Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hat trick post: Draft 2 of the letter to my dad.

Well now that a few days have passed, I'm less angry. Right now I'm working on two options of a reply to my dad's letter on sunday. I want to make two points with this letter 1. that I hope he will reconsider and come to my wedding anyways, and that if he ever decides to meet up with B and let him into his life then we can reconcile and 2. if he decides not to let B in to his life, then I won't be coming to visit anymore.

Letter 1( short and to the point):

Dear Abba:

I am sorry, and I love you, but if you cannot accept B into your life than you can no longer be a part of mine. I've changed the wedding to a Sunday in May so that if you'd like to attend, you can. Our doors will always be open to you if you change your mind.

~Abandoning Eden

Letter 2 (long and argumentative, which will probably result in him sending back a letter quibbling with small points):

Dear Abba,

Thank you for your response, I understand that it must have been difficult to write, but I appreciate the considerate tone of your message.

However, I don't think attending my wedding would be a 'meaningless gesture' at all. According to you, my wedding is not a real wedding anyway- so not attending it seems to me like more of 'meaningless gesture' in that you would be demonstrating your disapproval for something, but would not change the outcome. Attending on the other hand would be extremely meaningful to me, as it would demonstrate to me that even though you don't love or support my choices, you love and support *me* enough to attend my wedding despite your misgivings.

You say you hope our relationship will continue and grow in the future. I appreciate the sentiment, but on a practical level, I don't see how you expect that to happen. Do you expect me to continue to come to visit without my husband, knowing that my parents refuse to even meet him, let alone welcome him into their home? By not welcoming B into your home you are, in effect, not welcoming me.

Every time I talk to Mom, if I mention anything about B, she just talks over me and tries to pretend he doesn't exist. I don't know how I can have a meaningful relationship with anyone, let alone my parents, as long as I can't talk about a huge part of my life. Over the past few months my conversations with Mom have become increasingly more superficial, as the only thing I can talk about now is what's going on at school. Which in the end is just like a business relationship - we are as close as I am with my dissertation adviser. In fact, my dissertation adviser had me and B over for brunch once, so at this point I'm even closer with him than I am with my own parents.

Finally, we are planning on having kids in a few years after I'm established in a job. Do you expect me to allow them to go over to your house or have any kind of relationship with you, if you refuse to meet their father? According to jewish law, my children will be jewish no matter who I marry. However, by not letting B into your life, you are ensuring that the only grandparents they will have a relationship with will be their catholic grandparents.

We have decided that even though you do not want to come to the wedding at this time, we will be rescheduling it so that it will be on a Sunday, after lag ba'omer (in May). I hope that you will reconsider your decision about attending before that time, and if you decide to attend we will welcome you. If you ever wish to meet B our home will always be open to you. Unfortunately until that time I will not be able to come home to visit anymore. As such, I have made plans to spend thanksgiving in Chicago with B's family.

Lastly, I know it won't change your mind, but here is an interesting article about intermarriage

Abandoning Eden

So tell me internets: which letter would you send? And feel free to critique either one.

Letter 3, suggested by a friend, in which I do not make clear that they are no longer welcome into my life

"It wouldn't be a meaningless gesture, it would mean a great deal to me, I love you both very much. I respect your desire not to attend, but we've rescheduled to Sunday just in case you change your mind."


  1. AE - This is really a no win situation and there are no easy answers. However, sending the second letter really burns your bridges which is something you don't seem to want.

    You need to move on and realize that you are, unfortunately, never going to have the close relationship you yearn for.

    You have already taken the high road by making the wedding on a Sunday and after Lag Baomer. Now take the high road and send the first letter. If they come around in their thinking that would be great, but you have to stop letting it eat you up. I know that is hard, but I think it is the only way to proceed.

  2. I'd send the first letter.

    It gets the required information across, and it doesn't provide things to argue over in order to avoid the point.

  3. really? I thought the first letter was a lot more bridge-burney...

  4. I think the second one gets nit picky and just drudges up the issues over again. you know where they stand and they know where you stand. nobody wins by going in this circle.

