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My Husband Dated Me When I Wasn’t Jewish

My Husband Dated Me When I Wasn’t Jewish

But he refused to marry me and I called him out on it.

by

When Daniel, my husband-to-be, first met me he thought I was pretty and smart, and as an added bonus, I wasn’t Jewish.

He didn’t want a Jewish girl because he’d had some negative experiences with religion growing up. So he dated non-Jews and never wanted to get married.

I was a blond haired, blue-eyed girl from a WASP background who was always attracted to Jewish men and mostly had Jewish friends. I’d even done Passover Seder with my first serious boyfriend when I was 16.

In the first few months of dating, Daniel and I were living a modern-day millennial fairytale. We lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the hipster mecca, where we’d go out for brunch at the French café down the block, or grab a coffee at one of the many specialty roasters around the neighborhood. We’d frequent comedy shows and raised a rooster and a chicken in our backyard. We’d stay up until the sun rose, watching Woody Allen movies on his couch and talking about our hopes and dreams. We quickly fell in love.

And then one day, while on a train to Coney Island to spend a perfect Saturday on the beach, the topic of marriage came up. I was only 21 and not ready for it, and Daniel and I had only dated for a little while at that point, but I did see myself marrying him sometime in the future.

I won’t marry a non-Jewish girl,” he told me. “Then why are you dating me?”

He quickly squashed that idea. “I won’t marry a non-Jewish girl,” he told me.

I told him that didn’t make any sense. “Then why are you dating me?”

“I don’t want to get married,” he replied, “so it’s a moot point. And I love you, so don’t worry. Nothing else really matters.”

I thought: What does Daniel have against marriage? And why couldn’t marriage and love just conquer all those rigid traditions? Can’t he just love and accept me for me? Why would I have to change for him when he isn’t even religious?

It didn’t get any better when I learned that his family was unhappy with him dating a non-Jew. I just didn’t get it. Black people married white people. Catholics married Protestants. But a Jew couldn’t marry a non-Jew? What made Judaism so special? I was determined to show Daniel that our different religious upbringings didn’t matter, and that eventually we could and should get married, no matter what.

Daniel and I were broke – very broke, in fact – during those first few months together, so he suggested we go and get a free meal at a place called Chabad on a Friday night. He had me at “free.”

That Friday night, something inside of me was sparked. (The pintele yid that I had no idea I had?) I was inspired by the rabbi’s words, the warmth around the dinner table, and the love the rabbi and his wife showed everyone who wanted a meal and a Shabbat experience. I was hooked and wanted Daniel to take me back week after week.

I started delving into Judaism, attending Torah classes and eventually, I decided to undergo an Orthodox conversion. I spent five years studying, taking on mitzvot like observing Shabbat, dressing modestly, praying every day, and eating kosher. I studied in seminary in Jerusalem and moved to an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Los Angeles.

Throughout my conversion, as I took on more, I slowly moved further and further away from “old” self. I felt as if my soul was awakening. I had gone from not believing anything to believing in one God, from eating bacon a few times a week to not eating any non-kosher food, from wearing leggings every day to switching over to skirts, and from always being worried about my life to trusting in God that it was all going to work out.

I also finally understood why it was so important for Daniel to marry a Jewish girl. Even though Daniel had strayed far away from Judaism in his youth, he yearned to become observant again. He wanted to ensure that we, as a couple, would raise our children with a love for Judaism and that it would continue that way for generations.

Eventually, sometime during my conversion process, Daniel decided that he did indeed want to marry me. Before he dated me, he hadn’t met anyone he wanted to marry and he told me I changed his mind.

Daniel and I have been married and I’ve been a fully practicing Jew for three years. I’ve been thinking about what I would do if our future son or daughter wanted to be with a non-Jew. That would be a very tough conversation, considering my past. I haven’t yet come to a conclusion about what I would say.

But I do know what I will do: Raise our children in a warm home, ensure they have an in-depth and vibrant Jewish education, show them that same kindness and love that the Chabad rabbi and many family members and friends have shown me, and do our best to instill a sense of Jewish pride in them. I hope that after all that, they will see how beautiful Judaism is and choose to stay. I hope that they will raise their children in a similar way, continue to carry on our amazing meaningful traditions, and do their part to guarantee the future of the Jewish people.

May 5, 2018

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 23

(16) Laya, May 12, 2018 12:53 AM

Keep shining

Beautiful story of awakening, both yours and your husband's. I'm sure your story will touch many. Keep shining!!

(15) Anonymous, May 11, 2018 10:24 AM

Observance of a Jewish Convert; outstanding

Really is a great story and very inspirational. I love when Aish is willing to print a story and mention Chabad. It makes me love Aish and Chabad that much more. Two amazing organizations who really serve many different audiences and many the same. So many Jews unaffiliated there is plenty of room for both and with similar approaches and I love when they do things together. Another great message of unity for all Jews to see. Great messages, great love, great caring. Thank you Kylie, you help us non-Orthodox take on more mitzvah's yiddle by yiddle, as the Great Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz used to say of blessed memory.

(14) elchonon, May 11, 2018 8:57 AM

Marrying out

"I’ve been thinking about what I would do if our future son or daughter wanted to be with a non-Jew. That would be a very tough conversation, considering my past. I haven’t yet come to a conclusion about what I would say."
This is a lovely article, but i don't see the authors confusion on this point, as im sure the author understands very well, judaism is not about our feelings rather our duties, and if someone leaves the path and marries out we have a clear precedent in the torah that this person is considered dead to us we sit shiva for him he is allowed no honours in the synagogue irrespective of his background.

(13) Anon, May 10, 2018 3:06 PM

What about Jewish women who can’t find Jewish men?

As a 36 single year old who lives in the NY metro area I feel a mix of emotions reading this article. I never thought I would still be single and unmarried at this age. Being a reform - Conservative raised Jew with longings to be more religious yet feeling Orthodox men won’t consider me and the non religious men are on Tinder looking for non-Jewish men , I have had an impossible time. I don’t want to date non-jewish men because often they don’t have the same values and obviously lack Yiddishkeit. The fact that so many reform- Conservative Jewish men are on Tinder instead of a Jdate or Jswipe is soo tragic and does it not say in the Torah from Gd almighty that this is wrong and the ultimate sin? No one likes to talk about the consequence this has on Jewish women. That these men are forcing us either to struggle in our dating lives or remain single.

zehava, May 10, 2018 6:54 PM

not comfortable with this article

I agree with you.. I am totally not comfortable with this article and the message that came across to me is that is ok to date out of the faith - its completely not ok. There are sadly lots of amazing jewish women out there who cannot find a jewish man and making it fine and fun to date outside the faith is just making the problem much worse

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