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July 23, 2014 / 25 Tammuz, 5774
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When Observance Creates Conflict

One day, my father met one of my classmate’s parents and came home livid.
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

I come from a traditional family. My mother always lit Shabbos candles. My father would make Kiddush. We would go to synagogue (more for social than religious reasons). Our house was quasi-kosher.

My parents sent me to day school. My fellow students mostly came from the same background. They were not Orthodox. We went partying. We hung out. We were typical American teenagers.

Things changed during my senior year in high school. I had an incredible rebbe who opened my heart to dimensions in Torah I never knew existed. I started to study Gemara with intensity. He gave me private lessons. He invited me to his house for Shabbos and the Yom Tovim and for the first time in my life I felt the sanctity of Shabbos.

After graduating high school I decided to go to Israel to study. My rebbe helped me find a yeshiva where I could advance my learning and Yiddishkeit. My parents were happy I was going. Most of the boys in my class were going to Israel as well.

One day, however, my father met one of my classmate’s parents and came home livid. “I hear you’re going to one of those fanatic Orthodox places,” he said. I was taken aback.

“Dad,” I said patiently, “it’s not ‘fanatic.’ The guys there want to learn rather than waste their time.” My father did not buy it. He kept demanding that I reconsider and go to a “normal school.” It was a tough fight and there was a lot of pressure, but I was determined to go.

I spent three great years studying in Yerushalayim. I grew in my studies and my emunah and started thinking seriously about marriage. A shadchan recommended a great girl – a ba’alas teshuvah with a similar background to mine. I wrote to my parents about her. They weren’t too thrilled. They were nervous that she might further encourage my “fanaticism.”

Despite my parents’ objections I went ahead with my plans. I returned to New York and soon afterward my kallah-to-be returned as well. My parents couldn’t help but like her – she’s very sweet and kind. Their reservations nevertheless remained. One day I overheard my father telling my mother, “We should have stopped it at the very beginning when he was in high school with that rebbe. We should have never let him go to Israel. We should have never allowed him to go to that fanatic Orthodox place.”

Eventually, though, my parents consented to my marrying her. My wife and I decided I would continue learning and she would help support the household. She graduated law school and while her salary isn’t great, the firm where she works respects Shabbos observance. So we are grateful to Hashem that we can live a life of Torah and not have to look for help. Baruch Hashem, we have three little ones close in age. When my wife goes to work the youngest is dropped off at day care and older ones are in school.

But to this day my parents cannot accept our way of life, and lately the situation has become worse. My parents, who love the children, are trying to influence them by exposing them to things that are not acceptable. They buy them gifts that are inappropriate. They give them food that while kosher does not meet our standard of kashrus. And there are a host of other issues.

We want to keep the lines of communication open and visit them as often as possible and have them visit us as well. We want the children to have a good feeling about their zaidie and bubbie. However, the conflict between us continues. Every time we get together there are some digs. “It’s unheard of that a married man should allow his wife to support him and his children,” they say. “How long do you think this can go on? It’s time you got a job or learn a profession. It’s time you earned money and did some honest work.”

On numerous occasions I’ve pointed out my father that we do not come to him for financial support. True, my father helped us buy a house but we pay our own mortgage and expenses. What is worse is that my parents always choose to mock and ridicule our lifestyle even in front of our children. Baruch Hashem they are very young and do not understand the full implications of my parents’ angry words, but just the same they feel the anger.

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3 Responses to “When Observance Creates Conflict”

  1. how about this…The writer let this parents feed the children. The article doesn't explain why the author's standard of kashrus doesn't allow his children to eat kosher. It seems the author is building an ever higher wall that his parents can't nor should need to climb. The parents ought to accept the reality, be happy they have Jewish grand-kids and let their son run his household. The son should loosen up and understand that life is a journey, and not discount the spiritual benefits and community building that he grew up with and benefited his folks.

  2. The kids should eat at his mother in law's house..

  3. The writer is assuming that his parents are intentionally buying his kids inappropriate gifts and food that is not kosher enough. Has he considered that maybe they're actually trying, and that he may be living up to their expectation of narrow-mindedness and inability to understand people not like him? Sounds like both parties are not being too mature about this. My parents sometimes wonder why I place certain restrictions on myself, but they respect the tradition and my desire to follow it, so I just don't understand how parents could be so threatened by their children becoming religious.

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