Bob Miller
    December 22nd, 2010 @ 5:27 pm

    We have a Mesorah. Others, at some stage, have made things up on the fly.

  67. Mark Frankel
    December 22nd, 2010 @ 6:09 pm

    Tesyaa you asked

    “Mark, can you understand that some people believe in God, and even that he communicated spiritual truths to man at some point, but do not believe that Orthodox Judaism is the repository of those truths?

    Or that humans are incapable of fully knowing or understanding those spiritual truths?

    The world is full of religions. Why are Orthodox Jews so sure that they have the truth?”

    Here’s the short answer to a great set of questions:

    I believe the human mind is capable of arriving at truth in many areas. I think it’s a fundamental characteristic of mankind.

    Spiritual truths are not measurable and are reached solely on a conceptual basis so they’re a deeper and more nuanced subject then physical truths.

    Much of the world has arrived at the spiritual truth that there is a G-d without the benefit of physical verification.

    I believe that G-d created the world for a purpose to be achieved by man and I think that it is logical to assume that man is a purposeful creation with a purpose.

    It is therefore logical that G-d communicated the means to achieve that purpose.

    That purpose and the means to achieve that purpose is what I would call spiritual truths.

    If man could not know or understand these spiritual truths then it would not be logical for G-d to communicate to man or to create a world to achieve a purpose.

    Much of the world has arrived at the spiritual truths that G-d created the world for a purpose and communicated to man the means to achieve that purpose.

    The other major monotheistic religions, Christianity and Islam, do not deny that G-d communicated the purpose and the means to the Jews. They however believe that the communication was subsequently overridden.

    In summary, I believe
    1) There is a G-d
    2) He created the world for a purpose
    3) Man can achieve that purpose
    4) G-d communicated to the Jews, the means to achieve that purpose
    5) That communication is understandable by man and was not subsequently overridden
    6) All of mankind has the ability to arrive at these spiritual truths

  68. Susan
    December 23rd, 2010 @ 3:01 am

    Mark,
    I am very appreciative of your clear & eloquent explanations.

    Tesyaa,
    I’m not sure what your background is or what your interest in this site is other than to refute observant Judaism.

    FYI, Judaism is the only religion that believes righteous people of any faith can obtain a place in the world to come. One need not accept Jewish observance. Non-Jews need only fulfill 7 mitzvot, instead of the 613 required of Jews.

    Elm,
    First I want to make a big disclaimer that I in no way consider myself a Torah scholar. That being said…

    Thanks for clearing up my misconceptions about what constitutes a Catholic. I knew about the requirement of baptism, but had been told (by a Catholic) that baptism was confirmation of status at birth, not the defining factor.

    What I meant by point #2 in post #60 is for instance, that one could not fulfill the mitzvah of charity with stolen funds, fulfill the mitzvah of Sabbath observance by transgressing the Sabbath (like driving to synagogue), or fulfill the mitzvah of marriage by marrying a non Jew. I would not say that any good a man does while married to a non Jewish woman does not “count”. I think it depends on the mitzvah. Mitzvot related to marriage & procreation for example cannot be achieved in this way, but the mitzvah of charity is a completely different category in which who one marries has no bearing.

    I did not think you would ask your fiance to convert, but for 2 people to be married and each have a completely different set of religious beliefs that don’t spill over into each other (i.e. assimilate) seems unlikely. It also does not make for a unified marriage or family; it’s not healthy for the couple or future kids to have a dual belief system. At some point, one spouse’s beliefs would take a back seat and it’s usually the man’s. You seem much stronger in practice and more committed to Catholicism than he is to Judaism which is why it seemed more likely he would participate in your religion. Sure, you could have a menorah if you wanted to, but the symbolism would be lost so I don’t really see the point except to assuage one’s guilty conscience. So you see, it really doesn’t matter whether he “celebrates” with you (what does that mean anyway?) or not & you definitely have no obligation whatsoever to celebrate Jewish holidays. In fact, it’s better you don’t. That’s really confusing and makes a mockery of the ritual or holiday much in the same way it would be for him to take communion (which I know he cannot do unless a baptized Catholic). See the absurdity?

    I don’t see how a priest could see a marriage to a (non-baptized) Jew is a point in a Catholic marriage or that it is not a rejection of Catholoc beliefs. Is this the priest who you plan to marry you? I have seen liberal Rabbis as much more willing to perform interfaith weddings than priests.

    As for your parents reaction to your fiance, I’m sure he’s a great guy and your parents are warm & reasonable people who can appreciate a great guy. But, I would think they would still rather you marry a great Catholic guy than a great Jewish guy. That would not make them bigots, it would make them PARENTS.

  69. Dave
    December 23rd, 2010 @ 1:52 pm

    FYI, Judaism is the only religion that believes righteous people of any faith can obtain a place in the world to come.

    Not true. Judaism may not even be the largest religion to believe so, since the Mormons will pass us in numbers pretty much any day now.

  70. Mordechai Y. Scher
    December 23rd, 2010 @ 4:43 pm

    Dave, do the Mormons believe that even without the post-mortem baptising they do to redeem dead souls?

  71. Dave
    December 23rd, 2010 @ 8:19 pm

    Mordechai:

    Yes. We get a lesser (but still pretty nice) deal in Paradise, with the option to upgrade after death.

    I pointed out to a Mormon friend of mine that, since I was guaranteed Paradise if I didn’t convert, and there was the risk of losing it if I did become a Mormon and then later converted away, really my best bet was to not convert, and see what happened.

    He laughed for a good long time, and agreed that it wasn’t a bad plan.

  72. Susan
    December 24th, 2010 @ 12:08 am

    Interesting

  73. Tzivia Esther
    December 26th, 2010 @ 12:39 pm

    Hi Judy,
    I realize that this is not anywhere near your post, however,I just want to make mention of the fact that we Litvaks arrived at the same time as the rest of the Eastern European Jews, and the German Jews weren’t too thrilled with us.
    Zayda was born in Vilna. He went to Slobodka. I suspect that he must have connected up with Jacob Schiff at one point, because he entered the U.S. via Galveston,Tx.
    Jacob Schiff was probably the one who sent him to Chicago to live. He sent most of the Eastern European Jews who were “too Jewish” for him to the Midwest. He felt that their presence in New York and the rest of the East Coast was eliciting prejudice from the residents there. Perhaps he saw them as dirty, ignorant people who lived in overcrowded tennements.
    German and French Jews lived in countries that were affected by the enlightenment. My Zayda’s landsman, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky was not. He had to hide things like Dostoevsky and Science books under his bed!
    Polish born Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer went O.T.D. because his father, who ran a Chassidish Beis Din didn’t want him to read secular books in the local library.
    Re: my family: Bubbe’s parents were Karliner Chassidim. I’m glad that Bubbe and Zayde aren’t here to see what is going on with some of their descendents. At those family gatherings that we can attend, we treat everyone with respect, even if some aren’t Jewish. Re:attending v.s. not attending: halacha is our guideline. Nobody is judged. We are living in crazy times!

  74. Charlie Hall
    December 26th, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

    “People here use Xmas b/c Jews do not recognize J as messiah. Using the name lends credence to his status as savior in the Christian world. An Xmas tree is representative of the crucifix. That’s about as religious as it gets. So, you can see how an Xmas tree representing the crucifix & a menorah which symbolizes the return of the Jews to rededication or the Holy Temple and victory over the battle of assimilation, just don’t go together. There is much more to Chanukah than the latkes.”

    Susan,

    As I pointed out in a comment on another thread, the “X” is actually the Greek letter “Chi” which has been used by Christians as a symbol of “Christ” (which is simply the Greek word for “Messiah”) for over 1500 years.
    We don’t accomplish anything by using the “X” except to confirm a Christian minhag. Christmas trees are a much more recent innovation, probably of pagan origin, and were limited to Germany until about 200 years ago. You are absolutely correct that they have no connection to the Chanukiah; I wish people would stop displaying Chanukah and Christmas symbols together.

  75. Tzivia Esther
    December 26th, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

    Dear Elm,
    Before you contemplate your marriage any further,please consider the following possibilities: 1. Go together and talk with a competent rabbi (Orthodox) to find out how Judaism has been defined throughout the ages. 2. Think about the implications of a mixed marriage: By definition, your children would be non-Jews. Thus,in Orthodox circles, your husband to be’s descendents would have no connection to the Jewish community at large. In addition, they would not be eligible to live in Israel under the law of return.
    3. In my greatgrandparent’s time, when a child married outside the faith, his/her parents covered the mirrors and sat shiva. (mourned the death of their child for 1 week) Contact with the child who married out was cut out completely. The non-Jew could have been the nicest person in the world. It didn’t matter. Again, the child who married out was considered as dead as a doornail. At that time, it curbed assimilation.

  76. Judy Resnick
    December 26th, 2010 @ 9:48 pm

    To Elm #63: Once again, please understand that while we are very respectful of you as an intelligent and open-minded individual, we on this blog (which by its very nature, is run by seekers who have chosen observant Judaism) in general do not approve of your future plans, which you have nevertheless courageously chosen to discuss with us.

    From what you have revealed to us on this blog, it appears that you are far more comfortable with observance of your Roman Catholic religion than your fiance is with observance of his Jewish religion. I surmise this from your personal choice to attend church for Midnight Mass on December 24th, whereas I would guess that your fiance chose not to attend synagogue on Kol Nidre night, Yom Kippur Eve. Please don’t think that I am judging these personal choices: it is just an observation, nothing more.

    But I would guess from the fact that you voluntarily, of your own free will, went to church (nobody forced you) that you are less uncomfortable with going to church than your fiance is with going to synagogue. If I’m 100 percent wrong, stop me here.

    I would think, then, that future children, faced with one parent who wouldn’t walk into a synagogue if you paid him, who is indifferent to all things Jewish, versus the other parent, who has good memories of her own religious traditions and happily attends Midnight Mass on Dec. 24 and beautifully decorates the tree…they will be getting a very contented view of Roman Catholicism and a very sour view of Judaism. It does not need to be explicit, it will be implicit in your future household that being Catholic is a warm, loving experience, just like Mom and Grandma and Grandpa, and that being Jewish is something to avoid, just like Dad avoids it.

  77. Susan
    December 27th, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

    Thank you Charlie for the clarification

    My sister is a long term patient in a Catholic (excellant) hospital. Many of the nurses wished me a Happy Chanukah both last week (before) & yesterday, the day after Christmas. I simply thanked them & said I had a nice holiday.

    It seems many believe that Xmas & Hanukah are connected somehow. That’s because the commercial aspects are tied together no matter when Hanukah falls.

    Tzivia,
    I have not heard of an Orthodox Rabbi from ANY orientation (Litvish, Sephardic, Modern Orthodox, Chassidic, etc) who still advises sitting shiva for a Jew who married out.

    Times are different and the current philosophy is that it no longer serves as a detterent, it just drives the Jew away farther & faster.

    In your great grandparents’ time, Jews knew more and it was a conscious (davka) decision to marry out. Most Jews these days are tinok shenishba and have no clue as to the ramifications of intermarriage.

    I personally feel we must keep a connection with all Jews unless they are a danger to body or soul. This would apply even more to family members. You never know what affect that positive behavior can have on a person. At the very least, they will have a positive association with Orthodox Judaism.

    Judy,
    Well put

  78. Bob Miller
    December 27th, 2010 @ 1:19 pm

    The classic tinok shenishba metaphor seems to have assumed no easy access to traditional Jewish thinking.

    It’s sad that, in our Information Age, we can still speak of this type of tinok shenishba. Evidently, the mind is capable of bypassing, ignoring, or pushing away unfamiliar ideas no matter how accessible these really are.

  79. Gary
    December 27th, 2010 @ 1:23 pm

    In Susan’s comment, #77, and also in Judy’s article on “December 25th,” I noticed a common practice that somewhat troubles me.

    Both writers mentioned that non-Jews wish them “Happy Chanukah” and that they (the writers) reply with Happy Holidays.

    In my contacts, non-Jews have wished me Happy Chanukah, Happy Passover, Happy New Year, Shabbat Shalom and an Easy Fast.

    If non-Jews take the time to learn our holidays by name, and extend good wishes to us in that manner, then I think that we should address them in the same way at the time of their festivals.

    I don’t feel that this indicates my personal acceptance of their theology; it does indicate that I recognize the importance of their theology to them.

    Judaism is the right religion for Jews — hopefully we will see no more of our people leaving the fold through conversion of intermarriage. However, non-Jews are entitled to their beliefs. They are also entitled to our respect and consideration.

  80. Gary
    December 27th, 2010 @ 1:28 pm

    Bob, regarding your comment in # 78.

    I have heard people describe themselves as “proud but ignorant Jews.” With the wealth of information available to all Jews from a variety of sources, those people are really saying that they are “proudly ignorant Jews.”

  81. Judy Resnick
    December 27th, 2010 @ 7:52 pm

    To Gary #79: I must shamefacedly confess (maybe I should klop “Al Het” for this one) that I actually do say “Merry Christmas” to some of my non-Jewish co-workers and others, I just didn’t want to admit it on this blog. I also wish some of my Latino and Latina co-workers “Feliz Navidad” and “Feliz Nuevo Ano.” They all laugh at my terrible Spanish pronunciation, but what the hey, it’s the thought that counts. I also like the throw in the nice sentiment about “Peace on Earth, goodwill towards men,” everybody smiles.

    I used to have a Muslim co-worker named Fatima, a very nice person, moderate religiously (no headscarf). We used to get our jollies in late December prancing around the office singing, “Feliz Navidad” together, in what you might call the “dance of the infidels.” As I said in a prior article, I do have a rather offbeat sense of humor.

    I know that there are Xtians who are angry about “Happy Holiday” replacing “Merry Xmas,” so I try to actually wish those individuals greetings for their specific holiday. Some of this anger is unfortunately directed against Jews, whom they see almost as the Grinch that stole Xmas when we complain about nativity scenes in front of public buildings. I remember that a few years ago a Chabad rabbi on the West Coast tried to get the Seattle International Airport to put up one small menorah to go along with its twelve huge splendidly decorated trees. The airport refused and instead changed the trees to “winter trees,” still decorated but in a sort of neutral manner. When publicity about this got out, the Chabad rabbi received very ugly hate mail and death threats, as if he had somehow taken away the holiday treats from everyone. It is unfortunate that Jews become the targets for a backlash against diversity during this winter holiday season.

  82. Dave
    December 27th, 2010 @ 10:12 pm

    It was Seattle, and that wasn’t quite what happened.

    When the airport refused to put up the 8 ft Menorah, Rabbi Bogomilsky threatend a lawsuit. It was in response to that threat that the trees were removed (not altered).