  5. I'd send #3 (or nothing, right now) - you're not going to have to tell them they're not going to be a part of your life if they won't accept your husband - I think they'll figure that out themselves. Don't expect an answer right away. I think the ball will be in their court. If they contact you about visiting them for Thanksgiving, ask, "Can I bring my fiance, B?" If they say "no," then tell them you can't see them.
    Then send them an invitation to the wedding and they'll have to decide if they want to attend or not.
    I think you have to accept the fact that you may never have a relationship with your parents, if you marry B.

  6. #3 is the one I'd send, if you have to send a letter. Don't react out of anger, and don't burn any bridges. Remember the physician's rule: first, do no harm.

    I don't really get what the point of sending these letters is, anyways. E-mails have such a cold feeling to them. It's totally different in person.

    Why not try a little joint counseling of some kind? I know you live two hours apart... but meeting even once a month in a therapist's office would be helpful. It would be more face time than you're getting now anyways, and may be more effective than a hundred angry e-mails.

    Any decent rabbi (of any affiliation, except maybe Aguda) should also be able to help.

  7. conservative scifiJuly 16, 2008 at 8:33 PM

    Send #3. I wouldn't bother with therapy, though, since there is not much to discuss. Maybe grandchildren will change your parents mind.

  8. Sure, add a 3rd one after I vote :)

    I like the 3rd one because it does leave the door open and doesn't belabor the point at hand.

    However, I think you need to be careful about getting your hopes up and then feeling crushed when your parents don't live up to your wishes.

    you just have to get used to the fact they are who they are and that may never change.

  9. Here is what I have to say about that article that you want your dad to read about intermarriage.

    It totally cleared things up for me. Now I'm positive that I don't want to be "that guy". I don't want to be the one who encourages people to marry non-Jews and therefore helps lead them away from G-d and Judaism.

    Shocked? Well, it's really your own fault. When shaping your argument, you make the crux of your point the fact that your ancestor's intermarried and that intermarriage has been around as long as we have as a nation, so why not? Well your examples proves the point of why not get intermarried perfectly.

    "Moses did not marry a daughter of Israel."

    -Correct he did not. BTW just wondering, what was the name of Moshe's kids? Don't know? Well most people don't because they are never mentioned again once the Jews leave Egypt. Why you may ask? Because they all turned away from the Jewish people to the point that within 3 generations Moshe's children had intermarried so much that they no longer were Jewish. Ever wonder why we never hear about the descendants of Moshe?

    "Solomon, the ‘wisest’ of the Jews, followed the tradition of his ancestor Moses and married an African, the Queen of Sheba."

    -Correct. Solomon married many non-Jewish woman, and was punished for it. In fact when Solomon died that was when the Jewish Kingdom was split in 2, eventually leading to the destruction of the Temple. Each of his kids out to kill each other generation after generation. And the time they spent not killing each other, they spent worshiping idols and trying to convert Jews away from G-d.

    "the Jews would have been decimated had Queen Esther not slept with the uncircumcised"

    -I'm sorry I can't give you this one. She married him because the Jews would be killed otherwise. No one is holding a gun to the people who are getting intermarried head's today.

    "When Moses’ brother and sister complained about his choice in a life partner, God punished Miriam with leprosy. In other words, it wasn’t intermarriage God seemed worried about: it was whether one would use intermarriage as an excuse to leave the community and follow other gods, or whether one would remain loyal and cleave to the covenant."

    -Ooo so sorry, you were on a roll there. In fact, the reason they were punished was for talking lashon hara about Moshe. Proving a MUCH more important point, just because someone decides to make a mistake no matter how bad, it shouldn't affect you enough to break the Jewish law as well. They broke the law and were punished for their own actions, no matter how bad Moshe's mistake was.

    "Joseph married an Egyptian princess.

    Joseph married an Egyptian princess who had converted to Judaism before hand. Don't believe that? Fine, I will do you one better. Most people say there were no Jews until Moshe (that the Jews didn't exist until the giving of the Torah) so there was nobody for him to marry. In fact the only "Jews" were his own relatives. Kinda limits his options a little

    "King David, none other than the prophesized forbearer of the Messiah, married Batsheva, whose former husband was a Hittite–one of the original and circumscribed non-Israel tribes in the land of Canaan."

