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-- 27 --

From: Juan
To: Gershon
Date: November 21

Dearest friend, Gershon:

I am resuming my pleasant contact with you, after having gone through some hellish weeks as a result of the end of the semester at college. Last Friday we finished classes and now we start the period of exams until the end of December.

Several days ago, you almost had the surprise of meeting me. I was walking in the street and I think that I saw you. I did not have the courage to introduce myself... maybe next time.

I must confess that I am a bit embarrassed now. Why? Because after the whole dialogue that I have had with you, between Paulina and myself, I came to the conclusion that I intend to continue my relationship with her. The reasons?

I came to the conclusion that the one who should worry about the religious aspects, the one who has to choose between the religion and the relationship, is she, not I. I love her very much and I will not drop her because of my weak Christianity. It is therefore her turn to decide, and she has done that a long time ago. She wants to be with me. What I am saying, in other words, is the following: Imagine if I were to leave her for the religious reasons that we both know. She does not want to terminate the relationship and would be willing to get married tomorrow. She would never want to be separated from me (her words).

In one of your first mails, you told a story about a non-Jewish girl engaged to marry a Jew who was studying in order to convert to Judaism and then said to her fiancé: "Do you think that I would marry someone that was willing to marry a non-Jew?" Remember? OK, this is applicable in a certain way to my case. After reading a lot about the subject, partially understanding some aspects that I was unaware of before, without any doubt she is one of 'those' that intends to marry a 'non-Jew'. What did this mean in the story? Someone that does not deserve to marry a Jew? Someone that is Jewish only because of the Neshama? Anyway...

The fact of the matter is were I to leave her, it would be like respecting someone who adores her religion and it would be like a gift, something that I know she would appreciate later on in life. I do not think that this is the case with Paulina. She is very mature, has studied a lot about her religion, has rubbed shoulders with Jews all her life, knows about the subject more than the majority of her friends, and nevertheless she is making this decision... I have not studied even a tenth of what she has, do not know even a fraction of the Jews that she knows, I am not even Jewish... Do you think that I am able to know what is the best thing for her?

I feel that now that I have made the decision to continue with her, I am afraid that I will not find in you an ally. Perhaps you will lose all your interest in our conversations... I don't know. But I imagine that you will continue trying to persuade me. No? J

Changing the subject, Paulina's mother has earned my hatred to such a degree, that were I to leave Paulina, I would make her mother the happiest person in the world. Believe me, she does not deserve it.

It is now more than a year that I have been with Paulina, and I have seen her parents only a few times. At her home, everybody knows that I exist, they know perfectly well why it is that I do not visit their home, and nevertheless, they smile every day as if nothing happened. Perhaps I see it as so terrible because in my home such a thing would never happen.

The basic proof regarding how bad her family is behaving is the following: My mother, who is very catholic, she goes to church every Sunday, etc., surely does not want her son to marry a Jewish girl. She would obviously prefer that I marry a Christian girl, with the church's blessings. She nevertheless adores Paulina, she embraces her when she comes to the house, she invites her to the table, they treat her like any human being deserves to be treated. My mother does not allow her personal preferences — for herself as well as for me — to interfere with my relationship with Paulina. On the other hand we have Paulina's mother who is Jewish pour la galerie. She has transformed our relationship into a hell... I think that my point is clear... no?

In my home, we do not allow any sort of discrimination. I was raised in a community that had a very diverse mixture of races and religions. Perhaps that is the reason that I cannot imagine the blatant discrimination that goes on in Paulina's home. It is a deplorable, condemnable attitude that has no justification whatsoever. I am persisting with this point, because I do not know what you feel regarding this matter and I would like to understand it.

A hug,

Juan

P.S. If I were to ask you to speak with Paulina's mother in order to make her understand that the least that I deserve is an explanation, that by closing the door in my face she will not accomplish anything, that I am not a pariah, that I deserve a minimum of respect... would you do it?


