All I heard growing up was: “You’re going to marry a nice, Jewish doctor when you’re older.” And I honestly thought I would. Both of my parents immigrated from the USSR when they were in their 20s. Their goal was to move to the United States to escape religious persecution and to seek a better life for their future families. When they came to the United States, having the freedom to practice their religion was a priority. Years later when they had to think about settling down in a town where their children would spend the next 20 years, they chose the town solely based on its proximity to the local synagogue.
The synagogue became my second home. I grew up practicing Judaism in a Reform congregation. Between Hebrew school, weekly Shabbat services, serving as as president of my youth group and working as an assistant teacher for the Hebrew school, I spent a lot of time with my congregation. It’s the place I made my best childhood friends, and it was a community I felt very safe in.
So when I went on my first real date in college, and the cute boy across from me told me that he grew up going to a Catholic elementary school, my stomach instantly dropped. I couldn’t hide from the immediate connection that we had, but I knew this was the start of a real problem.
When I told my parents that I started dating someone, their first question was, “Is he Jewish?” Of course, they didn’t hear the response they were hoping for. My mom replied by saying, “He’s your first real boyfriend, I’m sure it won’t last long.” My dad replied with anger and hung up the phone.
My boyfriend and I dated eight years before getting married, and in those eight years, I endured countless arguments with my parents. I lost touch with my father, and we barely spoke for most of that time. My supportive siblings struggled to mediate difficult conversations with my parents. I had to keep reminding myself that I was doing the right thing for my future. I began to realize that I had to set my needs and my future family as a priority, and hope that one day my parents would come around and be able to see my happiness.
Our wedding planning was challenging, with a lot of resistance from my father up to a few weeks before the wedding. I contemplated even having a father-daughter dance. Deep down I knew that—even through all of these difficult tribulations—not having this dance would be something I would deeply regret.
After the wedding, due to schooling, my husband and I relocated five hours away from my family. It would have been very easy for us to disconnect and go our separate ways, but I feel very lucky that my husband was always very supportive of my hopes for a happy extended family.
My husband went out of his way to suggest we see my parents and spend weekends with them. And, little by little, my parents began to see how happy my husband made me. They started to understand and accept our relationship together. At the time, he was finishing medical school, and they noticed his many positive qualities: How he always put me first, his determination and his strong work ethic. And, very slowly, we started to repair the years of hurt.
We have now been married over three years, and have welcomed a baby girl into our family. I am pleased to say that my many years of hope have led to a positive relationship for everyone. I think that after all of this time, my parents will agree that “a nice, not-so-Jewish, doctor” is the perfect husband for me, and father to their granddaughter.