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An American Tisha B’Av


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

A few weeks ago, I published a story entitled “Will Your Grandchildren Remain Jewish?” In that article I reported on a TV program that focused on intermarriage. As offensive as that situation was, nothing quite compared to an article that came to my attention through the good offices of Mr. Andrew Friedman, who is a prominent attorney and a leader of the Los Angeles Jewish community.

In this article, which was published in The Jewish Journal of L.A., a former associate editor of that paper describes his feelings on his daughter’s wedding day. Over the years, I have heard and read many outrageous stories, but this one topped them all. Frankly, I had difficulty
absorbing it, and even more difficulty believing that a Jewish newspaper would actually publish it.

The author, who lived for many years in Israel and whose daughter was born in Jerusalem, wrote of his pride in her intermarriage. He admitted that there had been a time in his life (some 30 years ago) when he would have attributed his secular beliefs to his daughter’s marrying out of the faith and depriving the Jewish people of an “intelligent and talented member”. But since then, he proudly explained, “maturity and experience have changed all that, and as I watched Scott and Dafna accept their guests’ congratulations I put aside the prejudices of old, pleased to see how happy my daughter is and how well suited for each other they are.”

Sadly, the author does not realize that it is precisely in regard to his people that his lack of experience and maturity is manifest, for how else would he so cavalierly relinquish the faith of his fathers? And it is his prejudice against his own people that is at the root of his self-hating comments. He reveals his bias when he describes his responsibility of introducing the members of the two families to each other, a task which he states he found a bit complicated, for “the groom’s family were mainly named Smith, while the bride’s family included Levs, Lows, Kabakovs, Goldbergs, Berliners and Pegueroses in its roster of last names, an international mishmash of ancestries and cultures.” And then he goes on to say that the groom, a quiet, powerfully built man, will have to learn to live with a family in which “everyone talks at the same time, often at cross purposes.”

What a pity that this man fails to understand that the ancestors of those people whom he labels “mishmash” were prophets and sages who stood at Mt. Sinai and brought blessing, the laws of justice, charity, compassion, and the Word of G-d to all of mankind. He has no perception of the glory and majesty of his people - over 3,000 years of Torah, sacrifice, sanctity and martyrdom have no meaning for him, but he is proud of the new talent that his gentile son-in-law will bring to his family of professionals, academics and musicians – a “skill which he says is absent in most Jews – how to apply a hammer to a nail.”

As if all this were not enough, the writer goes on to relate that for some time now, he knew that the young couple was well suited to one another, for his daughter was expecting a child in a few months and she hesitated to wear white out of fear of “looking like a marshmallow,” and he says all this without embarrassment, for all the world to hear.

More than 30 years ago, I had the privilege of founding the Hineni outreach movement. In those days, when parents came to consult me with an intermarriage problem, they wept and were deeply ashamed, but this father has no shame - he does not know the meaning of guilt or pain.

He further informs us that he worked with Holocaust survivors, which means that he was personally witness to the unspeakable evil that decimated six million of our people. He also relates that he lived in Israel for many years, which tells us that he saw with his own eyes the homecoming of our nation to their ancient land and their constant struggle for life. Yet, it seems that all this had no impact on him. He not only fails to show remorse and sadness at the terrible loss, but he is actually proud - proud of his daughter being pregnant out of wedlock, proud of her marrying a Gentile, and proud of the fact that his descendants will forever disappear into the great American mainstream.

How much Jewish self-hate is there in a heart that ould barter Torah and thousands of years of history for a hammer and a nail?!

The father concludes the article saying that the great moment at the wedding came for him when the judge who performed the ceremony introduced the new couple: “Dafna and Scott Smith.” The tragedy is beyond words ? to be born in Jerusalem, to be a daughter of the Jewish
people, to have Jewish parents and yet not know who you are.

Without realizing it, he sums it all up in his own words when he writes that the one concession that his daughter made to her religion and national origin was “the ritual stamping on the glass at the conclusion of the ceremony” which he goes on to label “a bit of theater which must have puzzled the groom’s family.”

I would like to remind this Jewish father that while to him the breaking of the glass may have been theater, to us it means “zecher l’churban” - a painful reminder of the destruction of our Holy Temple in Jerusalem. And that wedding was yet another destruction of the Temple – a tragic American Tisha B’Av story.

Mr. Andrew Friedman, who forwarded this article to me, wrote a letter of protest to The Jewish Journal - excerpts of which I am pleased to share with you. But no matter what one writes, no matter what one says, words are inadequate to convey this terrible catastrophe.

Dear Editor:

I was appalled by Yehuda Lev’s (former editor of The Jewish Journal) article entitled “Father of the Bride.” He asserts that it was a “great moment” for him to see his Jerusalem-born pregnant daughter marry a non-Jewish husband. Mr. Lev states that “he put aside the prejudices of old, pleased to see how happy my daughter is and how well-suited for each other they are.”

I want to remind Mr. Lev that not too long ago, when a child married a non-Jew we sat shiva. Likewise, when a girl became pregnant out of wedlock, we Jews, with non-Jews alike, questioned her morality. The issue is not “old prejudices.” I jog daily with a Catholic Los Angeles Police officer who wholeheartedly agrees with me that while we are good friends, our children should maintain their own traditions and religions and marry within the fold.

I am not a right-wing ultra Orthodox Jew. I too, live in the secular world. I have been a practicing attorney for the past 32 years; I am a City Commissioner and a County Hearing Officer. At the same time, I thank my parents – survivors of Auschwitz, Dachau and Communist Hungary - for having taught me that seeing a pregnant daughter marry a non-Jew is not a great moment, but a tragic one.

I am convinced that my mother is looking down from Heaven above, pleased that her grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren are following the traditions and religion of her people, but I doubt Yehuda Lev’s ancestors would consider his daughter’s marriage a “great moment.”

Yes, Mr. Lev, you “deprived the Jewish people of an intelligent and talented member” by failing to teach your daughter the importance of Judaism and the importance of Am Yisrael Chai.

Sincerely,
Andrew Friedman
President, Cong. Bais Naftoli

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