Is It Time To Let (Bigoted) Bygones Be Bygones?

By Wendy Belzberg

Published October 17, 2003, issue of October 17, 2003.
  • Print
  • Share Share

When my (non-Jewish) husband and I were married, his mother objected with every variety of antisemitic slurs, up to and including the pronouncement that “doors would be closed to us.” Fifteen years have gone by, and I have not forgiven her. My husband insists that it is time to forgive — if not forget — and to make peace for the sake of our two children.

— Still stumped by slurs

Make peace? I think not. A truce, however, might be a consideration. That your marriage has defied your mother-in-law’s predictions does not change the fact that she is antisemitic. I assume that you would have mentioned it if she had thrown herself on your mercy and professed to have learned the error of her ways. If she has shown no remorse for her remarks, I see no reason for you to undertake any speedy repairs to the relationship. The only possible upside I see is the opportunity to bring things out into the open so that you might use the opportunity to teach your Jewish children a life lesson.

* * *

My 12-year-old recently allowed me to read an essay he’d written for school, which revealed that he has a life (clean, and perfectly laudatory) that I know nothing about. Am I a good mother or a bad mother to be living in ignorance?

— Discovering the child within

If the definition of a good parent is intimate knowledge of your child’s school interests, activities and friendships, then you may have failed the test. But join the club. There are probably fewer than a handful of parents who would pass. Many children — particularly in the 12-year-old set — are less than forthcoming about the details of their daily lives. Which is not to say you should fail to inquire or probe, only that you should not take it personally if you get nowhere. A better gauge of your parenting successes is whether your child will come to you if he or she has a serious problem. If you were living in ignorance about your son’s behavioral, drug or academic problems, I would suggest that your parenting skills could be improved. Ignorance about the clean and perfectly laudatory aspects of your son’s life may or may not be bliss — but it certainly does not make you a bad mother. And remember: He did hand over the essay.

* * *

Some time ago I lent an old friend a sizeable sum of money. Having been delighted to be able to help out someone I love, I don’t need to be repaid, and as the matter has never come up, I doubt it ever will be. Is the graceful thing at this point to give my friend — whose birthday is approaching — a debt forgiveness certificate? Or do I leave the unfinished business unfinished?

— Debt dues and don’ts

A failure to pay back a loan is one thing. A failure to acknowledge the debt is another. I find it distasteful that anyone could be the recipient of a sizeable sum of money and never again make mention of it — or discuss a payback structure, even if it’s only $5 each week. You can forgive the loan if you wish. But do so in writing — not in your own head without ever having had the conversation with your friend. This kind of unfinished business often turns into the elephant in the parlor that everybody pretends to ignore, while their feet are silently being crushed.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here:
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv?
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.