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Dear Deborah

by Deborah Berger

April 5, 2001 | 8:00 pm

Shul-Shocked

Dear Deborah,
My 36-year-old, single daughter is a brilliant attorney, a mensch and wonderful mother to our precious grandson. She visits her grandmother in the nursing home and attends synagogue most Saturday mornings. My husband and I should be delighted, right?

The problem is that since the divorce, she has started dressing provocatively. She wears leather miniskirts, low-cut blouses, patterned stockings and high heels. Synagogue is definitely not the place for such attire. My husband and I see folks whisper and laugh when she walks into the sanctuary, and my husband said if we don't do something about it fast, he will stop going altogether.

I know she comes to shul to see us, pray and meet available men. I am glad she is looking in synagogue and not a bar, and I do not wish to discourage her. I just don't know how to handle this.
Shamed Parents



Dear Shamed Parents,
I suppose maintaining one's kavvana (intention) during Sabbath prayer is challenging enough without being derailed by a glimpse of cleavage during "Kaddish." When, however, the source of that distraction is your own daughter, well, it falls somewhere between sacrilege and shandeh.

The tone of your letter implies respect for your daughter and her intentions -- certainly enough to approach her tactfully. As parents, let her know that while you are thrilled to see her on Saturday mornings in synagogue, you both have observed of late that her attire has bordered on risqué and that you assume she would appreciate hearing this feedback from you -- first. If she gets it, stop right there. Enough said. If your daughter is half the mensch you describe, it won't be too messy. Truth is, most of us appreciate being told when there's broccoli stuck between our teeth.

Haunted Marriage

Dear Deborah,
My mother-in-law passed away three years ago. Since then my husband has been angry with me. His relationship with his parents was never good. They forbade him to marry me because I was not "good enough." My husband and I moved far away and rarely saw them. When we did it was for the sake of our children and extended family. His mother ignored, insulted and more than once called me names. The first seven years of our marriage were busy with babies and hard work. family events like bar mitzvahs and holidays. Those were stressful, but we got over them quickly.

In the three years since my mother-in-law died, everything changed. My husband blames me for the bad relationship he had with his mother and says he won't make the same mistake with his father. He is furious that I won't go to family functions anymore. Unfortunately, my father-in-law has now taken on the job of hating me. I do not want a divorce, but my husband refuses to get counseling with me. I feel trapped in a nightmare.
Heavy Heart

Dear Heavy Heart,
Remarkable how some wield more power from the grave than they ever did alive and how quickly this power is compounded by guilt. Sometimes the guilt becomes so intolerable that individuals, families and nations require scapegoats, and in this case, sadly, you're it. Your husband blames you for his failed family relationships. Since he refuses counseling, ask him directly if this is true, why and what he suggests you do in order to help make peace in the family. Listen carefully, and then decide what you are willing to do, be or say to preserve your marriage, from forging a relationship with your father-in-law on your own to asking if a neutral third party (since he refuses counseling), such as friend, relative or rabbi, may mediate. Let him know you want to make it work but cannot do so without his participation and support.

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