Dr. Sharon Ufberg and her three children offer advice about family, love and life. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m a non-Jewish girl in my mid-20s who’s been dating a Jewish guy for about a year. He has a lot of family near where we live, and they do big dinners and functions for holidays and other events — none of which I’m invited to because his grandparents (who happen to be Holocaust survivors) can’t know he’s dating a non-Jew, or they would disown him. (He knows this for a fact from how they’ve behaved in the past.) As a result, I don’t feel like part of the family at all, even though my boyfriend says neither he nor his parents care that I am not Jewish. Right now he has no intention of telling his grandparents that he has a girlfriend. For the time being I am fine with this situation, but I worry about our future — what happens if we move in together or start talking about marriage? Is it reasonable to feel hurt and excluded? A.N., Petaluma
Sharon: It is perfectly reasonable to feel hurt and excluded from your boyfriend’s family affairs because, quite frankly, you are being excluded. Having acknowledged this, it is also OK for you to accept your boyfriend’s sensitivity to his grandparents’ feelings. The harsh reality is that his grandparents must be quite elderly if they are Holocaust survivors and will not indefinitely be a barrier to your integration into your boyfriend’s family events. One word of caution, though: If his parents are not welcoming you into their home on other nonholiday events, or your boyfriend is not including you in more casual family get-togethers, I would question whether your man is truly comfortable with your non-Jewish status.
Saul: Coming from a close-knit Jewish family, I can totally relate to your boyfriend’s need to be sensitive to his family’s feelings, but I also think that after a year of dating it is important that you feel loved and accepted, too. He has chosen to compartmentalize your relationship, which is obviously not working for you.
Jessica: Have you two actually talked about marriage or moving in together? Or what it might be like to raise children together? It sounds as though these issues may be on your mind, and that you are hopeful for a future with this guy. You need to find out where he stands now, because if you’re starting a lifetime together full of family exclusion, you might want to reconsider your relationship. If Judaism is a big part of your boyfriend’s life, then you’re not just missing out on family time but also the chance to understand your boyfriend better. If he only participates for his grandparents’ sake, then maybe this issue will pass with time. I suggest you close your eyes and imagine what your future looks like with his family. At the end of the day, you aren’t just marrying the man; you’re marrying his whole family.
Alexis: It certainly never feels good to be left out, especially from a family that you would consider marrying into. Given the seriousness of your relationship with your boyfriend, I would talk to him about how you can integrate yourself into his family in a way that both respects his grandparents’ concern for carrying their Judaism to future generations (I’m guessing this is largely the reason for their intolerance) and validates your relationship. If, in fact, your boyfriend’s parents are accepting of your non-Jewish status, start out by spending time with them and work up to time with his grandparents, too. You deserve to be celebrated and cherished, and so does your relationship. If your boyfriend’s grandparents can’t welcome you with open arms, at the very least they should accept you.
Dr. Sharon Ufberg is a Napa-based radio host, journalist, consultant and integrative health practitioner. Her daughters live in San Francisco: Lawyer-turned-writer Alexis Sclamberg, 28 and married; and hair colorist Jessica Sclamberg, 26 and single. Saul Sclamberg, 24 and single, studies chiropractic in Los Angeles. Read more at http://r-2-cents.com.