Rabbi Lapin, you are my rabbi for many years – I listen and recommend to all my friends your CDs, I read books and listen to podcasts, sometime more then one time… I always find something new, and most importantly you always manage to lift my spirits. I’m so grateful for having your presence in my life!
I’m Jewish, but coming from the Soviet Union, I’m not a religious Jew. I have always believed in G-d, since I remember myself, but my relationship with G-d is a personal one rather than formally religious. I’m very happily married for 35 years to a Jewish man. I remember that I have never even considered marrying someone outside of my “tribe”, so to speak… But my sister is married for almost 40 years to a wonderful Russian man, who I love dearly.
Now my son has brought home a girl, who I happen to like a lot. Everyone in our family loves her; I think she is good for my son, but she is Russian, not Jewish and it bothers me.
You always managed to solve my dilemmas – what can you recommend in this case? How do I make my peace with my son marrying this girl?
Thank you so much for bringing our work to the attention of your friends. We appreciate that.
We’d like to start by giving some background information to our readers. When you say, ‘Russian’ you are not referring to anyone Jewish who is from Russia. There are, of course, thousands of Russian Jews. We assume the ‘Russian’ of which you speak is most likely not connected to any religion at all or possibly from a Christian Russian Orthodox background.
Despite being brought up in an atheistic country, you have a relationship with God. That is wonderful, but it is largely disconnected from your Jewish roots.
Imagine it was important for someone’s child to be a serious tennis player. That person would take her child to tennis lessons, she would allow her child to see her socialize with others who take tennis seriously. Right? Growing up, that child would never have any doubt about his mother’s commitment to tennis. But if mom seldom moved tennis out of her inner heart into day to day actions, there is no reason to expect the child to know of mom’s feelings and certainly little reason to expect him to act on them. Our children know us by our actions not by our feelings.
For some reason, perhaps a reason you don’t even fully understand yourself, it troubles you that your son wants to marry out of the Jewish faith. You may even know that Judaism passes down through the mother so your grandchildren will not be born as Jews.
Our dear Lyudmila, we wish that every Jew had educated access to their precious heritage. That wasn’t true for either you or your son. You gave him no reason to want to marry a Jewish girl. Despite recognizing that your inherited line to the Jewish people will end, we don’t see an alternative to lovingly welcoming this girl to your family. You can’t turn to your son now and demand that he place his religion above his emotions of love when he has no knowledge or experience of that religion.
Having said that, there is still much you can do. You have a relationship with God – use it. Turn to Him and ask Him to expose your son and his fiancée to the importance of faith. Implore Him to open their eyes to His truths. Who knows? Perhaps this wonderful girl will be the path that brings your son into knowledge of his traditions. Maybe you too will begin to value traditional religion and just as importantly, religious affiliation with a faith family. This will do much to bring such understanding into your children’s home.
Do what you can in the present; the future may surprise you,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin