Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Morning Quickies: “Should I Go to My Brother-in-Law’s Wedding Even Though I Wasn’t Invited?”

wedding invitation
I am currently going through a divorce, and my soon to be ex-brother-in-law is getting married for the second time. He has invited my children, both teenagers, to the wedding, but has not included me. The invitation was addressed to them only. Their father cannot take them for me, due to being incarcerated. My question is: Do I take them, even though the invitation was not addressed to me also? Since I was excluded, should I even think about letting them go without me, or even at all? — Not Invited to BIL’s Wedding

I wouldn’t go to the wedding since your name very pointedly was left off the invitation. But that doesn’t mean your kids can’t or shouldn’t go. Do two teenagers really need parental supervision at a family event? (And if so, why??) Won’t there be other adult family members who can keep an eye on them (and maybe even pick them up and drop them off) — grandparents, another uncle or aunt, an older cousin? If there’s no one you trust to supervise your kids, you’ll need to assess whether you can trust them on their own at the wedding and talk with them about any rules you might have for them to follow while they’re (temporarily) out of your care, as well as what time you’ll be picking them up (or arranging for them to get home).

I have been married for nine years. I am Jewish and my wife, who was raised Catholic, converted to Judaism prior to our marriage. We now have two children, 8 and 6. My wife recently decided that she wanted to go to church and bring the children. She feels that, since she was raised Catholic and since I haven’t been very observant, she wants them to have this religious understanding and beliefs. I was very upset as I felt somewhat mislead or duped. I love her and want to understand. We decided that we would be more involved in sharing both religions. I would naturally be responsible for teaching Jewish traditions and she would share her Catholic traditions. We each attend the other’s religious service with the children so they don’t feel us to be a divided family. What is your opinion? I don’t want to lose my family over this matter. — Divided By Religion

I’m confused. If your wife converted to Judaism, why is she attending Catholic church regularly? Why is she responsible for teaching and sharing Catholic traditions? Did you not agree before you got married or had children what faith you would raise your children in? If you agreed on Judaism as the family religion but your wife feels like you aren’t doing enough to expose and teach your kids about Judaism, you need to re-visit whatever earlier discussions you had about how to raise your kids, explain how important it is to you that they are raised with the foundation of Jewish traditions and beliefs, and then start walking the walk.

It’s one thing to say you want your kids to have certain traditions, but, if you aren’t doing anything to expose them to those traditions, I can understand why your wife, who wants them to have some religious foundation, would fall back on the religion she is most knowledgeable and comfortable in (though I’m still confused as to why she converted if she wasn’t willing to give up Catholicism). At any rate, you need to sit down and discuss things with your wife. Since you seem to want Judaism to be the dominant family religion, what is it your wife needs from you to (re?-)agree to that?


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62 comments… add one
  • Sunshine Brite August 3, 2015, 9:08 am

    I know with teens I’d be hesitant to send alone to a wedding purely because most people have some sort of hosted drink and teens and open bar doesn’t especially mix well. I’ve noticed at weddings that id checking is a lot more limited.

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    • SpaceySteph August 3, 2015, 9:14 am

      Yeah I don’t think IDs are really checked at all at any wedding I’ve been to… I get carded a lot, but never at a wedding. I think it’s generally thought that guests will police themselves/each other and that kids will be supervised so I don’t think the LW’s hesitation to send them alone is unfounded.
      But you really really shouldn’t go to a wedding you weren’t invited to, regardless of the circumstances. If there are no other siblings, cousins, grandparents, authority figures in the family that can keep an eye on your sons then I would say keep them home. If you really don’t trust any single person in your ex’s family to supervise your children, then there are bigger problems than this wedding to deal with.

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      • Dear Wendy August 3, 2015, 10:14 am

        But let’s say this is a bar mitzvah instead of a wedding. I’ve been to bar mitzvahs where the guest of honor invited his friends, most of whom around 13, who came unchaperoned (parents dropped them off and picked them up). I guess I don’t see much difference in a bunch of 13-year-olds going to a friend’s bar mitzvah and a couple of teens going to a family wedding where there will likely be other adult family members in attendance.

      • SpaceySteph August 3, 2015, 12:16 pm

        Yeah but with a bar mitzvah, the bartender knows all the kids are 13 and the flow of alcohol is a little more controlled.
        I think its fine to leave them if she trusts the adults at the wedding to not let them go wild… but does she?

