1 Tammuz 5759
Dear Rabbi Orlofsky:
I am studying at a university with a very small proportion of Jews and I am writing to you with my problem because I don’t know who can help. A friend of mine who I have known most of my life is going out seriously with a non-Jewish boy who she met at university. She has been seeing him for over a year and I joked at her that she was seeing a goy and hoped it would break off especially as he should have left this year. As it happened he stayed here and now she lives with me and she spends most nights away at his house. She does know that her relationship isn’t ideal and she comes from a “traditional” family so she hasn’t told them as they will go mad if they knew. I think she is hoping he will convert (eg. she rejoiced when he unconsciously used a Yiddish word… she was proud and it was like he was learning… it was strange) though she hasn’t said this to him. It is highly unlikely that he will convert as his family are quite observant Christians and anyway that is not really the point. I just don’t know what to do or say to her any more. I don’t want my friend’s children to grow up with an X-mas tree in the house. (My rabbi seriously suggested getting someone to seduce the boy but this isn’t very practical.)
I am especially concerned as next year I will be leaving the town but she will be staying here with him.
I wonder if you have any ideas,
Your friend is in a mess. She has no idea what she is involved in and the situation is out of control. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like she is terribly interested in facing reality. If you tell her the dangers of intermarriage she’ll tell you she is going to be different. If you tell her she’s not thinking rationally she’ll tell you if she wanted to, she could break it off at anytime. Her vague idea that he might convert is a perfect example. Even though he shows no sign of it, she feels like it’s a reasonable possibility. You are afraid what will happen when you leave, for good reason – if things continue this way (unless they break up for some external reason) they will get married. So what can you do?
1. TRY TO GET HER TO FACE REALITY
As I mentioned. this will be extremely difficult, as she is not interested in hearing anything negative about the relationship. She will be very defensive. You have to help her face the consequences without becoming defensive. You can ask her “Do you plan on marrying him?” If she responds “No” then you can take his side – “Wow, I don’t know if it’s fair to lead him on like this . He’s going to be heartbroken”. This will reassure her that you are concerned for her boyfriend and might allow her the opportunity to open up and express her own doubts about the relationship.
If she says “Yes” then I’d ask her what she’s planning to do with their kids. My guess is she’ll respond “We’re going to raise them Jewish” (that’s the usual response). Again, address the issue for her, not you. “Do you really think that’s fair to the kids? How can you send them to cheder (Hebrew School) and know that their father isn’t participating in their religious life? Won’t they be confused? Is it fair to make them choose between you and their father? Why don’t you convert to Christianity – then your children will be brought up with less conflicts?” I find when people have to face issues from a supportive perspective rather than from a defensive point of view – it’s easier for them to see the whole picture.
2. DO NOT BE ACCEPTING OF THE SITUATION
Don’t go out to dinner as a threesome, hang out together, etc. If a person feels that their behavior is acceptable they won’t have to think about it. (NOTE: This is not a contradiction to the first point. The first point is to get her to see the situation – this point is to not accept the situation).
3. BE SUPPORTIVE
Although you don’t accept the behavior, you can be accepting of the person. Keep the door and the relationship open – be understanding and supportive. In case she wants to pull herself back from the brink, she should feel that she can come to you.
Never underestimate the power of tefillah. I heard from someone that the reason people are returning to Judaism today is because of all the tears of the Jewish mothers and grandmothers. Although they couldn’t stop the last generation from leaving, they provided the power for the present generation to come back. When we daven we usually have a list of names for the beracha “refaeynu”. We should also have a list for when we say “hashiveynu”.
Good luck and Hashem should help you deal with a very difficult situation. By the way, I would not use someone to seduce her. Sex should not be a weapon in the arsenal of kiruv.