Thursday, February 16, 2006

How Could I Marry You?

I just read a post by a young Ger Tzdek in the New York area that reminded of a story a friend told me when I was in-the-process or shortly afterward.

A young man (non-Jewish) and a young woman (Conservadox) went to public high school together in Windsor in the forties/fifties. As her parents were not pleased they kept their friendship both on a low key and very private. After high school they both, coincidentally, ended up attending Wayne State University across the river. Not surprisingly they car-pooled back and forth for four years and their romance blossomed.

The young girls parents, probably seeing the inevitable, eventually accepted the young man, perhaps initially trying to use their contact to dissuade him, but eventually communicating the message that "if he converted" they'd bless the relationship.

So the young man attended a very unique adult evening school where teachers from all streams of Jewish thought and practice teach. One particular course on Chassidic Thought captured the young man's imagination, and when the teacher offered to sponsor his participation in a summer camp dedicated to intensive learning, the young man jumped at the chance.

Although it upset the plans the young couple had made to spend the summer planning their wedding and future lives, the young woman agreed recognizing that both her parents were pleased at the young man's seriousness in exploring Judaism, and that the issue of conversion would be less problematic with so many teachers providing their support and approbation.

The problems started when, upon returning from the summer camp, which the young man had extended by staying for the second session, he surprising announced that they had to post pone the marriage as he was going to New York to do some further studying before his conversion and their marriage. That fall, the young woman received a heart rendering letter informing her that her childhood sweetheart had decided they shouldn't marry. No return address, no contact information, just a long empty pain filled silence during the winter and spring months.

The following summer, the young woman heard a rumor that her former beau was in town visiting his parents. With a fury and passion that only a woman scorned could muster, the young woman stormed over to the young man's parent's home and confronted him.

"How could you do this to me?" she accused. "Don't I at least deserve an explanation after all those years we went together?" she demanded to know!

Slowly, with every effort to try and answer her challenges without causing further pain or exacerbating the situation, the young man explained: "How could you expect me to marry a girl who was willing to marry a non-Jew?"

Years later I actually met the man in the story, he went on to become a director of Jewish Community Centers in the Detroit area and later elsewhere in the states. That final 'punch line' is one I personally never forgot!