Getting Comfortable in the Jewish World

A wise psychotherapist compared a non-Jew living in a Jewish community to a tourist visiting a new country. Dr. Perel is herself a transplant from Belgium to the United States. She uniquely positioned to view two cultures from inside and outside.

Often Jews are so accustom to being the outsider that they are frantic to prevent feelings of estrangement in their partner. But you may be projecting your own anxious past onto your loved one. Instead of rushing to assume that non-Jews will feel “other” or alien at a Jewish event or institution consider how you – or they – would feel visiting Thailand. All the street signs are in a strange language and alphabet. The language sounds nothing like English. The food, dress and traditions are different. Are you offended? Do you think all Thai residents should start speaking English and eating toast and eggs for breakfast because it will be familiar to you?  I’m betting you’re not. I suspect that instead you would joyfully embrace the mystery and excitement of being a tourist trying to learn all you can about this marvelous culture and people.

If you as the non-Jewish partner are intimidated or put off by the Jewish world/culture ask yourself, “Do I feel this way about all foreign or new cultural experiences? Is this unique to Judaism?” It may be that you are uncomfortable with environments that are unfamiliar. Or it may be that there is something about Judaism being your partner’s space and not yours that you find jarring.

These are ideas worth examining in order to make your relationship happier and healthier.