    [A few weeks later, after the threat of the lawsuit was dropped, the trees went back up]

  83. Tzivia Esther
    December 27th, 2010 @ 10:38 pm

    Dear Susan,

    Just out of curiosity, what do Orthodox rabbis tell their congregants to do if one of their children is thinking of marrying out?

    It tends to be more prevalent among other denominations,and unfortunately, there are “rabbis” who are willing to compromise long standing Jewish principles by performing mixed marriages. How on earth do we take a stand and tell people that a Jew and Gentile simply don’t belong together? I’d love to see a post on this. If a guest rabbi could comment, it would be great.

    My late father told me that he’d sit shiva for me if I ever married out, and I told the same thing to my son because this was the only thing I’d ever heard in my lifetime. If this solution is no longer in use, I don’t know what to say.

  84. Tzivia Esther
    December 27th, 2010 @ 11:13 pm

    To Susan:
    We do have gentiles in my family, much to my chagrin. (I don’t mince words.) Our relatives respect our decisions when we don’t come to affairs that aren’t kosher. One cousin married out on Labor Day. We boycotted the wedding and sent no gift. We are still on good terms with his parents. My relatives understand that I love them no matter what, but my principles must take precidence over everything.

  85. Tzivia Esther
    December 27th, 2010 @ 11:52 pm

    Dear Judy,
    I noticed that you are on the board, and I’d like to ask you a favor. Can we please have a rabbinical consultant who can answer the kind of complicated questions that appeared
    in this column? In that way, Elm and Tesyaa could receive a more scholarly answer than we could possibly provide. The OU and Aish Ha Torah have such services. So does Ask Moses. Please let me know what you think.

  86. Gary
    December 28th, 2010 @ 1:00 am

    Judy,

    Re: your comment #81:

    Don’t be ashamed to extend greetings by the name of the holiday. You’re in good company, regarding holiday greetings, as well as offbeat humor.

    There are also many serious issues that are raised in your comment.

    What, if any, restrictions should be placed on Muslims regarding their public religious practices, particularly women’s attire? If the Muslims are forced not to wear headscarves (either by law or by social pressure) how can we claim the right to wear kippot, sheitlach, hats, tzitziot, peyot, etc.? What will we do when the law prohibits beards that obscure facial features? The concept that Jews should be wary of regulations that restrict other religions (even paganism), lest restrictions be enacted against us, is discussed Rabbi Michael Broyde here:
    http://www.jlaw.com/LawPolicy/MITTLEMA.pdf
    Rabbi Broyde also cites Orthodox Jewish leaders who do not recommend seeking legislation that promotes Jewish concepts, but rather legislation that allows people to conduct themselves within the tenets of their faith. This discussion covers issues such as determination of death and abortion.

    (Some may say that restriction of Muslims is a necessity, because we are at war with Islamic terrorists. That is absolutely true, but many of our allies in that fight are also Muslims. Can we make the “privilege” of wearing religious garb contingent on passing a political screening?)

    How can we protest Nativity scenes, while at the same time conducting public Menorah lightings, with blessings recited by rabbis, with every local politician relishing the photo-op?

    It’s interesting that you cite a Menorah/Nativity case involving Chabad. Much of the opposition to public display of symbols that are sacred to a particular religion is voiced by Jews. Regrettably, I think that many of those Jews are afraid that the Jewish symbols that would sprout would force them to confront their alienation from their own faith.

    People who wish to do so should extend specific holiday greetings to other people, while business should stick to business and government should stick to government. People should be free to practice their religion in public places, while public institutions (governmental or commercial) should be free of religious symbols.

  87. Judy Resnick
    December 28th, 2010 @ 2:18 am

    To Tzivia Esther #85: Thanks for the compliment, but I’m really only a lowly Guest Contributor. The people running this blog are Mark Frankel and David Linn.

    It is a good idea to occasionally refer complex questions to a halachic or hashkafic authority. Then again, Beyond BT never wanted to substitute for one’s own local Orthodox Rabbi and poseik. This was meant to be a discussion group for Baalei-Teshuva and Geirim looking to find a supportive community in cyberspace.

    If you have in mind a particular rabbi or rabbinical organization that you want to point people toward, by all means go ahead. I note that occasionally rabbonim do post articles on Beyond BT, when they are invited to do so by the administrators. Why not send an email to the administrators at BeyondBT @ gmail.com asking for the advice of a consulting Rav to handle these questions? Or list links to other websites where you think questioners will get better answers to tougher questions.

    Chabad.org’s website does have an “Ask the Rabbi” section, of course that is going to be from a Chabad-Lubavitch perspective. Any Rav’s responses will be geared to his own worldview.

  88. tesyaa
    December 28th, 2010 @ 11:37 am

    This was meant to be a discussion group for Baalei-Teshuva and Geirim looking to find a supportive community in cyberspace.

    If this is the case, have the administrators considered making it a private board, the way ImaMother is open only to married females? Since it’s a public blog, some commenters have been making comments that appear to upset some other commenters and contributors. It wasn’t clear that certain comments might be considered upsetting or out of place, due to the public nature.

    I understand the need for a support system. If so, I strongly urge this site consider a semi-private status.

  89. Mark Frankel
    December 28th, 2010 @ 11:46 am

    Tesyaa, thanks for the suggestions and we encourage someone to create a semi-private blog, although it might be questionable as to what the participation rate would be.

    We’re pretty comfortable with our public blog choice and we didn’t intend Beyond BT as only a discussion group but rather as a support resource, which includes discussion but also includes articles, audios, information and live get-togethers.

  90. Tzivia Esther
    December 28th, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

    Dear Judy,
    I will be sure to follow your advice a.s.a.p. In the meantime I’d like to let the readers of this blog know that Rabbi Kalman Pakouz of Aish Ha Torah wrote a guide on intermarriage that appeared on this blog in 2007. Last night, it was featured once again.
    Those who are interested in it should do a search for Kalman Pakouz or intermarriage. If it doesn’t surface here, it should surface on google.

  91. Susan
    December 28th, 2010 @ 4:10 pm

    Tzivia Esther-
    There’s no way to bring someone back to Yiddishkeit if you totally cut them off. There is a big gray area between sitting shiva and officiating at a “wedding”.

    For my own family situation I wrote my nephew a 3 page letter & sent it to him when I found out he was in a serious relationship, which was 3 days before he proposed. In that letter, I laid out, point by point, all the important things to contemplate when marrying out that he may not have thought of. The letter was strong but loving & respectful and showed real concern and sensitivity toward his girlfriend instead of just telling him that a Jew cannot marry a Gentile. I acknowledged that it is, of course, ultimately their decision but I felt it was my responsibility to tell him these things. I also told him that nobody had the right to pressure her to convert, it is her decision alone. I showed this letter to several local Rabbis (including Jews for Judaism) who specifically deal with intermarriage & all 4 said the letter was excellant. One even used it in a class for he had on dating.

    Needless to say, I brought up all kinds of issues that NOBODY in the family had discussed or even thought of. I also sent his fiance the book “Becoming a Jew” by Rabbi Maurice Lamm which goes over the expectations and responsibilities of a convert. My nephew was so angry, he did not speak to me for almost a year until he showed up on my doorstep one evening (he’s a 2hr flight away) to ask me all kinds of questions regarding Judaism and marriage. I answered them completely and factually, but left my own opinions out of it. His fiance decided NOT to convert before the wedding. His (now) wife decided on her own to convert “Conservative” 3 years after they were “married”. I was the first person she went to with questions while studying for the conversion. I told her beforehand that her conversion would not be universally accepted and how that would affect their 2 kids & gave her more sources for information on kosher conversion. She appreciated the information, even though she did not ultimately have a kosher conversion. For them, it was enough to study intensely (2 yrs) have the Rabbinic interview and go to mikvah (her & 2 kids).

    They both know we do not recognize her or the kids as Jews. I am kind, polite and respectful to her as a human being. My door is always open for questions. I am fond of her as a person, even if I believe she is not the destined choice for my nephew. She herself is fascinated with Judaism but feels she cannot push my nephew into more observance b/c he’s just not interested. It would not surprise me if someday either she or her child(ren) decide to convert al pi halacha.

    You can download Rabbi Packouz’s book (How to Prevent an Intermarriage) for free on the internet. Another excellent book is “Why Marry Jewish?” by Doron Kornbluth. There are many compelling reasons given for marrying within, and why it is in your own best interest to do so.

    From the few Rabbis I have spoken with, they suggest one tell the Jew who is (or at risk of) marrying out that although you will love them no matter what, you cannot support the marriage. Of course, this works best if it is ingrained from childhood. Saying you will not support the marriage is open to interpretation. How far you take it (spouse not welcome in house, etc.) is a matter for which you should seek psak halacha.

    Gary,
    My post #77 said,

    “Many of the nurses wished me a Happy Chanukah both last week (before) & yesterday, the day after Christmas. I simply thanked them & said I had a nice holiday.”

    WADR, you misquoted me. I did not say I wished them “Happy Holidays”, I said thank you, I had a nice holiday (which BH, I did albeit a month ago). I actually wished them a Merry Christmas b/c that is their holiday. I only use “Happy Holidays” if I’m not sure what holiday one celebrates.

    In general, asking for Rabbinic comment on the site is a great idea, but for guidance you really should consult your own posek.

  92. Gary
    December 28th, 2010 @ 5:15 pm

    Susan, re: # 91,

    I misread your comment in # 77, thinking that you wrote “have a nice holiday” instead of “I had a nice holiday.” I apologize for my mistake. Most of all, may your sister have a complete and speedy recovery along with all the sick among our people, and of all nations.

  93. Susan
    December 29th, 2010 @ 5:14 pm

    thank you Gary, for those kind words

  94. Tzivia Esther
    January 1st, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

    Dear Readers,
    I am writing to ask your slicha and mechila for anything I’ve written that has rubbed you the wrong way. So much of what I’ve put down here was written while I was in a state of anger. That is never the way to go.
    Elm, I want to apologize to you more than anyone else, if you are still reading this blog. Nobody is ever allowed to cause anyone else any pain.

  95. Judy Resnick
    January 2nd, 2011 @ 8:42 pm

    I think we’ve all been very respectful of Elm as a person, while we’ve strongly disagreed with her actions, and her rationale for those actions. Elm understood from the beginning that this blog wasn’t anywhere close to being a “Bridget Loves Bernie” support group, but she voluntarily chose to continue the discussion even when other commenters were openly critical of her life plans.

    Tzivia Esther, I don’t recall you making any ad hominem personal attacks on any other commenters. Having different opinions adds spice to this blog. There is a lot to be angry about in the world, and expressing your anger in a 100 percent Kosher way is not wrong. I think we are sometimes too afraid of offending that we never express any opinions at all. I personally don’t feel that you need to ask for Slichah or Mechilah from anybody on this BeyondBT blog. Believe me, we’ve heard worse out there in the blogosphere and in cyberspace. I for one would like very much to continue reading your comments, and if you are angry, then please keep on writing, maybe there really is what to get angry about – how do you think something finally got done about pedophilia in our community, people got angry and said, “enough is enough.”

  96. Tzivia Esther
    January 2nd, 2011 @ 11:16 pm

    Dear Judy,

    Thank you for your support. I genuinely appreciate it. It has always been fun blogging with you, and I wish you the best of everything.

  97. Tzivia Esther
    January 2nd, 2011 @ 11:34 pm

    Best wishes to everyone else who contributes to Beyond B.T. It is not easy to change one’s lifestyle and thought patterns. There are so many family situations that one might be confronted with that it defies the imagination. Everyone here is truly brave. Chazak V Amatz.

    I will no longer be blogging here. Much of my kiruv came via the Bnei Akiva movement, and my ideas are inconsistent with the ideas of the overwhelming majority of the bloggers. This can only add to the confusion that faces a B.T.

  98. Gary
    January 3rd, 2011 @ 12:10 am

    I second Judy’s thoughts on Tzivia Esther and Elm. They should keep their comments coming!

  99. Bob Miller
    January 3rd, 2011 @ 9:15 am

    Tzivia Esther,

    If all our views here were exactly in synch, what would we learn? Religious Zionists are Jews, too!

  100. Susan
    January 3rd, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

    Tzivia Esther:
    Although I do respectfully disagree with your viewpoint on sitting shiva for those who marry out, I was in no way offended by any of your comments. No need to ask for mechila, but if it makes you feel better, I am mochel you.

    I do not have much experience with Bnei Akiva, but from the little I do know, I am surprised that this is their stance on the issue of intermarriage.

    I don’t think there is any one concensus of opinion here. I do not know anyone personally, but I’m sure we come from a VERY wide variety of backgrounds, past and present.

    Klal Yisrael is an orchestra……

  101. Judy Resnick
    January 4th, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

    Susan #100 is 100 percent right when she says, “Klal Yisrael is an orchestra.” An orchestra consists of many different types of instruments, from the bass viol to the piccolo, from the French horn to the piano, from the oboe to the tympani. Each has its own unique sound, which when combined makes magnificent music.

    How would it sound if the orchestra consisted only of 100 tubas? It would be quite weird. It wouldn’t even be a marching band (which has also fifes and drums). It would be some kind of a “Tuba-Thon” or freak show, but certainly not an orchestra!

    There are a lot of roads back. Some people become “chozrei beTeshuvah” through Chabad, some through Aish – Discovery, some through Hineni. G-d has myriad ways and means.

    I personally would love to hear more about Bnei Akiva and how it helped Tzivia Esther to discover Jewish observance. Is Bnei Akiva still functioning and active, or is it now defunct? Religious Zionism definitely has an important place on the spectrum of Jewish religious observance; think of all of those young men in Hesder Yeshivot and in the observant IDF units.

  102. Elm
    January 4th, 2011 @ 6:41 pm

    Tzivia Esther:

    No need to apologize to me! I am still reading, but I took a break over Christmas. I never EVER expected to start commenting on this forum and find support for my decisions! I started reading this blog because one of my soon-to-be relatives is B’T and there have been some pretty interesting conflicts/compromises because of it, and I want to make sure I’m approaching my new relative with as much understanding as I possibly can. You all have helped me SO much in that, and for that I thank you. Per your comments on sitting shiva, there is no risk of that as intermarriage is a very common element in my fiancee’s family. Also, we’re aware that our children will not be eligible for Israeli citizenship unless they convert in an Orthodox manner, and we are OK with that fact. I have considered discussing intermarriage with a rabbi, as I have with a priest, but it seems to me to be the case (judging from this forum) that an Orthodox rabbi will simply tell my fiance he has to go find a different woman to marry than the one he loves, which will not be helpful in giving him a positive view of the Orthodox community (problematic for our B’T relative) but will also not help me in my genuine desire to better understand the religion my soon-to-be-husband is a part of.

