Dear Emuna: Revisiting Zuckerberg’s Intermarriage

June 28, 2012

8 min read


How could you simply ignore the fact that Mark Zuckerberg intermarried?

Dear Emuna,

I noticed that your article about the Zuckerberg marriage contract was up for over a week before you added a comment on the fact that it was an intermarriage. I was shocked and disappointed that you didn’t comment on this aspect of the situation earlier. You have damaged your credibility with me and, I’m sure, with many other readers. Please explain your response – or more accurately, your lack of response.

-- Frustrated Reader

Dear Frustrated,

I’m really sorry to read your reaction and, frankly, I’m a little confused. Aish HaTorah has been at the forefront of the fight against intermarriage and assimilation for almost 40 years. Many of us (myself included) have been working in Jewish outreach for over 30. Do I still need to keep proving my creds?

But more than that, I hope that I’ve learned some important lessons along the way. One of the first is that telling someone they shouldn’t have intermarried has no impact whatsoever. Rebuke and recrimination wouldn’t make any difference to the thousands of less wealthy and less famous Jews who intermarry every year.

What does make a difference is ahavas Yisrael, true love of our fellow Jews – and acting on this love. Emailing to complain, to rant and rave is easy – but when was the last time you had dinner with one of your Jewish sisters or brothers who doesn’t share your philosophical or religious outlook? When was the last time you reached out to him or her in a significant and meaningful way?

When our children don’t get along, when they fight or are mean to each other, it’s excruciatingly painful to us as parents. The Almighty feels the same way. And when our children work or play nicely together, when they enjoy each other’s company, when they help one another – well, nothing gives us greater pleasure. The Almighty feels the same way.

The next step is to try to ensure that every Jewish child – and adult – has a Jewish education, enabling them to make an informed choice about their people, their God and His Torah. Without education and information, how can we expect anyone to choose a Jewishly involved life? Mark Zuckerberg is not to blame for his decision to intermarry; we are. And even though he had, arguably, the best secular education that money can buy (some Yalies may protest), his Jewish education fell far short. We, as a community, are responsible for that as well.

Intermarriage is a tragedy for the Jewish people. The current rate is appalling – and unbearable. But it is the symptom of a much deeper malaise, a much more serious and widespread problem. And those of us who care deeply, who find it so unbearable, are trying to do something every day to combat the situation. If, as your letter suggests, you find it equally painful, step away from your computer and come join us.

-- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

My daughter is very athletic and has a hard time sitting still in school. All year I entice her with the reward of a camp full of physical activities where she can recharge her batteries for the upcoming year. Right before camp started, my normally well-coordinated daughter tripped down the front steps and broke her leg. Now she can’t go to camp she’s depressed and kvetchy, and she expects me to entertain her all day long. I have my own work to do, and I have to confess, I was looking forward to some quiet time this summer. I know it’s not her fault but I’m feeling very resentful and not sure how we’re both going to get through the summer with our sanity intact. I would appreciate any tools and coping tips you could share.

-- Frazzled Already

Dear Frazzled,

I can really empathize with both of you. I understand the need for space as well as your daughter’s pain and frustration – and ensuing grumpiness.

Rest assured – everyone’s reactions are normal; you are still a good mom. It is possible to love your daughter dearly and neither want to nor be able to entertain her 24/7 all summer long. So step one is lose the guilt.

Step two is to be clear about expectations and establish boundaries. “This is when I am available; this is when I am not.” “These are the types of activities I’m willing to engage in; these are the one I am not.” “The rest of the time is up to you.” I find that, as a general parenting principle, the more our children expect us to entertain them, as long as we hold out even the remove possibility, the less they will do themselves and the more they will pester us (like the rats who get intermittently rewarded when pressing a lever and will press that lever ad infinitum!). And, conversely, once we make clear that we are not available, the more they will be creative and resourceful on their own.

Step 3 may be to help your daughter discover what other resources are available to her – classes, social activities, new books – and help her create some structure in her day. Your daughter may initially be resistant but eventually the boredom will get to her and she will welcome your gentle suggestions. You can’t force her; you can only direct her and then step back.

It could be a challenging time but, with firm boundaries, you should both be able to enjoy both your time together and your time apart.

-- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

My 14 year-old son is basically a loner. He is not antisocial but he needs a lot of quiet time. At the end of a chaotic, noisy day at school, he desperately needs time alone in his room to decompress. During the year, this schedule works fine for everyone but, come summertime, we have a problem. All of his classmates, and I mean all, are going to camp. He doesn’t want to go and he’s too big for me to pick him up and carry him there. Yet I’m afraid he’ll be bored and unproductive – and end up pestering me all summer long. What should I do?

-- Concerned Mom

Dear Concerned,

Well this seems to be my week for summer questions and summer dilemmas. Summer seems to hold a special place in our fantasy life – we all seem to remember long, lazy pool or beachside summer afternoons, popsicles in hand, not a care in the world. I’m not whether these days ever really existed or not but we’re constantly trying to recreate them (or create them from scratch) And feeling frustrated when our summer plans just don’t seem to measure up.

I think we all need to let go of the nostalgia and the fantasy. Summer time is a definitely a different opportunity than during the school year but it is not carefree – nor should it necessarily be. We need to have goals and plans for the summer just like we do for the rest of the year.

And you have to know your son. Many children are nervous about camp – being away from home, having to make new friends, living in a strange environment, being forced to follow an unfamiliar schedule. Only you know whether it’s a matter of pushing your son slightly outside his comfort zone for an experience he would probably end up enjoying or whether camp would be painful and unpleasant.

Either way, if your teenage son refuses, like you said, you can’t pick him up and put him there. And you need to work with his strengths and respect his individuality and his needs. But you can’t let him spend the summer in his room. Like the previous mother, you need to set boundaries.

You also need to make clear that because you love him and see his amazing potential, you will not allow him to fritter away his summer. Strategize together. In what ways does he want to learn and grow? Are there classes he could take, people could study with, clubs he could join? How is he going to get exercise and stay healthy? You have aright to insist on a plan and a schedule. For both of your sakes.

Possibly at this moment, with school just out, the prospect of time just to “chill” seems appealing. That dream will die quickly and without a plan you will be at each other’s throats.

Luckily we live in a world of multiple resources – online classes, community centers and sports facilities, tutoring services etc. – avail yourself of them (maybe you and the mother above should get together and pool resources!). He may need your help to achieve the right balance between productive external activities and his equally productive alone time. And the time spent pestering you…your job is to help him achieve the balance – through working with him on ideas and a schedule and through modeling it yourself!

-- Emuna

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