Ask Shuli: Meet the Parents

Ask ShuliDear Shuli:

I’ve started dating a non-Jewish girl, and my parents are furious. Should I ignore them and hope they come around?


Dear Romeo:

In this day and age, I’m a bit surprised we’re still having this conversation. Don’t parents know how hard it is to meet a nice girl, let alone a Jewish one? I think it’s crucial that parents spell this out as an expectation early on, if it’s truly important to them. Did your parents (the Montagues!) explain that they wanted you to go for an M.O.T., that that was a key value for them?

My parents never did—how could they? Mom married outside the faith, twice—but I know others who’ve set this expectation. My aunt and uncle forbade their children, my cousins, from even dating a non-Jewish person. It was a little tough, come prom time. However, it made the line in the sand crystal clear. No dating . . . and no marriage with a non-Jew. I also know plenty of parents who imply such things but never say it. In their case, those parents have no right to get their undies in a bunch when their Romeo brings home Juliet.

So what to do? Certainly don’t ignore them. If this Juliet turns out to be the girl of your dreams, avoid the apothecary (ha)! But seriously, talk to your parents early on in your relationship with your new girlfriend. Ask them why it bothers them so much that you’re dating a non-Jewish girl. Is it that they fear an interfaith marriage? Are they concerned about possible future grandchildren? Or is it just that they’ve promised you to the daughter of the synagogue president?

We may be getting a bit ahead of ourselves . . . but if your future Jewish family is that important to your parents, let’s hope it’s also important to you. Have the talk with your girlfriend, too. Be open and honest about your parents’ concerns. Do everyone a favor and determine your priorities, then find out what she’s up for—conversion? Or not?—before it’s too late.