Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review / August 21, 2000 / 20 Menachem-Av, 5760

'Fessing up to granny about abandoning one's people, non-kosher sis-in-law, and 'my niece is marrying a loser'

By Wendy Belzberg -- I am getting married to a woman I have been dating for a little over a year who makes me very happy. I have told everyone in my family except for my 92 year-old grandmother that my fiancée is not Jewish. My aunt is insisting that I tell my grandmother the truth before we get married, or she will. I don't see any reason to upset my grandmother. What do you say?

To your aunt I say: One word out of you and you're banished-not just from the wedding, but also from the family. Bullies and tattle-tales do not make nice playmates. They should be confined to their own backyards.

To you I say: Who are you protecting, your grandmother or yourself? Are you afraid of what the news will do to her or of how it will effect her esteem for you? You may choose to omit certain facts about your fiancée's birth, but if your grandmother asks outright you must tell the truth. If you are not prepared to defend your position before a 92 year-old woman, perhaps you haven't thought this intermarriage thing through. But don't fool yourself: If she doesn't ask, that means she probably already knows. And you don't need me to tell you what she's thinking--she is very disappointed in you.

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My sister-in-law agreed to keep a kosher home because it was important to my brother. She did not grow up keeping kosher, she does not have a strong footing in Jewish law, and she is forthright about the fact that the laws of kashrut are not important to her. They have been married for only 4 months and so far we have had a legitimate excuse every time we've been invited for dinner. The truth is, my husband and I do not feel comfortable eating in her home. Is there a delicate way of handling this situation?

No, there is no nice way to say that you don't trust someone's standards of kashrut and that you will not eat in their home. There is a truthful explanation, however, which you should offer. (It would help if you could point to examples of items in her pantry that she chooses to buy but that you would not. While pork chops and cheeseburgers are a universal no-no, there are legitimate disagreements about what constitutes adequate rabbinical supervision.) Whatever words you choose, serve up the truth right from the start. Isn't it better to be thought a religious extremist than a snobby sister-in-law?

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My 20 year-old niece informed me that she is getting married to her 23 year-old boyfriend. The two have been living together for two years with his mother in her apartment. The groom is an unemployed high-school dropout; his dream in life is to win the lottery. This is not the kind of person I hoped my niece would marry. Must my wife and I attend this wedding if we don't approve of it in principle? Should we stand on our principles to make a silent statement? I don't think a marriage built on such a foundation will stand the test of time.

Will this be the first "silent statement " you've made or have you made others? (Silent communication can be tricky if you actually intend your message to be heard.) If you have never before sat down with your niece and told her your concerns (read: horror) about her choice of a mate, now is not the time to make your point.

If you have, and she is getting married anyway, she has chosen not to listen. If you feel you must reiterate your concerns before you can attend the wedding in good conscience, you may do so. Gently. If she still wants you at her wedding, put on your dancing shoes. Don't flatter yourselves: Boycotting this wedding will have no impact on the success or longevity of the marriage. It will, however, have a powerful impact on your relationship with your niece.

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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'


© 2000, Wendy Belzberg