    Susan

    I’m definitely in need of some clarification from WAY back up the thread. You said:
    “you definitely have no obligation whatsoever to celebrate Jewish holidays. In fact, it’s better you don’t. That’s really confusing and makes a mockery of the ritual or holiday much in the same way it would be for him to take communion (which I know he cannot do unless a baptized Catholic). See the absurdity?”

    I’ve celebrated several Jewish holidays both with my fiancee alone and with his family. I do not understand how my participation in these celebrations (which have not included attending synagogue which I can see might have been offensive to people present) is in some way sacrilegious, as a non-Christian receiving communion would be. Is there a specific rule that says non-Jews should not participate in these holidays? I’m particularly attached to Passover as the story of the Exodus made up a fairly important part of my religious education. We have typically celebrated it with a mix of Jews and non-Jews but no one has ever suggested to me that non-Jewish participation was in some way forbidden, I would definitely like to know if I’m likely to offend!

    Also, on the Menorah point, we don’t have a Menorah out of “guilt” or to put side by side with the tree to demonstrate our interfaithness…we bring it out for Chanukah and light candles during those nights as an entirely separate holiday that my fiancee celebrates.

  103. Gary
    January 4th, 2011 @ 10:23 pm

    I’d like to address a comment above by Judy
    (# 101)

    The relationship between baalei teshuvah and organizations can reflect both sides of the chicken and egg coin (how’s that for a mixed multitude of metaphors?). Someone may start from scratch with an organizational seminar or website viewing; others might start on their own, and discover the organizations later in the process.

    In my own case, I have had very little involvement with organized outreach. I got involved with a Jewish fraternal/religious organization (the religious aspects include some rituals and application of Jewish “principles” to our lives), mainly as a social outlet. The organization had a profound effect on Judaism’s role in my life.

    After about one year of involvement in the organiztion, I began looking for a new home. The choices were narrowed down to two houses in different neighborhoods. For some reason (hasgachah pratit/divine supervision) the final question that I asked the agent concerned the Jewish population in each neighborhood. I took the house in the neighborhood described as more Jewish, but until I moved in I didn’t realize that the majority of Jewish neighbors were Orthodox! I attended a Conservative synagogue, met some Orthodox people (including some Lubavitchers) through my job in another part of the city, and gradually became friendlier with my neighbors. I became Orthodox after about two years, but with little contact with the Orthodox kiruv organizations.

    I don’t know how common my process is, but I think that my development (still a work in progress) shows the importance of community for each of us. As the many articles here on “BT Integration” and “Community” attest, no matter where one learns, finding the right community can make all the difference in the world.

  104. Susan
    January 6th, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

    Elm,
    Welcome back.

    To clarify the comment I made way back, your participation in anything Jewish would not be a problem for most American Jews today. The average (& even more affiliated) Jew today has little knowledge of the meaning of Jewish holidays & sadly, little interest in learning. Much of Jewish observance in the non-Orthodox streams “fit” Judaic beliefs into their particular lifestyle, much in the way an archer can draw a target around the arrow and hit a bullseye every time. In reality, the Torah is a “system” to which one builds their life around. Only “Orthodox” Jews subscribe to written and oral Torah as having been given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, then passed on to the generations. Other streams view Torah as something to “fit” into modern life whereas Orthodoxy analyzes aspects of modern life to see if it conforms to Torah law. It’s approaching a belief system from opposite angles.

    That being said, you, as a non-Jew have no obligation whatsoever to celebrate any aspect of Jewish holidays. Being married to a Jewish man has no bearing on it. It’s ironic that secular or non-Orthodox Jews often feel that it’s an afront if the non-Jewish spouse does not recognize or participate in Jewish holidays. The Jewish spouse & the non-Jewish spouse are separate entities in this respect.

    What I meant by my comments way back is that if one studies the meaning behind Jewish holidays, it is absurd to celebrate them as interfaith celebrations. Case in point, Chanukah is a celebration of winning the battle of assimilation of Jews of that time assimilating into the dominant culture. Passover, is the celebration of freedom from our slavery in Egypt. But if you take a closer look, only 20% of the Jewish slaves got out. Those who assimilated (changed their manner of speech, dress, food, etc.) died during the 10 plagues along with the Egyptians.

    Does that help clarify things for you? As I’ve said before, I am no Torah scholar, and any deeper questions should really be addressed to an Orthodox Rabbi who specializes in Interfaith matters. I think you are oversimplifying matters to say that an Orthodox Rabbi will simply tell your fiance to “go find a different woman to marry than the one he loves”.

    BTW, you said you spoke with a priest about your impending marriage, but you never said if he “supported” it. WADR, how can you, as a practicing Catholic enter into a marriage not recognized by your own faith? I realize that “love is blind” but blind people without the proper education, tools and support just bump into walls.

  105. Susan
    January 6th, 2011 @ 6:24 pm

    Correction: In 2nd to bottom paragraph, It should have read “go find a different woman to marry other than the one he loves.”

  106. Elm
    January 7th, 2011 @ 12:55 pm

    Susan,

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply. Can you tell me what WADR stands for please? The priest I spoke to is extremely familiar with interfaith marriages, it requires a dispensation of form (which is to say, the wedding is celebrated without the Mass) but as a Catholic I fulfill the vocation of marriage (wife and mother) no matter who I marry so long as that person does not impede me from practicing my religion. This is why I think my “oversimplification” of what I would be told by an Orthodox rabbi. If I have interpreted everything I’ve read here correctly (and I may not have!) an Orthodox rabbi will tell my fiance that he is committing a grave error by marrying the woman he loves, and that he should go find a different (Jewish) woman to marry OR that I should convert. The guidance I have received on the subject is that so long as I do NOT convert (which would be me being impeded from practicing my faith), my marriage is sacred within the Church. My husband will be “recognized” in my own faith as my husband, and no devoutly Catholic relatives will leave his name off wedding invitations or consider me dead to them.

    I’m still confused, though, because I think your point on Passover was that Jews who assimilated were killed by the plague, but if my fiance is not “assimilated” which is to say he’s still a practicing Jew, how does that apply?

    Our holiday celebrations are not “interfaith” if by that you mean blended with any Catholic traditions– we celebrate Chanukah in the same way Jewish couples celebrate it, and Passover is interfaith in the sense that both Jews and non-Jews attended, but there was no blending. I accept that I have no obligation to do so, but I have no obligation to do so many other things that make my fiance happy!

  107. Judy Resnick
    January 7th, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

    WADR means “with all due respect.” IMHO means “in my humble opinion.” Just short examples of 21st-century electronic etiquette.

  108. ross
    January 9th, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

    Elm,

    My brother got married to a non Jewish woman in a church because, in his words, “we liked the stained glass windows.” To him, the church and his wife’s religion had no meaning, they were both technicalities.

    Many unafilliated Jews celebrate holidays for the same reason. The channukah candles are pretty, the Passover seder has great food, the Sukkah is fun to build, etc. However, in reality, each of these holidays has much deeper meanings attatched to it.

    But in every one of them, without exception, and I mean WITHOUT exception, each holiday celebrates, recognizes, CRIES OUT, that even though G-d created everyone in His image, He chose the Jews as special people, and that we are to stay together as a people, and that this is infinitely important in the spiritual realm as well as in the physical realm.

    Celebrating holidays and traditions have meaning specifically to Jews, with the intent that a Jew should recognize this meaning.
    Now, these holidays can be “observed” superficially like I described above, and Passover was just so fascinating, whatever it meant, and we’re so proud of little Georgie lighting his first candle, etc, or they can be looked upon as representing something greater, (which they do because these holidays were not created in a vacuum), which is in total contradiction with your future plans.

    Since you chose this site to express your feelings, and you hopefully know by now that you are very welcome here, you see that we all go for the deeper, intrinsic meanings of things.

    So natually it seems very ironic when you talk about attending a holiday, in whatever capacity, where the meaning of the holiday itself says, “You are be a nice person, but this has nothing to do with you.”

    WADR;)

  109. Susan
    January 9th, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

    Ross,
    Hazak U’baruch

    Elm,
    I don’t believe an Orthodox Rabbi living in the 21st century would tell a man about to marry out that “he is committing a grave error by marrying the woman he loves, and that he should go find a different (Jewish) woman to marry OR that I should convert”. That stereotype should be left at the door.

    More likely, an Orthodox Rabbi would speak with your fiance, explain more about Judaism he is unfamiliar with and give him the tools to make his OWN educated decision. Rabbis don’t dictate and Jews are not merely sheep who follow. You did not specifically say this but the implication was there. Jews have been the worst offenders in perpetuating stereotypes, but I think you’ve seen from this forum, that the reality is far from what’s in the (entertainment) media.

    By “interfaith” I don’t mean holidays blended together (i.e., Christmakkuh), but interfaith in the sense that one day we are celebrating Christian holidays and next week, month, etc. we are celebrating Jewish ones.

    A “practicing” or “religious” Jew is one who observes Torah law, mainly kashrut, Shabbat observance and Mikvah laws (after marriage, of course). Rushing through an abridged Passover seder to get to the matzah ball soup, eating potato latkes and hosting the family for break the fast after Yom Kippur do not really constitute what makes a practicing Jew. Most Jews who consider themselves “practicing” don’t know many Jewish holidays even exist, what they commemurate or when they are. Does your fiance pray regularly, observe the Sabbath every week, eat only kosher and celebrate ALL Jewish holidays/holy days? I doubt it.

    Assimilated means “to integrate somebody into a larger group, so that differences are minimized or eliminated, or become integrated in this way”. By this definition, your fiance is “assimilated” since he is presumably integrated into the dominant Christian culture in America today. Before you say America is not a Christian country, find me a shopping mall in December without a Christmas tree & we’ll talk.

    Jews have NOT assimilated into the dominant culture by keeping our (Hebrew) names, our language (Hebrew) and observing Kashrut. I think it’s fair to say that those Jews who do not separated themselves from the dominant culture in this way are “assimilated”.

  110. Bob Miller
    January 10th, 2011 @ 8:51 am

    Orthodox rabbis typically try to make the best of bad situations. Someone contemplating an intermarriage would not exactly be the type who listens to or cares about Orthodox rabbis. Since a direct order would be disobeyed, the rabbis can at least offer advice, which would probably be disobeyed, too! However, strategy or tactics for damage control do not make the planned intermarriage any less odious from a Jewish point of view.

  111. tesyaa
    January 10th, 2011 @ 11:03 am

    Let me ask Susan a question. Do you really care what Catholic doctrine says about Elm marrying a Jew? Or are you just looking for any argument to convince her not to marry her Jewish fiance? Any argument that might work? I am sure that you don’t really care what the Church says, but you do care if it will convince Elm to change her mind.

    Susan, there are hundreds of Jews marrying out every week. There must be a better way for you to work at averting intermarriage than by working on the one or two cases that wander into Beyond BT. Start an anti-intermarriage organization. But why pick on Elm?

  112. tesyaa
    January 10th, 2011 @ 11:04 am

    Susan, many Jews who are not Orthodox consider themselves “practicing”. I understand you do not. But that’s your interpretation of the word “practicing”. It’s not the only interpretation.

  113. Elm
    January 10th, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

    Tesayaa,

    Thank you for coming to my defense! I don’t think Susan is picking on me, though, and I do recognize that intermarriage makes most of the people on this forum very unhappy. A Priest at Brandeis pointed out fairly recently that Catholics might feel differently about intermarriage if the numbers were different– i.e. if there were hugely more Jews than Catholics and if, by welcoming intermarriage, Catholics felt that their own continued existence was imperiled. I think that is a strong point and I am trying to keep it foremost in my mind when reading all of these posts. A number of posts ago, Judy gave me a really interesting point to think about, which is, how will I make sure my children DON’T get a very sweet view of Catholicism along with a very sour view of Judaism. I always consider that our household is quite balanced and mutually respectful, but where I really think I may struggle will be with the question of “Why does Mommy’s religion accept Daddy but Daddy’s religion doesn’t accept Mommy?”

    Tesayaa I’m also inclined to agree with your interpretation on “practicing”. I know rather a lot of intensely religious Jews who do not practice the Mikvah laws for personal/philisophical reasons but they would never consider themselves not “practicing”

    Bob (And Susan!),

    I’m very interested to hear that the immediate answer isn’t “A different wife or convert” but my stereotype comes from other people I’ve known who have been in similar circumstances. Would you be able to give me an example of what an Orthodox Rabbi might say to ‘damage control’ the ‘bad situation’ of our marriage? I apologize for the perceived stereotype however and am glad for the correction.

    Ross,

    For your sake and your brothers I hope you are still very close! If you don’t mind my asking a personal question were you able to attend the wedding in some capacity? As I’ve mentioned before one of my reasons for viewing this blog is to try to figure out how to have a strong relationship with my soon to be relatives who are B’T

  114. ross
    January 10th, 2011 @ 1:45 pm

    I actually submitted a post which describes the circumstances or my brother’s wedding…I didn’t attend, and he hasn’t spoken to me in almost two decades. To him, Judiasm is some superficial religion of which he observes zero, and it’s hard for him to fathom how people believe that there’s meaning in any of this. (Not that he ever attempted to try.)

    One of the things I mentioned in the post is that before I was a BT and things were superficial to me also, I saw nothing wrong with his engagement, but once the deeper meaning comes in, it becomes a total contradiction to his whole mariage. (This, by the way, has nothing to do with his right to do whatever he wants, nor did I actively try to stop him.)

    Although I have reached out to him in the past, I could never have him at, say, a holiday meal, where we outwardly declare that the Jewish people stay together, and he and his wife would be sitting there, an anthesis of this, and participating.

    It’s like a Red Sox fan at Yankee stadium. Or a famous abortion doctor at an anti-abortion rally. I could be more creative.

  115. Elm
    January 10th, 2011 @ 2:05 pm

    Ross,

    I’m so devastated to hear that you and your brother are estranged– its one of my major relationship concerns because I’m a very family oriented person. I’ll look up your post rather than ask you for the details.

    May I ask, again please excuse me if this is too personal, was it hard to tell your brother that, even though you supported his engagement, you now didn’t support his marriage?

    You mentioned in response to one of my earlier posts that “this has nothing to do with you”. Do you then suggest that it *is* offensive for a non-Jew to take part in Jewish ceremonies? As I mentioned to Susan I am trying to be sensitive to offending people.

  116. Mark Frankel
    January 10th, 2011 @ 2:33 pm

    Elm,

    If this is too personal, please excuse me.

    If you found an exact copy of your fiance, except he was Catholic, marrying the Catholic copy would make more sense based on what you’ve posted regarding your talk with your priest. Marrying a Jew might be acceptable, but marrying a Catholic would be better. So the total acceptance of intermarriage from your religion’s point of view is not accurate.

