dear gefilte

Dear Gefilte: My Jewish Daughter Is Dating a Catholic Boy. Help.

dear gefilte

Dear Gefilte,

I’ve tried everything else I can think of. Maybe you can help.

My 22-year old college-graduate daughter has been dating a Catholic boy, also a college graduate since they met in high school. He’s a nice boy, and on a personal level, I like him very much, which I’ve told both him and her. However, I just can’t accept the fact that he isn’t Jewish. It’s not that he’s unfit to be with her; he’s of fine character. 

However, the fact that he’s not Jewish makes him inappropriate in principle to be with her. I’ve tried talking to my daughter about this on a number of occasions, but invariably these deteriorate into shouting matches. Also, my wife doesn’t care that this boy isn’t Jewish; in fact, I seem to be the only one in either my wife’s family or mine who opposes this relationship or that it could result in marriage, God forbid a billion times over.

I don’t know what to do anymore. I love my daughter very much and I want a relationship with her, but I don’t know what to say or do to make her understand how important it is for her to marry within the Jewish faith. I am a regular Sabbath and holiday shul-goer, and we do at least try to observe in the house, although my wife does it mostly in deference to me. I’ve brought my children to shul over the years much as possible, and tried my best to foster in them the desire to embrace and continue their involvement in the Jewish faith, but has it all been for naught? I want all the future generations of my line, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc., whether I live to see them or not (I’m 55 and in good health overall) to live as Jews and continue the faith on down my line.

What, if anything, can you suggest? 

Very truly yours,

DAD IN DISTRESS

READ: How I’ll Carry on the Jewish Stories in my Interfaith Marriage


Dear Dad,

Have you ever read “The Zax?

It’s one of my favorite stories from the brilliant mind of Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) about two creatures walking through the prairie of Prax and bumping into each other. They are going in opposite directions and neither of them is willing to make room to let the other pass.

One of the Zax says,

Never budge! That’s my rule. Never budge in the least!

Not an inch to the west! Not an inch to the east!

I’ll stay here, not budging! I can and I will

If it makes you and me and the whole world stand still!”

Spoiler alert: the whole world keeps going. Except for those two Zax. Who stand in the same place presumably for the rest of their lives while a bustling city is built around them. The last page of the story is wild with bright colors and a new skyline and the Zax are frowning under a highway bypass because they still refuse to change direction.

Here’s another story. It doesn’t rhyme or have fun pictures and I don’t think this one should ever be told to children, but I’ll share it with you. It’s called THE HONKER AND THE BRAT. It’s based on a series of real events called my life. It stars another Dad-in-Distress named David.

David was a very kind man. David was a very patient man. David liked fresh tomatoes and classical music and my mom. This was unacceptable to me. My mom had been widowed for about five years when she met David through a friend of a friend of a rabbi of a friend. Yes, David was Jewish. He also honked instead of laughing whenever he thought something was funny, so I decided to call him The Honker. When Mom and The Honker got married in our living room, I wore a dark dress and pouted in all the pictures.

The Honker was ridiculously chipper in the morning. I was in eleventh grade at the time, and each day when I came downstairs, he wanted to chat about colleges, especially Bucknell. The Honker loved Bucknell. He wanted to take me on a tour all over the country to different campuses and he wouldn’t pressure but maybe we could visit Bucknell too? I just sneered in response.

READ: Interfaith Family Bullying: When Do You Stop Fighting And Just Give Up?

One morning, a few months after The Honker officially became my stepdad, I decided that the only way to let him know that I was not in the mood to ever change my opinion or accept him was to give him the silent treatment. The Honker was telling me about a tomato or his printing business and I just pretended he wasn’t there. Even when he was walking out the door to catch the commuter train into New York City.

“Bye ladies!” he called to Mom and me. “Have a great day!”

Those were the last words The Honker ever said to me. He dropped dead of a heart attack about an hour later, just after getting off at Grand Central Station. A crush of strangers circling around him on the sidewalk were the last faces he saw on this earth.

So, Dad-in-Distress, why am I telling you this sad tale and what does it have to do with your wishes for your daughter?

Here it is, the horseradish of truth. Or else, just my salty opinion.

The world doesn’t stand still. If you’re a Brat or a Zax you are only going to hurt yourself. Those Zax were trapped for life. And I never got to say goodbye or thank you or really, I love you, to my kind, patient, honking stepdad.

READ: My Name is Rachel Stein & I Am Not a Jew

Listen up. Your daughter sounds like a wise, kind, openhearted young woman. Her Catholic boyfriend does too. And if you insist that they conform to your “principle,” it sounds to me like you will lose them. You’ve been able to practice your faith for the past 55 years with your family adapting to your wishes. So isn’t it time for you to practice your faith and adapt to some of theirs?

I want you to munch on hamantaschen with your grandchildren and read them Dr. Seuss by the shores of Galilee. But that can only happen if you let your daughter follow her faith and her love. It’s time for you to budge.

With love and schmaltz,

Gefilte

Have a question for Gefilte? Send it to deargefilte@kveller.com, and you might just get an answer. 

Dear Gefilte

Dear Gefilte is Kveller's advice column. You can send your questions for Gefilte to deargefilte@kveller.com. Dear Gefilte is written by Abby Sher.

Abby Sher is a writer, performer, and mom to three cool beans. Her memoir, Amen, Amen, Amen: Memoir of a Girl Who Couldn't Stop Praying got lots of awards from people like Oprah. She writes regularly for The New York Times and The Jewniverse and wears a bike helmet to bed.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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