Saturday, August 18, 2007

"The truth is that for many orthodox parents, religion is put above their children."

My first post about Intermarriage and Interdating continues to get comments more than a year after I posted it.

Here's the latest, from arielle:
Reading over these comments, i see a bunch of people who don't understand what it is like to grow up in an orthodox family and then intermarry. I found this blog when i was tryign to google people going through the same situation as me...I grew up orthodox, have been an atheist all my life (i remember in 1st grade moving my lips during davening so i could pretend to pray, because I didn't believe in it). I "came out" as non orthodox when I started college and moved out of my parents I am 25, seriously dating another atheist, who was raised catholic. All those people who say that if you are happy your parents will be happy, etc, that's just not true. My parents talk over me when i mention anything having to do with my boyfriend, use every excuse to give me a musser speach, and have flat out told me that if i marry him, they will no longer be able to talk to me. When I tell them I'm happy, they reply that I only "think" i'm happy, and that down the line i'll REALLY be miserable. Last week I attended my grandmother's funeral, and my father used around half the eulogy to talk about how he has to remember his mother by passing on jewish traditions to his children and make sure his children are jewish, etc. Now my dad is a baal tshuva, and his mom never cared who i dated...the only thing she ever asked me is if i was happy.

while it would be nice to think that parents will be happy if you are happy, the truth is that for many orthodox parents, religion is put above their children. It's sad, and hard to understand if you don't come from that background, but it can come down to a choice between your parents and the person you love- and they set it up that way to put incredible pressure on their kids to marry jewish. Meanwhile, most jewish people i have dated over the years (and it's been a LOT) do not have similar views to me on how to live your life, god, feminism, etc. When I started dating my current boyfriend on the other hand, it was like "wow, i finally understand what people are going on about when they talk about meeting 'the one'"; not only do we agree on most issues and get along great, the fact that we were both raised in very extreme religious conditions (his parents are fanatically catholic, and he was kicked out of his house for a while as a teenager because he did not want to get confirmed) brings us even closer together.


Keebo said...
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Miri said...

Huh. I guess I know a lot of people who probably would take that approach had their child married someone not Jewish. I like to think that it would hurt my parents more not to talk to me than it would to have me marry someone not Jewish...but truthfully, I guess I don't really know.

Aaron Toibish said...

Honestly, aren't there enough Jewish atheists to find one boyfriend among them?

asher said...

This is a very sophisticated argument....she wants to be "happy". I guess that's the basis of everything. You'd think a more cogent argument would be something a little deeper.

arielle said...

Aaron- My dad actually asked me the same thing. :) I've had a few atheist jewish boyfriends in the past, but those relationships did not work out for other reasons. I restricted myself to dating jewish people for my family until about a year ago, and i can't even estimate the number of (bad) first dates I've gone on from people met through jdate, local jewish 20something events, etc.

I didn't plan on dating my boyfriend when I first met him, but once I found myself falling for him, i had to ask myself if it was really worth giving up on someone I got along with on so many levels for a religion I did not believe in, so I could make my parents happy. Should I sacrifice my own happiness and wellbeing for my parents, who are willing to sacrifice their relationship with me for a religion?

Mordechai said...

Arielle, beyond the religious discussion because I know you could probably care less; if I dated and married someone my parents did not like (who was Jewish), they would not be happy. It is a matter of, even though it is my life, I am close enough to my family, to make their views on someone part of my view. The question I would ask myself is this: Could I live a life with this woman, and cut many ties with my family because they dislike her? It may be very unfair, but it might be a very true question for you in reality! I wish you luck with your affairs.

Keebo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron Toibish said...

Arielle, keebo is right, you don't have to justify your love to anyone. Having fine-tuned my ears to locate bachelors of science within a five mile radius, the idea that for some reason gentile atheists are qualitatively different from jewish atheists sounds as superstitious as a voodoo chicken. If you found someone genuine to love, I am happy for you. Perhaps gentile godlessness is more genuine.

aaron toibish said...

At the same time, I know intermarried couples who have very happy and long lasting marriages, and the non-jewish partner is a wonderful person in both cases. I am sure there are others.

jewish philosopher said...

Orthodox Jews are less tolerant than some secular people, however even the most tolerant person has some limits. Even the most freewheeling libertarian agnostic would probably have major issues with his child being a serial killer or habitually sodomizing little boys. It's just a question of where you draw the line.

I know personally an ultra-orthodox couple whose 20 year old daughter has become an outspoken atheist. They are much nicer to her than my Lutheran adopted parents were to me when I became Jewish.

Jack's Shack said...

As a parent I can appreciate how some people might feel like their children were insulting them by choosing different values.

As a son I know what it means to go against my parent's wishes and the discomfort that can provide.

But in the end I can't abandon my children. That is not to say that there are not any red lines. If they grew up to become some horrific pedophile or some such thing it might be different.

I don't worry about such things because I am involved in their lives. So while I would be greatly disappointed if they chose something other than Judaism, it wouldn't kill the relationship.

Hopefully I never have to worry about this.

Ben said...


For whatever it's worth take some advice from an experienced 60's hippie. It's not important to cut off ties with your family.If you do it will cause YOU pain & heartbreak in the long run. As in every situation which presents conflict, it might be better to work on some type of compromise.