    From what you’ve posted, the chances of your children choosing Judaism is much less probable then them choosing Catholicism. That seems pretty clear, yet you feel that you will be giving them equal options, which also doesn’t sound accurate.

    In observant Judaism we learn that our biases often effect our judgment and our ability to see thing clearly. Although your very smart and are trying to be objective your foregone conclusion that you and your fiance should get married seems to be effecting your decision process.

    We all have this bias problem, but you might want to step back and think about whether an intermarriage is the best option for you, your people, your fiance, your fiance’s people, your children. You might come to the conclusion that ideally it’s not the best option, but you love him anyway, a decision millions of intermarried couples have made. But be clear that you’re primarily driver for your decision is emotion over intellect.

    In observance Judaism we believe emotions is an important component but we use our intellect to control and drive our emotions. Perhaps Catholicism feels differently, but at least be clear that this very important decision is being driven by emotions and the intellect is taking a back seat.

    It seems clear that it’s not the best option, but you love him and

  117. Bob Miller
    January 10th, 2011 @ 2:50 pm

    When the intermarriage involves a Jewish woman and non-Jewish man, rabbis are concerned about their future children, who will be considered Jewish according to Jewish law regardless. So a rabbi might counsel the woman’s family to maintain friendly relations with her in the hope that at least her children will someday decide to live as Jews. When the intermarriage is not yet done but is virtually assured, cases may exist where a rabbi would counsel likewise—but I haven’t heard of any.

  118. Elm
    January 10th, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

    Mark,

    Not too personal but I do appreciate your asking. It is not accurate to say that an exact (Catholic) copy of my fiance would be preferable, because that is not an exact copy of my fiance, whose family, traditions and upbringing are all components of who he is and why I love him. However to deal with your example, as far as the Church is concerned it is equally sacred that I marry him or that I marry his Catholic clone, our marriage is as valid as my parents marriage between two Catholics is. As a Catholic I am called to the vocation of marriage and its duties and privileges, and my marriage is recognized as a sacrament. Were my fiance Catholic he would also be receiving a sacrament but no matter what he is still called to the vocation and it is still considered sacred. Some priests do still consider intermarriage more “risky” but from a Canon Law perspective, they are equal.

    I do want to get some clarity on children and religion though. You’re correct that I *do* feel that I am giving them equal options (insofar as they don’t exist yet) as far as it is in my power to do so– I cannot make them have a Jewish mother, for example. Much of their view of Judaism will have to come from my in-laws, and I can only hope that they aren’t turned off by, as in my earlier example, the realization that their mother’s religion accepts their parents marriage while their father’s doesn’t (I know a lot of Catholics who left the Church before intermarriage was recognized for that very reason). I can commit myself to helping them learn about Judaism and encouraging them as best I can to ask questions of their more observant relatives, but I don’t quite understand why you feel I am not giving them “equal options” I accept that you may be right in the bias point and that is why I am seeking your input into what I may be missing.

    Bob,

    Can I extrapolate from your post that a rabbi would not think it beneficial for in-laws to maintain friendly relations with a non-Jewish daughter in law, as her children aren’t Jewish anyway? Asking honestly so I don’t miss anything!

  119. Mark Frankel
    January 10th, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

    Elm, you wrote above that

    “The priest I spoke to is extremely familiar with interfaith marriages, it requires a dispensation of form (which is to say, the wedding is celebrated without the Mass) but as a Catholic I fulfill the vocation of marriage (wife and mother) no matter who I marry so long as that person does not impede me from practicing my religion. ”

    I understand that technically it’s considered a full marriage, but the fact that is requires a dispensation of form (which is to say, the wedding is celebrated without the Mass) indicates that it’s not preferable, yet you stated marrying a Catholic would not be preferable, all things being equal.

    What am I missing here?

    On the point of your children’s choice, you seem to be faithfully follow and embrace your religion while your fiance does not seem to embrace religious Judaism. In addition according to both Catholicism and Judaism, your children will be born Catholic. Those two factors alone would certainly pre-dispose them to remaining Catholic, so I’m again missing how you see it would be an equal choice.

    In a quick perusal on the Internet, although technically marriage to a Jew may be equivalent to a Catholic it does not seem to be the preference or even an equal choice, but raht

  120. Susan
    January 10th, 2011 @ 4:37 pm

    Tesyaa,
    I am not trying to stop an intermarriage through this forum of someone I don’t even know; that is ridiculous.

    In my personal experience, I have found that most people involved in a potential intermarriage have not thought the whole thing through and are making the decision purely out of emotion and with complete ignorance of the religious view of that intermarriage. My objective is to get them to think about things they have not thought through and make an EDUCATED decision–period.

    Mark explained the idea of making decisions based on intellect instead of pure emotion way better than I.

    As for my question regarding Catholic doctrine, it goes to my objective of getting Elm to think since she is the one posting NOT her Jewish fiance.

    OTOH, your main purpose on this forum is unclear since your posts on this thread are mainly to dispute Orthodox Judaism. If you find Orthodox Judaism so distasteful, perhaps another vehicle would be a better forum for your views.

    Elm,
    Torah Judaism does not solicit converts so I wouldn’t worry about anyone trying to convert you. We are too busy trying to keep the Jews we already have (Reform & Conservative have believe it IS a good idea to solicit converts from the pool of intermarriage). As for the definition of “practicing”, you can define it any way you wish. The fact remains that the amount of Judaism “practiced” by a non-kosher observant, non-Sabbath observant, some (&not other) holidays are observed kind of Jew is more non-practicing than practicing.

    OTOH, Christianity DOES actively seek converts so it’s not so far fetched that b/c you are more connected to your religion than your fiance to his, that your priest/church will try to convert your Jewish spouse over time in the interest of your nuclear family harmony. Don’t be surprised if it comes up at some point. Even though your church and priest seem like they are at the liberal end of Catholicism, I’m sure as Mark said, all things being equal, you marrying a Catholic is preferable to marrying a Jew.

    I would be suspect of “intensely religious Jews” who do not practice Mikvah laws for “personal/philosophical reasons” since this practice defines “religious” Jews. It’s as fundamental as keeping kosher & Shabbat.

    I agree with Mark that emotions are clouding your intellectual ability to look at your impending marriage.

  121. Bob Miller
    January 10th, 2011 @ 4:42 pm

    Elm asked,

    “Bob,

    Can I extrapolate from your post that a rabbi would not think it beneficial for in-laws to maintain friendly relations with a non-Jewish daughter in law, as her children aren’t Jewish anyway? Asking honestly so I don’t miss anything!”

    I couldn’t say. Situations and people differ. I was describing something that seemed more general.

  122. ross
    January 10th, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

    Elm:

    “I can only hope that they aren’t turned off by, as in my earlier example, the realization that their mother’s religion accepts their parents marriage while their father’s doesn’t.”

    Of course they’ll be turned off. Why wouldn’t they be? What difference does it make if they’re not Jewish anyway?

    Anyway to answer your question, it was impossible to explain to my brother, because how do you explain such a thing? If he can’t relate to my change, then he “will not compute.”

    As far as your second question, is it offensive for a non-Jew to take part in Jewish ceremonies, the answer in no. The Jews might just wonder why that non-Jew is there.

    HOWEVER, it would be offensive for an intermarried couple to attend a Jewish ceremony, not because you are offensive people, but because the whole idea of what an intermarried couple represents is opposite to what the ceremony represents, and the family attending believe in the second message and want to experience the holday in the proper way. They will tell over thoughts about the holiday with this message, and in the meantime, staring at them is a couple with the opposite message: Your holiday is wrong, intolerant, biased, etc. Even if you don’t say it outright, and even if you both are the nicest, sweetest, most non-threatening people on earth, but this is what your presence as couple represents.

  123. Elm
    January 10th, 2011 @ 4:49 pm

    Hi Mark,

    Ah I see the confusion! The reason for the dispensation of form is because half of the guests (give or take) including the groom and his family cannot receive communion. It is considered wrong that a married couple start off a life together by being apart for a section of the mass. I see how this could be perceived as not preferable. This, by the way, would also be true if I was marrying any other non-Catholic Christian. It is not considered less ideal or less sacred because of this,just a nod to the sensitivities of half of the people present at the wedding to ensure that there are not undue pressures put on the newly married couple.

    I have pointed this out earlier, but my children are not “born” Catholic. One becomes Catholic by intention, utilizing your own free will (your or your parents) when you are baptized. As I’ve mentioned earlier I cannot make my children Jewish for the purposes of Orthodox Jews, though it may be that your point is that they would not convert later in life? While my fiance is not particularly observant, we have relatives who are, and so I feel that exposure will be about equal. I cannot make my fiance more observant, nor would I want to change him (rumor has it that is the #1 no no for married couples!)

  124. Elm
    January 10th, 2011 @ 5:01 pm

    Ross

    Sorry I missed your post in my response to Mark. The reason I ask about your brother is because we had a relative go through an about-face during the course of our engagement. At first we were literally staring at each other thinking “how can this have been the best thing he’d ever heard of on Tuesday and on Wednesday it’s a travesty” but we eventually determined that it had nothing to do with how much he loved my fiance and I, and hopefully we’ll all muddle along from there.

    You asked “what difference does it make if they’re not Jewish anyway?” To me, the difference is that Judaism is their fathers religion and their aunts and uncles and grandparents. They will have Jewish roots. I want them to be raised respecting and participating in their father’s faith to the degree possible, and if they decide that they want to convert I want to support them in that decision. If they do not want to convert, at the very least I do not want them looking at their relatives and thinking that they are biased, intolerant people who do not love them because they could not accept their parents marriage. There are plenty of prejudiced people out there already, I have no intention of raising any!

    Ross I’m still struggling with your point that it is acceptable for me to participate in Jewish ceremonies but not with my fiance/husband. Please bear with me I am really trying to tease this out. For all of our dating and engagement I have been invited to holidays and ceremonies–and it sounds as though you think this is ok?– do I just stop showing up the day after we get married? Wouldn’t that almost certainly keep my fiance (then husband) from attending? Wouldn’t that upset his family, who already knows that we are going to be married? I’m terribly confused by the distinction between my presence as a person and our presence as a couple.

  125. Mark Frankel
    January 10th, 2011 @ 7:17 pm

    Elm

    I did some googling, and it doesn’t seem true that Catholics are just as happy when Catholics marry Jews as they are when they marry Catholics. If you could point me to some sources where this is said explicitly I would appreciate it.

    You said “While my fiance is not particularly observant, we have relatives who are, and so I feel that exposure will be about equal.” I don’t see how you can consider the exposure as equal, so I’ll assume for now we have very different definitions of equal exposure.

    Both you and us Beyond BTers have spent some considerable time discussing this issue (and we can certainly continue), but I’m saddened that you still feel the reason we think this marriage is bad for both you and your fiance is because we’re intolerant.

    Although we may not have expressed it properly throughout the discussion, the basis of the objection for observant Jews is that
    1) We believe that G-d created the world and gave the world the Torah through the Jewish nation
    2) The Torah defines the spiritual realities of the world
    3) One of those spiritual realities is that it is harmful to the participants and the world when a Jew marries a Non-Jew.

    You can disagree with our theology, but please try to accept and understand that the basis to our objection to your prospective marriage is spiritual and not because of intolerance.

  126. Elm
    January 10th, 2011 @ 9:53 pm

    Mark,

    Thank you for the thoughtful reply– I’m sorry if I’ve lost sight of the spiritual realities for all of you, I am getting a little bogged down in arguments of practicality: it seems that the major objection is that my children will be raised without Judaism and my husband will be assimilated.

    One of the best resources so far I’ve seen on the subject of intermarriage specifically as it pertains to Jews and Catholics is here; I imagine as a Priest at Brandeis he had a lot of exposure! My specific information comes from the priest at my former parish, and it was he who told me that from a spiritual perspective my marriage was sacred no matter to whom.

    Here is the link: http://www.interfaithfamily.com/life_cycle/weddings/A_Catholic_Priests_Perspective_on_Interfaith_Marriage.shtml

    I find the last line of his article especially helpful to me even while I frequently remind myself of his early comments that the perspective would be different if it were a billion Jews rather than a billion Catholics. I apologize again, Mark, if I lost the spiritual forest for the practical trees. I never, EVER meant to imply that I found anyone intolerant (although I would like the point out that so far my pending marriage has been described as “problem” “damage” and “odious” in the last few posts alone, so perhaps I might be excused my oversight?)

    Susan,

    My priest, and my Church, would never consider attempting to convince my fiance to convert, not to say they wouldn’t have thought of it, but I made it clear in the run up that I loved my Jewish fiance the way he was, and I would not accept a clerical attempt to change him! That would be a quick way to lose a member of the congregation! I believe they will respect these wishes, and if they do not, there are rather a lot of other Catholic churches out there that will.

    I don’t worry about being asked to convert, but given the forum responses it seems the only advice that a rabbi could give would be EITHER marry someone else OR convert, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of middle ground for Orthodox Jews, although correct me if I’m wrong.

    Speaking for myself (and it looks like I’ll need to) I think I’ve done really rather a lot of deep thinking on this matter. Do you get many non-Jews visiting this site so they’re fully aware of how to relate to their B’T eventual relatives? I may take that back because who knows how many people are quiet observers as I was! I have also responded to you previously to say that there was a lot of thought put into this during the dating stage, not just the engagement stage, and so I’m beginning to wonder why the default assumption is that I’ve somehow left my common sense and intellect with the ring box? Perhaps this is just how it is coming across, and I am going to take Marks good advice and try to banish all thoughts of intolerance.

  127. ross
    January 11th, 2011 @ 10:21 am

    Elm-

    “For all of our dating and engagement I have been invited to holidays and ceremonies–and it sounds as though you think this is ok?–”

    (Sorry–I meant an engaged or married couple.)

    That’s why I made a distinction between people who celebrate holidays superficially and those who go for the deeper meaning. If your relatives invited you and don’t have a problem, then to them the holidays don’t present a contradiction. But for us on this site, and who knows…perhaps for even relatives who attended your ceremonies but didn’t do the actual inviting, we do go by the deeper meanings and see a blatant contradiction.

    Look, it really might pay to ask around to see if any other relatives who will attend your ceremonies might be offended by the presence of you as a couple. Or, it might be none of them could care less.

    As far as your kids having Jewish “roots”, this is a funny word. We use it for all ancestors, but it doesn’t apply to religion the same way. Judiasm doesn’t recognize “roots” if it doesn’t come from the mother. They are completely not Jewish, as are my brother’s kids, and we don’t even call them cousins or nephews.
    This sounds painful, but when I hear my mother sing their praises and say how wonderful they are and how special they are, I believe her. I have no doubt. But we don’t share any roots.

