Mazel tov on your son’s engagement to a woman you adore! Rest assured that you are not being ridiculous. Given how your raised your family, it is perfectly reasonable to hope that your son’s wedding will include a Jewish component. Also, your feeling heartbroken about his refusal to step on a glass may involve more than meets the eye. The months leading up to any lifecycle event, especially a wedding, often include a shifting in a family’s relational blocks. Your son’s “no” may feel like a dagger because he is your child, albeit an adult, and he is pledging allegiance to his betrothed’s parents by agreeing to be married in Singapore.
It is imperative to ask your son what does being Jewish mean to him? Ask whether there is a ritual or symbol that would be meaningful to him to include, rather than expect him to incorporate into the ceremony what you want. You gave your son his Jewish foundation; going forward he needs to make his own Jewish choices. You can gently help by sharing information about Jewish and intercultural weddings, pointing out how Marc Mezvinsky is wearing a tallit in his wedding photo with Chelsea Clinton, or offering in advance to provide a custom made secular ketubah for both sides of the family to sign. The latter would make a lovely gift and keepsake from the wedding that honors both traditions by including everyone.
The greatest gifts parents can give their children are roots and wings. We give them roots by instilling values and we give them wings by letting go. His roots had many years to develop in your Jewish home. His Jewish wings will likewise take time to fully mature. In the meantime, take heart in knowing that he has good company as he embarks on his new life as the Jewish husband-to-be of an Asian woman (see “Jewpanese” in Marrying Out, pages 22-28). And, as my research illustrates, intermarrying and becoming a parent can deepen someone’s Jewish identity over the life course.
Dr. Keren R. McGinity is an intermarriage consultant affiliated with Brandeis University. Her books include the newly released “Marrying Out: Jewish Men, Intermarriage, and Fatherhood” and “Still Jewish: A History of Women and Intermarriage in America”, a National Jewish Book Award finalist. Learn more at www.loveandtradition.com.