      • Portia August 3, 2015, 6:53 pm

        I agree with you – bar mitzvahs are crawling with underage kids, so if there’s an open bar, they’d card anyone who even looks close. Or have a kids-only party. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I remember an open bar at any bar mitzvah I’ve been to.

      • SpaceySteph August 4, 2015, 9:25 am

        My bat mitzvah had an open bar. I tried, and failed, to score some alcohol at it, too. Bummer.

  • jlyfsh August 3, 2015, 9:14 am

    LW1 do you have contact with that side of the family at all? Weird that if you do they didn’t contact you before or reach out at any point and discuss this. I would do that now. Whoever you have had the most recent or most pleasant contact with call and discuss what best way to get them there and pick them up is. I wouldn’t attend though and I would make sure you let them know you support their relationship with their family and hope that they have fun.
    LW2 I am very confused. It sounds like there was an agreement to share both religions? Did you ever decide exactly how that would look? Did your wife think you would both be attending services more regularly? I would have a check in conversation and lay out what you both imagined this agreement would look like and moving forward what the plan is. Otherwise your kids will get caught in the cross hairs and that’s unfair to them.

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  • SpaceySteph August 3, 2015, 9:28 am

    LW2, your story is confusing. I’m Jewish and my husband is Catholic, and we talked a lot before we got married and continue to talk regularly about the religion of our family (which does not yet include kids, but hopefully will one day) and how observances and practices should go. It’s an ongoing conversation because feelings change over time, and we think its important to check in regularly and make sure we are on the same page. It seems like you and your wife have not had such an open and ongoing conversation. Maybe you thought that her conversion made it a done deal and are now finding out that it wasn’t?
    I wonder if there’s something else at play here? People’s feelings toward religion change a lot over their lives, especially in times of turmoil. Did your wife recently experience a death in the family or a health scare or something that made her rethink her religious affiliation? If so, talking about that may be a good place to start.
    Regardless of why your wife’s feelings changed, though, by your own admission that you haven’t been very observant. It seems you weren’t holding up your end of the bargain to be the one providing the Jewish upbringing for your children. You and your wife need to have a really long, in depth conversation about what the religious upbringing of your children should be, and find a compromise. If it’s important to you that your kids be raised Jewish, then you do need to take an active role in their upbringing. Don’t just think by saying it that it will be so. Discuss with your wife, come up with a game plan, execute said plan for a few months, and then discuss again. And keep discussing, because these feelings change over time.

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  • Haley August 3, 2015, 10:27 am

    LW2, kind of curious to see the responses to your question – my brother is marrying a Jewish woman and has decided to convert (They couldn’t find a Rabbi in town that would marry them if he didn’t. Seriously.) I’m not sure what all his “conversion” will entail, but i think he’s got a long road ahead. And i like the girl fine, it just makes me sad to think about my nieces and nephews not having a christmas tree to decorate or celebrating christmas or being able to enjoy the true christmas spirit and the happiness and joy and excitement of that time of year 🙁 especially when mine and my sisters future children WILL celebrate christmas and go to church, etc. they will come over to my parents house on christmas.

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    • jlyfsh August 3, 2015, 10:35 am

      Converting doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t do those things though. Maybe they will decide together that he wants to share his Christmas memories with them and that will involve celebrating the non-religious aspects of the holiday. Or maybe they will decide to celebrate both holidays and learn about the religious aspects of both. It would probably mean a lot to her and their family if everyone tried to learn about some of the holidays they celebrate as part of the Jewish religion. It doesn’t have to be something that divides families. It can just provide chances to learn new things and more opportunities to celebrate with them.

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      • Haley August 3, 2015, 10:43 am

        I like that jlyfsh, thanks! I think i need to look at it like that. Fact of the matter is, her family are all VERY observant Jews and it’s already been stated that Christmas/ non-Jewish holidays will not be celebrated at my brothers/future SILs home, because her family would have a huge fit (It took years for her father to even accept that she was marrying a non-Jew). And since the rest of our immediate family is not Jewish and admittedly don’t have any thoughts to becoming Jewish, we are not welcome at Shabbat or Hanukkah or other celebrations like that. It does feel like a separating of the families though, with him converting more and more over to their beliefs and thoughts – – I like your idea to maybe use it as a chance to get to learn more about their religion though and try to use it as a tool to bring the families together.

      • SpaceySteph August 3, 2015, 2:18 pm

        Tangentially related, it’s my own personal soap-box topic to correct misconceptions about Hannukah.
        Hannukah is one of the LEAST important Jewish holidays and it’s a pet peeve of mine that people who know one thing about Jews, that’s the thing. Its commonly known because
        1) there’s a practice associated with the holiday called “publicizing the miracle” which is why we put menorahs (better called hannukiahs) in public places and in the front windows of our homes, while more major holidays are home based or synagogue based, rather than public and
        2) because Christmas and marketing schemes and how American culture tries to juice every last drop of money from everybody during the month of December.
        Anyways, part of learning more about her religion and culture is being open to knowing things like this and learning what observances and holidays she finds most important.

      • Haley August 3, 2015, 3:56 pm

        Interesting, thanks. I didn’t realize that! Of course i know about Yom Kippur and Passover but yeah, everyone seems to know most about hanukkah!
        Like i’ve said here a few times, i admittedly truly DON’T know much about their religion because it really isn’t something that we talk about at length, actually. We just don’t. About either religion. So maybe in making more of an effort to learn more, I can learn about what she finds most important about the Jewish faith and about certain traditions and what truly is most important. But really, she doesn’t discuss many details of her religion.

    • LadyinPurpleNotRed August 3, 2015, 10:45 am

      Why won’t they experience The happiness and joy of that time of year? All of my Jewish friends and family still get happy and excited and enjoy that time of year. I was unaware it was a Christian only thing. Good to know!

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      • Haley August 3, 2015, 10:55 am

        All i meant was celebrating and getting into the christmas spirit, not that they don’t also experience happiness and joy – poor choice of words!

      • SpaceySteph August 3, 2015, 12:05 pm

        Yeah I get that you didn’t mean it that way but Lady in Purple is right that you have kind of a condescending and closeminded tone regarding this. All you can think is that your future nieces and nephews will be missing out on things? It’s like you think the only good childhood is the one you had.
        I am sure you don’t mean it like that, but it is how it sounds. Even if you aren’t saying these things, I’m sure the attitude carries through in your interactions with them– I’m not surprised that they are trying to keep you at arms length regarding their religious observances by not inviting you for Shabbat and holidays.
        Like others have said, use this as an opportunity to learn about another culture and get out of your Christian bubble. Instead of what they’re missing out on, think about what your whole family is gaining– a chance to build understanding of others.

      • Haley August 3, 2015, 12:48 pm

        It’s not that SpaceySteph – (It’s that our entire immediate family – me, my parents, 2 sisters) has never ever been included in their religious celebrations. I’m letting out a bit more here, with anonymous strangers but rest assured i am 100% in my brothers corner with WHATEVER he chooses to do. That’s what family does. He’s gone through enough stress with her family, he doesn’t need it from his, and we all are 100% supportive and gracious, I truly love the both of them!

      • booknerd August 3, 2015, 12:01 pm

        I have such a hard time buying into the holidays. Because that’s what it seems to be. Buying. I know I’m in the minority, but we have happiness and joy all year.
        I think it’s funny, Haley, that you have premature FOMO for your future nieces and nephews that don’t even exist yet. And that you are sad that she won’t embrace your traditions, but you don’t even know what hers entail. It sounds like you are a little offended that she’s not converting for your brother and your family. Read up on the Jewish faith. I’m sure you’ll find it’s not as oppressive as you make it seem. And just because you might celebrate different holidays doesn’t mean you can’t get together all those other days of the year to enjoy each others company.

      • Haley August 3, 2015, 12:14 pm

        I was not trying to make it seem like i thought the Jewish faith was “oppressive” in any way. I agree, i should learn more about it and understand it better than i do. Nor am i offended that she’s not converting to our faith, i don’t think converting is a decision to be taken lightly and it should solely be that’s person choice whether or not they really truly believe in a religion enough to convert. Also i can only imagine her family if she chose to convert… oh boy.
        Do i wish she would embrace our traditions YES. Should i perhaps make a better effort to understand her (and my brothers soon to be religion) traditions YES. So i will do that.

      • booknerd August 3, 2015, 1:28 pm

        Well, she can’t eat bacon! I mean how does one truly live unless pork is on the table? And you keep mentioning how her family is so strict. Just an observation!
        Judaism is probably one of the most fascinating religions, in my opinion. It’s one of the oldest religions and many parts of Christianity were born from Judaism. Her traditions and the traditions of her family might involve honoring their faith without non Jewish extended family members attending.
        I’m sure you didn’t mean to sound the way you are coming across, and now you have multiple side conversations with people about this, but you did sound very judge-y and really, pretty ignorant about Judaism. You really should examine your expectations regarding this. Her religion is important to her, like yours is to you. Part of her worship may involve not getting involved in yours. Do some research into Judaism.

      • Haley August 3, 2015, 2:02 pm

        Good grief, the bacon thing was a JOKE!!! It doesn’t impact me in the slightest, i could care less if they don’t eat it!
        Truly though, i appreciate the outside look (Sometimes you don’t realize how you’re words or actions come across to other people so truly, i am thankful for the impact). I don’t personally think i am judgment or condescending in person at all, (I would think/hope(?!) she would say that i’ve never been judgmental or condescending.) I am accepting of all people and so maybe i should work on how i come across. and i truly have nothing against Judaism! REALLY!! And i absolutely agree, sure maybe I need to read more and fully understand it better.

      • SpaceySteph August 3, 2015, 2:10 pm

        Depending on her strictness and on what branch of Christianity you are, it may actually be against her religion to enter a church with you and your family. The only way to find that out is by talking to her, of course.
        That said, it really is up to her and your brother how to include your family in Jewish observances and how to include themselves in your family observances. All you can do is be supportive and tell them that IF they are interested in having you, you are interested in joining them and learning more about her–and soon to be their– religion. (The key is to mean it…)

    • ktfran August 3, 2015, 11:03 am

      My family is practicing Catholic. Last October, my sister married an even more practicing Jewish fellow. They discussed – in length before an engagement – how they want their hypothetical family to look. He’s more religious than my sister, so they agreed to raise their children Jewish. My sister is more into the secular Catholic traditions, so he has agreed that their children will celebrate those aspects of the holidays. Santa, Christmas tree, etc. For the past several years, he has already exchanged presents with the family and all that jazz. Also, even though he’s not kosher, he’s pretty strict with his dietary guidelines in respect to his religion. My sister did get him to agree to lift said restrictions with their children because food is important to my family and she wants her children to experience like we did. So, they can eat pork. Yay! Anyway, both had to give and take and they reached an acceptable agreement. So, it can be done.

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      • Haley August 3, 2015, 11:09 am

        Her family is 100% kosher – SO NO BACON! (I was horrified to learn that!! :p just kidding, just kidding. But really, bacon is amazing!)

      • Haley August 3, 2015, 11:13 am

        They have compromised though that they will let their future children go to football games on Friday nights when in high school and be signed up for soccer and tball in which there may be soccer games or such on Saturday mornings and be allowed out during that time, because that was really important to my brother (and her too, she still feels like she really missed out sometimes).

      • ktfran August 3, 2015, 11:13 am

        Some of his family is Kosher. His mom is. He doesn’t eat pork, and quite a bit of fish, and he won’t eat meat and dairy in the same meal, but he will cook using the same pans, stuff like that. Although he does keep kosher during passover and they do have two separate sets of pots, pans, plates, utensils, etc. for that time of year.

        It really is interesting to learn about it, since I wasn’t familiar before. And like I said, he’s embraced some of our Christmas traditions. He won’t go to church with the family though.

      • Haley August 3, 2015, 11:18 am

        Interesting ktfran, thanks. Always nice to get an outside perspective. I do wish she had embraced our traditions, and maybe she would say the same about us (?) not embracing her traditions, i’m not sure what she would want from us – but really – it’s my brothers life and his choice and as long as they are happy, i don’t care!

      • SpaceySteph August 3, 2015, 12:10 pm

        Its a little different when you’re talking about experiencing the dominant religion vs a minority religion. Nobody really grows up in the US without familiarity with Christian culture, tradition, and holidays. Whereas its fairly easy to grow up in parts of the US and never meet a Jewish person or have any clue how they practice.
        But even so, you don’t know what she has and hasn’t experienced regarding your culture, because you are not a member of the relationship.
        As you say, you should let your brother make his own choices and be happy for him, rather than judge.

      • dinoceros August 3, 2015, 12:49 pm

        Christianity actively seeks to bring in new members. I think the overall environment of everyone being welcomed at church and participating in religious holidays and events is a result of that. Not every religion is like that, though. Many do not care about soliciting new practitioners and converting them, so there’s less incentive to involve non-believers in rituals, unless they are actively interested in participating.

      • booknerd August 3, 2015, 1:43 pm

        Precisely. And it might be kinda of strange for a Jewish family to actively start participating in Christian worship and holidays. I mean…I think it’s weird to expect that.

        Also, maybe it’s because our families live so far apart, but I’ve never had someone so upset that their SIL’s family weren’t inviting their entire family to holidays….that’s weird to me.

