Our Two Cents | How do I include my daughters beau in Jewish traditions

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My daughter is dating a non-Jewish guy and, unlike many Jewish mothers, I’m actually OK with it. Because my daughter is 37, never married and in love for the first time, I’m over-the-moon thrilled for her, and I want to be supportive. I raised my daughter Conservative and continue to be relatively religious. I’d like to make sure I include her boyfriend in our family traditions — Shabbat, etc. — in such a way that makes him feel completely comfortable. He is a shy guy. Any suggestions? H.B., Hayward

Alexis: I’m happy for your daughter, and glad to hear that you’re supportive of her finding a man she loves, no matter what his religious background. It sounds like you have the right attitude about all of this. Encourage your daughter to explain the Jewish rituals and traditions to her boyfriend (we’ve suggested in this column teaching certain prayers and tunes to non-Jewish partners as a way of including them), and consider explaining them while you’re doing them, as well. A word of caution though: Some people feel uncomfortable being singled out in front of a group, and if this man is shy, he may fall into that category. In that case, teach him about what’s going on one-on-one. If you do this in a warm, welcoming way, he’s sure to feel included.

Jessica: If your daughter is a practicing Conservative Jew, many of the traditions she observes have likely come up in her new relationship already. Meaning that he is probably aware of her Jewishness already and has accepted it. I think you should ask your daughter at what level he wants to participate, and start from there. Religion and rituals can be overwhelming, so introducing him to traditions slowly is my best advice! He might just want to watch from afar at first, and it should be clear that that is OK. It’s likely this intertwining of religious expression will go both ways, so try to not act alarmed if your daughter embraces some of his religious traditions, as well. You have the right attitude about accepting your daughter’s happiness with openness and love.

Saul: It is always nice to have the approval of your family, especially your mother, when it comes to dating. I know your daughter must really appreciate your enthusiasm and support with her new love interest. The extent to which she wants to include him in family traditions should be left up to the two of them.

Sharon: I am quite sure that given your close relationship to your daughter and your concern for her happiness and well-being, you will be able to carve out the right relationship with her new beau, too. The initial family time you all spend together may be better spent getting to know each other in less dividing, non-religious activities. Once you have a relationship that is based on mutual trust and affection for one another, it is easier to introduce some family rituals and include the boyfriend as a natural course of events. Focusing on the desire to get to know him as a person rather than the “non-Jewish” partner is definitely the way to bring a shy person into a loving, close-knit family.

Dr. Sharon Ufberg is a Napa-based radio host, journalist, consultant and integrative health practitioner. Her daughters live in San Francisco: Lawyer-turned-writer Alexis Sclamberg, 28 and married; and hair colorist Jessica Sclamberg, 26 and single. Saul Sclamberg, 24 and single, studies chiropractic in Los Angeles. Read more at http://r-2-cents.com.