  128. Elm
    January 11th, 2011 @ 10:58 am

    Ross,

    I will take your advice in terms of making sure that no one is offended at ceremonies we both attend, but I believe the consequence here would be that, if someone did object, both my fiance (then husband) and I would not attend, not that he attends without me. I’m afraid that might not be the outcome anyone is really looking for but it may be the best possible.

    As for children, I think it is unlikely that my children’s grandmother will deny her grandchildren share roots with her. Certainly they’re not Jewish according to Orthodox Jews and the State of Israel, but biologically and emotionally, there are still shared connections. If that wasn’t the case why are there so many stories on BBT about how to keep the children close with their cousins and interact with intermarried relatives? Also, would the daughter of an intermarried couple in which the mother is Jewish not recognize her father, because he isn’t?

    It seems to me a shame that you’re punishing children because you disagree with the choices of their parents. I sincerely hope I never apply the same standard and tell my children that their Jewish cousins are not their cousins because they don’t share my religion.

  129. Mark Frankel
    January 11th, 2011 @ 11:50 am

    Elm, Again I think we’re talking in different languages physical and spiritual.

    Physically we can recognize the biological parents, but in the spiritual realm there are definitions of what makes a parent.

    These are spiritual laws which are immutable, so it’s not a question of fairness.

    In observant Judaism we are constantly following halacha, which is a set of spiritual laws set forth in the Torah. Perhaps that is why we can accept spiritual realities and the difference between them and physical realities. You seem to be having trouble accepting that there are immutable spiritual laws.

  130. Elm
    January 11th, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

    Mark,

    You’re right, I am clearly missing something. Are you saying that accordingly to spiritual law, one should reject their father/nephews/nieces? Ross specifically says that he does not call them nephews/cousins etc, does that mean one shouldn’t call their non-Jewish parent their father?

    Imagine someone trying to frame this point from the opposite direction and perhaps you’ll see where I’m confused:

    Elms Hypothetical Child: Mommy, can we see Uncle ______ and our cousins _______ this weekend?

    Elm: No, dear, and they’re not your uncle or your cousins.

    Elms Hypothetical Child: Why not Mommy???

    Elm: Because they’re not Catholic like Mommy.

    I can only imagine there would be OUTRAGE, and justifiably so, at that sort of treatment to someone–particularly a relative– who is of a different religion.

  131. Mark Frankel
    January 11th, 2011 @ 12:15 pm

    Elm,
    – One shouldn’t reject their father/nephews/nieces
    – You can call them father/nephews/nieces, because that is true in the physical realm, even though it is not true in the spiritual realm.
    – The Torah teaches that we should try to have good and peaceful relationships with friends, relatives and every human being.
    – Every situation is different and many are difficult and I don’t think any thinking observant Jew would give the answers in your hypothetical conversation.
    – We need to try very hard not to offend people. Sometimes people get offended even if we do our best or because of the situation, but we must still keeping on trying not to offend.

  132. ross
    January 11th, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

    I agree with everything Mark said. Reject? Who said reject? We can be peaceful and interact with everyone.

    But privately, in our home, we don’t need to call anyone cousins or uncles. And when YOUR child asks to see uncle whoever and cousins whoever, just say yes. When MY kids ask that, I can tell them what I want according to their age and what I believe. Either way, we can do both without making waves or impinging on our private beliefs. Why make a whole public scene about anything?

    As far as punishing kids, mine won’t feel punished, and my brother’s kids are his kids so he can call us whatever he wants, and again, no one needs to make a scene.

  133. Elm
    January 11th, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

    Ross,

    When I referred to punishing, I don’t mean your children although you can’t yet know what they will think of your decisions when they’re adults, and like any parent you just have to do the best you can. I was referring to your brothers children. Your (legal and biological) nieces and nephews. You have decided on their behalf that they don’t need a relationship with their (legal and biological) cousins and uncles because you disagree with the person their father (still your spiritual brother I assume?) fell in love with and married. I’m sure you don’t care (as they’re not Jewish) what that will make them feel like towards you personally, but is that really the message that observant Jews are trying to send about themselves? When *they’re* adults, do you want them taking away the history that their Jewish relatives didn’t give them the time of day? I thought this thread was about *avoiding* alienating family?

    Mark,

    On a spiritual level, could you explain how the person who is your father is spiritually not your father? Also, if the Torah instructs good and peaceful relationships with relatives, how does refusing to acknowledge them as nieces/father/nephew or whatever possibly foster a good or peaceful relationship? I feel like I am getting two very different representations between you and Ross and I want to be very clear about what I’m understanding. I have to say honestly I’m coming away from this with a much more negative view than I was getting earlier in the thread, and I’m beginning to understand that maintaining a relationship with my B’T relative might require some deeper thought and consideration if the messages I’m getting are correct. I certainly have no plans to expose my children to people who will not acknowledge their relationship. I want to be extremely careful to make sure these thougths are based on what I’m actually hearing.

  134. Mark Frankel
    January 11th, 2011 @ 2:34 pm

    Elm, Because there is a difference between spiritual and physical perspectives.

    Let me try to use an analogy. Let’s say a state didn’t recognize same-sex marriages, but their employer did for health insurance purposes. The couple might consider themselves “married”, the employer would consider them “married”, but the state would not consider them “married”. The definition of “married” changes depending on the context. So too the definition of married changes in Jewish Law because it is dealing with a spiritual perspective.

    As I said before and as Ross agreed, I don’t think a thinking observing Jew would refuse to acknowledge or reject his nieces/father/nephew.

    You’ve stated previously that you understand and accept that they’re not Jewish because you’re not Jewish. So from a Jewish spiritual perspective, they’re not connected, but from a biological and legal perspective they are related and they should be treated well.

    Most observant Jews try hard to treat their non-observant Jewish and non-Jewish relatives well. Because of the emotional charge of the situation, and because observant people are not always treated with understanding by non-observant Jews and non-Jews, and because we’re all human, we sometimes have trouble reacting properly to the situation.

    That’s why it’s such a popular topic here, because it’s a difficult situation.

  135. tesyaa
    January 11th, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

    Because of the emotional charge of the situation, and because observant people are not always treated with understanding by non-observant Jews and non-Jews, and because we’re all human, we sometimes have trouble reacting properly to the situation.

    Nicely said. Mark, all people should treat observant Jews with understanding. Does that mean that non-religious relatives must accept the spiritual realities that the religious person accepts? Is there any concept in the frum world of “agree to disagree”?

    I realize this is highly charged, so again, I think your highlighted comment puts it well.

  136. Elm
    January 11th, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

    Mark,

    I am quoting Ross directly in saying that he doesn’t recognize his nieces and nephews as such and that they aren’t called his childrens cousins– I could never make that up!

    I accept your analogy, and I am perfectly willing to accept that the Torah says that spiritually they are not your cousins/father/niece etc, but what I am asking is, what does the Torah say they are? I also wonder if there are more recent rulings on this by Torah scholars as we live in a more intermarried world and there are a lot of people with only one Jewish parent…has the topic been revisited?

    On the last point about observant people not being treated with understanding by non-observant and non-Jewish people: obviously I am doing my best to understand my observant relatives to be, in doing lots of research and trying to genuinely understand the situation. What about the reverse? Are non-Jews and intermarried people expected to be treated with understanding? Again, I’ve been told recently that my upcoming marriage is odious, what level of understanding do you think that implies?

    I really am starting to get nervous. Not about my marriage, but about those relatives. If they hold the same opinions as people on this forum tend to, why I am driving myself nuts looking for the correct Kosher caterers? Instead of feeling like I understand their position better, I feel insulted even though they haven’t said anything themselves!

  137. ross
    January 11th, 2011 @ 4:15 pm

    I feel like there’s a pattern: I say something, Elm is shocked, and Mark does damage control ;)

    “I have to say honestly I’m coming away from this with a much more negative view than I was getting earlier in the thread, and I’m beginning to understand that maintaining a relationship with my B’T relative might require some deeper thought and consideration”

    This is a positive thing, because when it comes to a BT, having an intermarriage in the family is a more complicated situation, and deserves more thought. It doesn’t mean you won’t have a relationship with him, but it’s not so black and white as one who just sees “cousin” and “uncle”.

    As far as punishing my brother’s children, I’m not deciding anything. If my brother decided after all these years that he wanted to talk again, I would be open to seeing his family. They’re nice people. Then in their minds, they can decide for themselves what kind of relationship they think exists between us. But I wouldn’t make any speeches about us not being technically related. As I pointed out, I reached out to my brother many times, and he decided to stay distant.

    A lot of things require deep thought. If we decided everything by our emotions, than religion and meaning go out the window.

  138. Bob Miller
    January 11th, 2011 @ 4:30 pm

    Jews entering into an intermarriage are fully responsible for the ensuing family tensions, even if family members can later mitigate some of the associated problems.

  139. Mark Frankel
    January 11th, 2011 @ 4:30 pm

    Elm, I think Ross meant that he doesn’t recognize them from the spiritual perspective.

    If the Torah doesn’t consider it a spiritual marriage, then they would be children born out-of-spiritual wedlock.

    According to Torah Judaism, certain/most spiritual laws are immutable. Marriage between a Jew and non-Jew is one of them.

    As I said a number of times before non-Jews and intermarried people are expected to be treated with understanding and respect.

    I don’t think the term odious was a proper term to use and my sincere apologies on behalf Beyond BT and whoever used it for the offense it caused.

    Elm, the opinion of this forum is that your marriage violates spiritual laws and most of the people object to it on those grounds, but you should be treated with respect, which we’re trying to do and my apologies again for our failures in that regard. We’re trying to do the right thing and I would advise you to try to do the right thing in all your endeavors. The hard part is being introspective, honest in our assessment of the situation, and to be driven by our intellect over our emotions.

  140. tesyaa
    January 11th, 2011 @ 4:34 pm

    Bob, Mark, & Ross – I’m surprised you expect Elm to accept the same spiritual realities you accept. If you want others to accept that you accept them – that’s 100% appropriate. But why would you think others would not want you to extend the same courtesy? (accepting that they accept other spiritual realities)

  141. Bob Miller
    January 11th, 2011 @ 4:37 pm

    “I don’t think the term odious was a proper term to use and my sincere apologies on behalf Beyond BT and whoever used it for the offense it caused.”

    I used the term because it accurately describes how udaism has traditionally viewed this event. Mark is free to react whichever way he chooses.

  142. Mark Frankel
    January 11th, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

    Tesyaa, you asked “Does that mean that non-religious relatives must accept the spiritual realities that the religious person accepts? Is there any concept in the frum world of “agree to disagree”?”

    After properly understanding and observing halacha and Judaism for a while a person should feel that the Torah’s spiritual realities are as true and real as physical realities.

    Let’s try the analog of gravity, do we have the option of not accepting it? We don’t coerce people to observe the laws of gravity, but for people we care about, and ideally that should be everybody, we try to convince them the laws are true and they should move away from the edge of that cliff. Of course the physical laws of gravity are easier to measure, demonstrate and accept. Spiritual realities are conceptional by definition, so seeing the truth of these realities is much more difficult.

    In regard to “agree to disagree” there are different ways that is used:
    1) both our viewpoints are valid
    2) my viewpoint is correct, but I’m not going to be able to convince you at this time, so let’s move on and have a beer

    In the frum world there is no room for 1) in regard to spiritual realities, but there is plenty of room for 2) and we should use that option judiciously. Even when we move on for now with option 2) we should try to make it clear in a non-offensive way that we don’t believe both our viewpoints are valid.

  143. Mark Frankel
    January 11th, 2011 @ 5:01 pm

    Tesyaa, it’s quite clear that Elm doesn’t accept our spiritual realities and the focus of my dialog was not to convince her that she should accept the Torah viewpoint and observe the 7 commandments incumbent on a non-Jew, although that might be an interesting thread.

    My goal was to explain to her how her marriage was spiritual damaging and therefore improper according to Torah law and that this was the basis of my objection. We also discussed other thing including the fact that this spiritual law is considered immutable. Her quest seems to be a search for understanding of the Torah position and that’s what I’ve been talking about.

  144. Elm
    January 11th, 2011 @ 5:05 pm

    Ross,

    Fair point– I am going to try to turn off my shocked face for the duration! In terms of this BT, there is already an intermarriage in the family– the parents! They (and we) have gone to great lengths to be supportive and accommodating of his choices, even when it created substantial strain and inconvenience. I have never had a problem with this, because, as above, I think we need to be supportive and accommodating of our families. Where I am now giving it more thought is in the “well, what about the other way”? As I said before, they were totally in favor of our engagement and marriage, and have not expressed any objection to it since becoming more religious. I have (in pursuit of supporting and accommodating) been doing lots of pre-wedding preparation to ensure they can participate as much as possible, at the moment calling caterers to determine what sort of Kosher they are, so I can have a few meals available, both at the wedding itself and during the weekend. Reading these posts, I’m beginning to feel like I’m wasting my time. Why am I going out of my way?

    Bob,

    I have to respectfully disagree. I think its possible for both sides to cause the tension.
    Also, returning to the title of how can we avoid alienating our families, how does putting all the blame on one person help in not alienating people?

    Mark,

    I think the spiritual side of this transcends a bit into the every day. I imagine it must be very challenging to think of children as spiritually illegitimate and still work to ensure they have a relationship with you and your children. I am not saying everyone treats intermarried people badly, just that there seems to be some spiritual excuse-making for some much more planar behaviors.

  145. tesyaa
    January 11th, 2011 @ 5:08 pm

    Mark, how can a person non-offensively say “My viewpoint is valid, but yours is not?” I’m sure it can be said politely. But non-offensively?

  146. tesyaa
    January 11th, 2011 @ 5:15 pm

    Mark, you request that observant Jews be treated with understanding. That probably means, in a small part, that you would not want someone to tell you that your viewpoint was not valid. Yet you are quite willing to tell another person that his or her viewpoint is not valid.

    I know you will say the difference is that the Torah holds the true spiritual realities. You also acknowledge that not everyone accepts those spiritual realities. How do you justify treating another person with a lack of understanding, by saying directly that his or her viewpoint is not valid?

  147. tesyaa
    January 11th, 2011 @ 5:17 pm

    Believe me, I’m quite familiar with the phenomenon! My wonderful husband often says (much truth is said in jest) that while the American way is to say “I’m OK, you’re OK”, the Torah way is “I’m OK, you’re chayav kares” !!

  148. tesyaa
    January 11th, 2011 @ 5:18 pm

    Mark, I mean no harm. You & my husband would get along 100%.

  149. Mark Frankel
    January 11th, 2011 @ 5:25 pm

    Tesyaa, Personally I’m fine with people telling me my viewpoint is not valid, but I always try to ask them to support and clearly explain their position. If I’m wrong, then I want to be corrected.