      • Haley August 3, 2015, 1:53 pm

        For the record, I wasn’t trying to be like oh, wah poor me, never invited to their religious celebrations. It has nothing to even do with that. Heck, it’s not like my family is always invited to celebrations with my boyfriend’s extended family, and vice versa. Just stating a fact considering that both of her sisters in-laws are invited to Shabbat and Hanukkah and believe me it is a big huge to-do. (I wouldn’t even want that commitment every week to be honest!) that’s all.!

      • SpaceySteph August 3, 2015, 2:23 pm

        I do think that the proselytizing is part of why Jews are so wary to celebrate holidays with Christians. Like whats the line between sharing a tradition and trying to convert you? I don’t know a Jewish person who hasn’t been forcefully proselytized at against their will so that tends to make us wary of such invitations to “share” in a holiday. (I’m talking people who come up to your door, come up to you in a street, read bible passages about you going to hell or accepting Jesus into your life, push pamphlets into your unwilling hands etc. etc. It feels very hostile for someone to tell you you’re going to hell, any way you slice it.)
        Also for most Jewish holidays the home is an extremely strong component, so likely the SIL still spends those holidays at her parents house (if they live nearby) and they are very home-centered. They may not even realize Haley’s family is interested in attending.
        Also, if you want to attend, you have to play by the rules– dress code, leave your cell phone at home, etc. Maybe they don’t see her family as willing to do that?

      • booknerd August 3, 2015, 3:10 pm

        I am not religious, but I took many courses in college on various religions. I was fascinated, having not grown up in a religion. I view Judaism as very sacred, I mean so many aspects are truly ancient and Jews have been persecuted basically forever. It seems almost in bad taste to invite a practicing Jewish family to a Christmas family event if there would be any semblance of a religious theme there. Or a service. And yes, based on her comments, I can’t imagine her family seems honestly very interested in partaking in their traditions.

      • ktfran August 3, 2015, 4:44 pm

        IDK, I think saying it’s in bad taste is a little harsh. Of course, there are some Jewish people who are more strict, such as some of my new BIL’s family not attending the wedding because he was marrying a non-Jewish person. Sister and BIL did have kosher meals at the wedding for those who wanted it. And they did marry on a Sunday evening because of the Friday/Saturday thing.

        I also think it speaks volumes of my new BIL and how much he loves my sister for him to come home with her for Christmas and celebrate with my family. He doesn’t come around at Easter because of Passover and soon, I believe my sister will do that with him and his family. She definitely will once they have children. I love that they’re both accepting of the different places each other came from.

      • Haley August 3, 2015, 5:18 pm

        Thanks for all the insight. ktfran, it seems you sister is in a similar situation. I have seen just how hard dealing with this sort of issue can be – my SIL left the rabbi’s office in tears after he basically berated my brother for being a non-Jew and marrying a Jewish girl. It has not been easy on them, to say the least! But, it’s clear they are both able and willing to do it to be together and that shows wow, they must love each other a heck of a lot to deal with what they have had to! It would have been so easy for them to just throw in the towel so many times. Religion is a hot issue and it’s been hard on them both but they are happy and excited for their future together and their immediate families have accepted it (and everyone gets along wonderfully when we do get together sporadically! Her dad is a turd, but that has nothing to do with him being Jewish haha) that’s all that matters 🙂

      • ktfran August 3, 2015, 7:05 pm

        Before getting engaged, my sister and now BIL went to both a rabbi and a priest to discuss interfaith marriages. They were really thoughtful about it and about each others preferences and want to make it work. Does it suck that when they’re all home for Christmas and the BIL and their hypothetical children will stay behind while we go to church? Yes, it’s a little sad. But hey, that’s what my sis has decided with him, so I’ll get over it. Same thing for Easter. I’m fairly certain they will not celebrate any part of Easter since it conflicts so much. Again, a little sad, yes. But as long as my sis is happy, I’m happy for her.

      • SpaceySteph August 4, 2015, 9:08 am

        ktfran, you may be in luck! This coming year is one of the few where the calendars get out of sync such that Easter and Passover are a month apart. I already told my husband that if he ever wants us to go visit his family for Easter, 2016 is the year. I’d at least mention it to them.
        Although, Easter is also spiritually a little more difficult for Jews (at least from personal experience) than Christmas so he may not feel comfortable because of that– it really does depend on how religious your family observance is. So I’d say, bring it up, but don’t be too put out if they say no.

