My experience with a Jewish man: enjoy.
(For privacy reasons, we are not including any real names or photos.)
Keep in mind that we are writing this article based off of one personal experience, not with the intent of generalizing or offending anyone.
In any way, though, often it happens that we wonder about relationships involving multiple religions or cultures; we want to ask questions and resolve any doubts but very often we feel like it hits too personal of a note. So, here we are to talk about this exhilarating and dramatic story which tackles the difficulties and obstacles, some they can overcome, others they cannot, from a relationship involving two people from very, very different cultures.
H: Talk to us about this relationship. Have there ever been any particular episodes? Did his religion effectively influence your relationship with him?
L: Well, let's start from the first time that we actually spoke to each other, that alone is an exhilarating story. My whole life, I had never met a Jewish man, or better, I never took it as a consideration that it could actually have a real impact on a relationship. So, unfortunately, I thought he was kidding at first.
So here we are in this grocery store in Brazil (we were doing a study abroad program there) and we had to buy some sandwiches for our beach excursion. I grab a few on the fly, both for me and for him so after careful evaluation of the dramatic, expired selection of sandwiches offered, I picked two ham ones, thinking I was betting on the right thing. I offered him one and the answer he gave me was 'no, I'm Jewish', and I start laughing thinking it was a joke. And I paid for both sandwiches. Once we get to the beach, he starts eating an egg sandwich. Then I start to finally realize that it was never a joke, but that he really was Jewish.
I end up eating both of my sandwiches and don't say another word for the rest of our lunch, not knowing what to say to a Jewish man or what not to say.
So already the incipient of our relationship is based off of me being a piece of shit.
Either way - shitty beginning aside - I didn't meet him in a familiar context so, initially, I didn't live through too many interesting experiences or behaviors. Everything seemed pretty normal, he drank like a dragon, like me, would go out every night, like me, he'd eat all the same foods as me - this to say that it wasn't all kosher food, but definitely no pork - he wouldn't make our religious differences weigh on me.
H: Not even during Shabbat?
L: Eh, not at the beginning. It's after that he started degenerating and I started to realize how devoted to Judaism he was. I think in that moment that I truly realized this was when we went hiking up Machu Picchu. Let's start with the fact that he wanted to hike up there by food and I wanted to take the bus for the disabled and elderly - so there was already a discussion there, religion aside - but whatever.
He wakes up in the morning, goes to buy some sandwiches for the hike and he buys me one with ham. You might think, how sweet, he bought it even though he can't eat it - and instead no. Half way through the hike our water is about to finish and I open up the last bottle we have. He starts complaining because he's thirsty so I tell him 'DRINK' and he refused. I couldn't understand why. Moral of the story: IT WAS BECAUSE MY MOUTH HAD TOUCHED THE HAM. We're talking about a hike involving HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS OF METERS of steps, FUCKING DRINK OR YOU'RE GOING TO DIE! Or, more importantly, give me a heads up beforehand.
So nothing, in synthesis, he hikes up Machu Picchu without even drinking one sip of water. And no, if you're asking yourselves if we made out, we didn't. Mainly because I was so pissed there was no form of love in that hike - way before the ham situation - so that issue didn't come up at all.
H: And how did the story evolve from here? Did you start backing out?
L: No way, I was so blinded by love. The more we carried out our relationship, the more I noticed some weird things but I really didn't care at the beginning. He'd talk to me about how my Calabrian half resembled his Jewish roots: from his mothers side, with a very united family etc. and I fell for all of it. I didn't want to convince myself of anything else.
When we actually (and finally) decided to carry out our relationship at a distance, everything started to get fucked up. First off, when he would stay at his parents house - who are VERY attached to their Jewish heritage - he'd often disappear on me from Friday until Saturday. Completely. And this is when Shabbat started to play a role.
Shabbat didn't allow him to take his phone in his hands, and I never knew if we was really following Shabbat or if he was just wandering around having sex with other girls - tip for the future: if you think being in a relationship with a Jewish man is a lot of work, remember you can always have your weekends free.
You guys cannot understand how many times it's happened that I was in the middle of a discussion with him, where I was about to leave it all behind, when complete silence falls for 24 hours. In the meantime you start to talk to yourself, go crazy, say sorry, go crazy again, leave him and take him back. Then nothing, going back to usual as if nothing happened, completely ignoring the mess you made in the previous 24 hours. And then you feel like an idiot, for the thousandth time.
Anyway, one beautiful day I decide to go visit him in Paris (that's where he lived). And here's whn you start to truly understand how CRAZY IN LOVE I was with him.
His parents were in Israel and, after a night of - I'll spare you the details - the doorbell rings and it was his cleaning lady, who in theory was told not to come because his parents weren't there. And then, my dear boyfriend CLOSES ME INSIDE THE CLOSET.
Without any explanation, you can imagine how I was feeling. I was in that closet for over 1 AND A HALF HOURS, trying to find a logical explanation to this incredible situation. Finally, the cleaning lady leaves and the first true, and tiring, conversation about religion begins.
This man "forgot" to specify to me that I could not meet his family, so yeah, so cute of him to wait until his parents left the country to invite me to Paris. He was hiding me!
In that (lively) discussion, I understood a lot of things:
1) I could never meet his family because I'm not Jewish
2) Even worse, I'm an atheist
3) We could never have a future together because our children wouldn't be Jewish, as I would have interrupted the lineage (it's the mother to pass down the title, not the father)
4) Jewish men cannot accept having not Jewish children because after the extermination of the Jewish population in the war their culture focuses of repopulating their heritage.
That's when I understood that I would remain hidden forever. But, even when he was madly in love with me, he'd still try to include me in his life in adverse ways. He'd bring me to his old family homes and, although it was banned, he'd put me in contact with people in his network, within limits. And I kept falling for it. And being okay with this lifestyle. Fucking love...
Finally, let's get to the exhausting part of the conversation. Man, at some point I was willing to convert. But he'd always say that "he doesn't want to be with a woman who converted only for love" and I'd think "what a profound, deep man". And instead, this was just another prelude to the obvious fact that he already knew that we would break up eventually. He'd say that his whole family would not view a converted Jew as a true Jew, and so? What was I thinking in that moment? I don't know what I was expecting.
H: But were his friends Jewish or would he hang out with whoever?
L: When I met him, none of his friends were Jewish and, a bit like me, nobody worried about his religious beliefs. Everything changed after he came back from Israel. He started kissing the Torah on the door before walking into the house, he'd stay away from German people, he was afraid...
H: In regards to women, instead, would you feel threatened or defected compared to other Jewish women?
L: As I mentioned before, in the first phase of falling in love no, I didn't give a damn. I didn't even realize that he was Jewish, for me there was no difference between us. It was after that damn trip that I started to feel threatened. And not just because Israeli women are hot as fuck, but more for the fact that I knew that he could find his perfect match there for him, a woman with whom he could have a future.
I'll never forget one time he told me "my mom expressed her desire to eat pasta allo scoglio for her birthday, but my father won't allow it" and I thought "fuck, how do I react to something so obvious and banal to me?" So when other girls, unlike me, could take dilemmas like this seriously I'd start to worry. I tried to deduce some logical reasoning, tried to tell him why it wouldn't have been so absurd: now there are refrigerators, shellfish doesn't kill you. But unfortunately when you don't share something with someone, you don't share it, and we couldn't find each other in certain things.
H: Aside from feeling at 'fault', did the feeling of not being Jewish ever made you feel wrong?
L: Initially no, in fact, I almost felt cool. For him I was a kind of 'exotic creature', his guilty pleasure. At first, I could afford to laugh at something like the pasta allo scoglio thing, and he liked that I laughed at it. However, let's consider that I too come from a very bulky and present family so I know how to laugh, to adapt, without seeming like I was making fun of it - and I really was not.
But then, yes, eventually it made me feel very wrong. Not that these things weren't there at first, but I didn't notice them or give them any weight. In regards to my body, especially, my sacred and untouchable temple, he made me feel really bad, like no one else has ever made me feel in my life. Starting from the most simple things like tattoos - with which I had deconsecrated my body with rendering it impure - to the time that I couldn't put on lipstick anymore when I would go out, all the way to the time when we were breaking up and he admitted that he could have never been with - and presented to his family - someone who wears a tight shirt when they go out to make themselves be seen, who pees between cars, who talk and flirts with random men - these weren't even the actual words he used, you don't want to hear the real ones.
Also, I'd start to notice more and more moments to which I had never really paid attention to or given any weight, I'd almost consider them as 'gallantry': on every trip, in every place we've been, I couldn't hold on to money. In Jewish customs, the mother commands but it's the father that retains the economic and financial power of the family. And that's how it was, but how could I know that then?
One day, actually, I introduced him to my female cousins and as we were on our way to the bar we (obviously) got him a drink too. He felt so 'offended' that some women had bought his drink that he took my brother, went back to the same bar, and came back with 24 DRINKS! He had to spend at least four times the amount we paid to fix the situation.
H: Wow… I don't know if this is only your personal experience that's been so heavy or if this relates to any other relationships, but I thank you for sharing with us this story. Do you think it can be 'generalized' or that a lot of these facts revolve around this specific case?
L: I think if people are able to reach a compromise - Jewish or not- it's fine. The problem with us was that I was with a person who was not able to do so, and he made me understand that in a very harsh way. I don't know if all this 'discipline' was dictated by religion but in either case, it's an experience that I would never repeat - like anything, after all - it doesn't mean anything if you can't carry it out in a 'civil' manner, sharing what you can and accepting what you cannot.