    When disagreeing with others, a good approach is to find common ground, highlight the point of disagreement and support your position. If the person can’t handle being opposed for whatever reason, then clearly you shouldn’t have a discussion with them and you can say that you disagree.

    Saying “I agree to disagree” implies more than saying “I disagree”, and it’s an expression I personally never use.

  150. Bob Miller
    January 11th, 2011 @ 5:30 pm

    A mature person will not automatically take an honest difference of opinion as a personal slam.

  151. Mark Frankel
    January 11th, 2011 @ 5:36 pm

    Tesyaa, no offense taken, you kept it non-personal.

    Elm, as I mentioned before the situation is emotionally charged and beyond the spiritual considerations, it is often perceived that the intermarrying relative is renouncing his/her Judaism to some degree by the observant relatives.

  152. JDHR
    January 11th, 2011 @ 10:05 pm

    I am a frequent reader of this forum, though I’ve never posted before. I would like to address a comment to Elm.

    Dear Elm,

    Please consider this, if only for a second. It may happen, however improbable it seems right now. Some day in a very distant future, your fiance might feel the need to explore his spirituality and as a result become more observant. It might happen because of a particular event in his life, a person, a book he reads, or for no apparent reason that he can put his finger on. As a result, you both will end up in a very difficult situation, with a very painful outcome no matter how this situation resolves. Becoming a more observant Jew and being intermarried is like trying to force together two pieces of a puzzle that don’t fit together.

    I know you don’t think it can happen to your fiance, but please consider it. I am speaking from my personal experience, and if it happened to me, it can happen to any Jew. For many years my Judaism extended to fasting on Yom Kippur (regretting that I have to miss classes or work) and avoiding ordering pork chop in a restaurant. So I was probably even less “involved” than your fiance is. I had a sincere belief that two religions can coexist in the same household. Actually, in our household there was lack of any religion, since neither one of us was “practicing” our respective religion.

    It continued for many years creating no obstacles in my intermarriage. And then things changed. I don’t remember how it started. One book lead to another, then to a class, then to another class, you get the point. Eventually things have gotten to a point when resistance was encountered and tension started building between us.

    When fundamental differences of such magnitude arise in a relationship, they completely alienate the two people. There are only two ways out of such situation, and both are very, very painful for all involved: either your family breaks apart, or you continue to live your life the way you used to, only now realizing fully that you are not being true to yourself, and essentially living a falsehood.

    Needless to say, at the end you end up with two people being hurt, no matter which way the situation resolves. It is sad.

  153. Susan
    January 12th, 2011 @ 2:36 am

    JDHR,
    Well put.

    Elm,
    If you are not having issues with your husband’s BT relative, why are you getting so heated up by what strangers on a forum think? Do you honestly believe that all Orthodox Jews think alike? If anyone here made that assumption about Gentiles, you’d be plenty insulted.

    You are confusing how one behaves with how one internalizes their beliefs. One can behave politely, respectfully, “accepting” (whatever that means) and still fundamentally disagree with someone else’s choices. Accepting a family member’s intermarriage means accepting the reality; acceptance does not mean celebration or even support. You can still love someone close to you and not agree with their choices.

    WADR, you just don’t get it and I don’t think you will unless something happens to rock the boat in your marriage. What everyone here is trying to point out is that the difference in your faiths could, at some point, be an issue that drives you & your husband (& kids) apart. I have seen it happen too many times to believe it’s a fluke. And, I’m sure you are thinking “that won’t happen to us because we love each other so much…”. Love is just not enough to sustain a marriage.

    I think you are looking for validation here & support for your plans. It’s not going to happen. You will only get “support” from people who think like you.

    Also, if you have described the situation with BT relative accurately, they are either a little mixed up (if so, no wonder you’re confused) or you’ve misinterpreted their actions. The whole scenario sounds strange. Most Orthodox Jews would not get involved in an interfaith wedding to the extent that they need kosher food for the entire weekend’s events.

    You have used so much pretzel logic in your posts that I don’t think you even know what all the nitpicking even means. Sounds to me like you were just looking for an excuse not to like BT relative. If you don’t care for them b/c of their personality, style of communication, etc., fine, but don’t pick apart the entire Judaic belief system in the process.

    Nuf said

  154. Dave
    January 12th, 2011 @ 2:40 am

    Marriage is an ongoing committment.

    It is possible that an intermarriage will end because the Jewish partner decides to become religious.

    It is possible that an intermarriage will end because the non-Jewish partner decides to become religious.

    It is possible that an inmarriage will end because one partner will decide to become more religious. Or less religious. Or convert to another religion entirely.

    It is possible that any marriage will end because one partner will determine that they are gay (or, for that matter, straight).

    And of course, marriages can end for any number of other ways in which the couple can change or grow apart.

  155. Dave
    January 12th, 2011 @ 2:54 am

    Mark,

    “We’ll have to agree to disagree” (other than as a means of getting out of a discussion you don’t want to be in), seems to boil down to two cases:

    1. There are multiple positions that you both agree are valid, and you happen to have chosen different ones.

    2. In the course of discussion it has become clear that your positions are rooted in fundamentally different axiomatic beliefs. If you are working from different axioms, continued discussion is unlikely to persuade either of you.

    There are of course, ruder ways to indicate that there is no chance of either party convincing the other. But “agree to disagree” is, I think, the most polite formulation.

  156. Mark Frankel
    January 12th, 2011 @ 8:58 am

    Dave,

    There’s a difference between disagreeing about axioms or assumptions.

    There’s also a difference between persuasion and having a dialectic discussion.

    I think that saying “agree to disagree” implies 1 more than 2, and in many cases that will leave the party with an incorrect impression.

    Here are some polite ways to end a disagreement which you don’t want to continue at that time, while not implying that you think both positions are valid:
    – Let’s move on for now
    – Let’s come back to this discussion at a later time
    – My head hurts, let’s go get a beer

    I think you would like the Ramchal’s Ways of Logic and Ways of Reason. If you have the chance, go through it a few times. They’re short works, but as the Ramchal points out, every statement he made was made for a reason, so it takes time to go through and they need multiple readings.

  157. Elm
    January 12th, 2011 @ 11:02 am

    JDHR,

    I’m very sorry your marriage wasn’t successful, I hope both you and your wife are very happy in your lives now. I have no illusions that someone cannot come to religion late in life, but as Dave rather cleverly pointed out, there are a lot of changes one could go through as they get older, many of which would challenge a marriage, and not all of them are religious. I wouldn’t reject my fiance because he will change as he gets older, its a misconception among many young spouses that people don’t change– they do– and its a risk everyone takes, intermarried or not.

    Susan,
    You began this thread with what seemed like a really heartfelt post about the difficulties you were having, as a BT, associating with your relatives who had intermarried children. Your original post said your situation was complicated by the fact that the parents of these intermarried children gave you money. I read it and thought “Wow, what a situation, it must really be a struggle, perhaps she wonders what intermarried people go through”. Today you wrote “Sounds to me like you were just looking for an excuse not to like BT relative. If you don’t care for them b/c of their personality, style of communication, etc., fine, but don’t pick apart the entire Judaic belief system in the process” what a horrific thing to write! I *love* my BT relative which is WHY I bothered going on this forum in the first place. If I “pick apart” the system, its because I wasn’t raised in it, don’t understand it, and have been brought up to believe in religions of inclusion and equality. You have said several times that love is not enough to sustain a marriage, but you have also completely ignored the fact that I have done my research, and am Asking Questions. I clearly misunderstood and misjudged your original post– you don’t want to understand how intermarried people feel, you just want them to go away!

  158. JDHR
    January 12th, 2011 @ 1:23 pm

    Elm,

    The point I tried to make in my post was not that it is impossible for two people in a marriage to accept each other differences. Rather, that love and commitment are sometimes not enough to overcome the differences that are fundamental to the core of the two people involved in a relationship. One of the partners becoming a more observant Jew while being intermarried is an example of such fundamental difference. As Dave pointed out above, a marriage can fall apart for many different reasons, and going into the relationship, there is no way for us to predict how our partner, or us themselves, will change over the coarse of this relatioship. Thus it would not be healthy to agonize over all the possible reasons why the marriage can fall apart in the future. But when the marriage is between two people with already known potential fundamental difference, it needs to be considered. It has nothing to do with rejecting or accepting the spouse because they change later in life. It has to do with having a base to fall back on in your relationship. You can paint the walls in your house, but if you have no house, then there are no walls to paint. Elm, I don’t mean your relationship in particular, and I hope you are not offended. I am just simply sharing my thoughts based on my previous experience of being intermarried. My ex-husband, by the way, had never been openly opposed to my icreasing observance, which just re-enforces my point.

  159. Susan
    January 12th, 2011 @ 1:39 pm

    Elm,
    You are correct. You completely misunderstood my original post. I don’t need to understand all the ins & outs of what an intermarried couple goes through. It does not apply to me & I don’t get involved in other people’s problems unless they specifically ask for my advice. Their life is not my business; sending the right message to my children is VERY much my business.

    My original post was about how to maintain some form of relationship with relatives that have opposing lifestyles to the one with which we raise our children–they do not all revolve around intermarriage, but it is a big part. I was looking for ideas on how to get out of attending family functions or something to say that would not insult the (Jewish) relatives because we do not want our kids to think we condone intermarriage. Kosher food is the least important consideration in family functions–it’s ALWAYS the easiest obstacle to overcome. Kosher conversation & environment is another story.

    The whole dialogue about inclusion, equality, acceptance, tolerance, support, etc. is irrelevant; I do not judge people. I respect people’s decisions on how to live their lives and expect the same in return. The overwhelming consensus here on BBT is “agree to disagree”. In general, that’s my approach with relatives as well. Disagreeing with someone’s lifestyle choices doesn’t mean I can’t admire someone for other things. In fact, I do. Everyone is created in the image of G-d.

    It’s frustrating that your posts are very black & white. All relatives must acknowledge & support the marriage or it will punish the children, disregard their existence & deny biological ties is bizarre–nobody here said that. And, the whole hypothetical conversation in post #130 is downright insulting–although I’m sure you did not mean it that way. I think you are confusing us with some other religion. Judaism is the only religion that believes non Jews can go to heaven. Anyone who fulfills the 7 Noahide laws can obtain a place in heaven. As for Dave’s comment in #69, Mormons convert people posthumously so they can have a place in heaven according to LDS beliefs. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it is my understanding that Christianity in general believes one has to accept J as messiah to go to heaven–all others go to the other place. That’s why I said what I did about the POSSIBILITY that one day, your husband would be solicited for conversion to Catholicism.

    The philosophical argument about “spiritual realities” was an attempt to frame the issue in a way you could understand, but it failed. Instead, the entire Judaic belief system has been pulled apart. Nobody here made BT relative the poster child for Orthodox Judaism & you need to separate what is unique to them versus what are basic Judaic beliefs. I did not intend for my comment to be “horrific”; I’m sorry you saw it that way. As for whether or not you are welcome at family functions, that’s up to who invites you. If FIL to be is not Jewish, I guess it’s not a problem for fiance’s family, but don’t be surprised if BT relative chooses not to participate themselves. Most Jews who are adherents of Torah would find a Gentile participating in Jewish rituals (like a Passover seder) inappropriate.

    You sound like a very sweet young woman who is trying to please everyone. Well, you can’t; that’s just life.

    You’ve said you’ve considered all the obstacles throughout dating & engagement. I questioned that b/c you came across as a little naive and very emotional. Again, the only point in ANYONE posting here, was to get you to think. Your fiance is really the one we should be addressing, but you’re the one who’s posting so that’s why we are blogging with you.

    But, you are still missing the point, so I officially give up.

  160. tesyaa
    January 12th, 2011 @ 2:13 pm

    Susan – you are the one who comes across as hyper-emotional. It’s clear that you will do ANYTHING to get Elm to reconsider and avoid marrying a Jewish man, even quoting Catholic doctrine, which you otherwise couldn’t care less about.

    As I said before, if your goal is to reduce intermarriage, why work on the one person who happens to be posting here? Start an anti-intermarriage organization, or start a group to specifically match up nonobservant Jews.

    And as you said in your last comment to Elm, you can’t please everyone. You cannot necessarily please your nonobservant family. You may have to alienate them if you want to maintain your beliefs and raise your children as you see fit. It’s not your right to force your family to remain friendly with you, despite your disapproval of their lifestyle & beliefs.

    It’s also very odd that you take financial support from relatives you disapprove of so deeply. How does that not send the wrong message to your kids? Money is more important than principle?

  161. Dave
    January 12th, 2011 @ 2:13 pm

    All marriages have known potential differences. That’s because they involve people.

    Nor is inmarriage a guarantee against it. The marital expectations between a Reform Jew and a Gerer Chossid are going to be far more different than the marital expections between a Jew and a non-Jew who both grew up in the normative American culture.

  162. Elm
    January 12th, 2011 @ 2:27 pm

    JDHR,

    I’m terribly embarrassed about writing your wife– I mean I hope you and your former husband are both very happy in your lives now! I absolutely take your point that we are starting out our marriage with a known difference that could become more of a problem later. However, elsewhere on BBT I have seen posts about people who have gotten divorced from their Jewish spouses because they have become more observant, so I am not sure this is restricted to intermarriage alone.

    Susan,

    Just going to address the heaven thing to make sure that no one else is misled: Catholics believe that anyone can go to heaven based on what they know to be true and their actions following it. If you were raised Jewish with no knowledge of Jesus as the messiah, and you followed Judaism as you understood it, AND you were a good person, you are just as welcome in heaven as a devout Catholic. This varies greatly by denominations within Christianity and your understanding of it is correct for certain protestant faiths, but it is not true of Catholicism.

  163. Dave
    January 12th, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

    Judaism is the only religion that believes non Jews can go to heaven. Anyone who fulfills the 7 Noahide laws can obtain a place in heaven. As for Dave’s comment in #69, Mormons convert people posthumously so they can have a place in heaven according to LDS beliefs.

    I’m sorry, you are wrong. The posthumous conversion is only if you want to get the “full paradise”. Good people from other faiths get a “lesser paradise” (i.e. go to heaven), and get the choice then if they want to upgrade.

    [To check my recollection, I ran it past a devout Mormon friend of mine, and he confirmed the summary]

  164. Bob Miller
    January 12th, 2011 @ 3:49 pm

    Maybe this thread should be called “How Can We Avoid Alienating Other Commenters without Breaching Our Values?”

  165. tesyaa
    January 12th, 2011 @ 3:55 pm

    Bob, LOL!

  166. Susan
    January 12th, 2011 @ 4:41 pm

    Elm,
    Thanks for the clarification.