      • Portia August 3, 2015, 7:11 pm

        Yes, the proselytizing is a huge issue. It’s really, really frustrating to live in a culture where Christianity is the dominant religion and then have people approach you like you just haven’t heard the right thing about it and it’s their job to convince you. To be fair, the overwhelming majority of those people have been strangers, and I befriended a big group of CRU friends in college who didn’t try to convert me. But still, it can feel really aggressive.
        The holidays I’m thinking might be better are like Sukkot or Purim, depending upon how they celebrate. In my experience, those are more accessible.

      • ktfran August 4, 2015, 12:26 pm

        Good to know SpacySteph. My sister will hopefully do both, but I don’t think the BIL will come home for Easter regardless, but that’s ok. We wouldn’t want him to be uncomfortable at all. For whatever reason, he’s ok with Christmas… but you’re right about Easter.

        Actually, I don’t always go home for Easter. Christmas is our main celebration every year.

        So really, it will just be nice for my sis the years she can do both.

      • Skyblossom August 4, 2015, 8:19 am

        The proselytizing happens to Christians too and is just as annoying to us. Especially when the proselytizer tells you that you aren’t a real Christian and unless you become their type of Christian you will go to hell.
        I find it especially ironic because the types who don’t believe that Catholics are Christians base all of their faith on the Bible but don’t seem to have any idea that the Bible was compiled by the Catholic Church.

    • Anonymous August 3, 2015, 1:12 pm

      I’m on the other side of this and struggling. My now-atheist boyfriend comes from a Mid-west mostly now non-practicing catholic background and I come from a very culturally Jewish although not totally practicing family from NY. We have talked a lot about how we would raise our potential children and while we both agreed we would want to raise the kids Jewish he still wants to go home every year for Christmas. He says it has nothing to do with Jesus or Christianity and its just a time for family and it won’t be at our home. Which I get- but if we show up every year we are de facto celebrating Christmas. Its not like I can ask his parents not to buy presents for just our kids and now I just feel like a mean Grinch. I don’t think its so easy because its Christmas is just not on equal footing with any other holiday, not at least in the US. It is everywhere, and being in a minority religion, it takes work to cultivate a sense of identity. I have for 26 years not celebrated Christmas purposefully, and I’m not sure my boyfriend understands that.

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      • bittergaymark August 3, 2015, 11:31 pm

        But for 20 some odd years — he HAS celebrated Christmas. I’m not sure you understand that.

      • ktfran August 4, 2015, 7:55 am

        I guess I don’t get it because I’m in the majority, i.e., Christian… But aren’t people’s lives fuller when they embrace diversity, in this case, it’s religion, and try to understand more facets of life? I guess I just have a hard time seeing it as someone totally dissing their own religion or traditions because they’re opening up to another.
        Yes, I understand that Christmas is in your face, but for me, and likely a lot of people, it really is 100% about family and tradition. It’s the only time of year I revert back to my little kid self and I’m just utterly at peace with life. I love going to my Grandma’s and drinking spiked egg nog. I love watching movies until all hours of the night with my cousin and aunts. I love that on Christmas evening, my parents, middle sister and I eat sausage and crackers for dinner, play euchre and watch a movie while my other sister and her family spends time at her husband’s family’s house. That’s just a few of the things we do every year.
        I guess I just prefer to be more inclusive as opposed to exclusive.

      • Anonymous August 4, 2015, 8:31 am

        I think you have the luxury of being more inclusive because you’re in the majority. Historically children who grow up in interfaith families who both celebrate Hanukah and Christmas are far less likely to have Jewish families themselves. It’s just easier to go with the flow, ie Christmas. I want my children to know about both religions (all religions) but if we decide that they are going to be Jewish, it’s just a struggle for me to figure out how Christmas fits into that.

      • ktfran August 4, 2015, 12:30 pm

        Like I said, my BIL is Jewish. Not just hey, I’m Jewish, but very much practicing. They’re going to make it work because each things are important to them.
        They already agreed that their children won’t celebrate Easter, I believe. Which will take some adjustment for my sister.
        I think it could work if you open your mind a bit, especially if he says it’s important to him.

      • Anonymous August 4, 2015, 8:03 am

        I do understand and if we were raising potential children with both religions, I would be more open to Christmas, but he’s been very clear that he doesn’t want to do that, that he wants to raise them Jewish, and I’m not sure how to raise Jewish kids with a Christmas tree.

