Really Listen to Your Son First

You have every right to say what you want. But this conversation is not about rights. Like so many family discussions, it is about human relationships and sensitivity and timing.

For one, your son knows his wife better than you do. He may not actually be censoring you, but letting you know the results of his conversations with her. She may not be ready to convert before the baby is born.

Also, it sounds like your son and daughter-in-law have plans to bring the child up Jewish and he will be viewed as so by the Reform Movement. If that is the case, it might be better to have this conversation once your daughter-in-law becomes more educated and interested along with her child.

Unlike the comedian Groucho Marx, your son wants his wife and himself to join a “club” that actually wants them as members. He may feel that his wife is more likely to learn the benefits of Judaism and grow affection for it in a vibrant community that welcomes her rather than one which does not. After all, we all prefer to be included than excluded.

Remember, many Jewish children choose to practice Judaism differently from their parents, whether or not they are intermarried. Perhaps your son is having difficulty figuring out how some Jews can rationalize ordaining women and driving to synagogue on Shabbat, and yet not accept patrilineal descent. After all, every Shabbat we pray that our children will be like Ephraim and Menashe — the sons of a mother who was not Jewish.

If you do speak up, a decision that is yours to make, you are most likely to be heard when you consider multiple perspectives. Whatever you decide, follow your instincts and do let her know that you love and appreciate her no matter what.

Dr. Ruth Nemzoff, author of “Don’t Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children” and “Don’t Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws into Family” is a resident scholar at The Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center. She is on the Board of Interfaithfamily.

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Really Listen to Your Son First

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