A Jewish woman marrying a non-Jewish man sent in this angst-ridden question to Boston’s Jewish Journal:
I am marrying into a lovely family that is not Jewish. My family is hosting a dinner to meet the future in-laws. My mother, who prides herself on being a superb cook, is planning to serve all her Jewish specialties. I feel this is literally putting our differences on the table.
You can read the equally angsty replies on their website.
Rather than get to the heart of the question, the ‘helpers’ jump in & answer their assumed questions.
I would have asked, what are your mother’s Jewish specialties? Brisket? Here’s some news, in the south that’s a common dish. Matzah ball soup? Brace your self, pretty much everyone has had it. Chocolate babka? Excuse me; everyone eats chocolate.
I would suggest the hostess find out about food preferences or restrictions. Do you guests eat wheat/gluten? Sugar? Any foods they don’t like – okra, squash, barley?
Why not tell your guests, “My mom is so excited you’re coming! She’d love to make a very special meal. Let me ask you about your dietary needs so she has a chance to shine and you have a good time.” Really, is there any more flattering message than that someone wants to pull out all the stops for you?
Don’t make trouble for yourself. Changes are that most non-Jewish relatives-to-be will be curious, friendly, interested and excited. I’ve had many soon to be in-laws say, “this will be our first Jewish wedding!”
So lighten up. Call me for a different perspective if you find yourself slipping down the worry shoot.
Here are some funny responses I got.
* Wait…the question is whether or not Jewish foods should be served because it will make them think about intermarriage too much? (Jen T)
* With apologies for the profanity, my reaction to this article was OMFG, only all spelled out. She’s gonna alienate the other family by serving unfamiliar food? News flash, Jewish food isn’t really that out there. There are Jewish delis – and even Jewish people! – every where in this country. The mother should cook what she loves to cook, taking into consideration dietary restrictions. And everybody should stop being so dumb as to worry about it.
* Now if the mom invited to dinner a mohel and starts asking the young man pointed questions… That might make everyone feel that religious differences were coming between them! (Tristan S)
* I agree with you and Tristan. Yes to asking about dietary restrictions. But also yes to letting her cook the way she usually cooks for company. It’s a way into talking about things that make for good conversation. Telling her mom the meal can’t be too Jewish strikes me as a fine way to make the religious difference the elephant in the room. The potential–unintended–result is a mother who feels like she’s supposed to make sure she doesn’t seem too Jewish to the in-laws (good luck figuring out what that means), and in-laws who pick up on the discomfort and assume they are the source of it. Yes, the families are from different backgrounds. Acknowledge it. Talk about it. What better way than food to open the door to conversations about family traditions? (Pam C)
* Ok. I’m baffled. Serving brisket, potato kugel and whatever else, could be offensive and culturally insensitive. Really? Does the other family know that this family is Jewish? They are probably either secretly or openly hoping for some good Jewish food!!! Maybe the incoming family is really tired of grammy Hall’s ham and will welcome something culturally specific to JEWS. Or maybe, must maybe, she could point out that everyone eats “Jewish” food. Bagels and lox. Those are not all Jews down at Noah’s. I see some non Jews buying challah. (Diane W)