My 30 year-old daughter is seriously (I think?) dating someone who is not Jewish. My husband and I are okay with this. My girlfriends are not. One of them make just makes a face when I bring it up, two make it very clear that they wouldn’t be happy if their children did the same and another just kind of ignores the topic. We are a mix in terms of how observant we are, though none of us are Orthodox.
My friends and I are more like sisters; we go back decades. When their children meet or have met a potential spouse I always show great enthusiasm and interest and expect the same from them. I truly wasn’t prepared for the religious status of my daughter’s boyfriend to matter so much to them. Seesaw, do I bring this up with them? Educate them about their ignorance or insensitivity? Or just ignore it?
Tell Them They Can Make a Positive Difference
Good friends are the people with whom you can and should talk openly and honestly. Speak to your friends, either individually or collectively, and say your version of:
“Girlfriends, I know the Jewish community rhetoric is that before marriage we would do everything possible to discourage intermarriage. I disagree. I think we have to be open and welcoming from the get-go, because we have to do so much repair work if we are unwelcoming at first.
I have to start right now. While I don’t want to put pressure on my daughter by introducing this man to all my friends, in case she doesn’t end up with him, I do need to be able to discuss strategy, joys and disappointments with you. And if things continue to progress, I’ll rely on you to help me show this young man the beauty of Judaism.
You are my best friends. I need you to invite my daughter and her boyfriend to your Shabbat dinners, to your break-fast, to sit in your sukkah and to attend your seders. I don’t want you to proselytize, I just want you to be the wonderful loving ‘aunties’ you’ve always been.
Listen, we both have the same goal. We want my grandchildren to be Jewish. The best way to do this is to give them good Jewish experiences, so maybe they will be brought up Jewish or at least know about Judaism and perhaps want to learn more. If nothing else, they will be friends of the Jewish people.
And this isn’t just my opinion. A recent study entitled “Millennial Children of Interfaith Marriage” from Brandeis University (read Interfaithfamily.com’s round-up of it here) tells us that ‘Jewish education, not parental interfaith marriage, is the key determinant of later Jewish engagement.’ Please help me make this happen.”