By Baila Sebrow

Question:

Why is there so much prejudice against Sephardi men? Isn’t a Jew a Jew? Does it matter what color our skin is, where we come from, and what language we speak at home? What are Ashkenazi girls being taught by their parents? Hatred?

I am 32-year-old man with a profession. I was born here in the United States, I went to an Ashkenazi yeshiva, and I have Ashkenazi minhagim, but the girls can’t get over that I’m not like they are.

I thought my problems were over when I met an Ashkenazi girl. It took a lot of work convincing her to go out with me. When she finally agreed, we had a good time, and we continued to go out. But she tells me she can’t marry me because it bothers her that my parents speak Farsi. I asked her why she cares what my parents speak at home. She says it’s because it makes her feel like they are talking about her.

This girl is not what I really wanted, but she is the first girl I get along with on dates. I am ready to marry her, even though she has problems. She comes from a broken family; no one talks to each other. She dropped out of college, but she will start again if we get engaged because I offered to pay for her to get a degree. She is also never excited to see me, and she acts like she is doing me a favor.

My parents don’t really know what’s going on. They think it’s my fault that we didn’t get engaged yet. I don’t want to tell them the whole truth because it would hurt them. I am holding on to this relationship because I know how Ashkenazi girls hate guys like me. What can I do to change things?

Response

It is as though you are asking me how you can turn an orange into an apple. I don’t mean to compare humans to fruits; however, I am offering this analogy so you understand that you are asking for the impossible. Whoever she is and whatever issues she is bringing into her relationship with you will remain in the status quo. You are not changing anything about her, no matter what you do. The dysfunction and estrangement of her family members can be cause for concern if she has never experienced healthy family relations, especially if she is creating issues with yours when there should be none.

That said, your last question needs revising. You should instead ask yourself the following: If I really want to marry this girl, how can I make things workable under the current set of circumstances?

Before I offer you my advice about her situation as it pertains to your relationship, I must admit that I am baffled by your attitude and way of thinking. Why are you so gung-ho on dating an Ashkenazi girl specifically? You make no mention that you have even tried to date a girl similar to you in terms of culture, or that you are open-minded. You talk about Ashkenazi parents instilling hatred in their daughters where it relates to dating Sephardi men. That’s a radical statement. We are not dealing here with a political issue of the human race.

The topic of shidduchim is not an impersonal discussion in a household. There is much thought and deliberation that goes into conversations when children start dating. And while I agree that there are Ashkenazi families who prefer that their daughters marry Ashkenazi men, there are many who have no opposition to such a union. It is a case-by-case situation. And even those who would oppose a marriage of Ashkenazi and Sephardi would be no different than the families who come from specific yichus and seek a similar family.

Embarking on the milestone of marriage is a mission that most people find daunting. To make things easier, it is common to seek a marriage partner similar in family background, upbringing, and especially culture. Of course, there are people who are prejudiced against those who are different from themselves. But, by and large, it is simply that most people prefer to marry someone who comes from a background as close to theirs as possible. And since a shidduch is a very personal decision that will affect future generations, no one can place blame on another for refusing to date a particular type. That should be OK with you, because that is not the type of girl or in-laws you would want anyway!

I am still perplexed about your insistence on dating Ashkenazi girls. I understand that you have been educated in a yeshiva different from your own culture, and that your minhagim are not Sephardic. I am not telling you to give up on what you want, but I am wondering if perhaps you would find fewer challenges if you searched among girls who are similar to yourself.

There is another piece to this puzzle that I am trying to understand. You list a multitude of reasons why this girl is not for you. Why, then, are you even with her? You say that she categorically states that she can’t marry you, and gives you an excuse having to do with the fact that your parents speak Farsi while she doesn’t.

You sound like an intelligent man. Does it not occur to you that as it currently stands, this girl has no desire to have a future with you? I get that she might feel uncomfortable when people speak in a language she doesn’t understand. But I am confident you reassured her that they are not talking about her. Furthermore, she must be aware that your parents are encouraging you to take your relationship to the next level, so there is no doubt that she is using that line as an excuse not to marry you. Additionally, the fact that you feel that she is not excited to see you should definitely be a red flag. You deserve better than that. When in a relationship, both partners should be happy to see and be with each other. When such sentiments appear to be one-sided, it speaks volumes about the negative dynamics in the relationship.

And so her excuse of not wanting to marry you because of the language your parents speak is exactly that — an excuse. When someone does not want to marry the person they are in a relationship with, they typically will not say they don’t feel like marrying that person. They will come up with some irrational reason that the other person cannot change or fix.

There is something else you might want to bear in mind. She may be hanging on to you for the same reason that you are hanging on to her. You both have no one else to date at the moment. I fear that both of you might be biding time until someone else happens to come along, if ever. In the meantime, you might both be losing precious time. Unless something is done soon, I don’t foresee this ending well. Someone is going to get hurt very badly unless action is immediately taken.

As it now stands, you are not in a healthy relationship. And it will be up to you to do something about it, if not to preserve whatever you have, then at least for closure purposes. You indicated that you offered to pay for her to continue her college education. That should be your guiding point. Arrange to speak with her in a quiet location. After the niceties of small talk, ask her how serious she is about getting a college degree, and if she would seriously consider doing so without your generous offer. If it turns out that she is more interested in what you will pay for her, then you have your answer about how she really feels about you.

If you are not getting answers where that’s concerned, you will need to air all the other issues that you find disconcerting. It would be a good idea to write down the important facts so that you don’t forget anything. Encourage her to speak her mind freely as well. Oftentimes, when such discussions take place, both parties come to a mutual understanding that they are not a good fit together. On the other hand, I have also heard of surprises, too, where as soon as issues are brought into the open, a certain level of trust begins to develop, and the couple manages to work things out. Whatever the outcome may be, please try to keep a broad mind in the same way you would expect of others.

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 5townsforum@gmail.com

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