-- 28 --

From: Gershon
To: Juan
Date: November 21

I think that I saw you. I did not have the courage to introduce myself... maybe next time.

-- With the greatest pleasure... I won't bite you.... ;)

What did this mean in the story? Someone that does not deserve to marry a non-Jew? Someone that is Jewish only because of the Neshama? Anyway...

--- What it means is simply that when she found out what it really means to live like a Jew, and having adopted that life as her own, she realized that she would be unable to share it nor build a Jewish family with someone who cared so little about the matter to the extent that he was willing to marry someone that had nothing to do with Judaism... For example: if you were to study Judaism to the point of being convinced of its legitimacy and you would choose to adopt it as your own identity and way of life, would you feel compatible with a girl who doesn't care about it at all, willing to sacrifice it all for (self) love?

The fact of the matter is were I to leave her, it would be like respecting someone that adores her religion and it would be like a gift, something that I know she would appreciate later on in life. I do not think that this is the case with Paulina. She is very mature, has studied a lot about her religion, has rubbed shoulders with Jews all her life, knows about the subject more than the majority of her friends, and nevertheless she is making this decision... I have not studied even a tenth of what she has, do not know even a fraction of the Jews that she knows, I am not even Jewish... Do you think that I am able to know what is the best thing for her?

-- I do not see it that way. It is not only a matter of honoring someone, but rather doing that which is right. It is obvious that it is difficult to expect that you should care about it more than she does. If she doesn't care about her religion, why should you? But I think that the matter does not end there. Who is stopping you from learning more about the subject and reaching your own conclusions, based on solid information on the subject, independently of her? Moreover. I think that the question here is: Is Paulina making her decision based on that which she believes to be correct? Or is her decision based on her feelings, independently of what she believes to be correct? Is she deciding with her head? Or is she deciding with her heart? Is she making her decision with clearheadedness? Consider: Why is she afraid or embarrassed to discuss this issue with me? Did you have any problem discussing this matter with me? Of course, not. You had nothing to hide, nothing to run away from. Your situation has been and continues to be one of complete frankness... Can you think of any other subject that Paulina would not want to discuss? The concern, then, is not protecting her from you, but protecting her (as well as you) from herself and her decision making process... in the constant struggle that we all have between the heart and the mind.

I feel that now that I have made the decision to continue with her, I am afraid that I will not find in you an ally. Perhaps you will lose all your interest in our conversations... I don't know. But I imagine that you will continue trying to persuade me. No? J

-- I am neither a Judge nor G‑d's policeman. I try to share my knowledge with those that might be interested or might benefit from it. I will always be at your service in order to continue clarifying things according to my ability. I am an ally of the sincere quest.

Paulina's mother has earned my hatred to such a degree, that were I to leave Paulina, I would make her mother the happiest person in the world. Believe me, she does not deserve it

--- Nor should that be a reason for leaving her or continuing with her.

My mother, who is very catholic, she goes to church every Sunday, etc., surely does not want her son marrying a Jewish girl. She would obviously prefer that I marry a Christian girl, with the church's blessings. She nevertheless adores Paulina, she embraces her when she comes to the house, she invites her to the table, they treat her like any human being deserves to be treated.... Perhaps that is the reason that I cannot imagine the explicit discrimination that goes on in Paulina's home. It is a deplorable, condemnable attitude that has no justification whatsoever. I am persisting with this topic, because I do not know what you feel regarding this matter and I would like to understand it.

-- I believe I have already given you my opinion on this issue. It is not a matter of discrimination against the non-Jew, but rather the fact that even for a family who do not observe Judaism in its entirety, in the case of intermarriage we are talking about a clear and practically irreversible rupture. Their daughter is about to sever a chain that has been forged with great sacrifice throughout millennia. Even though you might consider Paulina's mother as a Jewess pour la galerie, I have little doubt that she — like most every Jew of her generation — has made great effort and personal sacrifices for being Jewish. Even though she may not have been able to overcome all the challenges put in her path, this does not mean that there are no issues that affect her clearly and deeply. Being more or less observant is a matter of shades. Being Jewish or not, belonging or not to the same nation, history and destiny is a very clear-cut issue, without any shades of gray.

