I didn’t really have that many expectations about how my life would go. I was pliable, and gullible, and did what I thought was expected of me in order to maintain a certain amount of peace, and to stay within my comfort zone.
When I graduated from college, everyone wondered when I was going to marry. I didn’t date much. My parents set me up with several blind dates of nice Jewish boys, none of which intrigued me. I finally found the one, at the late age of 24. We married, and did the appropriate thing, started a family. We spent the next 25 years instilling in them the same values and traditions we were taught. The basic tenets and rituals of our religion, which we were taught; to live a righteous life and that the three most import aspects in life were family, charity and good deeds. I’ll spare you the Hebrew words for same.
My husband was raised in an Orthodox environment, while I was raised in a very relaxed reformed temple, yet we presented a united front, placing emphasis on our heritage, our history, our rituals and our belief in one God.
Both of our children were called to the Torah at the appropriate time, at age 13, to become a Bar and Bat Mitzvah (Daniel first, and then Maddy). We continued to celebrate the holidays, give charity and do Mitzvot both in the Jewish world and outside. We established a lifestyle, our own family traditions (which followed generations of traditions that were passed down to us), and went merrily about our lives. We thought we were doing everything right.
When my son left for college, he fell in love with a Catholic girl. A sweet, lovely, girl, who shares many of the same values as he, just comes from a different religious background. He has designs on marrying this young lady. We are happy for him because he is happy, although we would have preferred if he had fallen in love with a Jewish girl. I once sat with the ritual director of our Conservative temple expressing my concerns about this at its onset, and his reaction was that “God doesn’t know from love.”
My daughter went the exact opposite direction, and after spending eight months at a Jewish Seminary for Women in Jerusalem, is now extremely Orthodox in how she approaches her lifestyle. She studies Torah, needs approval from the Rabbi before she does things, and she keeps strictly Kosher, observes the Shabbat to the letter of the Law, as she does all other holidays. She is tolerant of the fact that nobody in her family does the same, and I believe is appreciative of the fact that we accept and support her decision.
My heart aches for the fact that for 55 years I have lived my live a certain way, and because of the choices my two children have made, (and it was certainly their choice to make, after all, they only came through me, not from me), my family traditions will now die with my generation. I know my daughter will not tolerate the way we celebrate Passover, and I know my daughter-in-law won’t understand it. What saddens me more, is that my daughter expresses heartache that half her family is not Jewish. That was something that didn’t matter to her before this transformation.
Both my husband and I love them both dearly, no matter what their choices, and we love the people they’ve chosen to spend their live with. So I am left with my original nuclear family, which is aging, and what’s worse, questioning of my children’s choices. I certainly didn’t expect this, and it is certainly out of my comfort zone.