This article was reprinted with permission from The Forward
The Seesaw is a new kind of advice column in which a broad range of columnists will address the real life issues faced by interfaith couples and families. Join the discussion and you can email your quandaries, which will remain anonymous, to: email@example.com. This edition of The Seesaw features InterfaithFamily board member Ruth Nemzoff. Click here to read the other responses.
When I was young woman I converted to Judaism. I had just married a Jewish man who wanted to raise Jewish children, some for his parents but also for himself, and so before we got pregnant I went through the process and became a Jew. I can’t say I remember ever feeling truly Jewish myself, but I did it for my family, so we could be part of a community and a value system that I believed in.
We now have two adult children, one married to a Jew and one engaged to one, and one Jewish grandchild, a toddler who goes to a Shabbat class once a week. Mission accomplished. Seesaw, I was raised Quaker and now that I my children are grown and my house is quiet I have found myself longing to return to worship with them. I feel guilty about this, but also excited about the prospect of returning to a form of spirituality that I connect with – or at least once did. I would still accompany my husband to synagogue whenever he wants and participate in services as I have over the years, and would still host holidays at our house with joy. So, if I do go to a Quaker meeting, what would this mean for my family? My Judaism? My marriage?
It’s Not Uncommon to Revisit One’s Past as Life Progresses
RUTH NEMZOFF: You have certainly done your part for the Jewish people. I thank you for the time effort and energy you have devoted to Judaism and to Jewish continuity.
My opinion matters little in response to this question. Rather, I suggest you talk with your husband and explain how you feel. Highlight the pride you feel in having accomplished the goal the two of you set as a couple to raise a Jewish family. Mention that you are enthusiastically willing to continue the family’s Jewish practice. Share your need to explore your roots and add your past spiritual practices to your present. Mention it is not uncommon for individuals to revisit their childhood and its solace as life progresses. Let your husband know you are not asking him to come with you, nor for his permission, but you want to be honest with him about your desires. Note that you have worked successfully as a couple over many years and you hope you will have his support as you continue your spiritual journey. Depending on your relationship and trust with your rabbi, you can consult with him.
After the two of you have come to an understanding, together you can decide if and when to tell the children. They are adults after all. I’d like to end this by once again expressing gratitude for what you have done to date.
Dr. Ruth Nemzoff, author of “Don’t Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children” and “Don’t Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws into Family” is a resident scholar at The Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center. She is on the Board of InterfaithFamily.