Thursday, January 1, 2009

Draft 2

Dear Abba,

B and I have read over your last message carefully, and given it full thought. While we both very much appreciate your effort to try and find a solution that would make both of us happy, this is not a step we are willing to take at this juncture.

I'm not an atheist because I am lazy or I think religion is too hard, or I don't think it's a big deal. I think organized religion is wrong, and harmful. I have long agonized over philosophical and religious arguments over god, and have come to the conclusion that god probably doesn't exist, and if s/he did, organized religion would still be wrong and harmful. For instance, one way in which it is harmful is this very situation; the orthodox jewish community is so insistent on conformity, that you have decided that your religious identity is more important than having an honest and good relationship with your daughter.

Having B convert would be a larger compromise than I am willing to make, and it would very much be a big deal. Not only to us as individuals, for we would be compromising a very important part of our identity. But also to B's family, who have always been very warm to us. Imagine if B's mom insisted that I undergo a sham conversion to catholicism in order to have a relationship with them; wouldn't you be very hurt by such a sham, even though you know I don't believe in it? B's mother has very strong religious convictions, and has already been hurt by the knowledge that B will never be religious, just have you have been hurt by the knowledge that I will never be religious. The difference is that she has still maintained a close relationship with B, and has welcomed me warmly into their family, because she cares more about B as a person then about B's religion. We would not want to damage our relationship with her after she has treated us so kindly.

Even if we were willing to go through with this, then what? Everything is hunky dory? We're just try to forget that your refused to even meet him for the past 2 years? That your love was conditional on him converting? That I wrote to you asking for a more honest and open relationship, and you replied by asking me to undertake an elaborate hoax so that you can not feel ashamed of me and us in front of your family and your community? You don't seem to realize how much you have hurt me over the past few years, by demonstrating to me that you place your community and your religion over your relationship with me, your daughter.

So we have discussed the matter in depth, and these are the compromises we are willing to make: We will be getting married on May 17th 2009. What we plan to do for our wedding ceremony is exchange vows that we have written ourselves, and then have our guests speak about us before we all sign the marriage license, with the guests as witnesses. We will not have an officiant, as we are getting a 'self uniting' marriage license.

I know that is important to you that I maintain some type of Jewish identity, which is why you came up with this conversion idea. So this is what I propose: While I am not willing to have a religious jewish wedding ceremony, since I disagree with so many things about it (as you might recall from all the fights we had when I was engaged to A), I would be willing to incorporate some jewish cultural traditions into the ceremony. For instance, if you would lend us a chuppah to use during the ceremony, we will be happy to exchange the vows we have written under one. We would also be willing to have B step on a glass at the end of the ceremony.

Furthermore, in the future, if you ever decide to welcome B and me into your life then I will try to forget the extremely hurtful way in which you have treated us over the past few years, and will be happy to have a relationship with you. We will also be happy to dress appropriately and keep the laws of kasharut, etc, for any time we are under your roof. You can have a relationship with our children (who after all will still be Jewish according to halacha), and we would visit for some of the more secular jewish holidays, such as channukah, so that our children have a sense of their jewish cultural heritage. We would be happy for them to learn the history of the Jewish people, and of their own family on my side. However we will not tolerate any attempts to 'do kiruv' on them and to persuade them to be religious.

If you feel that inviting us both to family events would be too much strain, and that you can't accept B into the family unless he converts, then that is your choice, and we will have to go our separate ways. I hope you understand that if you refuse to meet B I can not go behind his back and allow you to have a relationship with our future children. How the other members of our extended family decides to treat us is up to them, and we will deal with them individually. If anyone tries to call you up and argue about the decisions I have made, you can also give them my phone number and ask them to contact me directly. I will happy to talk with any family member and explain the situation.

I hope you will consider what I have said, as this is as far a I am willing to go. While I would like to have a relationship with you, this is much higher of a price than I am willing to pay for one.

With Love,
Abandoning Eden


  1. I think this letter is really well written. You're conveying everything you wanted to and still maintaining a respectful tone. The only part I'm not entirely sure about is the paragraph starting:

    Even if we were willing to go through with this, then what? Everything is hunky dory? We're just try to forget that your refused to even meet him for the past 2 years? That your love was conditional on him converting?

    because it's the only really defensive paragraph and may make him think you're just feeling bitter. But then, it's still all honest and true and deserves to be said.

    Cheers, Kat

  2. I like this letter much better than the other one.

  3. This draft is really good overall and definitely conveys your opposition to his idea but in a nicer way that still manages to express your desire to have a healthy & honest relationship with your family.

    A few comments/suggestions:

    - In the second paragraph and most of the third, it's all phrased in terms of "I." It would probably be better to make clear that this is all true for B also.

    - "that you have decided that your religious identity is more important than having an honest and good relationship with your daughter." -- Maybe rephrase this so that it's more neutral? Like, "that it makes otherwise good people (like you & mom) place religious identity before having an honest..."

