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What Now?

July 12, 2010 | by Elyah Leboff

Is there hope after intermarriage?

Question: I was educated in public schools, not day schools. My friends were mostly non-Jews, and so were my boyfriends. My parents are both Jewish but they are unhappily married. I thought that if I found a man who loved me, even if he wasn't Jewish, I'd be far better off than my parents.

I am now intermarried with two children. The love faded, and intermarriage bred its own problems. My children attend church instead of synagogue. My son is almost 13, without any bar mitzvah celebration in sight. I regret this, and I wish I could explore Judaism now. My husband wouldn't stop me, but he wouldn't participate either.

My heart tells me to explore Judaism, but my mind tells me that if I like it, it may cause irrevocable damage to my marriage, and subsequent harm to our children. So I feel stuck. Is there anything I can do?

Signed, What Now?

Answer: I can't imagine how hard this situation is for you. You seem to be feeling a spiritual awakening and I would encourage you to do whatever you can, as best as you can. Don't give up that first step because of what the future may bring; the future may surprise you. After taking that first step, you may find the strength to take another one. Also, new possibilities will come into view.

What can you do to start? Take small steps. For example, the Internet is filled with Jewish resources. Use them. Subscribe to Jewish websites. Search for MP3 lectures that catch your interest; listen to them while you commute to work or go for a jog. Print media also has its advantages – Jewish magazines and books (you can easily find them on the web). Buy them and keep them around. Your home will already start to feel different, more Jewish.

Beyond that, does your local synagogue have a monthly calendar? Perhaps they have an evening class you can attend? Or you might enjoy something less formal to start with. Find out if they have regular social functions – breakfasts, luncheons, and maybe even weekend retreats. Make new friends. Look for that person you can confide in over cups of cappuccino; she's probably waiting for you.

You said that your children attend church. Why not bring them to synagogue?

Also, you said that your children attend church. Why not bring them to synagogue? Maybe you can even send them to Jewish youth group activities. They'll have something to sort out later in life, but at least you’re giving them a chance to connect to the Jewish people. Tens of thousands of college students have traveled to Israel because of these small sparks of Judaism from their childhood. "We lit Chanukah candles when I was a kid but I didn't understand why. I came here to find out!" Why not your children, too? The more sparks you provide for them, the more likely you will ignite their interest. While you're providing sparks, maybe light Shabbat candles and make a special Friday night dinner.

You might be wondering about keeping kosher, and it's probably not feasible for you right now to change over your kitchen etc. But it’s not all or nothing. Look for kosher symbols like O-U on your everyday food products. And perhaps there are certain non-kosher foods that you could consume less of.

It’s all about creating a consciousness of being a Jew. And every effort counts.

If you feel you may have made a mistake way back when, don’t let that dictate the rest of your life. You still have options, and the free will to pursue the stirrings of your soul. It would be a huge mistake to ignore or deny those feelings. They will gnaw at you, and become the source of future regrets.

Finally, I'll ask, why did you marry this man? Didn't you think he was considerate, loving, and caring (and probably intelligent, too)? If you've found that Judaism has value, if you've found that it brings meaning and happiness to your life, would he deny it to you? He may show an interest after all.

I wish you all the best,


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