Perhaps it is very difficult for you to imagine how deeply this matter goes. I think that the example that you bring from your family is not applicable. Your mother's faith is a personal matter, which she has chosen. If you do not share her beliefs, why should she impose them on you? She has opted for that which she believes in, and logically she should agree with your choosing that which you believe in. Besides, even if she would want to, she could not impose her beliefs on you, because faith is a personal matter. You either believe or you don't. If you believe, you belong to that religion; if you do not believe, you do not belong. There is no such thing, for example, as a Christian atheist. These are mutually exclusive terms. But let me ask you: Would your mother accept your substituting her with another mother? You must be thinking, What a ridiculous question! Right? But, think about it.... If she loves you so much, and if she is so tolerant, why should she mind if you chose to have a different mother? Why should she impose herself? Can she be accused of being intolerant and discriminatory? The answer is obvious: you are a part of her. Forever. You are her flesh and blood. Cutting yourself off from her, is like cutting off her arm (to put it mildly).

The case of Paulina and her mother is similar to the "ridiculous" question that I posed. Being Jewish — for someone who was born Jewish — is a condition that does not depend on one's choice, just like being a child of one's parents does not depend on one's wishes or preferences. It is a connection (at least) as strong as the connection between children and parents. It's more than a matter of affection. It is an essential connection, not a circumstantial one. It is not rational. Negating one's Jewishness is like changing one's mother. It is not merely like choosing a career or lifestyle that is different than those of one's parents. Have you ever seen someone calmly allow his arm to be ripped off?

I don't know if I was successful in expressing myself adequately. If there is something that I have written here that is not clear, please feel free to tell me so.

If I were to ask you to speak with Paulina's mother in order to make her understand that the least that I deserve is an explanation, that by closing the door in my face she will not accomplish anything, that I am not a pariah, that I deserve a minimum of respect... would you do it?

--- I am not sure that I should be the one to initiate the subject with her. I try to respect other people's space... If she will ever talk to me about the matter, I will tell her what I think. Notice that I did not speak to Paulina either, waiting for her to agree to talk.

I await your reply

A hug,

Gershon

P.S. Let me ask you: Is Paulina aware of all that we are discussing?


-- 29 --

From: Juan
To: Gershon
Date: November 21

How are you?

Excuse me for saying this, but some of the things that you wrote in your last mail seemed to be somewhat sinister.

"Who is stopping you from studying more about this subject and reaching a conclusion based on solid information, independently of her?"

Independently of her? Do you think that I should make independent decisions that affect our relationship?

"Is she deciding with her head or with her Heart? Is she making her decision with clearheadedness?"

First of all, I would like to hear more examples of situations in which it is better to choose with your head rather than with your heart...

On the other hand, I am very offended by the fact that you continue justifying Paulina's mother's attitude. I understand that you are neither judge nor policeman, but what her family is doing is unjustifiable. I do not expect them to open their doors and invite me to eat, giving me their daughter on a silver platter. Do you think that I do not deserve to be told, at least once, "Come in... sit down, let us explain to you why we cannot allow you into our home"? Perhaps they think that I already know and therefore do not deserve any explanation from them? The fact that I am a goy and their daughter's fiancé, does not make me into a disrespectable person. This is the ad hominem mistake that Paulina's parents are making.

Regards and I await your replies.

P.S. After all, if you so insist that it is impossible to stop being Jewish, what is the problem for her to marry me? Her children will be Jews anyway. Is it perhaps a social issue, then?


-- 30 --

From: Gershon
To: Juan
Date: November 21

Excuse me for saying this, but some of the things that you wrote in your last mail seemed to be somewhat sinister.

Sinister? Why?

independently of her? Do you think that I should make independent decisions that affect our relationship?

If you reread what I wrote, you will see that I was not referring to making decisions independently of her, but rather reaching your own conclusions about the subject and being in a position to challenge her position — in the event that your conclusions do not agree with hers.

First of all, I would like to hear more examples of situations in which it is better to choose with your head rather than with your heart...

Life is full of examples... Choosing between studying for an exam or going for a walk, for example...

On the other hand, I am very offended by the fact that you continue justifying Paulina's mother's attitude...

Juan: I did not at any point justify her attitude. I was simply attempting to explain what it is that is motivating her. It is very possible that they do not have the courage to confront you personally because they do not know how to explain their reasons. It is possible that they themselves cannot even define it well. Look, I haven't had any problem discussing this matter with you fully. If I were to support discriminatory attitudes, do you think that I would bother to answer you at all? I did not justify Paulina's mother just like I did not judge Paulina... I repeat: who am I to judge, condemn or defend someone, especially without having spoken to them beforehand?

if you so insist that it is impossible to stop being Jewish, what is the problem for her to marry me? Her children will be Jews anyway. Is it perhaps a social issue, then?

Will your children be educated as Jews? Will they not be your children as well? Will you, therefore, not have the right to educate them to be like you? Will your mother not have the will or right to educate them according to her religion? At this moment you are thinking about "virtual" children. In practice, however, it is a totally different story... I am speaking from experience, based on many couples that I know.

Juan: Your hug was missing at the end of this mail. I hope that it was not intentional. I want to reiterate how much I respect and admire your sincerity and intelligence. If at any point in this dialogue something that I wrote offended you, it was unintentional and I apologize. It's just that I am trying to be honest with you so that you can better understand this subject which is so complex. What complicates things even more is the fact that I have not discussed this neither with Paulina nor with her parents. On the other hand, that may be an advantage, because that way, whatever I say is objective, independent of any specific case. What difference does it really make if Paulina's mother is hostile or pleasant? Is that the issue? I understood that your concern was the issue in itself, not an analysis of Paulina's mother's behavior. It was only due to your insistence, that I got into the subject of her mother and her attitudes at all.

A hug,

Gershon


-- 31 --

From: Gershon
To: Juan
Date: November 29

Dear Juan:

I anxiously awaited your reply to my last mail.

I do not know if you are taking your time "digesting" it or if you are upset with me...

If you are "digesting" it, I'll wait patiently. If you are upset with me, I would like to know why in order to clarify things.

A hug,

Gershon


-- 32 --

From: Juan
To: Gershon
Date: November 30

Dear friend:

How are you?

First of all, I want to tell you that I wasn't angry with you, at all. I apologize if my last mail made you think so.

The fact of the matter is that it is difficult for me to understand why you defend certain attitudes that people have. That's all. But I would never get angry with you for that, because that would make me as intolerant as others are.

I understand your point of view, and I would never get angry because of it. I did not answer right away because I am very busy with exams and don't have time for anything. I feel bad that I made you wait. That was not my intention. Again, I apologize.

Yesterday was a very unusual day. I dared to stay for an evening in Paulina's house and the day ended with her mother creating a scene in the living room, practically screaming that if I were to stay in the house much longer... It was pretty terrible for me. I constantly look for ways to do favors for Paulina's parents, I try to be extremely nice to them and her mother responds in such a way... I come back to the same issue as always... I understand the reason for her being upset, but we cannot live by the rule that says that "the end justifies the means."

Anyway, I am as pained as ever with life...

A hug,

Juan


-- 33 --

From: Gershon
To: Juan
Date: November 30

Dear friend:

First of all, I want to tell you that I wasn't at all angry with you. I apologize if my last mail made you think so.

No problem. What a relief! J

The fact of the matter is that it is difficult for me to understand why you defend certain attitudes that people have. That's all. But I would never get angry with you for that, because that would make me as intolerant as others are.

Explaining does not mean justifying. I do justify the opposition to mixed marriage. I did not justify Paulina's mother's attitude. I was just trying to understand and explain why she was acting this way.

I understand your point of view, and I would never get angry because of it. I did not answer right away because I am very busy with exams and don't have time for anything. I feel bad that I made you wait. That was not my intention. Again, I apologize.

It doesn't matter. I value our dialogue very much and that is why I was a little anxious when I realized that I might have lost it... Besides, I value you too much to allow you to feel hurt by something that I may have said...

Yesterday was a very unusual day. I dared to stay for an evening in Paulina's house and the day ended with her mother creating a scene in the living room... I come back to the same issue as always... I understand the reason for her being upset, but we cannot live by the rule "the ends justify the means."

Juan: Why is Paulina's mother's attitude that important? Isn't the subject in itself more important?

You wrote in one of your last mails that you came to the conclusion that if Paulina — with all her Jewish education, etc., etc., — didn't care, why should you care about the laws of her religion more than she herself cares? Good question. I understand from that that if she were to reach the conclusion that 1) her religion prohibits it, and 2) she does not want to betray her religion, — then you would fully accept her decision to break the relationship. This means, that the relationship exists simply because she 1) does not understand and/or 2) does not agree with what Judaism says in this regard. If that is so, shouldn't YOU be the first one to insist that she communicate with me in order to see if she really knows, understands and wants the consequences of that which she is doing...? And shouldn't you also tell her that she should enter into this dialogue totally open to the possibility that perhaps as a result of it she may change her mind, and that you would support that decision (because you want to marry a woman who knows who she is and what she is doing and not a woman that does not know who she is nor the implications of that which she is doing)?

I am telling you this because I think that it is very possible that eventually she will realize certain things that she does not know about at this point. It is much easier to tolerate a woman who wanted (or wants) to marry you than one who regrets having done so... I understand that she loves you very much. Is that to your advantage? Is it not true that she doesn't even want to entertain the idea of leaving you because she loves you so much and this blinds her? She is obviously not afraid of me because I might insult her or threaten her. What she probably fears the most is the possibility that I might convince her, by having better or more objective arguments than she. If she really loves you that much, she should be the first one to want to be convinced that what she is doing is correct and that she will be the faithful and happy wife forever.

Isn't that so?

However much she may succeed in avoiding me now, what will prevent her from bumping into somebody else someday who will make her see that which she chooses to ignore today? What will you do then?

I understand that her mother's attitude weighs heavily. You "do not want to give her the prize that she does not deserve..." But I think that you should not allow it to influence you. You must be able to distinguish between a specific battle and the war in general. It does not make sense to lose the general war of your personal life as a result of winning a specific battle with Paulina's mother. Besides, hatred of her mother is not a healthy source of nourishment for the relationship.

I think that there is another important point that should be taken into consideration. There is a big difference between courtship and marriage. There are couples that live together for years and then get divorced shortly after marriage. Why? One reason is that while they are not yet married, each one knows that they can leave the relationship whenever they so desire. They owe each other nothing. However after marrying — even more so if they have children — there is a whole different psychological tension. "How did I ever get into this mess?" I can imagine that you are thinking that it is impossible that such a thing should happen to you. But if it were not to happen, it would be a miracle. It is natural for it to happen. You cannot compare the attraction that one has for something that one does not have to the attraction to something that one already has (and has the obligation to maintain and support...) A strong and happy marriage is not one in which these feelings do not occur. Rather, a strong and happy marriage is one that has the tools with which to overcome such situations when they arise. Belonging to different, incompatible, religions, nationalities and cultures does not help to overcome the differences; quite to the contrary...

Don't you think that the best thing would be for both of you to create families with someone that is really and essentially compatible, and not just superficially and circumstantially so? In the first option, the more you grow personally, the stronger the marriage becomes; in the second option, as you grow personally, the marriage weakens because you constantly discover how incompatible you really are.

I expressed more than I intended to when I began writing this. It's just that it's difficult for me to witness a tragic error without trying to help.

Anyway, I am as pained as ever with life...

You will see brighter days.. :)

Good luck in your exams (the ones at school as well as the one in real life...)

A hug,

Gershon

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