    -King David married a woman who was JEWISH. Just because her former husband was non-Jewish doesn't say anything. If anything it says just the opposite. David was rewarded for bringing Batsheva back into the fold of the Jewish people and Batsheva the same. How does ones former husband have any baring on intermarriage?

    Let us also not forget that the reform movement has no problems with people marrying outside the faith. And the most famous Reform Temple in NYC tried to have a commemoration of their 100 years in NY recently and you know how many relative of former members they were able to find? 0. None. Not One. Why? because they had all converted, and intermarriage out of the faith.

    So thanks. Thank you so much for putting it in perspective. For our forefathers have taught us a very important lesson about intermarriage. No matter how great someone is, they can be the greatest prophet in history...if they intermarry their children will almost certainly be lost to the Jewish people forever. And no amount of splitting the red sea will ever bring them back

  10. Any way to merge all three? I can see it in my head and it looks great...

    If you have to choose one straight up, I think it should be go #3, the least hurtful / burn bridgy/ argumentative one.

    (Though if it were ME I'd go with #2 but only because I love an argument ;o)

    My continued wishes for good luck and happiness...

  11. He is acting very stupid, but he is probably hurting himself more than he is hurting you. You should feel sorry for the poor guy. Doubt he'll change his mind, and chances are he won't get another chance.

    I wouldn't send either letter. I would send the invitation with the new date. Otherwise I would try to make it as painless as possible on both of you. Wouldn't even raise the issue.

  12. I'd send either #2 or #3. #2 is good if you want to let them rethink the consequences of their actions (the grandchildren would have made my parents change their minds so fast! Though I don't think there is any chance of them ever trying to decide who I can and cannot marry.). It does, however, come across as a little bit... threatening, almost like you're bullying them to accept your marriage with B. "If you don't do this, I will punish you..."

    #3 is very tactful, but little more than that. It doesn't burn any bridges, but it's not really getting your feelings about the matter across, in my opinion.

  13. Dear Abandonning Eden,

    I think that the second letter is very clear and honest and says what has to be said: it is all about the relationship between your parents and you and your future children.

    I think it is well thought over, honest and to the point.

    You are right in that it is not healthy that your parents want a relationship with "their image of their daughter" and not with their real daughter as she is now.

    I have had this kind of experience, over about 18 years, and it is not healthy, so it is better to deal with the point now, rather than having a "half-relationship" over years, and with children it would be even worse (Can they have a half-relationship with their grandparents? Is it healthy for them if your parents aknowledge them and not their father?).
    So I think you are completely right to make this point now. And I also think that your position that there is no half-relationship is a possible way to deal with it.

    On the other hand, I would not argue about halakha. Because even if it turns out that halakha is completely wrong, this wouldn't change it.

    So if your mother think it is "kehalakha" to behave the way she does, nothing can be done to change that, and I think she is not really to blame for it either, because she beleives in it, even though it is very hurtfull and damages your relationship.

    This is her religious freedom, the same way that you have the religious freedom to be an atheist. As long as she does not break the law (e.g. by withholding things from you that you would be entitled to according to american law), she is allowed to act this way.

    So perhaps there is a Rabbi out there in the orthodox world who could advise your parents to take a different approach???
    But I doubt you could find anyone who would advise them to attend the wedding.

    Anyway. I think the letter is good because it says very clearly where the problem lies. It is a good starting point to tackle practical problems in the given situation and to stop saying "half-truths" the way your father did it in his letter.

