She was a nice Christian girl. A miracle girl if you will. One of two girls in a family of seven kids, she was believed to have died, only to have been found crying in the morgue.
He on the other hand was a wild Jewish boy. He never studied but his superior intellect won him accolades from peers and anger from the parents. He was taken out of a Romanian school and put into a Russian school. At the time he only knew Romanian and Yiddish. Within a month, he was acing his Russian classes too.
By college he was wild, partying all day, fighting at night but master his classes. By the time he was in his thirties, he was a published author and taught classes with one eye on the book and the other on the class. Soaking in material and teaching at the same time.
My grandfathers’ romance with my grandmother was fast and furious. Soon they were coming up to the question and this was going to be no easy talk. She had no way of knowing his bringing up, in the shtetl, a son of deeply religious parents, in the times of the ghetto.
“You have to understand, that to marry a Jew is very different. You have to understand all the repercussions that go with it.” He told her. “I love you, but you need to think long and hard. Because if you are not ready, if this life is not for you, you need to say it.”
To be a wife or a husband of someone Jewish is a big deal. You will take on the frustrations of the Palestinian conflict, you are taking on the pressure of family, your are accepting the quirks. But more than that, you have to understand that your family, will now be Jewish. No matter your religion, no matter your approach to life, your kids will be Jewish. By being a wife of a Jewish man, the world will consider you Jewish, and with that comes the good and the bad. You are joining a small but an elite club that will often welcome you and sometimes will push you away, just as it will your wife or husband. As a spouse of a Jew, you will understand the meaning of the word antisemitism as your spouses trials will become yours when he or she faces the wall that some people will put up simply because of who they were born. You will find out, just how open minded your family is or isn’t. You will know that no matter how comfortable your lives are, they will always feel the pull of Israel.
More than that, no matter how you bring up your kids, they will be Jewish. And the less you try to make them Jewish by giving them a secular, Muslim, Buddhist or Catholic upbringing, the more they will feel lost and the more they will be pulled to be Jewish. They will forever be misfits and they will forever feel a tie to Israel and Judaism and those of Jewish faith. Sadly for them, they will never feel entirely Jewish, they will feel trapped in between two worlds as halfsies and no matter how many times they go to Israel or temple, they will not shake that feeling off.
But by being half non-Jew. they will provide the bridge between the cultures. They will be able to go between two worlds and they will relate to both. They will be the quintessential TCK, Third Culture Kids. They will know the prayers and Shma Israel as well as they will know the Christmas Carols. They will be as comfortable in the church as they are in the synagogue. They and their children be forever welcomed in Israel and feel just as pulled to United States, Britain, India, Ukraine or wherever else they grew up.
Your kids will be Jewish and not divorce, not education and not estrangement will change that, and for that reason, so will you.
My grandmother was married for some twenty odd years before my grandfather died of a heart-attack. Her elder daughter was 18 and younger one only 15. Yet the two daughters were considered by their peers as Jewish. They were accepted as trully equals only by other Jews. Ultimately the family left their place of birth, one daughter to Israel and the other, my mother, to United States. My grandmother stayed behind, but even though she was Russian, the pull of family is far stronger than the pull of country, and so she left for Israel. Once you marry a Jew, you are a Jew and not even death can make that go away.
Today, when I go to visit my family in Israel, I am kissed by my aunt who gives me a MagenDavid and then by my grandmother who prays over me and makes a cross over me. She is one hundred percent Russian even if she sings in a Hebrew choir and speaks Hebrew far better than I. It doesn’t matter the religion and ethnicity because with her and my family, I feel loved and protected by all Gods and I feel no difference between the cultures. Because I love my grandmother, I love my Russianess and thus when I date a girl that isn’t Jewish, I don’t disqualify her for that would be to disqualify my grandmother. But I know that she must understand me and love me and love my Judaism. For if we are to be together, it will be hers, as much as it is mine.