Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review Jan. 2, 2000 / 7 Teves 5761

A Jewish Grinch? Baby bigots and when grandparents call it quits

By Wendy Belzberg -- I'm 36 and single and everyone who meets me wants to set me up. People assume that I'm unhappy and that I want to get married -- which I do not. They also assume I want to have children -- which I do not. Why can't everyone just leave me alone?

If there were a Jewish equivalent of the Grinch, I would suggest you bear a striking resemblance to him.

You should consider yourself fortunate that your friends and acquaintances care enough about you to want you to be happy-even if it is their definition of happiness they are pushing. Have you never read a wonderful novel or seen a great movie you wanted to share with a friend?

You do raise a legitimate point, however: married people think everyone should be married, and people with children the same. If you are convinced that you know more about happiness-or what truly makes you happy-than your well-intentioned friends, it shouldn't be difficult to be gracious about your chosen lifestyle.

* * *

My children attend private school about an hour outside of New York City. My 9-year-old son recently came home and told me that one of his classmates said he would not be welcome at their family's country club. The reference went over my son's head, but I know that the club does not admit Jews. When and how is the right time to talk to children about anti-Semitism?

If you've had occasion to talk to your son about the class bully, you've already laid the groundwork. Even better, you can point to what class bullies look like later in life; this child is clearly learning his behavior at home from the overgrown bullies that raise him.

Call me a cynic, but I believe anti-Semitism is prevalent and on the rise. Your children are never too young to understand that, as Jews, they are different and will be singled out. The question you are really asking is when is the right time to tell your children about the persecution Jews have suffered for centuries? The answer to that depends largely on the child. There is a delicate balance between teaching your children history and giving them nightmares.

Do alert the school immediately. Board members and administrators may condone such views privately (they may well belong to the same country club) but they will understand their legal responsibility to denounce anti-Semitism publicly. There are programs designed specifically for schools to combat racism and bigotry. It sounds to me like your school may be a candidate for such a program. Or at least that one family in your community may be a candidate for a little consciousness-raising.

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After 36 years of marriage, my parents are talking about getting a divorce. I'm obviously too old to expect them to consider staying together "for the sake of the children," but I wish they would consider staying together for the sake of their grandchildren. Bubby and Zaidy are fixtures in my children's lives and they will be devastated.

Your selfishness is forgiven since you have your children's best interests at heart.

Bubby and Zaidy will continue to be fixtures in your children's lives; they are divorcing each other, not their grandchildren. If you wish to downplay it, there is nothing wrong with saying that Bubby and Zaidy have not been getting along very well-just as your children don't always get along-and that they are taking a time out from one another. Unfortunately, divorce has become so commonplace that I wouldn't be surprised if your children jump right to what is really going on.

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07/07/00: Hypocrites, reality checks, and the 'real estate challenged'


© 2000, Wendy Belzberg