Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review Nov. 21, 2002/ 16 Kislev 5763


Attire in the Divine's 'house'; marriage failed, who gets the gifts?; does the fruit fall far from the deformed tree?


By Wendy Belzberg

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Q: When I was growing up, the notion of wearing pants to Sabbath services at our Conservative synagogue was unheard of. Recently I attended a Conservative synagogue and noticed that many of the women were wearing pantsuits or slacks. I thought the attire was completely inappropriate. Have I failed to keep up with the times or is everyone else missing something?

A: From my thoughts to your pen. Your response may indeed be old-fashioned, but I couldn't have said it better myself. (And this comes from a woman who would rather wear a hair shirt than a dress.) If a woman is invited to meet a foreign dignitary or a head of state - or even a nursery school admissions officer - she would think twice about wearing pants. You're talking about a visit to G-d's house. Certain protocols continue - and deserve to continue - and I happen to believe that dressing appropriately for synagogue is one of them. This is one of those cases where we bow to tradition when we want to show respect. And I like to think it will remain that way-long after it's kosher to send condolences by e-mail.

Q: My stepson was married in 1998: His second marriage, her first, and no kids. My wife and I gave the new couple a piano for their wedding present. The bride played as a child and my stepson said he wanted to learn. The marriage lasted exactly 6 weeks. After living separately for three years, with little or no contact, they divorced. I have a step-grandson who's ready for music lessons and I would like the piano. The ex-wife says my stepson wanted her to keep the piano and that she took on some of their joint debts--an amount equal to the value of the piano--as part of their settlement.

A: Asking for a gift to be returned falls into the tacky and graceless category. Still, there is a certain protocol when a marriage fails after such a short time--or doesn't materialize after a couple has already registered for and received a boatload of wedding presents. In an ideal world, the couple returns the presents without ever being asked to do so. In a less than ideal world, especially when the present is as extravagant as a piano, gently hinting or even asking outright for the gift to be returned would be acceptable within the first 3 to 6 months following the couple's separation. Even thinking about asking for the gift back after 3 years, however, is out of the question. It's time to go piano shopping again.

Q: A friend told me a neighbor's child was at her house playing with her daughter and the little girl announced, "Jews are bad." My friend didn't know how to handle this and asked me if I had any advice. She believes that the little girl is repeating something she has heard. We live in a very nice, but mostly Christian neighborhood. My friend has never heard any similar comments before. She wants to say something to the parents of the little girl but wants to do it in a positive way.

A: Anti-Semitism is intolerable and there is no reason whatever to convey that message gently or in a positive fashion. Your friend should call the parents of this little girl and tell them exactly what occurred. In the course of a silent minute, an awkward explanation or a mortified reaction, she will know exactly what is being said behind that neighbor's front door. Your friend should be protecting her own daughter and not the feelings of her neighbor. Children don't invent these things on their own. And it's not in the drinking water either.



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11/14/02: Does father know best?; excuses, excuses
11/01/02: Should son be able to flee the nest to the college of choice?; elderly 'friend' is becoming different person
09/28/02: 'Good friends' who take but don't give; a wife's right to know; he wants to be rude about Jews
09/01/02: Family peace, but at what price?
08/28/02: Revealing sworn secret will impact many lives; misplaced friendship?
08/22/02: Seeking help for hubby's High Holy Days hi-jinks; perplexed by parents' request; take 'em or leave 'em?
08/16/02: Trial makes friendship trying; experiencing one loss, facing another; wives and brides
08/09/02: Wedding woes are a commercial for elopement; miss the bris (circumcision)?
07/25/02: A love for the ages?; learning the steps; off the wall
07/17/02: I don't mean to sound anti-Semitic but ; Doesn't etiquette dictate that a good host make his guests feel comfortable?
06/21/02: Doing business with an Arab; driving down the road of life with my mother-in-law tailgating me; sentimental gulf clubs
06/12/02: Anti-Semites everywhere!; no need for marriage
06/06/02: Sacrifice my happiness or my family's?; bad call on 'friend'
05/30/02: Attending my ex-mother-in-law's funeral; in search of forgiveness
05/21/02: Danger and duty; host of issues; desperately seeking surgery
03/20/02: Multiples for mom; partners and martyrs; I'm a gentile --- should I explore Judaism's spiritual side?
03/07/02: Disabled child taught family love, patience and compassion
02/15/02: Sisterhood on the line; Time to cross Ts on ex?
02/04/02: Clueless convert-in-training; loyal to a wife who walked out?
01/25/02: The new 'Jewish question'; unfaithful oldsters; gambling on our family's future
01/18/02: Should son invite mom to bar mitzvah - against dad's wishes?; pay-off time?; 'my son is blackmailing me'
01/10/02: Hard to move on; separation anxiety
01/04/02: Salvaging a sister; mother knows best?
12/27/01: Paying for somebody else's charity; Down(s) and out?
12/21/01: 'Brownie points' for the Creator; I love my husband, but not his family; open-door policy needs to be closed sometimes
12/05/01: 'I celebrate Chanukah you insensitive anti-Semite!'; idealism v. responsibility; stolen gifts
11/27/01: Doubts or reservations one may have about reaching out to friends and strangers alike who are in need: From the mail bag
11/16/01: Tripping out; tactics for tactlessness; Am I a hypocrite?
11/01/01: My co-religionists are proselytizing me; tragedy intruder?; meddling mama?
10/19/01: Outside world hits home; money and mommies
10/12/01: Vacation separation; Risk present for past?
09/20/01: Secular servants; Time to tie purse strings?; dog breath --- literally!
09/07/01: Too much Torah?; Name-dropping rabbi turns off worshippers
08/30/01: Jewish 'godparents'?; summer homework
08/02/01: Have wife, won't travel; 'dis' --- as in 'distant'
07/26/01: Grandparents not invited to bar mitzvah; what to do about older sister's foul mouth; nuptial narcissism
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'

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© 2002, Wendy Belzberg