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A Noodge Too Far


When I got engaged, my mom’s dearest girlfriends, whom I affectionately call “The Crones,” all sent me a card. On the front it said,

“Now that you are engaged, no one will ever ask you again ‘When are you getting married?'” On the inside it read, “So, when are you going to have a baby?” Although meant in jest, I have found that card to be profoundly true.

Every week, I read the columns written by singles, many of whom I know and some of whom I dated, and I empathize deeply with them. For many years, I was the single girl at the wedding or family gathering. Until I got married at 38 1/2 years old, I was constantly asked, “Are you dating anyone?” “When are you going to get married?” “Have you tried JDate?” (or fill in any other “helpful” suggestion).

It’s horrible. It’s painful. It sometimes makes you want to cry. I wanted to tell people to butt out, but I didn’t want to be rude. I would have liked to have said that I had a very satisfying life in many respects: I had an interesting career and lots of terrific friends; I enjoyed my home and my pet. But the married folks, especially older relatives, have only one thing in mind: They want you to get married. For the record, you likely want that, too, and you really don’t need them to remind you.

I thought, naively, that once I did get married last May, all my problems would be solved, including the matter of nosy and painful questions from well-meaning friends and relatives. Boy, was I wrong.

First of all, marriage is tough. You don’t just break the glass, kiss, leave the chuppah and live happily ever after. It is a ton of work. You have to compromise about everything. All of your quirks — eating cereal for dinner, wearing socks to bed — are discussed and dissected. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband and the home we have created together. But there are things about my single life that I miss. Marriage doesn’t change everything. You are still you, with all your problems and issues, but now you have someone else around to point them out to you.

And then, there’s still a question — a much more personal and maybe more painful one then the dating and marriage questions. It’s the “When are you going to have a baby?” question. I get it from everyone, all the time, even though we’ve only been married six months. We don’t even have our wedding album back from the photographer.

My sex life is, apparently, an appropriate topic for conversation with anyone, anywhere. Those same well-meaning people who told me where to go to find a mate are now telling me how often and in what position to have sex to best increase our chances of conception, or suggesting herbs, acupuncture or other fertility-increasing remedies.

Recently I had a miscarriage, as at least 25 percent of pregnant women do. It’s been hard on my body and hard on both of us emotionally. It feels like a death in the family. The prospective grandparents, aunts and uncles are very upset too, since this would have been the first grandchild on both sides of the family.

Apparently miscarriage is very common. Both of our mothers had one, as did many of our dearest friends and relatives. For the most part, no one told us, so we’re just finding out as we shared our grief with others. Infertility is an issue among our friends, too. Our generation has waited longer than previous ones to try to start families. (Maybe they should have tried JDate.)

Every time someone asks me when I’m going to have a baby, I feel a stab of sadness about the failed pregnancy. I want to yell and scream and ask them what business it is of theirs. Or tell them that I miscarried just so I can see the look on their faces. But I don’t. I just mumble something about, “We’re trying” or “When it happens, it happens” to placate them.

I really think it is no one’s business but my husband’s and mine. We have only been married a short time and only recently started trying to have a baby. I can only imagine how hard that baby question must be on those who have had multiple miscarriages or endured painful, expensive and heartbreaking fertility treatments.

So, please, be sensitive to the single folks, who really want to get married. They don’t need you to remind them that they are single. And please, be sensitive to the married folks who don’t have a baby — yet.

Jill Franklin grew up in Los Angeles and is a freelance writer and attorney living in Chicago. She can be reached at jillfr@aol.com.


We Need Blacks’ Aid in Anti-Semitism Fight

The Jewish people are under attack. Horrific expressions of anti-Semitism are spreading across the United States and the world. These attacks, both verbal and physical, are occurring at all levels of society, from the highest ranks of government to individuals on the street.

This month, as we honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., we ask blacks to embrace his legacy and to join Jews in defeating the injustice of anti-Semitism. Even as King struggled to achieve equality for black Americans, he did not hesitate to express total disdain for anti-Semitism, especially when it reared its ugly face in his own community.

King championed the civil rights of Jews, spoke out for the human rights of Soviet Jews and reminded the world of those Jews who endured beatings and humiliation and gave their lives for the civil rights movement.

The Jewish community cannot alone fight the battle against anti-Semitism. Blacks and Jews have a long shared history of working together to effect social change, as when Jews stood by their African American brothers and sisters in the civil rights era.

"In the struggle for human rights, as well as in the struggle for the upward march of our civilization, we have deep need for the partnership, fellowship and courage of our Jewish brother," King said.