    Tesyaa (& Dave),
    Of course there are many obstacles in marriage, but religion tends to be a biggie; it affects how we perceive things in ways we don’t realize and often becomes an issue once there are kids. The idea of a Reform Jew & Gerer Chasid is immaterial b/c they’re not raised in the same culture as are an (assimilated) American Jew & non-Jew.

    I’m not trying to please my non-observant family; I actually have a good relationship with them & we’re very involved in each other’s lives. Whatever distance there is, until now, has nothing to do with religion. My (non-observant) sister had the same issues with these same family members. This is precisely why it’s difficult when I see these relatives distancing themselves from & disrespectful to my (non-observant) ill mother & disabled sister. Any loss of respect for these relatives on my part stems more from the lack of hakarat hatov and respect for mom & sister than anything else. The distance has become more apparent recently due to: 1)my sister is not there to be a moral compass for her kids and 2)observing how my own adult children have dealt with the illnesses of my mom, sister & now my husband. Their treatment of the ill and elderly are firmly rooted in Torah. I believe it is impossible today to raise truly moral children without religion.

    As for the assertion that I’m hyper-emotional, I am a very even tempered person although I, like anyone else, have my buttons: 1)pop culture, media & the selfishness it breeds, 2)lack of moral responsibility, 3)the idea that everyone is the same, 4)whatever feels good, is good.

    IMHO, the best way to counteract these is through the Jewish people bringing spiritual light into the world. Intermarriage extinguishes all possiblity of that. I know I cannot change Elm’s plans–I’ve already said that. What I had hoped to do is make Elm aware of things she probably had no idea of with regards to Judaism. Her “love conquers all” mentality is unrealistic & childish. I’m sure they can make it work as long as hubby remains uninterested in exploring his heritage. By lack of his presence here, I assume that’s the case. All of Elm’s posts are about what SHE thinks and what SHE believes; I had hoped he would speak for himself. Do I wish I could have changed their minds? Maybe; I was looking for some acknowledgement on her part that this marriage conflicts with her own beliefs as well. If she would have told me she plans to raise her kids Catholic & hubby doesn’t care, I would have stopped a LONG time ago. The only thing left to do is wish her well & have a nice life. Maybe someday she’ll get it; I just hope nobody gets hurt in the process. My obligation as a Jew is to “shed some light” & I tried my best to do that. I’m sorry you felt offended. T, I’m still stumped why you bother to participate since you clearly have nothing but distain for Yiddishkeit.

    The $$ from my relative is a completely separate issue (& none of your business). My brother helps me out financially b/c I had to quit my job 2 years ago to care for my mother. If I had not quit my job to do so, HE would have to deal with day to day caregiving of my mother & he is ill equipped to do so. I never asked for it; my brother offered this $$ help at the request of my mother who feels it is his responsibility as her son. My mother is my sole responsibility since my sister became disabled due to an accident. Medicine being what it is today makes medical advocacy a full time job. My (non-observant) sister & I were partners & confidants; losing her has been like losing a limb. My sister’s family has depended on my help with medical issues, and my husband’s help & guidance with insurance matters. As my husband is self employed, this significantly impacted our income. We could have gotten less involved but we wanted to help in whatever way we could & feel strongly about the importance of Bikur Holim.

    For all the politically correct psycho-babble that passes for wisdom today, Torah is still the Ultimate Truth.

  167. Mark Frankel
    January 12th, 2011 @ 4:52 pm

    Susan, may Hashem bless you with the continued strength to deal with your difficult situation.

  168. Administrator
    January 12th, 2011 @ 4:54 pm

    This is a good time to take a timeout and issue a warning that comments deemed to be a personal attack will be deleted from here on in.

    Please take the time to word your comments carefully.

  169. tesyaa
    January 12th, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

    Susan, I didn’t mean to be unfeeling about the money issue. Please forgive my intrusion. Given your sacrifice, there shouldn’t be any qualms on your part, regardless of the level of observance of your sibling. Hatzlacha.

  170. tesyaa
    January 12th, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

    I do think that people with very strong beliefs may be unable to avoid alienating their families. It’s OK to do so if your beliefs are paramount. I understand it doesn’t make it easier emotionally.

  171. Susan
    January 12th, 2011 @ 5:29 pm

    thanks for the kind words

  172. Dave
    January 12th, 2011 @ 5:29 pm

    The idea of a Reform Jew & Gerer Chasid is immaterial b/c they’re not raised in the same culture as are an (assimilated) American Jew & non-Jew.

    Uhmmmm…

    That was my point.

    An “inmarriage” can have greater cultural and religious stressors than an “intermarriage”.

  173. Elm
    January 12th, 2011 @ 9:55 pm

    Susan,

    As someone who was a very young child when her parents took on the care of one of their aging parents, I’m keenly aware, whatever my religion, of the huge sacrifices you and your family are making. I have a great deal of admiration for anyone who does that, and I sincerely hope that when my parents and parents-in-law need help that they turn to us.

    One thing I have tried to make clear is that I do *not* have a love conquers all mentality. I’m sorry I’ve come across as unrealistic or childish to you, but I have done significant research into my own religions position on the matter, and consulted in depth with a priest long before we got engaged. What the priest told me does not match with what you believe Catholicism teaches, but nonetheless it is what Catholicism teaches. I would refer you to the article I posted in reference to Mark’s questions about Catholicism’s teaching on the matter. I fully accept that Orthodox Jews find my marriage problematic, but the bottom line is that Catholics do not.

    I have to believe that this research, consulting with a priest, as well as my research into my fiance’s religion, including my involvement on this forum, at least proves that I am capable of exercising my intellect in this matter.

    The reason you haven’t heard from my fiance is because whenever I tried to articulate his point of view, it was misinterpreted (see the part about him not wanting to marry a Jewish woman…back in post 45!) because I cannot articulate his points as well as he can. I am extremely hesitant to point this blog out to him– if he read the comments that were made about our marriage (see odious) he would probably say something to the effect of “And that is why I’m not Orthodox” and close the computer. That isn’t what anyone wants.

  174. Judy Resnick
    January 17th, 2011 @ 1:08 am

    WADR – IMHO

    Once more, with the greatest personal respect, to Elm:

    If a man says, “I never met any other woman whom I wanted to marry,” then the comment will be interpreted as True Love: a human being has found his soul mate, his one and only.

    If a man says, “I never met any Jewish woman whom I wanted to marry,” then the comment will be interpreted as a criticism of Jewish women based on negative stereotypes, even when his fiancee insists that is a complete misinterpretation of her fiance’s meaning.

    See the subtle difference in meaning between “any other woman” and “any Jewish woman”? It’s not just pure semantics.

    Your future children will see right away the difference between your obvious joy in observing the rituals of your own deeply and proudly felt faith, versus their father’s ambivalence toward his own. The visual, aural and sensory experiences of the holidays make a powerful impression on even the youngest children. The fact that Mommy is happy about going to church for Midnight Mass on December 24th and decorating the tree and wrapping presents, but Daddy is not happy about going to synagogue on Yom Kippur, will be a reality in your family long before any of the children can articulate your question about why Mommy’s religion accepts Daddy but Daddy’s religion doesn’t accept Mommy.

    It’s evident that you like Catholicism more than your fiance likes Judaism. It’s also evident that Catholicism likes your fiance more than Judaiam likes you. Even if you consciously try not to make your kids sour on Judaism and sweet on Catholicism, they will just naturally get bad vibes from Dad, and from co-religionists of Dad, no matter how much you try to compensate by doing fun Jewish things like latkes and menorahs and Passover seders.

    Of course the word “odious” should never have been used, but intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews stirs up powerful emotions (why do you think this thread went to over one hundred and seventy comments?) It hits home in so many ways for a lot of people.

  175. susan
    January 20th, 2011 @ 12:20 pm

    The issue is that the kids will BELIEVE they’re (1/2) Jewish & portray themselves to the world as such. What’s the harm? This continues the intermarriage into the next generation. If a boy of intermarriage then marries a Jewish woman, you’ve got yet another generation of Jews somewhat estranged from Jewish religious practice. Experience has shown that children of intermarriage do not identify as Jews (even if halachically so) a generation or two down the line. It’s a snowball effect.

    Philosophically speaking, the focus should not be the potential children; it should be the Jewish Fiance (JF). There is no way for anyone here to change this particular situation. What will be, will be.

    But, fellow BTs (& FFBs), LET’S LEARN FROM THIS. We as Jews are failing our own people. JFs experiences with Judaism have clearly not been warm or inspiring enough for him to seek out more than a superficial level of involvement in Judaism. I believe that BTs especially need to be comfortable enough in their choice to become observant so as not to depict Judaism as a set of rigid rules. I think FFBs, due to more confidence, are generally better at showing others the beauty of Yiddishkeit.

    IMHO, in dealing with secular (or Reform or Conservative) Jews, the focus must be on hashkafa and not necessarily halacha. We must be shining examples of mitvot bein adam l’haveiro, kindness, chesed, yashrut, etc. I cannot count the number of Jews (American & Israeli) who had negative preconceived notions of frum Jews, who told me “I’ve never met a religious Jew like you before”.

    Our unique look (kippah, modest dress, etc.) makes us stand out and we are held to a higher standard by the general public because of it. We are walking advertisements for Observant Judaism; we must not ever forget this. If anything comes out of this thread, I hope it’s that.

  176. Bob Miller
    January 20th, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

    We know there are cases where people who are treated warmly and fairly in every way still blunder into major life mistakes, or defiantly choose to do the wrong thing.

  177. Elm
    January 20th, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

    susan,

    I don’t think my children will believe they are half Jewish, because we plan to teach them that different kinds of Jews will see them in different ways (i.e. some Reform Jews say they are Jewish, Orthodox Jews say they aren’t) the same way some Catholics will see them in different ways (i.e. just because the Church has accepted intermarriage doesn’t mean every Catholic will think their parents marriage is a good thing)

    I also think that, WADR, it would be hard to present Judaism in a way other than a set of rules on THIS particular issue: the bottom line seems to be that his coreligionists would not accept or endorse his relationship with the women he loves…there isn’t much to demonstrate there about kindness (and I’m afraid I don’t’ know what the rest of the words mean) I imagine one can kindly say “We don’t accept your choice of life partner” but that is a fairly large part of his life you’re rejecting.

    Judy,

    You may be right that I like Catholicism better than he likes Judaism, but that may be in large part BECAUSE Catholicism likes him better! I think it is very difficult for someone to embrace a religion that rejects their choice of spouse, and while I appreciate that this is a delicate and sensitive topic for many, it still seems to me that, if my fiance read this thread, it would be more likely to reinforce his negative perceptions.

  178. susan
    January 20th, 2011 @ 6:36 pm

    Elm,
    I realize that nothing I say will change your situation but the evolution of this thread can still make a difference in the way that Jews who read this present themselves to less afiliated Jews.

    The point was not specific to your situation, but it can still serve as an example. Demonstrating kindness between oneself & their fellow man, integrity, honesty (that’s what those other words mean) is something that is important when dealing with ANYONE. Your participation in this thread and your fiance’s somewhat negative views of his co-religionists shows us that we, as Jews, need to try just a bit harder to reach out to our less observant brethren, if only to set a good example. If kids have a positive Jewish outlook, they are less likely to intermarry.

    You are so intensely focused on non-acceptance or endorsement of your marriage; it’s unlikely to be a major issue. By your own admission, reading this blog would REINFORCE his negative perceptions implying that the negativity has been there all along, unlikely to change. The Jews/Judaism you expose your kids to (other than that one relative) will be “accepting” because it will most surely be from the more “liberal” streams of Judaism who are looking to “beef up” their numbers (in part to stem the tide of intermarriage). That’s why R (Reform) & C (Conservative) Judaism is now taking the position of actively seeking converts.

    Kids are very concrete and think in absolutes. It remains to be seen if they will see themselves as Catholic, Jewish, half & half or have no identification with religion altogether. It will only matter insomuch as it bothers either of you. No sane Jew, religious or otherwise will say to them “we don’t accept your father’s choice of a life partner” or deny him “the woman he loves”. His choice is his choice. I’m sure they will feel loved by their parents in any case. And, they will get the unspoken message that Catholicism is a religion of tolerance and Judaism is a religion of rigidity.

    To all the Jews who read this:
    LET’S LEARN FROM THIS & TRY A LITTLE HARDER TO REACH OUT TO ALL THOSE JEWS WITH NEGATIVE PERCEPTIONS OF YIDDISHKEIT. MAKE A KIDDUSH HASH-M; our survival depends on it.

  179. Mark Frankel
    January 20th, 2011 @ 8:08 pm

    Susan,

    I agree wholeheartedly in your recommendation to try to reach out and change perceptions, but isn’t the basic problem

    1) There are some behaviors and choices that a Observant Jew must object to because they are prohibited in the Torah.

    2) Most Jews and non-Jews do not accept the Torah’s ultimate authority.

    3) They therefore will have a negative perception of Torah Observant Judaism from the fact that it prohibits things that don’t think should be prohibited.

    Of course we can try to mitigate the negative perception, but we’re starting off on the wrong foot even though we usually don’t raise objections directly to the person.

  180. susan
    January 21st, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

    Mark,
    You are absolutely right and everybody these days is hyper-sensitive. They cannot hear a philosophical idea/outlook without personalizing it and being offended (as we’ve seen in this thread).

    So, if reaching out to the klal is not an eitza, what is? Do we just continue to silently set a good example in the hopes that positive experiences with fruma Yidden will bring them back? I am talking about the average person, not kiruv professionals.

    IMHO, the fundamental problem is that the most of the olam believes that their destiny (parnassa, health, etc.) is based on their actions (work hard, exercise, eat healthy, etc.). Most people today don’t believe there is a G-d that runs the world. But there are so many crazy things that have happened in just the last few years that is seems so obvious.

    So, for those of us with not yet frum relatives, do we just watch them drop off through assimilation & intermarriage? Any suggestions? This is something that weighs heavy on me every day.

    Shabbat Shalom

  181. Mark Frankel
    January 21st, 2011 @ 1:30 pm

    Susan,

    I think the key is to teach people Torah. That’s Hashem’s prescription and the one I think we should follow.

    The Internet has opened up some new avenues (e.g. Aish.com, Chabad.org) to teach Torah, but we have to go beyond that both online and offline.

    Teaching Torah begins with learning Torah. We need to learn more and truly understand what we are learning so we can teach it to others. We also need to gain personal clarity in what we know and believe how we know it to be true.

  182. Steve Mantz
    January 27th, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

    I am late coming to this thread. I just want to say I’m amazed by the thoughtfulness and insight displayed by Elm in her posts. It’s really rare to meet someone coming from an outside group who really is able to get the true intent of discussions here so fully. I find that Elm’s posts hit a true authentic note almost every time. I’m really glad that she showed the strength to listen with an open mind, and also to truly understand the intent of our comments, as we sought only to have a full and open discussion here. I’m glad she realized that the mix of views here should be viewed in the context of trying to discuss a deep and complex set of philosophies.

