The Space In-between…

I have a blog to write… it’s about intermarriage and the effect on kids and I interviewed a friend for it but really what’s on my mind right now is this…

I live in a space in-between too many worlds.

Not good enough or well bred enough for this one.
Unsatisfied with that one.
Randomly falling into this or that.

UGH!

Here’s the problem, in a nutshell…

I didn’t grow up an Orthodox Jew. I grew up in a family full of illustrious and talented Reform Jewish rabbis. Judaism was always my identity, my priority. But I never felt comfortable in the Reform movement. I mean, it didn’t help that some of the adult leaders and rabbis were rude and mean and hurtful to me and my family for the simple reason of us being different. We never quite fit in. My dad wore a kippah and tzitzit all the time, we davvened on Saturday mornings, we kept Kosher and shabbis… not really the typical image of a reform Jew.

In fact, I remember quite clearly my Junior year of high school, at a large national convention where my father mentioned he would be davvening one morning and offered to teach the kids how to lay tefillin. Now, this is a basic ritual of Judaism and these kids had never encountered it. Before he could even start showing them how, a “big-shot” rabbi in the movement came rushing in and said, “We don’t do that, we are reform Jews.” Yeah, what does that even mean? I thought being reform meant you got to choose… I guess educated decisions are out and lemming-ness is in. I was sorely hurt by the reform movement. So much so that I realized that was not the place for me and I left, never to return.

I went on the hunt and found Chabad… a place where I felt I fit in. I studied and made friends, I davvened, I dressed along their guidelines and I finally came to a point where I was “a part of the crew.” By this point in my life, it is time to think about getting married. Well, I don’t fit in with the reformies (as I, and I alone call them… made that up, not a pejorative… just a nickname) but I don’t have enough Chassidic yichus (pedigree or family background) to marry a Chabanik!

Well and then there is the horse of a different color which is my secular life… it revolves solidly around Judaism and how I practice it but I work in a secular office, I have non-religious friends, I don’t live in Crown Heights, people! But marrying someone who is a secular Jew will be hard (i.e. kashrut and a Jewish home is so important to me and all the laws and mitzvot, learning and studying together… tahras mishpacha) and you can forget marrying a non-Jew. I am open minded and I know many people believe in interfaith marriages but I don’t. At least not for Jews. There has been too many times in our history where people tried to destroy us and we survived… for what? To marry a Christian and have a Christmas tree? To force your children (if their mother isn’t Jewish) to have to deal with conversion and think about the future generations because you couldn’t be bothered? Or maybe you just didn’t think it was important.

I don’t agree with the way it used to be… women as commodities, selling them for the best or adjoining land. But in one sense that had it right. The marriage wasn’t just about that second of passion or a physical attraction, it was about building lives for future generations… and that is why I feel it is so vital to marry a Jew and teach my sons and daughters the same thing.

Building on our heritage for future generations, thinking about more than ourselves, realizing that sometimes we want things we don’t need. You want that thing you saw advertised on tv but really, you know you will have a brief love affair with it and then it will sit on the floor of your closet, unused, unloved, and unsold in a garage sale 10 years later. Just because something (or someone) looks cool, doesn’t mean that it is the right fit. The easiest way out isn’t always the easiest in the end.

I don’t explain this often (enough?) to friends or acquaintances and frankly they are shocked when I tell them about this rock and hard place I am sitting between.  They think I am silly for narrowing down my pool of available men but I know it is the right thing to do… no matter how hard it gets… no matter how many times I am turned down for being to this or not enough that.

My children will thank me one day.

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Comments

  1. yes, they will. talia, your thoughtfulness has always impressed me – though no more so than it does now, having somewhat reconnected with you via the intertubes. i'm nowhere near as content with where i am in my faith, but i do and will always, i think, look to you as inspiration. i wish you luck and happiness.

  2. Thank you much Meredith. I was hit with an overwhelming sadness talking to my dear friend recently and hearing her struggles and reading all this interfaith work for Patheos' current public square topic. Hearing from both sides of the aisles why it works or doesn't and being reminded of my rebellious days. Maybe my opinion is right or wrong but shouldn't we get all the opinions before we make the decision? I truly respect people who have made either choice (to intermarry or not) IF they have had these conversations. I guess my blog is about my decisions for me and in the hopes that it provides a conversation piece for people who find themselves in the situation with a need to hear the other side. Maybe my goals are too lofty… and maybe I fly off on tangents too much.

  3. That seems odd that they'd officially outlaw Tefillin … but I mean, it's possible that one's experience in any sect would be somewhat parochial, sorry to hear you'd become so disillusioned.Being raised in a mostly non-religious but culturally protestant household (shudder), I basically spat out every bit of Christianity I was exposed to, lived basically with no religion for many years … and as of over a year ago I've seriously been wanting to convert to Judaism, I do see it as an opportunity to redefine myself both culturally and philosophically — and that leads me to the question of where I'd fit in.I'm lucky enough to have a Reform synagogue nearby where the torah study group and Rabbi are respectful of all sects, and I haven't encountered any sort of reform dogma, so to speak.All the same, I think it is important at the very least for the sake of posterity to undergo the fully halachic conversion. At least that's my current attitude. I personally welcome the change, and as Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski notes:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OKroy4ybB8… very relevant and poignant, methinks :)But digressing, I think it is important to respect the problem of defining one's identity and belonging and continuity of generations — and personally I tend to think running off to "the orient" doesn't really cut it. It very well may make me feel better for the moment, but I have serious reservations about it being very responsible in the longer run.So, personally, I'd rather assimilate than cherry pick abstract feel-good Zen aphorisms … being Christian is really not something I'd consider … and I personally feel very influenced by Jewish intellectuals (some secular, more recently many non-secular) throughout the ages, it just seems to have the most natural appeal to me, FWIW.But being somewhat of a rebel in my family, I feel perfectly comfortable practicing what I like, and not worrying too much about being too traditional than is typical for "reformies".Either way, I'm guessing you'll eventually find some extremely lucky guy who you'll get along with … and you'll no doubt make him as happy as can be as you both discover your Jewish identities as a couple, hehe 😀

  4. I just discovered your blog and have been reading some of your older posts. I find your writing very inspirational. I have always been Orthodox so I may not be totally able to relate, but I can understand your struggle straddling two words. I work as a lawyer in corporate America so I have had to be tested with the whole yarmulke/shaking hands with a female thing, etc.
    I hope you had a productive time in Israel.

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