    Other than that, I think it's awesome. It does a really good job of showing him that you appreciate the idea behind his proposal even though you reject the proposal itself. And what you said about being willing to bring your kids over if he accepts you as you are is good.

  4. hate to be the naysayer, but I think it's still too negative. I'll send you my suggestions to soften it in a few minutes.

  5. Very good - send it, but tell him NOT to have his friends/relatives call you, if all they want to do is argue, they can do that via email.

  6. I liked draft 1 better, exept for the polite introductory paragraph.

  7. Not too shabby at all. Huge improvement over the last version.

    Since your father suggested talking with a rabbi, you might want to address that suggestion specifically. E.g., We don't really want to talk to a rabbi at this juncture, or Thanks for suggesting a rabbi, maybe we'll talk to him at some later point after the wedding.

  8. i think its perfect. beautifully written.

  9. your wasting your time!

  10. AE,

    Sorry I didn't get a chance to put in my suggestions yesterday.

    Let me point out something: Your original email to your father in this current exchange, as you characterized it, said to him that you wished you & your folks "could have a relationship where we are both happy for each other, and respect each other's decisions"

    You were upset by his suggested "compromise", and you have allowed your anger at his response to creep into your letter back to him.

    Even if, by his suggestion, he's not respecting your decisions (and in his narrow view, he may think he is), the only way your going to have your stated goal of having some sort of relationship is by taking the high road and indicating in your email to him that you respect his decisions.

    In the second paragraph, though you stand up for what you believe in, you do it by insulting what he believes in. That’s not going to get you anywhere. You can explain that you & B are an atheists for real reasons while not telling him that “organized religion is wrong, and harmful” and that “the orthodox jewish community is so insistent on conformity, that you have decided that your religious identity is more important than having an honest and good relationship with your daughter.”

    You’re not doing anything constructive by insulting his beliefs and accusing him of things. You have to decide if your goal is to have a relationship with them or if it’s to let them know how they’ve hurt you. I don’t think you can have both.

    For the same reason, I would eliminate the 4th paragraph entirely (Even if we were willing to go through with this…”)

    In the 7th paragraph, I would also remove this line: “then I will try to forget the extremely hurtful way in which you have treated us over the past few years” and change “However we will not tolerate any attempts…” to “However we would not accept any attempts…”. If you are the one asking for a relationship, turning around and making strongly negatively phrased demands won’t help.

    I would also add, in the second to last paragraph, that a relationship with the extended family is not part of the equation – you don’t care about that – all you care about is a relationship with your folks. That making compromises for the “extended family” is not on your radar. That they can have a relationship with you privately without having to explain things to relatives at bigger events.

    It’s not about who’s right or wrong, or whether they’re not acting as parents should. They are never going to see beyond your rejection of their beliefs and religion. They are never going to fully respect your decision. And they will always be embarrassed by your decision in front of their community and relatives. At most they will simply grudgingly come to accept it as something that is part of their lives without approving of the intermarriage per-se. They might accept B the person as a son-in-law on a superficial level while compartmentalizing the distaste they have for your having married a “goy”. The most you can hope for is a semi-warm relationship that just ignores these issues. If that’s what you can live with, I would urge you to rewrite your letter with that goal in mind. If you want them to openly embrace you and tell their community that they don’t care what they think, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

    Good luck!

  11. I think this is so difficult but that you have chosen your words wisely and tenderly.

  12. And I agree with your not even addressing your father's appeal to you to not damage your little brother's shidduch prospects. That was just nonsensical. If it does damage his prospects, then you're doing him a favor by weeding out the girls who would consider an intermarried sister relevant to a prospective husband's qualities.

  13. I think you can do without the 2nd paragraph. It's once again attacking him and his faith. No point in that. The rest of the letter is straight to the point.

  14. Agree with DYS. This is not a letter that will keep the door open for even a superficial relationship with your parents.

    I will restate what DYS said: Do you want a relationship with your parents or do you want to "go out with a bang" and say all the the things you never got to say? You can't have both. They will never be warm, loving accepting parents that support you no matter what you do. As painful as that is, it's something you must accept if you want to have a relationship with them.

    Again, the choice is yours- you can cut them out of your life and have this letter be your parting shot. If you're ready to do, go right ahead. But please don't send this and expect them to wake up and say "Wow, we were really crappy parents! We're ready to change!" Because they really won't.

  15. With this answer, you will be the one who said no, they will be able to blame it all on you, you will be the bad guy (or gal).

    In reality, his proposition cannot work. So why not dwell on this aspect?

    I think it is a good idea to draw a comparison about you making a sham conversation to catholicism, like writing: I agree: B will make a sham conversion to judaism and I will make a sham conversion to catholicism, so that our parent's feelings are not hurt.

  16. Say something along the lines:
    I do not understand. Do you want Rabbi xy to disregard his professional ethics just to please you? Or do you want B to lie to Rabbi xy just to please you?

    And than, he will have to answer:
    No, I want a real conversion
    and then you can say no.


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