Im going through a dilemma right now. I broke up with a man who wasnt Jewish and thought was my soul mate. The reason we broke up was the differences in religion. Although I am not religious I feel it is necessary that both parents be Jewish in order for the children to fully experience Jewish culture in the home. As much as I want this, Im beginning to think that it will never happen. Im beginning to feel that by passing up the man I thought was my soul mate that no one else will ever be able to come into my life who I can feel this way about again.
Is it your opinion that I can fall in love again?
Do you think that the differences in religion are a reason for us not to be together or that it is only an excuse?
Yo, Denise! You wouldn’t be the first Jew to call off a relationship with a gentile person for the same reasons. So many of us with “relaxed religious lifestyles” (I prefer that term to “secular,” which implies if you’re not davening every morning and keeping a perfect kosher kitchen that you have no spirituality whatsoever) want to find a Jewish mate so we can have Jewish children. Even though we go about our assimilated, non-religious lives, sending Christmas cards and taking Good Friday off, the pull we feel to find another Jew remains strong. Perhaps it’s some hidden quirk in our DNA that lets us fall in love with those who aren’t Jewish, but when it comes to sealing the deal, we want what our parents want for us, and we want it under a chuppah.
However, you have free will. As a “non-religious” Jew, you likely choose the parts of our faith that fit and leave the rest to the Lubavitchers. The law that all Jews agree on is that the mother is the parent who defines a child’s Jewish lineage; you can get knocked up by O.J. Simpson and your kids will be Jewish. But whether they know what that means is up to you. It is your own commitment to Judaism that determines the faith, education and cultural identity of your children (for the first few years, anyway.)
Certainly, it’s easier to create a “full experience of Jewish culture” if you’re raising the chit’lins with a Jewish mate. But it’s not necessary. Yes, I know some readers’ index fingers are itching for the comments about now, but whether you “believe in it” or not, intermarriage is a reality. Over half of the young families in our congregation only have one Jewish parent, but the children are there at services and at Sunday school, growing up Jewish. There are bound to be conflicts and comprimises particular to these families (one mother told me last week that she conceded to have a Christmas tree last year because she felt she owed her Baptist-raised husband something after he had driven carpool to Hebrew lessons for months) but ultimately, this is what it means to be an unorthodox Jew in America these daysyou make your own way.
Yes, you will probably fall in love again, and if you stick to dating only Jewish men, you won’t have to go through this again. But you need to be sure that you’re not tossing out a good man with his dogma. Consider your reasons for dumping this guy: Is it about religion and cultural differences or is it a clash of deep-down beliefs? If a man is your beshertyour destinythe differences in your religions can be overcome as long as you share the same core convictions. It’ll be tricky, but it can be done.