    And if, for the time being, you can't find any common ground besides interrupting the relationship, so be it. (But without being hurt)

    , and avoids this

  14. i would wait..great that you got these letters written and your feelings out on paper..but wait to mail anything. I have had a half relationship with my father since i am 7 and my parents divorced..believe me, in the end that is no relationship at all and he was never even 1/2 grandfather to my kids. Until i realized that he would never be who i wanted him to be, I suffered. I am done suffering..but maybe we have to go on that journey and feel it to get to the place I am now. Anyway letters back and forth never ever changed anything..Yes.i said what i wanted to say..i said words i felt he should have to live with..but in the end all it brought was ANXIETY..especially when awaiting a response from him. Was NEVER worth it. Live and be well...we all have our crosses and stars to bear. If you feel you need him to hear the so..but leave the thanksgiving part out..thats just anger now. Be ready to await a response OR leave it for now and let it lay for a few months and see, maybe they need this time to get their heads on straight. I am so sorry you are going thru this but you are not alone..we all go thru this with family it seems.
    So in other words...don't send anything YET...let time pass and let it sink into their heads too. Believe me they are thinking about it too. If you do write tho..tell them you changed the date out of respect for them and they have an open invitation that will accomodate them and everyone..Be nice..easy to attract bees with honey!

    Good luck!

  15. Stephanie,

    I agree with you, but not on the last point.

    I think that it would be better, on the contrary, to make it impossible for them to come, so they have an excuse.

    I would try to accept them not coming to the wedding, but it is important to make the point about B: My loyalty lies with B and not with you, and if I have to choose, I choose B.

    I think that, aside from the "religious problems" involved, this is part of becoming an adult, although it can be very hurtful for both parents and children.

    The children have the moral right to say "this is me, even if it seems to contradict what you intended when you brought me up".

    That's what education is all about: you do not have complete control, nor complete responsibility over the result.

    So it depends on what AE's parents want:

    If they think that halakha forbids them to meet B, than I think that it is nothing to be emotional about. They do it because they think it is right, even if it is likely that it will cut them from their grand-children. That's the price they are ready to pay for the sake of halakha.

    If they think they could influence AE by not meeting B, than they are wrong and will probably achieve exactely the contrary of the result they intend.

    And the worst motivation is if they do it because they think that other people expect them to do it. In this case, they are completely stupid, because they value other people's views more than their own child.

  16. ..but I don't really think that it is a clear-cut halakha that the parents are not allowed to meet B. I think it's an more about hurt feelings and refusing to accept reality as it is: an emotional response.

  17. I'd send the third one, for sure. Like everyone says, it says what you want, doesn't burn bridges & won't encourage the kind of argumentative response you'd get to the 2nd letter.

    On another note, you might want to edit this post to delete "(and I don't even like him that much!)." Especially now that you've included pictures of yourself on this blog, you probably don't want him to find this and make that discovery.

    Just a thought, because I've gotten burned by such comments on a (not-so-anonymous) blog before.

  18. I would combine letter 2 & letter 3. Basically, express your feelings as you did in # 2 but soften the ultimatum. For instance, instead of

    Do you expect me to continue to come to visit without my husband, knowing that my parents refuse to even meet him, let alone welcome him into their home?

    you can write

    I love you, but it will be very difficult for me to continue to come to visit without my husband, knowing that my parents refuse to even meet him, let alone welcome him into their home.

  19. Any decent rabbi (of any affiliation, except maybe Aguda) should also be able to help.

    She should only do that after she & B are married. If it's before, almost any Orthodox rabbi will try to change her mind, rather than just trying to build bridges between AE & her parents.

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  22. Hey it's me. Slivka told me about your site and I'm here to lend my 2 cents. you can pay me back next week...

    I talked to my dad about your sitaution (my real one, not bernie). He said something profound that i will share with you. He told me that it is a jewish orthodox parent's #1 priority that their child realizes how important it is to be jewish and to continue the jewish tradition for themselves.

    If the child chooses not to be jewish or intermarry, then the parent(s) feel that they have failed.

    I asked my dad: but abba, that makes no sense, Kids go though their own life experiences. they grow up and mature to the point where they make decisions for themselves, they come to their own conclusions. they decide what is meaningful and what is not. what makes them happy and what makes them miserable. what if they decide on their own that judaism does not bring meaning or joy to their lives?

    Abba: it doesn't matter. in the eyes of the parent, they have failed.