      • SpaceySteph August 4, 2015, 9:17 am

        I think your feelings about Christmas are pretty normal among American Jews… I think we spend so much time thinking that THIS is what sets us apart, and then to celebrate feels like giving in. In a strange way, becoming more observant made it easier for me to celebrate Christmas with my husband’s family because it made me see that there’s A TON of things that set us apart and Christmas is just the tip of the iceberg.
        Consider joining your boyfriend for Christmas but that same year also picking up a new Jewish holiday to celebrate or some other Jewish observance, to help you focus on that part of your identity.
        As for Christmas presents for kids…I grew up mostly secular Jewish with 4 Jewish grandparents and I still got christmas presents from people. I give them, too. And I bake christmas cookies every year for the office. It’s just a present and some baked goods… you can frame it however you want. A present from Grandma means she loves you, it doesn’t have to mean “hooray for Jesus!”

        ETA: Oh and whatever you do, get all that figured out before you get engaged. If he wants you to celebrate Christmas with his family, try that BEFORE engagement. If you want him to go to passover at your house, same. Experience these things and really evaluate whether you can do them for your whole life, before you commit.

      • Anonymous August 4, 2015, 10:47 am

        I do celebrate Christmas and Easter with his family now and he comes to Passover and Hanukah with mine. Until we have kids I think that’s a fine arrangement. I just don’t know what to do after kids, and that’s the part we both have lots of feelings about.

      • Ika August 4, 2015, 12:10 pm

        Why can’t your potential kids see what Christmas and Easter are about? I don’t see how it would harm them.
        FTR, I’m atheist, my parents raised my siblings and I in a way that we could decide as adults what, if anything we believed in. We were exposed to different religious activities. But Christmas and Easter are just fun things to do. With chocolate! And presents!

        My husband was raised catholic the way most people in our country are, baptized, took the communion, he is more of an agnostic. But with our kids we celebrate Christmas and Easter the same way I did with my family. Even though they know (at least the 7 year old, the 4 year old is too little) that I don’t believe in god, etc.

      • Anonymous August 4, 2015, 12:50 pm

        I think fundamentally because Christmas and Easter, to anyone who isn’t coming from a christian/lite-Christian, are about Jesus. I think that is hard for people to whom Christmas is so many other wonderful things, including a totally secular american tradition, to understand. Again I think that it all comes down to the fact that we agreed that we would raise these potential kids Jewish and not interfaith. If they were being raised with both religions then yes, I think its very reasonable to expose them to both. However and especially when they are young, I think its confusing and doesn’t help to create Jewish identities for these kids, especially when Christmas is everywhere from October to December these days.

      • SpaceySteph August 4, 2015, 1:32 pm

        A Jewish identity should be so much more than “a person who doesn’t celebrate Christmas.” Those of us who were raised culturally rather than spiritually Jewish tend to focus on what Jews aren’t– Jews aren’t people who believe Jesus was the son of God, Jews aren’t people who celebrate Christmas and Easter, etc.
        But what about what Jews ARE? Jews are people who observe Jewish holidays, who go to synagogue, who hold certain beliefs and values. If you can start to define your jewish identity by what you *are* instead of what you aren’t, then I think you’ll have a better shot of passing on a Jewish identity to your kids regardless of Christmas at Grandmas.

        Oh and also, regarding your assertion that children of intermarried parents don’t identify Jewish, the data does not tend to support that. See this article: http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/151506/young-jews-opt-in The study shows that among 18-29 year olds with one jewish parent, 59% (that’s a majority) identify as Jewish.

      • Addie Pray August 4, 2015, 11:47 am

        I’m surprised people are giving Haley such a hard time. If the religions were reversed, would you? Her brother’s in-laws were not accepting of him because he is of a different religion. That’s intolerance by definition, and, frankly, shitty, in my opinion. I don’t care what Haley’s brother’s in-laws’ religion is, if the brother and his girlfriend want to get married, I’d hope both sides would be accepting! That Haley was sad to see her brother being rejected/excluded seems normal to me. That Haley would like to celebrate her traditions with her nieces and nephews seems normal to me, too. Just as the girlfriend’s parents would likely want to celebrate their traditions with their grandkids.

      • ktfran August 4, 2015, 12:22 pm

        AP, you said this much better than I.

