I’m wor­ried my son is be­com­ing too frum for us

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - FILM NATHAN ABRAMS

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: agony@thejc.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

scan­dal.

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.

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