Sono Grato – I’m Grateful

Nearly 55 miles per day, 274 miles per week, 1,096 miles per month. A total of 9,864 miles. That is how many miles my non-Jewish husband drove last year to schlep our children from our home in Lino Lakes to Aleph Preschool at Beth El Synagogue. The drives were hard on all three of them – on most days it was an hour each way – monotonous beginnings and ends of each day stuck inside a minivan. But the middle of the trip, the 3 ½ hours in between drop off and pick up, was exclusively hard on my husband. New to the area/state/community he would spend his mornings alone in the Beth El library or, when that was closed for a meeting, napping in the car. It was a lonely and quiet time of each day; especially hard on his extroverted soul.

The hours logged last year is really just one example of the dedication my husband shows toward raising our Jewish children as Jews. More than a decade ago when he agreed to this before my conversion he had no idea what he was signing up for (nor did I for that matter). When you aren’t Jewish and you aren’t a parent, how authentic is your answer to make that commitment? In reality, I would argue that he didn’t really agree to raise our future children as Jews – not at that time at least. What he did at that time more than a decade ago and before we were even considering children of any kind was agreeing to raise our children not Catholic. No baptisms or first communions, no altar boys or altar girls, no to practically every tradition he grew up with and associated with family and home and love. When my husband said yes to his theoretical future children as Jews he first had to say no to practically everything else. He gave all of that up because he knew I was meant to be a Jew and if it meant giving up on his kids having what he had then he would do that. If I could I would have married him all over again.

It was only when our children were born that my husband could see the beauty of what he agreed to so long ago. He beamed with pride when we were picking a Hebrew name for our daughter and read that Ariella means “Lion of God” because his family always said that his beloved grandfather and our daughter’s namesake had the “voice of a lion.” When our son had his bris he proudly and wholeheartedly did all of his parts, carefully learning and studying beforehand. My husband may not be a Jewish father but he is a father of Jews, in a profoundly deep way I could never have imagined let alone asked for so many years ago.

These days my 50% Italian Catholic husband speaks far more Hebrew and Yiddish than he does Italian but just this once I want to teach him some of his familial language:

Sono grato per te. I am grateful for you.

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Karen Riomondo is a TC JewFolk Guest Author

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