    • Savannah August 3, 2015, 2:16 pm

      I think you need to reframe some of these issues to better understand what is going on with her and her family, because as much as it might look like one tradition vs. another, it’s really more complicated than that. Being Jewish in the US can be hard, you are different than the vast majority of other Americans. Minority identities need to be cultivated and protected and looked after.
      For my Jewish family one of the things that makes us Jewish is not celebrating Christmas, although that’s not the path others take. Because Christmas is so ubiquitous around the US, you really have to make a huge effort not to celebrate it, we need to opt out, not opt in- that’s what being a minority all is about.
      My boyfriend and I struggle with this too. He was raised in a semi-practicing catholic Midwest family and I come from a NY Jewish background, although our family is also only semi-practicing, but very culturally inclined. Since boyfriend is now an atheist, we agreed to raise potential children Jewish. However he still wants to go back to the Midwest every year during the holidays. I have a lot of feelings about this that we have discussed because even though his point is that we won’t be celebrating Christmas at home, we will basically celebrating Christmas every year if we go to his parents for December 25th. His argument is that it’s about family and nothing to do with Jesus and my argument is that Jews don’t celebrate Christmas. So it’s a constant conversation and hopefully we can come to a good compromise.

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  • Laura Hope August 3, 2015, 10:29 am

    LW2– Why did you ask your wife to convert if you had no intention of practicing and why did she convert if her heart wasn’t in it? Personally, I don’t believe in converting to any religion for anyone other than yourself. (which is why when my husband offered to convert, I said no, until he wanted to do it whether or not he was married to me)

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  • dinoceros August 3, 2015, 10:57 am

    LW1: I’d drop them off. I guess I’m not seeing much opportunity for teens to get in that much trouble at a family wedding. In my family, there are plenty of adults, so even if a kid’s parents aren’t around, they are still supervised. Just don’t bar them from going solely because you feel excluded.

    LW2: Confused, too. If you had already decided that it was OK to take the kids to either religious service, then why is it a problem for them to go to church? Do you mean that she wants them to go only to church and nothing else? Like Wendy, I imagine that your wife cared more that the kids had A religion, than which religion. So, she probably feels duped, too, since she converted and now the kids are not being raised very Jewish. It makes sense that she’d choose to step in with her own religion. You two have to talk about this, but likely, you’re going to need to either step up and teach your kids about Judaism, or step back and let your wife teach what she knows.

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    • kare August 3, 2015, 12:00 pm

      I think it really depends on the values of the adults on that side of the family. My family doesn’t allow underage drinking besides a daiquiri or something once in awhile. However, a lot of my friends growing up were allowed to drink at weddings – as in get shit faced on handles of vodka drinking, not a champagne toast. So if the family is more lenient with drinking, I can see why the LW might not want them to go unsupervised.

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      • dinoceros August 3, 2015, 12:35 pm

        That’s a good point. I’ve never been to a wedding where anyone got out of hand, except for the older folks, so I’m just not used to weddings being a place where kids can get into trouble.

  • chief10 August 3, 2015, 11:14 am

    LW1: What’s up with all these LW’s wanting to go to weddings they weren’t invited to. Drop them off. End of story.

    LW2: Not much I can add to this, but I thought it’d be interesting to let a child find their own meaning in whatever faith they wanted to pursue (if any) I know that’s not practical for most people but maybe expose them to both and see which one they identify with more.

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  • othy August 3, 2015, 4:07 pm

    LW1 – You should not only send your kids to the wedding, but make sure they don’t go empty handed. Their gift doesn’t have to be big, but help them find something on the gift registry that is a reasonable price and maybe split the bill for it with them. It would be good for them to see you take a high road, as well as a good opportunity to teach them how to deal with gift registries.

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  • Cassie August 3, 2015, 4:35 pm

    LW2: One of my close friends in high school grew up in a similar situation as your household. Her mom is Jewish and her dad is Catholic. She and her sister were raised with an understanding of both religions, celebrated various holidays, and went to temple and mass. It ended up working out pretty well for both of them, as their parents were on the same page in an interfaith household and respected and supported each other’s faith. So, it definitely can be done.

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  • Miss MJ August 4, 2015, 9:41 am

    For LW 1, she absolutely should not go to the wedding. As for her kids, it just depends on the nature of the wedding, the closeness of any family members who will be there to her teens, and the age and maturity of the teens. If it’s an open bar wedding where the kids don’t really know anyone aside from maybe the bride or groom, who will NOT be free to keep an eye on them, and the teens are not experienced with that situation, then I probably wouldn’t let them go. It super easy for a teen to get into trouble at an open bar when no one is paying any attention to them and at all of the open bar weddings I have been to, no one is bothering to check IDs. On the other hand, if a well-known aunt or uncle or cousin or grandparent is going to be there and can be the “responsible” adult for the teens, then I say drop them off and pick them up (after talking to that person) and don’t worry about it. Ditto if the teens are known for their responsible behavior. But, if you do send them, I’d be sure they have a cell phone to contact you if they want to leave early.

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