Dear Miriam | Son Having Non-Jewish Fiancée Causes Agita

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Dear Miriam,

My son (day school grad, Jewishly knowledgeable) is marrying his lovely but non-Jewish fiancée this summer. In their home, they are already doing things (for example, having a Christmas tree with a Jewish star on top) that turn my stomach.

I am doing my best to practice radical acceptance, knowing that his choices are his own, that each of us has our own path and that only being positive may lead to his fiancée choosing to become Jewish in the future. She comes from a church-going home, and my son says that conversion isn’t important to either of them. I am finding the situation challenging. What advice can you offer me?


Mother of the Groom

Dear Mother,

I hear you, and I see you and your challenges and I empathize with your feelings. These are circumstances in which many Jewish parents find themselves, often without a road map for how to respond to their children or a community of people to talk to about their own reactions. But you are not alone, and you and your family will be fine.

The best thing you can do for yourself, for your son and for your future daughter-in-law is to separate your feelings and experiences from theirs. From your description, neither your son nor your future daughter-in-law feel conflicted about the role of religion in their relationship. That is overwhelmingly positive for them and their future together, and that’s something for you to celebrate. Though you feel conflicted, you don’t have to live their lives, and your conflict is about you and not about them.

You are absolutely right about everyone finding their own path, but since your daughter-in-law isn’t interested in converting to Judaism, no amount of love from you is going to change her mind. (Nor, according to Jewish attitudes about conversion, should it.)

I wonder if you can reframe your own concept of radical acceptance to serve all of you better. Rather than accepting their relationship now with the hope that it morphs into something else in the future, I wonder if you can simply accept their relationship now, on its own merits, because your son has chosen it. Full stop.

If you don’t like how they decorate for Christmas, don’t go to their home for Christmas. If you’re concerned that they’re not doing Jewish holidays, invite them to your home. But don’t do so as a way to convince your daughter-in-law that Judaism is for her specifically, but as a way to show and share that Jewish ritual is important to your family, and she and your son are part of that family.

While it may be tempting to have one attitude of acceptance in front of your kids and another with your own friends, I want to encourage you not just to act accepting when you’re with your daughter-in-law but actually to wholeheartedly, accept her and their relationship.

If you haven’t already sought out sources that support that approach, check out 18Doors, which has numerous first-person accounts from individuals who are part of interfaith families. Should your daughter-in-law ever express interest in learning more about Judaism, 18Doors also has plentiful resources for people married to Jewish spouses.

If the elephant in the room is how they are going to raise your grandchildren, I implore you not to ask your son and daughter-in-law this question. Be a kind, loving presence in your family’s life. Share your love of Judaism with them. Don’t allow yourself to be disappointed in advance of a conversion that likely will never happen. Seek out interfaith-affirming resources and companions.

If and when the time comes for grandchildren, be prepared with love and support, even if their lives don’t look exactly like you might have imagined.

Be well,



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