Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review June 21, 2001 / 30 Sivan 5761


New customs for assimilated Jews?; the business of friendship; aunty is a bad role model


By Wendy Belzberg

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- Q: My husband comes from a long line of assimilated Jews. His name is James __ III. His father was James II and he would like our son to be James IV. Naming a child after a living person goes against every Jewish conventional wisdom. We are at an impasse. Is it true that Sephardim name their children after people who are alive?

A: It is true that Sephardim will sometimes name a child after a living relative, but it is also true that the Ashkenazi custom is definitely not to.

However, I write bearing good news: long before Jewish children received names like James and Charles, they were called Yaakov and Binyamin. The custom of not naming after a living relative refers to a person's Hebrew name. If a Roman numeral is that important to your husband, your son's English name can follow his family's tradition. Then you and your husband can come up with a Hebrew name for your child that will add something new to the family tradition. Clearly life was easier for the Jews-or at least naming babies was-before they could lay claim to dynastic pretension.

Q: Last year, an old friend came to me with an idea for a business. Actually, he was looking to me to be the money guy for this venture. I was intrigued with his plan. A problem arose when he introduced me to his partner. The partner didn't think I was "the right fit" for him. My friend thanked me for my interest --- but basically dropped me from his plans. I was furious. I had started to make phone calls on his behalf and felt very exposed. Now I don't even talk to him. This pains me because we've been friends for years. I almost called him after Yom Kippur --- but chickened out. I see this as a breach of friendship. He tried to contact me after our daughter's bat mitzvah, but I never returned his call. Am I a heel?

A: A heel, no. Insecure, probably. It was your friend's idea to begin with. Did he make a commitment to you? Did he ask you to make phone calls on his behalf? Just because you have the money doesn't mean you are entitled to join the party. I don't know how far down the road you went with your friend or how he handled the situation-if he was as tactful and apologetic for any inconvenience he may have caused you. One thing I do know: if the business was his idea he is not obligated to you just because you expressed interest in signing on.

Business is business. Friendship is friendship; a church and state rule should be in effect here. I think you lost sight of what is important. Yom Kippur is just 3 months away but if I were you I wouldn't wait that long to make the call.

Q: My wife and I are expecting our first child. My wife has four sisters and one who has no children, who enjoys spending time with her other nieces and nephews. To put is bluntly, this sister does not have the kind of values that I would like to see my child raised with. I would never want to tell our child that he cannot see his aunt, but I really do not want her to rub off on our child. What should I do?

A: Character and values are not something you catch, like chickenpox or leprosy. Even if your child sees his or her aunt daily, you are the primary caretakers and it is the values that you impart which your child will absorb. What will rub off on your child is the love his or her aunt has to offer. Let's hope that tolerance is a value you are able to impart to your child, even though clearly it doesn't come naturally. It's a big, varied world out there, and it's never too early for a child to learn as much.


Ask Wendy a question -- any question --- by clicking here.


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05/02/01: 'Jew questions' and falsifying faith; magic marker mayhem; I want kids
04/25/01: Anti-Semites everywhere?; shilling for gifts; my kid is the 'weakest link'
04/05/01: Celebrating when Passover is inconvenient; What's wrong with the name 'Melvyn,'?; Difference dilemma: Husbands and wives and Passover observance levels
03/19/01: 7-4=insensitivity?; baby showers and tempting fate; Splitsville before or after marriage?
03/12/01: Passover party-pooper; slapped by a moral dilemma
02/14/01: Human 'mutts,' getting over it, same-sex kesubas
02/08/01: Bar/bat mitzvah blues, homework he-l, from potty to potty-mouth
01/24/01: Naughty neighbor, unprofessional colleague is dead, I'm a Jew, now what?
01/15/01: Rabbis who won't; when the rules of the 'game' change; ungracious grannies
01/08/01: My kid hates Hebrew school; Stay single or abandon heritage?
01/02/01: A Jewish Grinch? Baby bigots and when grandparents call it quits
12/18/00: Babes in Chanukah Land; my husband the kvetch; bad hair marriage?
12/04/00: My niece is a no-goodnik, when lifecycle events become dangerous, Orthodox v. Reform education
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11/08/00: OY VEY! my son wants to become Orthodox; kiddies should avoid family therapy
11/08/00: Rabbi v. therapist, grandparents bearing gifts, I want my son's teacher for a sister-in-law
10/24/00: Let him enlist?, 'My son the actor'? Eating with the 'help'
10/10/00:Tipsy teens, protective spouses, kosher common-sense
10/03/00: I'm not Jewish --- not that there's anything wrong with it; mezuza machlokes; when granddad has cancer
09/25/00: I can't take Rosh Hashanah! Something for nothing? My husband needs a dinner mate
09/18/00: 'My kids' Jewish education stinks', boyfriend bandit, and single mother not by choice
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08/07/00: Communing with the clouds, betrothal, and banishing bosses
07/28/00: Small-city guys, self-centered siblings
07/21/00: When a child takes religion seriously, marriage obsession, and guests who just don't get it
07/14/00: Divorcing brother-in-law, uncampy kids, and a dot.comer who makes it big time
07/07/00: Hypocrites, reality checks, and the 'real estate challenged'

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© 2001, Wendy Belzberg