Jewish observence w/non-Jewish dh? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 4 Old 08-20-2002, 04:53 PM - Thread Starter
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So short backround. I'm Jewish and was raised Reform. I went to Sunday school and was Bat Mitzvah but didn't even understand what kosher was until I was an adult. My dh (who is my soul mate and a wonderful adoring husband and father) was raised Catholic but is non-practicing and is in agreement to raise our family Jewish. When we were married (a Jewish wedding with a rabbi only) I had little interest in being anything but reform. Now that my dd is starting pre-school and I have baby #2 on the way I am becoming much more interested in an observent life. I have many friends in the Orthodox community and I learn a lot from them, yet I am eager to really study and learn more. My question comes to this. If I choose to live a more observent life, how does this coincide with my husbands choices in life. He is supportive of our children going to Jewish schools, he has even talked about converting occasionally (but reform). I would not want him to be forced into an observant life because of my spiritual desires. He works on Friday evenings for example. He sometimes plays music with his brother on Saturdays at his studio. How does that work with keeping shabbos? I could go on but I hope you get my drift. Any one have experience with this or have suggestions?
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#2 of 4 Old 08-20-2002, 05:30 PM
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A tough one, but not impossible.

First of all, for a technicality, according to all "streams" of Judaism your kids are halakhically Jewish. So your husband's nonconversion is a nonissue in that respect.

The main thing to remember is that Judaism is not an all-or-nothing deal. Do what you can, and at this point the best thing to do is learn.

One immediate way to bring Shabbos into your home is to light candles. Candlelighting time is a special time to bring more light into the world, kabbalistically returning some of the 'or ha'ganuz, the hidden light from creation, back into the world.

Anyway, back to topic, I know folks who've become very observant with an uninterested spouse. It's not so easy for them, because they'd love to share the experience, but it's possible. (In particular, one of these people is a woman who decided to convert Judaism just to please her in-laws, and once she got into it, got really into it, and now she's very observant ... covers her hair and the whole shebang ... and her DH is totally uninterested. But supports her because she so obviously enjoys it.)

Making Shabbos really can involve making a nice meal, using the good china, having the whole family together and trying, really trying, not to let thoughts of work/finances/weekday stuff intrude. Dinner and lunch in the afternoon, with wine and real conscious spiritual mindfulness, in any direction you want, and right there you've enjoyed more Shabbos than many people ever know, and DH can enjoy it, too. Without feeling left out.

I've got more to say, but have to think about it. This was sort of just typing off the top of my head.

- Amy
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#3 of 4 Old 08-20-2002, 10:44 PM
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It sounds to me like you may have an easier time of it than some of my friends, who are married to Jewish men! (In that your dh has agreed to send your children to Jewish day schools, and is not belittling your interest in becoming more observant.) Just a thought.
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#4 of 4 Old 08-20-2002, 11:26 PM
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I've known relatively happy couples who've lived out there entire lives where one is an observant Jew and the other is decidedly not. If a couple can agree to to it and is able to communicate well with each other and are able to maintain love and respect for each other, it can work. And if you are already the cook and the "homemaker," you shouldn't have too many problems keeping a kosher home and keeping Shabbat.

It can be difficult though for the one who is observant and difficult for the children to feel entirely comfortable in the community.

My experience, by the way, baring all here, is that my husband and I lived many years years together as strictly observant Jews (I covered my hair, to show you where we were). We became religious together. My husband then lost his faith and couldn't pretend to follow halakhah just for the sake of our marriage. It very nearly broke us up. We have always been a couple who did everything together, and we knew we could not survive as a couple if I continued to believe and follow while he didn't. We tried for a while, and it was an absolute disaster. It was horrible for us, and horrible for our children. So I had to make the decision whether to follow him or divorce him. Our rabbis were no help to me at this time. I suppose they saw what difficult situation I was in and didn't want to interfere? My friends weren't much support either. I think they were freaked out by the whole thing. I felt a little betrayed. The decision took a long time, and we even tried short separations, but in the end I let him convince me to follow him. Perhaps with more support I would have stayed, but I couldn't imagine living as a single mother in that world, with no support (none of my close family is religious). Leaving was really, really difficult. I pretty much lost all my friends and mentors at the same time my entire life changed. I pretty much agree with him and his reasons for leaving now, and I love him very much and only rarely resent him these days, but I do still have some regrets about leaving frumkeit.

Anyway, my point is that it didn't work for us. But I have seen it work for others. If you and your dh do everything together or if your dh is a very skeptical sort of person (as mine is), it might not work. But the fact that even asking about this, makes it sound like it might work for you. And Amy's right. It's not all or nothing.

And Elfie, BTW, I have an internet friend who just moved to Baltimore with almost the same story as you (I really doubt from a few things that you say that you're the same person). If you would like to get in touch with her, PM me your e-mail address, and I'll send it to her.
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