Three Ladies – Three Lattes: When marrying upsets mom

Three Ladies, Three Lattes looks at percolating issues in Israel’s complicated social and religious fabric. Secular Pam, modern Orthodox Tzippi and haredi Danit answer your questions.

A MARRIAGE proposal. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A MARRIAGE proposal.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Dear Latte Ladies, I’m an American/Israeli haredi ba’alat teshuva; today I follow a stringent modern Orthodox way of life.
My ex-husband and I were both educated in haredi schools for the newly religious; I divorced him 17 years ago.
He subsequently stopped keeping Shabbat, although he currently calls himself “spiritual” and modern Orthodox.
My son left Israel for America at 18 to live with his father, who found him work selling non-kosher food. Recently my son met a non-Jewish girl to whom he is now engaged.
She’s nice; if she were Jewish, I’d be happy. I’m friendly but can’t accept her as his future wife, unlike my ex-husband. Now I’m the “bad guy.”
My child has stopped speaking to me, calling me “inflexible.” What are your thoughts? Broken-hearted Mommy Tzippi Sha-ked: Dear broken-hearted mom: Oh dear, how painful! Since neither wringing your hands nor your ex-husband’s neck (illegal, un-halachic, but oh so tempting) will change the fact that he is the “good cop,” let’s think this through. At present, neither your son nor your future daughter-in-law is speaking with you; I’m betting this won’t change soon. What’s your goal in rejecting your son’s choice of wife? To emphasize that he has sold his future children’s Jewish birthright down the river? To teach him that Halacha comes first and that for it you’d sacrifice your relationship with him and his family? Or is your goal actually to have Jewish grandchildren? Here’s my take: If you cut your son out, you probably will never have these Jewish grandchildren anyway.
End of story. Since the couple plans to marry, opt instead for the eventual possibility of their kids becoming Jewish. Here’s how: Meet with them, explain that even though this marriage signifies the end of Jewish continuity for you and is breaking your heart, you still deeply value your relationship with them both. After they marry, invite them for Shabbatot and holidays. Then you could become a role model to grandchildren and teach them about Judaism. They may yet convert. I’ve seen the carrot approach work far more effectively than the stick. Disinheriting children will eliminate the will for future conversion.
Good luck!
Pamela Peled: I have three words for you: Your Own Marriage. You married a man entirely similar to you; your marriage dissolved despite common education and beliefs. I know a girl who wed the boy next door; they lived unhappily ever after, till she left him. In marriage, as in life, there are no rules; who can say what girl will make your son happy? Your ache at what you consider “the end of the Jewish line” is valid; you’re grieving for the loss of what you tried so hard to instill. It is obviously hard to watch a child walk away from what you hold dear. Yet Kahlil Gibran teaches that parents are but “the bows from which children as living arrows are sent forth”: “You may give them your love but not your thoughts, /For they have their own thoughts... You may strive to be like them, /but seek not to make them like you. /For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”
Embrace your kids, invite them often for festive meals, show them the joy in Judaism. Who knows? Perhaps they’ll join you yet. Meanwhile, let everyone be healthy and happy; that would be a good start.
Danit Shemesh: I can imagine your sadness, torn between your family and your principles.
As a ba’alat teshuva, you crossed oceans of change and evolution and made sacrifices and difficult decisions.
Being young and ambitious, you were not always understood. You embarked upon a new shore, a reframed reality in which God expects us to live by His Torah. On this shore, you built a family: a husband and children. And yet... you were devastatingly disappointed.
I applaud your unwavering belief in the face of pain and dissatisfaction.
That same belief is now your compass in this storm. What your son does is not in your hands. He is still your son, the one you cherish entirely. Pray for him to find Truth as you did. Be his mother, there to catch him if he falls.
In your place, I would not go to the ritual they are calling a “wedding,” lest they understand it as showing your support.
Comments and questions: 3ladies3lattes@ The writers’ book, Three Ladies, Three Lattes, is available from www.