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March 2, 2015 / 11 Adar , 5775
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A Writer’s Sensitivity

Respler-101813

Dear Dr Yael:

I wish to comment on your October 4 column, “Desperate To Reconnect.” Brokenhearted and Devastated wrote that her son, with whom she and her husband had been close, became estranged from them after marrying a convert with no family involvement (his wife later left him). The parents feared that he had “some emotional or psychological problems” as a result of his marital experience.

In your reply, you “question why his rebbeim would suggest such a shidduch, considering the pair’s cultural differences and the fact that this match appears to have had severe detrimental effects on your son’s mental health.”

Converting to Judaism through an Orthodox rabbi is an excruciatingly difficult process, not for the faint of heart. It’s a very lonely road and nothing short of a true commitment to Torah can provide the resilience, bravery and fortitude to go through this process. Although some converts are indeed blessed with supportive, understanding families, many aren’t as lucky. And the isolation is part of the many sacrifices made to be closer to Hashem.

So please don’t jump to conclusions. If this man, for example, has schizophrenia (which we don’t know) and was showing signs of it in yeshiva, the rebbeim could have thought that introducing him to a nice, committed, religious convert would be best for him. It probably was not best for her, but many people unfortunately make the mistake of believing that just because someone is a convert, he or she deserves a lesser shidduch. And forgive me for saying that the tone of your letter indicates that you appear to support that notion.

I remind you that the Torah admonishes us countless times to love the convert. Being condescending and treating people like they are less than the rest of us is not a form of love. Dr. Yael, please pause for a moment and think more about this matter. You judged the poor lady simply because she is a convert – without having any knowledge about what the conversion process entails.

Please forgive me if this letter offends you in any way; that is certainly not my intention. It’s just that as a mother and very proud convert for many years, I feel that your position on this issue is a bit offensive to people like me. Thanks for reading my letter and I hope that my thoughts are helpful to you. I wish you all the very best.

                                                                                                           Anonymous  

Dear Anonymous:

I reread my response and cannot find a negative reference about gerim; perhaps you interpreted “cultural differences” as that negative statement.  However, the woman did come from a different culture and a different country, which can sometimes cause problems in a marriage.  In any event, “It is to the Ger, the Yasom and the Almana” to whom we must demonstrate extreme sensitivity and I hurt you.  Please forgive me.  There were other ambiguities in my response which I now realize may have been upsetting.

Regardless, I printed this letter “Desperate to Reconnect” regarding parents who are being cut off by their son, who they love.  This man married a gyoret, but from the letter it appears that her issue was that she had no relationship with her own family.  Many converts maintain a warm relationship with their family and respect them as well, though you are correct that not all have that opportunity.

This couple choose to shun the husband’s parents, who seemed to want to have a loving relationship with them.  In my opinion, that is the issue, not that the former wife was a gyoret; parents being rejected by their child is unfortunately a situation that many families are dealing with today.

I thank you for taking the time to send this letter.  As a therapist and a writer it is my hope that my words will be taken in a positive manner; I appreciate your bringing what seemed like an insensitivity to my attention.

As to the original letter, while we cannot know what caused this particular family’s estrangement, I do think its clear how painful it is for the parents.  If anyone has any ideas as to how these parents can help an adult child, who does not want to have a relationship with them, please e-mail me.

Hatzlocha!

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