Lubab No More said...

thanks for the post. good luck!

this attitude shouldn't be TOO surprising to anyone who grew up in that kind of environment. these parents are hiding behind "God's will" to punish their kids for rejecting their way of life. it would be nice if all parents truly only cared that their children were happy. the sad fact of the matter is that many parents are just selfish human beings (like many of us) and want the world to mold to their point of view without room for deviation.
there are probably also some parents who are "true believers" and might honestly feel that "my child will never be happy married to a goy!". but even this attitude is no excuse for acting like a jerk.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

• Mordechai:
Could I live a life with this woman, and cut many ties with my family because they dislike her?

Except Arielle hasn't cut off ties with her family.

Arielle made a decision, to be sure; but her parents are making a decision, too. To suppose that her parents are doing the only possible, inevitable thing is false. It just isn't so.

Therefore it is also a distortion to accuse Arielle of cutting off ties with her family.

Mordechai said...

Yes, it may be unfair to say that she is "cutting the ties". However, regardless of who is indeed "cutting the ties", the result remains the same.

And note, I did write: "It may be very unfair", because it would be. But, the question is not about what is fair, but instead, what type of life choice and relationship with your family you wish, or do have.

As for: "Well, I shouldn't date that person because of anything someone in my family might think"

I am close enough to my family, where if my family formed a consensus that they disliked a women I dated greatly, I would rethink our relationship and evaluate how my relationship would effect the relationship with my parents and family etc.

Arielle said...

Hey Jewish Atheist- just wanted to let you know your blog has inspired me to start my own blog about leaving the jewish world :) I've been keeping a general blog for around 6 years, so I've been going through old entries and reposting ones that relate to this transition. It's at

David said...

In my experience -- my first marriage was to a non-Jewish woman, my wife of 14 years is Jewish -- a marriage is more than just love, a commitment to an individual involves more than just that individual, and there are modes of communication, philosophy and spirituality where you may (or may not) find, over time, that you are profoundly different in basic ways from a spouse who comes from an entirely different faith tradition and cultural background.

This doesn't doom the relationship to failure. It just means that love, which supposedly conquers all, really has its job cut out for it.

We are blinded by the popular notion of romantic love. We are told, and tend to believe, that it's this elixir you drink with another person, that gives you both superhuman strength to withstand all trials and tribulations. That's a load of crap. A love relationship usually can't thrive in isolation. It's supported by a web of friendships, associations, support networks, and, yes, even beliefs.

My brother is married to a woman who's an Episcopal priest. They've had a fine married life, but that's partly because her beliefs were central to her, and he had none. He let her beliefs be the guiding principles of the home and of their parenting of their only child.

All of which is to say: we all build our own places of worship, whether we know it or not.

J.D. Turk said...

True to that! But Arielle is a daughter of feminism, and she would not allow her husband to have the sole stewardship of the ship known as family.

BTA said...

ok, first of all, JA, some binizz- why isn't my blog on the right?! ;)

Getting to Arielle, excellent post.

As a parent of young kids, and after leaving OJ, I realized the marriage issue would always linger. I married a jewish gal and we have a great marriage. I doubt I could relate to anyone who is actually a practicing catholic or any religion for that matter, besides perhaps a godless religion like buddism.

I mean, catholicism is so STUPID. It is just as dumb as OJ and perhaps worse. So, at least make sure this guy won't want a crucifix in your home or you'll be sorry.

And live far from his crazy catholic family too. Trust me on that one. Aren't there any nice anglican atheists like Dawkins that you could meet? ;)

In any event, I am reminded by your plight of a very telling moment in yeshiva. The rabbi (a very smart, nice one) was talking about akeidas yitzchok. He said it was a moral kasha that god would even command such a thing- a father binding and sacrificing his son! Just think about that image, you parents out there.

A newly minted BT said "well, if god commanded it, I'd do it..." And the rabbi became upset. He loved his sons and you could just see this troubled him.

That episode is the centerpiece and theme of the bris ceremony and other things. Sacrificing your son's pain for a few minutes to get him into the covenant, okay, it's bizarre but acceptable (so long as no mtziza baal peh, of course!)

But, just cutting your daughter out of your life? First of all, the grandkids will be jewish, so you know they'll come around. But, they are sacrificing their daughter for a lost ideal.

Lost especially since King Solomon, Moshe, King David all married shiksas!

Arielle said...

i doubt i could relate to anyone practicing another religion either...but my boyfriend is a very strong atheist, and trust me, he will never be hanging crucifixes in his house :)

also his parents live in indiana and we live in pihladelphia...but his parents, having both recently suffered from pretty bad illnesses, have decided that they would rather have a relationship with their son than to fight with him over religion (although this didn't come until after a several year period in which he refused to go home because of those arguments)

Barbariska said...

What about you Arielle, wouldn't you want someday maybe to have a menora in your house on chanuka for your kids? He'd say, "hey hun, I don't have a crucifix/christmas tree and you don't have a menora". Because you'd still consider your children jewish. You see it's different for you and them: you've had at least some exposure to jewishness in your childhood, but they wont get any, nothing, if your husband will have it his way.

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