I am Forbidden

I was 45 years old;  divorced with two children, when I re-married a man who wasn’t Jewish.  My father refused to come to the wedding— and shut me out of his life.

Though we were not raised to be strictly observant Jews, he had been raised Orthodox; I knew that Orthodox Jews don’t accept inter–marriage; they even mourn for someone like me who marries out of the religion.  Still I never thought it could happen to me.

I never signed up for this….that’s for sure.

He was my only parent since my mother died at 41.   I admired and adored him; this experience ripped a hole in my heart.  At the time  I didn’t realize how deep the hurt was;  but I don’t think it was a coincidence that I was diagnosed with  cancer a year after the marriage.

Ultimately  cancer was the catalyst that allowed us to reconcile; he even came to stay with us in California; and met my new husband.  Though things were better, they were never the same;   I didn’t realize he was already in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s; and would die of it a few years later.

We never discussed my marriage and what had happened.


I received the latest novel for my online book club, not knowing the details in advance; as I got deeper into the story, I couldn’t help seeing the parallels to my own life.

I am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits is about two women,  raised as sisters within the Satmar sect of Hasidic Jews—two women who choose opposite paths.

Though the author has a clear and critical perspective, it’s fascinating reading that sheds some light on this very strict and secretive world; and shows the enormity of the spectrum that exists between people who nominally are practicing the same religion.

At the same time, in some ways it’s hard to read, as a feminist and as a Jew– to learn more about the marginalization of women; and the painful consequences that result from non-acceptance of the strict laws.

For me it’s hard to imagine anyone who would choose the dictates of religion over the human heart.   As a parent myself, I never really understood how my father could sever his relationship with me.  I still don’t.


This post is inspired by I AM FORBIDDEN by Anouk Markovits. I  received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. 

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  1. RON says

    It is a cruel phenomenon that families, often Jewish, find themselves estranged for what seem like rather trivial differences. Often times, religion and the non-observance of that religion, are at the root of those differences. My take on it is that our parents’ generation felt that they had to cling to “something” in order to maintain their sanity after the war. While I do not agree with a great deal of those beliefs, I think you have to respect their super-strong resolve in clinging to them even with the realization that they are possibly forever alienating their loved ones. And, all too often, they take these differences to their graves. And that is what causes the continuing, ever-lasting pain to their families. Sorry for your pain. Unfortunately or Fortunately, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

  2. says

    It’s so hard. My father is very religious and I think he would be deeply hurt had I married someone who was not Jewish. My mother however would remind me that no matter what my kids would be jewish and I should not limit the pool of potential mates to just Jewish guys regardless of how observant they may or may not have been.

    I did marry someone Jewish but because we are a great match not because of our religion. I have jewish friends who have married non Jewish spouses and in the end of the day it is less of a big deal than one would have thought. Sure there may be confusion around some holidays but the kids are loved and my friends are happy.

  3. says

    There will always be things I don’t understand about my parents. Maybe we aren’t supposed to. Maybe the lesson comes through the lack of understanding.

  4. Marla Wentner says

    That is a sad story, Darryle. But at least you reconciled (without discussing what happened — always an interesting phenomenon, isn’t it?) before your father died.

    I think situations where a parent “forbids” anything, religious or otherwise, have to do with control. And when the control doesn’t work, the controlling party has no choice but to stick to his/her guns and go through with the threat. So much of the woe in the world comes from people who feel they must control.
    Those who control often make us feel safe, as your father did with you, as long as we go along with the program. Once you step out of the box, it’s a different story.

    Anyway, we all learn lessons from these situations — what not to do with our own children. We do not have the right to control or “own” anyone. People are just given to us to nurture and love and choices made (at least once our children are of age) are really out of our hands, as they should be.

  5. says

    So sorry it took me so long to answer comments; I was traveling and totally blanked out. I think you’re right that our parents’ generation experienced the Holocaust so personally that can account for some of their resistance to assimilation. I think—and understand why– there are still really strong negative feelings about it but it’s harder to avoid these days. Thanks so much Ron; I certainly don’t feel alone in this.

  6. says

    Though my own children are 100% Jewish, and were raised that way, I’ve also seen lots of successful marriages—or I guess inter-marriages. For some religious differences aren’t such a big deal; as you say; for others it’s been more difficult. Interesting advice you got from your mom—my mom died when I was 18 and I wonder what she would have said. She was not raised religious at all; and possibly might have influenced my father to be less harsh with me—which would have made my life so different. Thanks so much, Helen, for commenting.

  7. says

    sorry for the time lag in answering comments!
    Lolly–you’re absolutely right; and I”m sure everything would have been completely different had she been around. xxxoo
    Marla: Also absolutely right; this issue of control is such a tough one especially for parents. Couldn’t agree more that so much woe comes from people who feel they need to control—and that certainly was an issue for my dad although I didn’t really get it early on. Even for parents who aren’t control freaks, it’s tough letting go of our children and letting them live by their own rules and beliefs–maybe the biggest challenge for any parent.
    Thanks so much for comments!

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