Question

This is going to shock you. I am a 24-year-old guy and I am dating a black girl. Don’t worry, she is Jewish and frum. We met on a kiruv program. She is the most awesome person in the world. My parents don’t even know that she exists. Well, they know I am dating someone, but they have never met her. They would be shocked to find out the truth.

My friends are trying to convince me to break up with her. They said no one will accept her and that we will be considered weird.

How can I break the news to my parents and also get them to like her?

I just want you to know that I never had any problem getting dates, but she is different than anyone I have ever met. I am actually considering marrying her. Are you shocked?

Response

By Baila Sebrow

First off, when it comes to issues surrounding dating dilemmas, there is very little that will shock me or any shadchan who has experience in dealing with singles. So, here is where I am concerned. You seem to be overly focused on the shock aspect of your situation. Read back the query you wrote, and you will understand where I am going with this.

It sounds like you want to shock people with your newfound relationship. Why? If this girl is everything you’ve ever wanted in a potential wife, then the word “shock” should not be in your thought process to such an extent. My concern is that the relationship you have–with anyone–be based on healthy motives.

You are not the first person to fall for someone of a different color or culture. It has happened throughout history–yes, even in our midst. Granted, you are likely the first guy in your own circles to make such a move, but as time goes on there will be other astounding choices that the people you know will eventually make.

Let’s talk about this girl and the impact on your future family. Despite your feelings regarding this girl’s awesomeness, love does not conquer all. As you know, there are so many concerns that need to be addressed even in circumstances where people come from similar backgrounds. So when there is dissimilarity, the concerns are that much greater. Dating can be a fun recreation, but marriage is always a serious business.

Perhaps not as extreme as your current circumstance, but I often hear of people who have issues with dating those who come from other cultures or who have different minhagim. Those who consume only chalav Yisrael dairy products may have a problem with someone who is more lenient. People who do not eat gebrokts on Pesach may be hesitant to be meshadech with someone who does. It might sound silly to some, but it’s not about the matzah balls that one family eats while the other does not, nor is it about the rice and beans that a Sephardic family may include in their Seder meal that an Ashkenazi usually will not. It’s about the customs being representative of the bigger picture.

Traditions are the blueprint for the path the family will follow. As you know, in frum circles, tradition affects all major decisions–where you live, what shul you will belong to, the schools you send your children to, etc. While it is true that sometimes people might veer off a bit, for the most part they will ultimately gravitate to where they are most comfortable.

Contrary to what you might believe, when two people get married they are not just marrying each other. They are marrying everything that has made and shaped the other partner. They are marrying into a family, which comprises all past experiences that come along for the journey. And forget about changing anyone; you do not ever want to go there.

I don’t know anything about this girl other than that she is Jewish and frum. And that is something I am very happy to hear, for your own sake. However, the questions you should be asking yourself are numerous. Where does she come from? How was she raised? What sort of lifestyle does she envision for herself? Can you live with who she is now? Those are some of the very important factors that you need to consider before you jump on the marriage bandwagon.

The other dynamic you are going to have to live with is that there are people in the world who will not accept your relationship. Moreover, there are people who will not accept the family you will eventually build with this girl, should you marry her. Wrong as they may be, you cannot change the prejudices that you will most assuredly encounter. And that is what your friends are talking about.

You were a child in school not too long ago. At 24 years of age, you surely remember how children who appeared different may have not been treated fairly by their peers. You will have to consider that the children you and this girl would iy’H have together are likely to endure mistreatment at times. I am not trying to scare you away from this relationship. Believe me, I very much want all singles to find their ultimate happiness. At the same time, I will lay all realities on the table without an ounce of sugarcoating.

I can appreciate your concealing the identity of this girl from your parents. But if you are contemplating marriage even for fleeting moments, then you have no option but to break the news to them. They will no doubt be shocked. And if that is the reaction you expect from them, you will not be disappointed. Whether they will like this girl or not remains to be seen. No one can offer any special tonic that will guarantee your parents liking her. It is not just about her color, but personalities come into play where mutual fondness is concerned.

Taking this a step further, if you have not already done so, do not delay in getting to know this girl’s family or other caretakers. This is of utmost importance, and not just for you: both of your families need to talk and get this all out in the open. This relationship is far too advanced to delay it any further.

You and this girl you are so enthralled with need to have a serious discussion about your future. You need to find out if she is serious about intensifying the relationship. Additionally, it is very important that you talk to her about how you both anticipate your way of life and the standards you will uphold.

When you both view your relationship from a mature angle, you can then start to make the decision about getting married. If you feel that your relationship is strong enough to withstand any conflicts that may arise, I advise you to find a mentor such as a rav to help guide you.

There are many happy marriages of people from mixed backgrounds. As long as you are each devoted to the other, to what you stand for as individuals, and to your community and Torah life, yes, it is possible to achieve a happy outcome.

Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. 

Questions and comments can be submitted to 5townsforum@gmail.com.

 

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