Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Dating Coach,

I am dating someone from a different background (think, Sefard and Ashkenaz). We were introduced at an event and really hit it off. We recently met each other’s parents, and we both commented on how different our families are from each other. The way we were greeted, the foods we were served, and the way that they spoke, really highlighted our different backgrounds. We get along really well, but I’m worried that we are overlooking the way we were raised and the potential for conflict in the future. Am I overthinking this?


Label It


Dear Label,

I grew up eating gefilte fish and stuffed cabbage. Russian and Polish grandparents meant our tzimmes was sweet and our latkes were always topped with applesauce. Nearby, a largely Moroccan community cooked and prepped for Shabbos as well. Their fish simmered with chickpeas; a spicy tomato sauce wafting through their windows. Their carrots danced with ras el hanout, so different from our beloved sugared root vegetables. My mother, a fabulous cook, decided to experiment with some of these new flavors. Suddenly our cholent became hamin…were those eggs?? We poked and prodded, hemmed and hawed, and reluctantly gave our new “cholent” a try. Everyone agreed it was tasty – a success! BUT, the next week, everyone begged for our old cholent – familiar flavors filling our home once again.


Salt and Pepper

Thank you for your letter. Kudos to you for attending events that offered the possibility of meeting new people. You “put yourself out there” and you met someone wonderful. Moreover, you have really connected and feel that there is potential for the future. Yet, when you met each other’s parents, your small bubble of two, suddenly expanded – with differing backgrounds and upbringings offering some doubt. You are worried now. Clearly, you were both raised to love the Torah and Yiddishkeit, but the way you expressed that love, feels unfamiliar to the both of you. Your hashkafa, your customs, your foods, and even the way you daven, feel strange and different. Now you are not sure if the very fabric of how you were raised will affect the new family you hope to create.


Allspice and Anise

This is possible. You are not the first couple to mesh differing backgrounds. Many have created families enriched by the flavors of both of their childhoods to create beautiful homes. To say that this will be seamless however, is perhaps unrealistic and too simplistic. Marriage brings two different people together to create a unified home. We already must account for differing personalities, opinions, and preconceived ideas. When you add different backgrounds into the mix, you are augmenting the potential for conflict in creating that unified home. Familiar is easy, Familiar is comfortable. Familiar is safe.


Rosemary and Thyme

A commitment to respectful communication will ease the way for you as a couple. You can make this work. But instead of discounting your differences, acknowledge them and discuss how you envision honoring them both. If you can agree on a unified path now, you will pave the way for any obstacles you encounter going forward. Talk this out, and make sure you are both on board for a life of “cholent,” a life of “hamin” or a life that blends the two. Your willingness to recognize your different backgrounds will allow you to create new flavors together.


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Henni Halberstam is a Dating and Marriage Coach whose expert advice will help you navigate dating and relationships in order to ensure a successful marriage. You can contact her at [email protected] to schedule a phone session.