Treating All Daughters Equally

By Wendy Belzberg

Published May 09, 2003, issue of May 09, 2003.
  • Print
  • Share Share

I am the father of two wonderful daughters: One recently got married, and the other is a single mother with two children. I am in a position to secure a home equity loan at a low rate, and I would like to help buy a house for my single daughter and her children. My concern is that my other daughter will feel resentful. Even though she and her husband can afford to buy their own home, she thinks it is unfair that her sister get a house “for free.” She was not appeased by my reassurance that I would make it up to her in her inheritance. I want to do the right thing by both my daughters, but I can only afford to help one now.

Between equity and favoritism

This is hardly a dire dilemma. You do not owe either child a loan or a home. It is lovely that you consulted with your married daughter and that you want to avoid any sibling rivalry or misdirected resentment. But you are still the parent — no matter how old your daughters are — and as such are entitled to make the decision you think best. Your reasoning seems sound. Share your thinking with your children — don’t ask for their approval. And by all means reiterate that you intend to even the score in your will. It may still feel inequitable to one — or even both — of your daughters, but whoever said life is fair?

* * *

I recently went to the home of a Jewish family after the funeral of one of their immediate family members. Could you explain to me why all the mirrors in the house were covered with black cloth? Also we were asked to wash our hands before entering the house. Can you tell me why?

— What’s behind the coverings?

I am always struck by the logic and wisdom of Jewish law and customs surrounding death and burial. There are two reasons why you are asked to wash your hands before entering a house of mourning: The first is that many visitors have just come from the cemetery and are symbolically cleansing death from their hands. The second reason is that Judaism encourages healing after a death; again, cleansing — as symbolized by the water — is a first step toward moving forward.

Covering mirrors in a house of mourning is a visual reminder that the normal flow of daily life has been interrupted. It is also meant to remind the mourner of what really matters in life — thereby reducing the importance one usually places on personal vanity.

* * *

Ever since my husband and I moved to be close to his family I feel as if his sister has declared open hunting season — on me. She belittles and makes fun of me, inserts herself between my husband and myself, and involves my mother-in-law whenever she and I have a disagreement. I am depressed and increasingly keep to myself. I have never before felt this low or this lost. How do I get along with this sister-in-law?

— Too close for comfort

Start by moving back from whence you came. The situation sounds unwinnable. What’s more, you are outnumbered. If your husband were on your team you might stand a chance. But in the absence of any support from him, your sister-in-law, knowing that her mother is on her side, will continue to see you as fair game. At best you will feel merely abandoned by your husband; at worst you will recognize him for the disloyal coward that he is. Either way you will likely continue to retreat beyond his reach. You get high points in my book for moving. If your husband wants to earn equal credit he will help you pack and book the flights. He should get extra credit for forgetting to leave the forwarding address with his family.

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






Find us on Facebook!
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • 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.