Now the Jewish community needs the partnership, fellowship and courage of black Americans. The civil rights of Jews are now at stake.

A recent national poll by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding found that 77 percent of blacks and 73 percent of Jews agree that they should work together on civil rights. Anti-Semitic incidents are up dramatically in the United States, including a 24 percent increase on college campuses in 2002.

In England, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Turkey and other countries throughout Asia and Europe, synagogues are bombed, Jewish schools are torched and members of the Jewish community are forced to hide their yarmulkes and Star of David pendants.

Were King alive today, he would speak out vociferously against this new wave of anti-Semitism. He also would not tolerate the moral laryngitis that many political leaders seem to suffer in the face of these despicable acts against the Jewish people.

King invoked the immortal words that "a people who fight for their own rights only are as honorable as when they fight for the rights of all people." He acknowledged the interdependence of our two communities — black and Jewish.

"Every Negro leader is keenly aware, from direct and personal experience, that the segregationists and racists make no fine distinctions between the Negro and the Jew," King said. "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny."

In this spirit, we appeal to black Americans to stand in solidarity with their Jewish brothers and sisters, who face the scourge and evils of anti-Semitism.

Courtesy of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Rabbi Marc Schneier is founder and president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding; Russell Simmons is the group’s chairman.

Dear Rabbi

Remarriage After Divorce

Dear Rabbi,

When can a woman remarry after divorce?


Dear Katherine,

Since marriage is itself a religious enactment (called
kiddushin in Hebrew), it requires a religious ceremony to terminate a Jewish
marriage. And since rabbis also act as agents of the state in performing
marriages, most rabbis require a civil divorce to be completed prior to
proceeding to deliver a get (the document of divorce).

So, once a woman has completed the civil divorce and has
received her get, she is free to remarry, provided that the man is himself
single (either having never been married, or himself having already finished a
civil divorce and given a get to his previous wife).

Should They Convert?

Dear Rabbi,

I was adopted at birth in 1970. In 1992, I located my birth
mother, though the family and historical information I have received has been
very little. I am under the impression that there may be Jewish roots in my
heritage. How can I confirm this? I have been studying Torah since last fall. I
am aware of the Noahide laws and how they pertain to me, a gentile. However, I
have been considering possible conversion. Am I more accountable before Hashem
to convert if it is confirmed that I do come from a Jewish background? My
mother’s surname is Glazer and I was told that part of the family is from Germany.
My husband is also in a similar predicament, as his mother was adopted and has
recently found that her families’ surnames were Kopp and Hart.

We want to be pleasing and find favor in the eyes of Hashem
and are stumbling over what the right thing would be to do. 


Dear Kathleen,

What an amazing journey of faith and devotion you and your
husband exemplify. And what an interesting example of the complexities of
modern life.

According to Jewish law, a person is Jewish if his or her
mother was Jewish or if he or she converts. If your mother (or her mother) were
Jewish, then technically so are you. In that case, you would not be converting,
you would be reaffirming your true identity, a homecoming.

Whether or not you and your husband establish that you came
from Jews, you are most welcome to find a program to learn about Judaism and to
explore the wonder of living a life of Torah and mitzvot. Find a local rabbi
who can teach you and guide you.

May you both continue to grow in God’s service, and may you
be a blessing.

To Read or Not to Read

Dear Rabbi,

We are a small congregation of four families in the hills of
West Virginia. We aren’t formally a member of any of the movements, but our
level of observance is between modern Orthodox and Conservative. We currently
hold services on Shabbat eve and would like to expand services to Shabbat
morning and afternoon. However, we do not have a sefer Torah and it will be
sometime before we can obtain one.

Would it be permissible to read from a Tikkun when we have a
minyan during Shabbat morning and afternoon services until we obtain a sefer
Torah, or should we forgo the Torah portion of the service until a scroll is obtained?


Dear Brian,

It is wonderful and commendable that you and your community
are keeping Judaism and Torah alive in such an unlikely circumstance. You are
an inspiration, and evidence that the continuation of Torah doesn’t require
much more than devoted Jews, dedication and willingness to work together. The
light of your blessings illumines us all.

Since you do not have a sefer Torah yet, you should not read
from a Tikkun as though you do. Having an aliyah and reciting the blessings
requires a kosher Torah scroll. Until you have such a scroll, you should pause
when you get to that point in the service, and you can conduct a Torah study
group, or have someone read the parsha without reciting the blessings before
and after.

May your congregation continue to grow, and the devotion you
show spread to the rest of us!

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson serves as the dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism, and is the author of “The Bedside Torah: Wisdom, Visions, & Dreams” (McGraw Hill, 2001).