Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review Jan. 25, 2002/12 Shevat 5762

The new 'Jewish question'; unfaithful oldsters; gambling on our family's future

By Wendy Belzberg -- I am a Conservative Jew with a background in the sciences. I fear the eventual collapse of our species due to the worldwide increase in population. What troubles me is how to deal with "Jewish large families." Each ethnic group in America might argue that they need to increase their numbers to offset past losses. Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs could make the same argument even though they live in a desert area with declining resources per capita. In contrast, Alan Dershowitz said in "The Vanishing American Jew" that combining Jews' high assimilation rates with low birthrates would cause us to quickly disappear from the American scene, except for the high birthrate in the orthodox segment.

How can I advise Jews to have small families for the benefit of all peoples when other groups have no such environmental concerns?

A: I hope I won't lose you as a reader by saying that I'm with Professor Dershowitz on this one. Or at least with the argument you ascribe to him. I will grant you that my vision is narrower than yours: you are speaking about the planet while I am responding to the much narrower, Jewish equation. But the data I have seen would indicate that the Jewish population is being assimilated right out of existence-and that doesn't sit well with me.

I urge every Jewish man and woman to consider his or her responsibility for the perpetuation of our religion and heritage. This is not solely an Orthodox responsibility. Not to mention that Orthodox Jews represent only a small cross-section of the Jewish people. My opinion is based more on emotion than intellect--you wouldn't want to discuss quantum physics with me either-and I claim no expertise in the area. I invite my readers to weigh in on the topic. Who knows, this may be one of those rare occasions where I am shown to be all wrong.

Q: I have fallen in love with someone who is not happily married. We are both senior citizens. Is this such a terrible sin?

A: You make a point of mentioning your age. You must feel that your senior citizen status entitles you to special dispensation. But is age an excuse for what I suspect most of us would define as immoral behavior?

Ask yourself, would you feel differently about your behavior if you and your amour were both in your twenties or thirties? Age is not a factor in the "rightness or wrongness" of your dilemma. If the couple in question has grown old together, it is difficult to imagine that they have just recently become unhappily married. Why has your "love" remained in this relationship? Has he/she attempted to ameliorate an unhappy situation? I freely admit that I have no idea what makes one marriage last while another falls apart, but I will say that I subscribe still to the belief that one should leave a marriage before diving into a fresh love affair. At any age.

Q: My husband and I pooled our money when we married. Early in our marriage my husband heard of a great business venture from a friend, invested, and lost a significant amount of our savings. He now has another deal he wants to invest in which does indeed have potentially huge upside but carries equal risk. How can I tell him without crushing his ego that times are tough and I think we should keep our money safe?

A: If your husband is intent on gambling, particularly under volatile economic conditions, why not suggest buying several tickets for the state lottery?

Perhaps early on in the marriage you were both still pretending that money didn't matter, or that you could have a marriage without making joint decisions.

The financial decision you now face is not about ability, or ego. This is about family and long-term planning, about risk versus security. Period. It is as much an emotional decision as it is a financial one. Letting your husband know that you are opposed to his investment should not deal a crushing blow to his ego. And if it does, you had best take a long look at your marriage and at the man you married.

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


© 2002, Wendy Belzberg