Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review May 2, 2001 / 9 Iyar 5761

'Jew questions' and falsifying faith;
magic marker mayhem; I want kids

By Wendy Belzberg -- My wife and I are one of a few Jewish couples in a small suburban community. If not for my work we would certainly choose to live in an area with a greater Jewish population. Our neighbors regularly come to us to ask "Jew questions." We hate the responsibility of feeling that we alone give this community the impression of what real Jews are like, and that we have to behave in a particular way to represent our people. Is there anything wrong with just pretending not to be Jewish for the next couple of years?

It sounds to me like it may be too late for you to go undercover. Especially since you probably did not advertise your faith in the first place. If you are the only family for miles with bagels in your shopping cart it may not be as easy as you think to hide from your neighbors.

On a more serious note, you and your wife are not the sole guardians of the faith-even if your neighbors seem to feel you are. Point them toward Jewish web sties, your local library or, if they have a sense of humor, the work of a writer like Philip Roth. You can and should be proud of your heritage without feeling as if that is the first and only thing people see when they look at you. In short, yes there is something very wrong with pretending not to be Jewish.

Our daughter came home from kindergarten the other day with magic marker on the back of her shirt. One of her classmates had run a marker along her back. According to the teacher-who called both sets of parents--it was done without provocation. Our daughter's shirt is ruined. We have heard nothing from the parents of the "marker." Shouldn't that family have called?

Against whom are you holding a grudge: the five-year-old, the parents or both? Yes, in a perfect world the parents should have called and offered to pay the replacement value of the shirt. But accidents with paints, markers, glue and scissors are routine among the kindergarten set. If your daughter's classmate had pushed her to the ground and knocked out some of her teeth, then I'd say a phone call is required. But marker on the back of a shirt qualifies as a minor offense. I'd be willing to bet this is your first child.

I have been dating a man for the past four years. He has a child by a previous marriage and, by his own account, is a terrible father; he does not want to have any more children and the subject is not open for discussion. Having watched him with his son, I would have to agree that he appears to have no paternal instincts. We are madly in love and very happy together. I want to be with him but I also want to have children.

I could take five or six sentences to say this but I don't have enough column inches and it all boils down to one thing in any event: Get out. Your boyfriend's honesty and self-awareness are commendable.

But bridging the divide between different faiths is easier than resolving the dilemma you face. No relationship is worth such a price; children are not negotiable. (Abraham is the only person I can think of who was willing to sacrifice his child, and that's because he was asked by G-d to do so.) There will never be a right time to break the bond; you will have to go cold turkey. If you shoot for tomorrow as your departure date but manage to get out within the next 6 months to a year, you can still feel good about having executed a heart-wrenching decision in a timely fashion. (You may have to adjust my suggested timeframe to accommodate your remaining childbearing years.)

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01/08/01: My kid hates Hebrew school; Stay single or abandon heritage?
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08/21/00: 'Fessing up to granny about abandoning one's people, non-kosher sis-in-law, and 'my niece is marrying a loser'
08/14/00: Marrying 'in' for questionable motivations; Should a do-gooder be reimbursed?
08/07/00: Communing with the clouds, betrothal, and banishing bosses
07/28/00: Small-city guys, self-centered siblings
07/21/00: When a child takes religion seriously, marriage obsession, and guests who just don't get it
07/14/00: Divorcing brother-in-law, uncampy kids, and a dot.comer who makes it big time
07/07/00: Hypocrites, reality checks, and the 'real estate challenged'


© 2001, Wendy Belzberg