Presents (or Just Presence) at Bris?

By Wendy Belzberg

Published October 31, 2003, issue of October 31, 2003.
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Am I supposed to take something to a bris? I was invited to the home of a co-worker who just had her first son. I gave her a gift at her baby shower, and our department sent a beautiful flower arrangement to the hospital. Is there a protocol for giving a gift at a bris as well?

— Gift, gelt or gratitude?

Presents aren’t expected at a bris, especially if you’ve given at the office, so to speak. If you have never been to a bris before, I do have one other piece of advice: Don’t stand too close.

* * *

My friend’s father just passed away. Though they did not have a good relationship, my friend planned to go to the funeral. He found out today that his father requested that he not attend. My friend is obviously confused and upset and not sure what he should do. Should he go anyway, or should he respect his late father’s wish?

— Banned from the burial

Funerals are for the living, not for the dead. There is no way to know his father’s state of mind when he requested that his son not attend his funeral. One thing is clear, the request is both hostile and hurtful — and it worked. Unless your friend’s presence will make other family members uncomfortable, he should not think twice about attending. The father is dead, and his son is left behind to grieve and to make sense of their relationship. The funeral seems like a good place to start. And if this isn’t an endorsement for addressing unresolved feelings and relationships in this lifetime, I don’t know what is.

* * *

A close friend asked me to help her out on one of her work-related projects. She cannot afford my day wage, and I would be willing to help out based simply on our friendship. I assume she will charge it back to her client. Is it tacky for me to charge my friend for help she’s asked for?

— What price friendship?

Is she or isn’t she charging your time back to her client? That seems to be the key question here. (If you had asked her — and not me — you might already know the answer to your query.) If she is, then this is strictly a business relationship and your friend is your employer. You should have no second thoughts about asking for your regular rate — and accepting whatever the client is prepared to pay. Even if your friend is not charging her client for your time, your time and your assistance is no less valuable. Why not request payment in the form of dinner or a movie? I don’t care how close the friendship is; whenever money enters into the equation there is the possibility for misunderstanding. Be as up-front about this as possible.

Write to “Ask Wendy” at 954 Lexington Avenue #189, New York, N.Y. 10021 or at wendy@forward.com.






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