    [Dupl. post due to correction.]

  183. Steve Mantz
    January 27th, 2011 @ 2:26 pm

    btw, I’m a little surprised that someone here told Elm that she was “missing the point.” She is not missing any point. everyone has to balance various values and concepts in living her lives. I thought her posts were articulate and well-reasoned, and very much displaying open-mindedness.

    My experience with open discussions such as this is that it is almost NEVER a good idea to make a characterization of the other person’s behavior or motives in any way, unless they have explicitly or openly confronted you, and even then maybe not. in this case, that wasn’t happening anyway. it’s always better to state one’s position clearly and succinctly. you’d be surprised how much you actually strengthen your own argument by adhering to that. [Dupl. post w.corrections.]

  184. Yirmiyahu David
    June 30th, 2011 @ 6:53 am

    I just found this site. It’s great!
    My parents abandoned Torah to rebel against their very strict Frum European parents. I imagine that they felt alienated from the rest of American society and it was just too difficult emotionally. They embraced the hippie culture upon moving to the west coast in the 1960’s.
    Unfortunately they view my teshuva as an embrace of antiquated, narrow-minded values and practices that they struggled so hard to abandon in order to assimilate (even though I had a bris and my sisters and I were given Hebrew names). My father even makes fun of my peyos. Suffice to say it’s very difficult for us to get along as a family. I bring my own food and disposable tableware to their house, I don’t visit on Shabbos, if I speak Yiddish they will only respond in English… It makes it so that if we are to have a pleasant time together we aren’t to speak our minds, which makes interaction quite superficial. We drift apart more and more as the years go on.
    Does anyone have any advice about how I can honor my parents without compromising my identity?

  185. Yirmiyahu David
    June 30th, 2011 @ 6:59 am

    I read in more detail the other comments. Thank you Mr. Bob Miller. I found your comment helpful, as it confirms my current approach.

  186. Yosh
    June 30th, 2011 @ 9:56 am

    YD – please be aware that there are different opinions. I have strongly disagreed with Bob in the past.

    Here are a few facts you may wish to consider:

    1) Your teshuva IS VERY MUCH an embrace of antiquated, narrow-minded values and practices that your parents struggled so hard to abandon in order to assimilate

    2) I would likely also make fun of your peyos. Peyos are FUNNY LOOKING. That doesn’t mean it’s not a mitzvah. You are required to keep mitzvot especially when people will laugh (see 1st siman in the Tur). That doesn’t mean you can’t laugh along with them.

    3) Why would you speak Yiddish to them? To deliberately make them uncomfortable? This
    is a matter of communication. If someone you love wants to communicate via text messaging or sign language, I’m sure you could accomodate that. If the relationship is reciprocal, you can discuss how sometimes you feel that you’re better able to express yourself with Yiddish words and phrases, and surely they would not object to that, but that you don’t want to make them uncomfortable…

    4) Sounds like too many years and difficult situations have intervened. Many BTs find that they have irreparably damaged their relationships with their (former) family during their years of self-righteous “truth” seeking (which is often a search for acceptance, not truth). So resign yourself to this. There is very little you now have in common with your parents. It’s similar to the situation that would happen if your parents never graduated high school and you got a PHD. It is almost impossible to relate to them. You don’t speak the same language or eat the same food.

    Yes, the warm and wonderful people who m’kareved you also were m’rachek you from your family. And they knew it would happen. Pity that they didn’t tell you, but they never do.

  187. Yirmiyahu David
    June 30th, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

    Yosh,
    Thanks for the reply.
    1)Are “antiquated” and “narrow-minded” negative nomenclature in this instance?
    2)My peyos are nowhere near as funny as the dreadlocks I had when I was with them.
    3)I’ve attempted to speak Yiddish with them because they’re some of the few people I know who speak it, and I don’t so well. I was trying to have conversation practice partners/teachers. I guess that could be construed as selfish though, and I should have been more sensitive to their wishes.
    4)You’re absolutely correct about any perceived self-righteousness or truth seeking actually being acceptance seeking. I should let my parents know that I now realize that and ask for their forgiveness. I can’t speak for other BT’s, but for me part of the journey was experiencing a bit of an identity crisis. When one questions who they are it’s easy to try to be what you *think you should be to reconcile those uneasy emotions.
    BTW, if anyone has m’rachek me from my family, it was me. I made my teshuva of my own accord seeking a more fulfilling, meaningful life which would bring me closer to Hashem and His people who share my values. There wasn’t anybody pushing kiruv down my throat or anything. I had to seek out the mekarev. Again, thanks for the response. It’s good to be put in check once in a while. I need it.

  188. Judy Resnick
    June 30th, 2011 @ 5:21 pm

    To Yirmiyahu David #184: You asked the question, “Does anyone have any advice about how I can honor my parents without compromising my identity?”

    YD, I struggled with this question myself for many years. In my humble opinion, the key to maintaining good family relationships is MUTUAL RESPECT. Honoring your parents doesn’t mean you have to eat whatever traifa food they’ve cooked for you or that you have to be mechallel Shabbos. It means that you speak to them and treat them in a manner that reflects their dignity and your humility.

    The Aggadita (non-legal narratives of the Talmud Bavli) brings down a very interesting story about two adult sons: one was credited with honoring his father although he forced his father to labor at a mill; the other was blamed for dishonoring his father although he served his father fatted fowl and old wine. The difference between the two sons was the manner in which they acted toward their fathers. The first son who made his father grind was actually saving his father’s life from marauding soldiers, whereas the second son served fine foods but spoke to his father in an insulting and degrading manner.

    There are a lot of ways to get together with and talk to nonobservant relatives without pushing anyone’s hot buttons. For example, you throw a barbecue this Fourth of July with glatt kosher le-mehadrin hot dogs and beefburgers on the grill. Serve with cold watermelon, lots of iced tea and pas yisroel pareve buns. Invite everyone to come and enjoy. Conversation? It doesn’t have to be about religion and/or Yiddish. Talk about the latest tech gadget, the newest smartphone or the most recent e-book reader. Let everyone see and hear that you’re still very much a part of the 21st century of the common era, even though you have long payos and you’re 100 percent frum.

  189. Rachael
    August 15th, 2011 @ 11:49 am

    Hello…Thank you for this very sharing blog! So lively, respectful and helpful!!
    I am a growing and recent BT (chabad lubavitch-bh, with great rabbi and rebbetzin influences, learning with the best and involved in a strong community of woman in my chabad house), in my fifties, widowed AND started dating a Kohaan, divorced, rabbi via a shadchan. We seem to fit so well on so many levels. he has told me it is a “true joy” to be with me.

    He knows I am widowed from a Jewish man and that I was with a Jewish man for ten years after that. I never married the man but i was a primary caregiver for his children until they were grown and then left the relationship. I felt that after losing my precious husband so suddenly that i could not marry again and the subsequent man certainly was not my willing partner in shalom bayit. Now many years later I am in search for life partner. I feel hashem providing us with opportunities to laugh, really hear and share with each other.

    Will the fact that I lived with this ex boyfriend, a Jewish man who i never married be a factor in the relationship with the rabbi i am dating?

    First of many questions…
    Thank you so much!

  190. Judy Resnick
    August 15th, 2011 @ 6:16 pm

    To Rachel #189: You really have to discuss this question with a highly regarded Posaik, as you might possibly be deemed forbidden to a Kohein. Only a Posaik at the level of being a Gadol b’Yisroel can really Posken on this very complicated question of whether your status is Kohein-eligible.

    I would suggest contacting the renowned Posaik Rabbi Yisroel Belsky with this Shailah. There may wind up being some tough questions also from the Rav regarding your past relationship with the other man.

    Purely in terms of human relationships, I would also urge you to do some discreet side checking about this Kohein’s prior marriage. It is not enough to accept his explanation that his former wife was “crazy” or “not frum enough.” Maybe this wonderful person you are dating is not so wonderful when it comes to frustration tolerance, anger control, or abusing a spouse verbally or physically. Divorced men always blame their wives, it’s human nature, but it might be prudent to quietly investigate what really caused that marriage to break apart.

    Lastly, you might want to honestly ask yourself why this person is choosing to date you rather than a younger woman, when there are so many thirty-somethings and forty-somethings available. Is there some hidden reason he is anxious to marry you, such as wanting a Green Card or because you own valuable property? There are a lot of unscrupulous fellows in this world who prey on the emotions of lonely widows. Be happy but also be careful and be cautious.

  191. Rachael
    August 15th, 2011 @ 7:31 pm

    Thank you Judy! I will consult accordingly.
    I spent time at the home of his friends in his city this shabbos==He invited me…I flew there and met his friends, saw his shul and it was confirmed that the ex-wife is mentally ill, refused to leave the home for 25 years, refused medical/psychiatric care and accused him one day of what he says are “false accusations” and he was out of the house that night. He said that he tried his best for years to get her help…with no success. This occurred two years ago. About one year ago she was diagnosed with terminal cancer of the ovaries. He went to visit her but he said that she was in rage and it may not have been good for her…One of the many children they have also has the same psychiatric illness (probably bipolar with psychotic features) and he is in touch with this adult child 2-3 times per day and helps him the best he can with treatment, stability…
    No green card issues, made money with business he says and studies most days when he is not out with friends and doing some hobbies.
    He did not offer to pay my way…but arranged for a beautiful shabbos and sunday, and host family for me…
    His business was sales…so he knows how to shmooz for sure…the community especially the elders seem to respect him, he has a history of strong advocacy for chabad (i googled him…)
    What are your ideas? My mother is worried too about his marital history in part because of what we dont know.
    What do you hear in all of this?
    Thank you so much,
    Rachael

  192. Judy Resnick
    August 15th, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

    It might be good to find out what medications he is taking himself….anything from innocent pills like Prilosec for acid reflux to “red flag” prescriptions like Lithium and/or Seroquel. However, the subject of what medicines somebody is taking can be a delicate and difficult topic to tactfully bring up. Perhaps the shadchan can help you find out in a tactful and discreet manner what medicines he is taking for what medical conditions.

    It sounds good that he has friends and people in the shul who respect him. Perhaps you could contact the rabbi or even the rebbetzin of his shul to verify that he was the “good guy” in the divorce, i.e. the one who tried to make the marriage work but eventually had to leave for his own safety. Also, maybe you can speak to his oldest adult daughter, she might be willing to talk to you about her parents in a no-nonsense manner and maybe she would have a clear perspective on the fault, if there was any, in the marriage.

    I do not know if you want to be too selective, as there are so few decent men in this age group; however, you do not want to wind up in a nightmare of abuse from which you cannot extricate yourself easily.

    You might want to go out with him to various places such as restaurants and see how he reacts in situations where he gets angry or frustrated. Does he scream and/or curse? Does he take offense easily or let things slide? Does he enjoy insulting others and/or making cruel jokes? Does he watch his speech or does he constantly complain about others? Take careful mental notes about his character traits. He will be on his best behavior on a date, but sometimes the real person slips through.

    You might also want to watch his behavior around alcohol. Does he avoid it completely? (This is not always good, as it could be a sign of being a former alcoholic or a possible drug interaction). Does he drink too much? Does he get angry after drinking? Does his personality change for the worse “after a few?”

    I am far from being an expert in these matters, and I would not want you to miss out on a really great guy just because some stranger writing comments on a blog (me) had a bunch of misgivings. You should really share your concerns with the shadchan, or one of your own good friends, or the Chabad rebbetzin who has been helping you, or with a trusted rabbi, or even with a good relationship counselor and/or marital therapist.

    Good luck, you deserve the very best that life can offer.

  193. Rachael
    August 16th, 2011 @ 9:05 am

    Thank you Judy,

    You bring up excellent points and i am watching very carefully. The sociopathic tendencies are hard to pick up when they are very good at manipulation and lying. But we don’t know who this man is yet.

    I just sent an email to the shadchan who knows him for twenty years and will inquire about speaking with the rebbetzin and rabbi of his shul.

    I have dated many men in the past 2.5 years and saw a few for several months each. I am being very careful in my selection after everything i have been through and with the desire to have a great life unencumbered by nonsense, shall we say. I travel all over the world and consult in human trafficking and other human rights/psychology issues. I own my own home, have wonderful friends, have an excellent place to pray and commune…I will not allow abuse or any discredit or disrespect of me or others into my personal life.

    Are you attending the JLI National Meeting in Conn this weekend? If so, perhaps, we will see each other.

    ALl the best, thank you for your continuing help and warmth across the internet.
    Letter to shadchan below:

    Hi ______,

    I would like to ask you a question.

    Was ______ really the “good guy” in his former marriage? Because we know…the person who is telling the story almost always blames the ex. However, almost always, it is a pas de deux, a dance of two, even when one is mentally ill.

    I am trying to avoid any potential problems at this stage of my life.

    Your response will be treated with 100% confidentiality for always.

    Thank you so much,

  194. Judy Resnick
    August 16th, 2011 @ 1:08 pm

    To Rachael #193:

    Regrettably I will not be at the JLI National Meeting in Connecticut this weekend. I would have liked very much to meet you.

    I am amazed to hear that your professional field is consulting on human rights / psychology / human trafficking issues. My professional field is assisting non-citizens to gain lawful status in the U.S.A. Some of the individuals I help have applied for asylum here, based upon human rights and human trafficking issues. I sometimes retain experts like yourself to testify in person or give affidavits in support of these claims of persecution. So our professional interests do intersect in this manner. For example, you are probably very familiar with the process of applying for the special T and U visas.

    I wish you all the best in both your personal and professional lives, and hope that we do get to meet some day over a Shabbos event or long weekend convention, or maybe even in the course of litigation on behalf of a former trafficking victim.

  195. Rachael
    August 17th, 2011 @ 12:54 am

    Hi,

    Well we certainly have a lot in common. I am a psychologist with a specialty in trauma. I have been evaluating asylum seekers and those with Hardship Waiver issues for ten years. I also work pro bono with PHR in the Human Rights Clinic. I have been qualified to testify as an expert witness in NJ, PA and NY. My offices are in NJ and PA.
    Are you an Immigration attorney?
    All the best,

  196. Rachael
    August 17th, 2011 @ 12:57 am

    Hi Judy,
    If you would like to talk off this public space, please email me at sagefreedc@yahoo.com and I will provide you with my regular email, a C.V.
    and the opportunity to talk with each other.
    Rachael

  197. Rachael
    August 22nd, 2011 @ 10:53 am

    Hi everyone,

    As per Judy’s recomendation, I got the ok from the halachic perspective from a senior rabbi at OU.

    Have an inspired week.
    Rachael

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