Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review Dec. 21, 2001/ 6 Teves 5762

'Brownie points' for the Creator; I love my husband, but not his family; open-door policy needs to be closed sometimes

By Wendy Belzberg -- A few weeks ago my husband and I stopped in the pouring rain to help a woman and her sister whose car had broken down. After we had jump-started their car and then waited to make sure their battery was recharged one of them insisted on writing us a check for our help. My husband thinks I'm goofy but I think cashing the check would be like letting someone pay for his own birthday gift. I helped them because it was the right thing to do, not for brownie points with G-d and certainly not for money.

A: What's your question? The situation you describe is a win-win: Everyone did the right thing. The people who you helped were only doing what they felt was right by rewarding you for your kindness and selflessness. Two qualities, I would add, that are not in as great supply as you may think. Now it is for you to decide if you choose to cash the check. Your good deed is not cheapened in any way if you do. Like the stranded motorists, you must decide what feels right to you.

Don't confuse this even-handed response with my candid one. I agree with you. You did something lovely. Why cheapen it with an exchange of money.

Q: I love my husband but I don't love his family. Even if they were not hawks when it comes to Israeli politics, even if they were not religious, I still don't think we would have anything in common. My husband is close to his family and I encourage him to spend as much time with them as he wants. Without me. He believes that I should get over it and make more of an effort.

A: Your in-laws and you adore the same man: if that doesn't count as something in common, what does?

You are no longer in college where it's acceptable to go off with your friends while your boyfriend goes off with his. While you and your husband needn't be connected at the hip, a certain amount of respect for each other's families is in order. If your husband wants you to have dinner with his parents ever night then you are right to rebel; if he is asking you to have brunch with his folks every other week, he is not asking too much. Don't make your husband choose between you and his family. You may be surprised by how this one resolves itself once you begin to make an effort.

Finally, I suspect that you do not yet have children and that once you do you will discover what many daughter's in-law already know: your feelings about your in-laws are unimportant, given your children's affections. Even if your in-laws favored the expulsion of every Israeli Arab in East Jerusalem, you might look the other way if they are doting grandparents.

I am a transplanted American living in Israel. It is customary here for neighborhood children to visit their friends without prearranged plans or prior warning. While it is refreshing to live in a community where no one stands on ceremony, my daughter's friends often show up just as she is settling down to do her homework, or when my husband and I are having a quiet moment with our children. Speaking to the friends' parents has not helped, as these impromptu visits are the norm. Is there a way to firmly explain my point of view without turning my children into neighborhood outcasts?

A: Perhaps your Hebrew is not as good as you thought. Or maybe your neighbors' English is rustier than it sounds.

Take one more pass with the parents before restricting their children. You may want to have a set schedule so it is not confusing for anyone involved: three times a week, say, there is an open-door policy. On those days, your daughter does her homework at school before coming home. (You may want to post a schedule on the front door and remind the neighborhood children to read it before ringing.) You might also tell your daughter's friends that she will catch up with them at their homes after her homework is done.

If none of the above works, it may be time to surrender to the dominant culture: When in Israel do as the Israelis.

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

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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'
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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