My parents were always bugging me to get married. It’s not that I didn’t try, but I never felt any connection with the guys I went out with. Then I met somebody who is different from anyone else. He recently converted, and my parents are having a fit about him.
They don’t care how awesome and nice he is. All they care about is that he is a ger. They know how hard I had it before with the guys I used to date. I’m sorry to say, but most regular frum guys have no manners. No wonder I couldn’t marry any of them!
It’s not just my parents; my friends also don’t accept him, and they are telling me to dump him. They say that I will have problems down the line getting our kids into a school. They also think the whole thing is just weird.
He knows that everyone is against our dating, but he said he is serious about me, and that I should expect him to pop the question. This is supposed to be an exciting time in my life, but I am miserable.
If you were to present your dilemma to anyone in the secular society, they would not understand why you think that there is a problem. After all, you found a man who makes you happy like no one you have previously dated, so who cares what everyone else thinks? But from the way you convey your story, it is clear that you identify with a hashkafic crowd that monitors and critiques your every move. So let’s examine what you have going with this guy.
You are not the first person to fall for a convert. Since they were raised differently and come from a different culture entirely, they appeal to those who have not had success dating people who are of a similar background to them. You mention why you didn’t feel any connection with other guys. But other than his manners, what else is it about him that you find so appealing?
I will not agree that most frum men have no manners. How one conducts himself in matters of proper etiquette has much to do with upbringing and the type of people one comes into contact with on a regular basis. There are frum-from-birth people who have manners, and some who don’t. The same can be said about secular Jews, as well as those who were not born Jewish and were megayer.
You say that your parents were “bugging” you about getting married. How badly did they badger you? Was it enough to compel you to do something drastic — like date a man you knew they would not approve of?
Before I go any further, I will assure you that a ger who underwent a halachic conversion should be considered on a high madreigah, and he is definitely just as marriageable as (if not more than) one who was born Jewish and frum. Of course, when it comes to a shidduch, not everyone is comfortable marrying someone who was brought up differently, nor is everyone comfortable about their child doing so. But other than that, there would be no reason to reject a convert.
My concern is why everyone is against this match. If you would tell me that it is just your parents, my response would be very different. But you are telling me that your friends are of the same opinion. Why do they think the whole thing is weird, and why are they telling you that schools will reject your future children? Is there something about this guy that is causing concern all around? In other words, are you intrigued with the idea of shocking people into finally keeping quiet about your still-single status, or is your relationship with him based on healthy motives?
When singles experience disappointments in their dating life, it becomes distressing. Some become jaded, others give up entirely, and then there are those who step outside their comfort zone. I usually recommend that they seek a match within different circles. One never knows where their true mazal lies, and surprisingly, it can sometimes be found where they never before thought to look. So let’s go with that notion.
Where were you emotionally around the time you met this guy? Did you experience rejection from a man that left you bewildered?
You are not the first single person to fall for someone who comes from a vastly different culture. Most of the time it follows a hurtful experience, and the person has had it with anyone who even slightly resembles the person who hurt him or her. I am saying this because you are grouping all the frum men in one bunch as not having manners. I am not faulting you for feeling this way, but I want you to understand why you might be feeling the way you do.
Let’s discuss this guy and the impact your relationship with him will ultimately have on your future family, based on the intuition of your friends. Despite your feelings about how wonderful this guy is, any mature man or woman who has ever had a serious relationship will concur that love does not conquer all. I don’t care what romance novelists and poets say; when there are negative outside influences, they will most definitely find and make their way into the home. As long as the foundation of your home is strong, you will either overcome any struggles or deal with them and make your bond that much stronger.
What you need to understand is that regardless of the way you feel about this guy, the rest of the world cannot be expected to be on the same page. That said, I will agree that when it comes to schools, depending on where you live and what schools you want to send your children to, such decisions may be impacted by the choices you have made in your lifestyle. Minhagim (such as chalav Yisrael or eating gebrokts on Pesach), having a TV in the home, and how other members of the family dress may affect admission to a particular school. It shouldn’t be that way, but, sadly, it is what it is.
I would hope that when it comes to a ger who is shomer Torah u’mitzvos, no frum school would ever dare hold his past against him. But we don’t know that, and sometimes rejections from yeshivas happen even where there is no rhyme or reason.
If, bearing all this in mind, you are sure you want this guy for who he is, even if your previous dating circumstances been fine, I would then say to go for him. But before you accept his proposal, make sure that you both envision similar goals in the way you want to build your home.
Make sure he understands that as wrong as it may be, there will be people who will not accept you as a family. You might be faced with many prejudices, and you may have to make decisions about either ignoring people and circumstances or moving to a different area; even then, I am not sure that would make a difference. People are people, and there is good and bad everywhere. The children you will have, G-d willing, may experience being treated differently if their physical appearance is different from the other children they will associate with.
I would also urge you, if you have not already done so, to get to know this guy’s family. It doesn’t matter that they are not Jewish — you need to meet them because one way or another they will be in your life. You need to see if the entire package is something you can and want to live with, no different than if he were Jewish from birth. Additionally, make sure that he has a rav he respects and speaks to on a regular basis. You cannot compromise on that.
I will leave you with this. There are many happy stories of people who married geirim and raised beautiful families, setting the tone for incredible legacies. I wish that for you and this guy. Remain committed to the community you will live in and to a Torah life, and may you be zocheh to build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.