I’m worried my son is becoming too frum for us
QWE RAISED our three children in a Reform synagogue, but around nine months ago our eldest son started becoming more interested in Orthodox Judaism. Eventually, he went off to Israel to study with one of the organisations there. I’m very concerned because, while I respect the choices my son makes, I feel as if he is going to come back and make religious demands on me and the family, which we will be unwilling to accommodate. What should I do?
ATHIS IS an issue I can relate to. Although I am no longer religious, as an idealistic teenager — with all the confidence and assuredness of youth — I felt that my United Synagogue-attending, semi-observant parents were hypocrites. For me, religion was black and white, all or nothing. So, for a short while, I became very frum, refusing to tear toilet paper on Shabbat etc. Some would call this the ultimate teenage rebellion: something that made life difficult for my parents but which they could not criticise. After all, I was doing exactly as they had taught me to do, only more so.
You’re in a similar situation. You have brought your son up as a Jew, so you can hardly criticise him for taking an interest in his Judaism. He’s young — he’s exploring the world, learning about himself, finding his way. While Reform Judaism suits you, it might not be for him, at least for now. Religious observance is a deeply personal thing, and his beliefs and level of observance are his to decide. But he also has to understand that he can’t impose his views on his family, just as you need to understand that you can’t impose yours on him. While it would be wrong for you to do anything that makes him contravene his beliefs (expecting him to eat non-kosher food, for example), he cannot expect you to change the way you live. You say you respect his choices. Well, this is about mutual respect.
But, if I may say, you’re worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet. You don’t know that he’s going to make religious demands on you. You need to discuss your concerns with him. He is old enough to understand that people make individual choices.
It may be that you agree it’s time for him to move out, or there may be a way to compromise. Don’t assume anything until you’ve talked to him.
QMY RELATIONSHIP with my husband is coming under increasing strain from his daughter. Her mother died when she was a toddler and she was six when I married her dad. I’ve never tried to replace her mum, and we always got on OK as friends, but since she turned 13 she’s become increasingly hard work. Sometimes her behaviour is so bad she frightens me. Her dad dismisses it as a phase. I know being a teen is hard but all her anger is directed at me, and I think there’s more to this than teen angst. I can’t cope.
ABRINGING UP a child who isn’t your own is not easy, particularly when they hit puberty. It doesn’t sound like your husband is being particularly supportive. Dismissing her behaviour as “just a phase” isn’t helping anybody. You need to make it clear to him that, even though you aren’t her mother, you deserve the same respect that she shows him. He needs to stand up for you and not allow her to get away with being horrible to you. And he needs to be the one to discipline her, or you really will become the wicked stepmother in her eyes. If you don’t present a united front, you could end up sacrificing your marriage.
You say you think this is more deep-rooted than teenage angst, and I’m sure you’re right. Her mum died when she was very little, so you’re the only mum she’s ever properly known. Maybe what she really wants — or at least needs — is a mum, and not a friend? Perhaps she needs love and affection from you. Do you love her? You refer to her as your husband’s daughter, which suggests that you feel detached from her. Perhaps you need to ask yourself if part of the problem is that you’re a bit ambivalent. She can probably sense this, and it must feel like rejection.
You need to try to build a closer relationship. Could you offer to take her out shopping, or somewhere else she’d like? Improving your relationship won’t happen overnight, but this, combined with your husband’s support, really could make a difference. For support, call the Family Lives helpline on 0808 800 2222.
Email Hilary: email@example.com or write to her at The Jewish Chronicle, 28 St. Albans Lane, London, NW11 7QE United Kingdom
IN ANNIE Hall, Alvy Singer, played by Woody Allen, tells a joke about two elderly women at a Catskills mountain resort. “And one of ’em says: ‘Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.’ The other one says: ‘Yeah, I know, and such small portions.’ Well, that’s essentially how I feel about life. Full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly.”
Annie Hall was released 40 years ago, on April 27 1977. Since then it has established itself as an iconic film in the history of the genre of romantic comedy. It is regularly cited as one of the greatest film comedies of all time. It has also become a key movie of Woody Allen’s career.
At the 1978 Academy Awards, it won Oscars for Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actress. In 2015, it was voted the funniest screenplay ever by the Writers Guild of America. As film critic Roger Ebert said, it is “just about everyone’s favourite Woody Allen movie.”
Why has Annie Hall proved so popular? Part of the answer lies in what we know about Woody Allen. Annie Hall emerged from what is considered the richest period of Allen’s career, sandwiched between the madcap Diane Keaton days, typified by such fare as Bananas and the more melancholic, darker and depressive era following his break up with Mia Farrow.
The revelations concerning Allen’s personal life, his relationship with Farrow’s adopted daughter, tarnished his reputation irrevocably for many. His reputation as an auteur has declined, given that so many of his films post-1992 have been received so poorly. Annie Hall, though, stands apart. It hails from the richest period in Allen’s filmmaking career that has spanned decades. It is also untainted by Annie Hall was voted funniest movie script ever
But the main answer lies in its intrinsic value. Annie Hall pioneered what Nora Ephron called a “Jewish” tradition of romantic comedy. In the “Christian” tradition there are genuine obstacles in the path of true love, but in the Jewish one there are no built-in external obstacles. Rather it is the internal neuroses of the (male) protagonist that stand in the way, and create the Sturm und Drang of the relationship.
Annie Hall combines humour with serious commentary on life. Allen provides lofty philosophical speculation about love and relationships. At the same time, he reminds us of immediate physical sensations and instinctual urges.
Emotional and psychological hunger reaffirm the vitality of life and provide a foil to the more sterile and futile intellectual philosophising.