Worry About Being a Good Bubbe Instead
To answer your question: No, you’re not being ridiculous. You’re expressing your passionate concern for transmission of your identity to the next generation. But… there’s always a but.
But, you need to keep in mind that weddings are just a beginning. The goal is not a perfect wedding but a good Jewish home and family. It is a long life ahead, and we should never underestimate any Jew or Jewish family. The numbers indicate the difficulty of raising a Jewish home with only one Jewish parent, but people take long journeys, and we need to make sure that we are here for them if and when they are ready.
As such, grandparents (may you be so blessed very shortly) can play a critical role in helping and inspiring their children and children-in-law to raise their grandchildren as Jews. The physical and emotional presence of grandparents directly affects the group identity of grandchildren. Grandparents can (and do) celebrate Shabbat and holidays with their grandchildren, and serve as Jewish role models in so many subtle ways. They help give grandchildren access to Jewish pre-schools, sign them up for PJ Library, and make possible a variety of Jewish educational experiences, such as day camps, overnight camps, Israel travel and day schools.
I hope you know that your concerns are widely shared these days. About 72% of Jews outside of Orthodoxy are marrying non-Jews and the number is even higher among Reform-raised Jews (about 80%). We also know that among the intermarried, just 21% raise their children in the Jewish religion.
So, given your commitments and your challenges, you have some very big concerns ahead of you. My advice: Make sure you’re in a positive relationship with your son and daughter-in-law so as to serve as the present, loving, and inspirational grandparents I know you want to be. Just because you may not be celebrating a traditional Jewish wedding with your son doesn’t mean you won’t be celebrating a brit milah or simchat bat with your grandchild.
Steven M. Cohen is Research Professor of Jewish Social Policy at HUC-JIR, and Director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner.