Many of you might remember the classic Spencer Tracy – Katharine Hepburn film of that title in which liberal, social activist parents are shocked by their daughter’s choice of fiancé, a black man played by Sidney Portier. The point of the film is the parents’ hypocrisy, but I’ve often said that the true test of liberal Jewish tolerance would not be a daughter’s choice to marry a black man but her choice to marry a black-hatted one. Baruch Hashem, my parents passed the test.
Baruch Hashem, I can say that my parents passed the test long before I was dating. Though my choice to become a frum Jew is something I think they still don’t understand, we have never fought about it. Kashrus was the hardest issue for my mother. It hurt her when I wouldn’t eat her non-kosher cooking, and because of that, I was slow in my observance of kashrus. I was shomeres Shabbos for several years before I finally undertook to operate my own kosher kitchen within my parents’ home. This gradual, partial observance is certainly not ideal, but it did have the advantage of making my teshuva a fairly peaceful process.
I also have resisted the urge to try to be mekarev my parents to frumkeit. I have had them to my house for just about every Yom Tov on the calendar, but the restrictions really are too much for them. They are decidedly secular, and I know I cannot change that. I do not think it is my place to try.
Rabbi David Aaron of Isralight once asked why people raised in secular homes do teshuva while others raised frum go off the derech. He said the answer lies in how their parents treated their fellow human beings. When parents recognize the inherent value of every human being, their children will find it easier to accept the existence of a loving G-d.
A few years ago, my mother and I co-wrote an article on how we both relate to my teshuva. In it, I quote one of my seminary rebbeim who said that loving families will find a way to make peace in spite of religious differences. May Hashem bless the family that is klal Yisroel to be so loving so that we can tolerate each other’s differences and live in true peace.