I think Ilya and I were talking about children from our first date, so we very often visit the topic I’m about to bring up: How to Tell Your Kids to Marry Jewish When Your Parents Didn’t.
If you haven’t read my "about me” section, my mother converted to Judaism and then later in my life I did an Orthodox conversion which is where the topic of conversation comes from. As it stems on the horizon, half of my siblings will likely not marry Jewish (which I don’t have a problem with BTW).
Yes, we were raised in the most Reform/Secular/Zionist way possible, but at the end of the day, we’re a family who truly believes in the sentiment “to each his own.”
Growing up, my parents felt it was more important that their children find happiness and a life partner over someone with whom they only had their background in common. When Ilya, my beloved boo thang asked my parents for my hand in marriage, they didn’t question him about religion but let him know once he has chosen me for his queen, that was it.
No matter what our problems were, and let me tell you we had tons, we must work through them and see the light at the end of the tunnel. As children, they repeatedly told us divorce was not an option and that once we decide who we’re with we would need to work hard to make that relationship prosper.
This is not to say divorce isn’t a good thing for someone; I have plenty of relatives and friends who have sought divorce because it betters their lives. I believe what my parents meant was that marriage is work, and you have to be committed to it to make it successful.
Moving along to present day, and given how I’ve jumped through the hula hoops of Judaism to find inner peace, I struggle with how to tell my children to marry Jewish when close loved ones of mine most likely won’t.
It’s a super tough conversation to think about having even though it seems like a bajillion years down the road for me.
I can picture it now: my (one day in the far future) semi-adult children saying “Uncle X didn’t marry Jewish why do I have to?” And it’s like, wow, how can I tell my children they should marry Jewish when the most loving and caring relationships around them are those of people from different backgrounds.
Dunt da-dunt da-dunt
Did I mention it’s a hard topic to deal with? Even now, Ilya and I both practice our responses to these tough questions I know we’ll get.
The theme I’m holding on to as a childless 27-year-old is "that is what they do in their home, but this is what we do in ours…” but then I think back to when I was the rebellious teenager, and I probably would have let that go in one ear and out the other.
So, with that being said, do I accept that my children may not marry Jewish and hope, like my mother, that they will convert and raise a fabulous culturally Jewish family? How can I ensure my grandchildren will be Jewish, and their children? How can I ensure my children and the future generations of Andria will love hummus and, most of all, Israel, as much as I do?
All of this a hard pill to swallow and it’s something I think of often. My greatest fear is that I will end up offending my incredible family or I won’t convey the right message to my children.
My husband on the other hand, who has not gone through the same Jewish journey as myself (although he was there every step of the way in mine) is confident they’ll marry Jewish. We’ll send them to day school, summer camp and raise them in a vibrant Jewish community and voila.
My fear with this is that as we are catapulting them into a Jewish life full of Jewish values and challah on Friday’s, they’ll miss the best parts of childhood growing up in a diverse community, like choosing to go to volleyball camp instead of Jew camp, and being Dolly Parton in the elementary school play instead of Queen Esther.
But at the end of the day, what’s the right way and wrong way to have this conversation? I love taking things away from the way my parents raised us, for instance, going to a public school with a diverse student body throughout my youth helped shape the friendships I have and the way I view people today. On the other hand, I observe my husband and other friends who grew up in a “Jewish” bubble and to this day still live in that same Jewish bubble to some extent. Which by all means isn’t a negative thing, it’s just in my eyes, there’s so much more to the world, so many people and cultures to experience.
The question remains unanswered. How can I ensure my children will keep it in the tribe but at the same time form friendships with those different from them, yet not fall in love with one of them?
Do you have a tough question facing your marriage, are you a newly wed trying to figure out which path to take when it comes to Judaism? Email me your questions, comments and concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org -- I promise I'll find the answers, or at least some damn good advice!