Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review Nov. 1, 2001/ 15 Mar-Cheshvan 5762

My co-religionists are proselytizing me; tragedy intruder?; meddling mama?

By Wendy Belzberg -- I am a junior executive at a firm where both senior partners are traditional Jews. Once a week a rabbi comes to the office to study with the senior partners and a few other select executives. Recently my boss invited me to join the group. To begin with, as low man on the totem pole, I don't have an hour in my day to give up. (I am doing the grunt work for most of the senior executives.) Furthermore, I am as Jewish as I care to be and, if I did have a free hour, I would not spend it studying with a rabbi. I am afraid, however, that if I don't attend, this will be held against me and impede my advancement at the firm.

A: I hope this leap does not cause whiplash, but your question is fraught with the uncertainty of a new hire engaged in fighting off her boss's sexual advances. Should she or shouldn't she? The positions may not be as compromising, but both situations entail making a decision for one's career even if it goes against one's better instincts.

I quibble with the notion that you are as Jewish as you care to be and would consider one hour of study a waste of your time. However, if that is how you truly feel, then you have answered your own question. If you imagine, even for an instant, that your integrity may be an impediment to your job advancement, you are working at the wrong firm. Furthermore, if you would be willing to compromise your integrity to get ahead, I question whether you would make partner even if the Rabbi and you became fast friends.

My daughter and son-in-law have been married for nearly ten years. My wife and I have noticed lately what appears to be great tension between them. When I asked my daughter if everything was all right, she described to me in detail how unhappy she is in her marriage. My son-in-law and I have a close and respectful relationship. Do you think it is a good idea for me to talk to him about some of the issues my daughter feels they are facing?

A: Daddy's little girl she may once have been, but your daughter isn't-or shouldn't be any longer. While your offer of intervention sounds noble you're not doing anyone any favors. In the first place, your daughter is a grown woman, who needs to solve her own problems. And while you can of course open the door to your son-in-law, you need most of all to avoid playing the go-between, a thankless role in any family dispute. Lastly, remember that your daughter's descriptions of the issues she and her husband are facing are just that: her description.

Your son-in-law will doubtless have a very different view-of the issues, and of your darling daughter-and you may not be able to unthink his view once you've heard it. Maintain neutrality now so as not to jeopardize your chances of being useful later. Should the marriage indeed unravel, your role will be very clear. Should all end well, you'll be happy you remained above the fray.

I live in a large apartment complex. One of the residents, a father of three children, was killed in the September 11th bombing. I don't personally know the widow but I feel like I want to reach out to her in some way. On the other hand, I don't want to intrude on anyone's privacy at such a difficult time. I also don't want her family and her to think that they are the subject of building gossip and speculation.

A: Were everyone worried about respecting privacy and about intruding, a lot of anguished people would be sitting alone in their living rooms right now, neglected even by close friends. These times and circumstances are unprecedented. There are no rules. So in Emily Post's absence, let me blaze the trail: I urge you, and anyone else in a similar situation, to reach out. Write a note and slip it under your neighbor's door. Drop off fresh flowers, anonymously or not. Offer to cook a meal for the mother with 3 children. Ask, and expect nothing in return. Don't stand on ceremony. The reward will be as much yours as theirs.

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10/12/01: Vacation separation; Risk present for past?
09/20/01: Secular servants; Time to tie purse strings?; dog breath --- literally!
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07/19/01: Bad mannered, uncouth ethnics; lookin' for love
07/05/01: Faithless Rabbi; my wife won't let me retire; I'm in relationship limbo
06/21/01: New customs for assimilated Jews?; the business of friendship; aunty is a bad role model
06/13/01: Our friends have become political traitors; Is it love?
06/06/01: Teaching kids about the Creator, when parents aren't observant; 'wonderful woman' 'fesses up about her broken engagement; How do I find a matchmaker for my 'beautiful daughter?'
05/31/01: Couple he fixed-up is in a nasty breakup; overwrought over ring
05/16/01: The gift was counterfeit; settling for the daughter; the lush and the ostrich
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
11/28/00: My ex is ruining my kids' souls; the mouth that won't stop
11/21/00: Battling brothers; how to keep a nanny
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
09/11/00: Bris brouhaha breaks my heart, LET ME SLEEP! --- and Why can't I hold a job?
09/05/00: Righteous anger, 'dissed' daughter --- and how not to make a match
08/21/00: When one spouse becomes more religious than the other; "But the cleaning lady is part of the family!"; Why He invented 9-month gestation periods
08/21/00: 'Fessing up to granny about abandoning one's people, non-kosher sis-in-law, and 'my niece is marrying a loser'
08/14/00: Marrying 'in' for questionable motivations; Should a do-gooder be reimbursed?
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'


© 2001, Wendy Belzberg