Posts Tagged ‘Marriage’

My Geni Journey: On Paul Newman and Intermarriage

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A few weeks ago, I discovered several new branches of my family on Geni.com.

I was thrilled to find distant cousins that I never knew! We emailed old stories of people long gone, and verified our common history. We updated each other on our family news, and even figured out a certain ancestor’s Hebrew name. I have since friended some of my new cousins on Facebook, and several have agreed to join Geni. It has truly been an incredible experience.

For those of you unfamiliar with Geni.com, it’s a website where you can input your family tree. And when Geni sees that you and another person have both described the same person as a relative, it prompts the two of you to connect your trees. This is how I found these long-lost cousins. Geni is pure genius.

Paul Newman

Paul Newman was my second cousin three times removed

This discovery put me on a Geni high. But weeks later, one thing is still gnawing at me. I discovered that a good chunk of that side of the family is married to non-Jews.

I wonder whether their kids will ever connect with mine as “family.” I wonder if these memories of my grandmother’s great “Tante Rezhin” will mean anything to them.

I wonder whether they will ever take an interest in their “Jewish side” and study this family tree that has become so dear to me.

I don’t know how it happened along the way. I don’t know if a closer-knit family—or a more religious family—could have prevented it. But somehow, somewhere, these cousins decided it was okay to marry out of the faith.

The truth is that I should not have been that surprised. Our celebrated family connection to Paul Newman (the famous actor, 1925-2008) should not be our biggest pride. Though quite the celebrity, Paul was born of a non-Jewish mother, and felt little relationship to us, cousins on his “Jewish side.” He gave to many important philanthropic causes, but not specifically to Jewish ones.

And I am beginning to realize that there are also other parts of the family that are no longer Jewish….

One of my distant cousins married Jewish and became frum through Chabad. He said that if you look at this family tree, you see what the landscape of the Jewish community will be like in 20 years. I replied that I find comfort in the fact that at least some of us are still holding down the fort.

But what does “holding down the fort” really mean?

Does it mean that I teach my children to marry Jewish? That’s it? What if they don’t? What am I doing to actively prevent intermarriage?

I guess you can say that I try to show my children the beauty of Judaism and that I teach them the Orthodox lifestyle.

But there are no guarantees. I’m sure my ancestors back in the “old country” never thought their children or grandchildren would marry non-Jews. They probably never imagined it possible.

But here we are. So many American Jews marrying out of the faith. Even in my own family.

I’m still not sure how I feel about it, but I felt it warranted a blog post.

Do you have intermarriage in your family? How do you feel about it?

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The Real Crisis: Shidduchim and the Generation of Choice

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Ever heard of a “segulah bed?” For those of you who haven’t, I’ll explain. When someone marries and vacates their bed in an apartment of friends, it is seen as a segulah that the next person to sleep there will get married as well. No joke, people say this.

Instead of segulahs, we need real-world solutions to resolve this shidduch crisis. And I don’t advocate relying on the old shidduch system either.

What’s wrong with the old shidduch system?

For the most part, girls just sit and wait for a shadchan to call. Just. Sit. And. Wait.

Guys, on the other hand, have lists and lists of girls. They randomly pick from those described as pretty. And sometimes, they go out with the one whose shadchan happened to call right after the last bad date.

I think guys just have so many options, they don’t bother to go out with a girl more than once.

This happens in more “modern” circles as well. When I was single and living on the Upper West Side, I used to call it the Head Turning Syndrome. A guy would come to OZ, see a girl he knew he liked, and chat with her for a few minutes. Then, while he’d be standing there, another girl would walk by who looked potentially more interesting. He’d drop the first for the second, and the second for a third, never settling on any one girl long enough to get to know her.

I am convinced there are more girls than guys available in the dating pool, but I also think guys are not willing to really commit.

Why can’t guys commit?

We are the generation of choice.

We were brought up on constant choices. Even our discipline offered choices everywhere we turned: Either you stop throwing your toys, or I will take them away. Either you stop yelling, or you will go to your room. Your choice. Then, as we grew up, we also had loads of every day choices that our parents actually listened to: Do you want a Nintendo game or a camera for Chanukah? Do you want pizza or Chinese tonight? Do you want to apply to this school or that school?

Previous generations had nowhere near as many choices as we had. Our grandparents grew up with the mentality that you listened, you followed, you did, because that’s all there was. And that was the only way.

Unfortunately, this “choice, choice, choice” culture has led us to a crisis in shiduchim. You can have this girl with the stellar academics, or you can have this girl, smart (not stellar), but she’s prettier. Or you can have this other girl, stellar academics AND a great job. But she’s not as pretty. Hm….how to choose?

I liken this decision to the experience of purchasing a cell phone. This one comes with anytime minutes, but has no keyboard. This one has a keyboard, but no touch screen. This one has a touch screen AND a keyboard, but requires a two year service agreement. How in the world is one supposed to compare these things and make any decision?

It’s like comparing apples and oranges.

In the end, guys just continue to turn their heads again and again (I’m sure by now they’re dizzy!) and they never get to the real experience of commitment—the real hard work of cultivating a relationship.

Here’s what I propose. We should create a new rule—a new choice, if you will:

You date twice or you don’t get dates.

That’s it. Shadchans won’t set up guys who don’t go out again. And friends won’t let friends go out with such guys. Let’s make it a social rule, as strong as the rules that the guy picks the girls up, and that he pays for dinner.

Let’s get these guys to really give girls a try. Then maybe our shidduch crisis won’t be such a crisis after all.

But for those of you who still like “segulahs,” here’s a story about another segulah:

A single friend of mine once went to a separate-seating wedding. As she sat down on the women’s side, someone came up and offered her “segulah bread,” bread from the chassan and kallah’s table. She explained to my friend that if she eats the bread, it is a segulah that she will find her shidduch. My friend looked at her and said, “You want a segulah that I should get married? It would have been more of a segulah had they seated me at that single men’s table over there!!”

I agree with my friend, and I think segulahs are silly, but what do you think?

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