    I'm going to state some personal harsh truths that i believe now:

    1. Your parents put a lot of effort into trying to keep you frum. they sent you to jewish day schools. we did NCSY, etc etc etc. You decided judaism is not for you and you found a guy who makes you happy, who happens to not be jewish. I'm pretty sure, given the absense your parents have in your life, that they didn't factor heavily into these decisions. they should stop taking responsibility for you deciding what makes you happy.

    2. not going to your wedding is a big mistake. you're going to get married whether they go or not. If they can't accept that you're going to marry B you probably won't want them at the wedding anyway becuase they will be miserable wrecks and probably cry and bawl and scream "baruch dayan emeth" and ruin your wedding when you exchange vows. They will not cry out of happiness like i surely will (j/k).

    Here's my humble opinion:

    1. write the shorter letter. you don't need to explain anything else to mom and dad. Just tell them you love them and you want them to come to your wedding. They'll either come to accept your decisions, or they'll reject your decision and be ashamed and feel responsible for your decision. either way it's on them.

    2. don't make an concessions for them. Did they ever for you? give them a date and a time, tell them it would mean a lot to you if they showed up, and they will either show up or not.

    I know how much you love to argue, but there is no rational arguement that can come from this. stop attacking your parents and defending your decision. you are who you are and we love you for it and love being in your life. if your parents can't feel the same way, they should be ashamed of themselves.

  23. What I don't understand is why AE continues to love her parents? Yes I did just say that. It's society that has brainwashed us with this ridiculous concept of "unconditional" love. I think it should be based not only on merely a specified relationship, like mother or brother (although that's somewhat important), but also on mutual treatment, respect, caring, and behavior. AE's parents have not shown to respect and care for the unique individual that AE has become. In my opinion, it seems like AE's parents love the title (daughter) and not the individual (jam band loving, non-Jew marrying feminist).

  24. As other folks have said, don't burn your bridges. Maintain as close a relationship as is possible under the circumstances. I find it amazing that anyone would suggest otherwise, nor be understanding of the pain the parents are going through. (Yes, I know that it is also painful for AE.)

    Things will probably warm up a bit once you have kids; after all, they will be halachically Jewish! And it's always preferable when kids can have a relationship with grandparents. (If you have any boys, will they get circumcised?)

  25. AE,
    I have a different suggestion altogether. I think that the conversation should be face to face, father to child, in person - whatever it takes to do it.

    It is much easier for your father to remain at an emotional distance with letter writing. He can intellectualize and run with his sadness and not focus on his love and attachment to you.

    Let him see his little girl's face in front of his so he can really realize what he is doing by refusing to allow your fiance into his world. If he still feels the same way, well, you have already made your decision clear to him and he has then made his choice.

    You and B will surely build a beautiful family together. Your father (and mother) would be fools not to find a way to both maintain their own belief system and find a way to be a part of your new family's life.

    Another note, one of comments here said "You are right in that it is not healthy that your parents want a relationship with "their image of their daughter" and not with their real daughter as she is now."

    Boy does that sound like a familiar conversation that I had (as an atheist ex-OJ psychologist) with my OJ mother in law recently. . .

  26. What would it mean to you if your parents came to your wedding? What would that signify to you? Seriously.

    You know how they feel about your marriage. Bad. You know how they feel about you. They love you. You know how they feel about your life choices. Sad. So knowing these three essential things about your parents, what would it mean if they came to your wedding?

    Your parents are bound to you by blood and by love. But in thinking and life goals, they are very far away from you. That will never change. Your heart is in a very different place from their hearts.

    Why would you want them at your wedding? They will not be happy for you. They will ruin your day, even if they smile and go along with everything. You will make them miserable. They will make you

    You've made your choices. You've chosen your life, your spouse, your future. Embrace your choices and understand that by making them, you've let other things go. I know that you've already done that in your head.

    Unfortunately, you can't have it both ways. It's really hard, I know.

    If you want to keep some relationship with your parents, then figure out a way to do that after your wedding. But your wedding really has nothing to do with your parents. I have to think that you knew that from your first date with B.



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