DD's absent dad is Jewish; should this influence how I bring her up?

(46 Posts)
DontWorryYoniMe Mon 27-May-13 19:34:50

I'm quite heavily pregnant at the moment and am about to be a single mum, all going well, to DD1. I have a lovely and very supportive family.

Little one's father lives quite far away, did not want a baby at all, and is not going to be involved in her life at all. He is Jewish, culturally but also practising. It is rather likely that little one will look quite Jewish (oddly, my family already do a bit, although we aren't).

I am not Jewish, I'm sort of... not religious. Parents brought me up with a mix of Christian, Buddhist and Hindu practices. I sometimes pop in to Quaker meeting for my fix of inner light, and will keep doing this with DD when she arrives.

But I'm aware that there's quite a strong cultural heritage here, and that it will be somewhat externally visible. I know next to nothing about Judaism - various family members are secular (very secular!) Jews, but this seems only to extend to a general fascination with the second world world, declarations of 'on no account should a rabbi be invited to my deathbed' and a vague liking for matzos at inappropriate times of year.

If babydaddy's heritage was, say, Catholic - I know I would probably make an effort to get DD to Catholic church on occasion so she knew a bit about it all. But that is slightly more familiar territory for me, and I might pop in to a local church and have a chat with the priest to see what he thought.

Hm, what is my question. I guess - what should I tell little one? Would it be appropriate or inappropriate for us to get involved with the local Jewish community, and if so, where to start? I just don't know how important this is or where to begin.

acceptableinthe80s Mon 27-May-13 19:44:24

Why would you? He's not going to be raising the child, you are therefore you can raise her however you wish.
The absent fathers religion is irrelevant surely?
Don't be sure she'll look like him either, my ds is the spitting image of me and bears no resemblance to his father at all though obviously that's not,always the case.
I think it's a bit weird indoctrinating a child into a religion that you personally don't follow.

TiredyCustards Mon 27-May-13 19:49:14

I think you're only technically Jewish if your mother is.

LeoTheLateBloomer Mon 27-May-13 19:53:32

I'd say it depends on how much you're planning on telling her about him as a person.

If not much, then no it's not necessary.

If you want to give her enough information for her to chose (in the future) to try to form some sort of relationship with him, then just telling him that he's Jewish will be sufficient then leave it to her if she feels the need to learn about her heritage.

I don't see any point in putting yourself out for someone who will play no part in her upbringing.

Vatta Mon 27-May-13 19:54:33

honestly if he's not going to be involved in her life I think you may confuse her a bit by raising her with Jewish influences that she doesn't have in her family iyswim. I'd probably leave it alone.

DontWorryYoniMe Mon 27-May-13 19:54:42

I don't intend to bring her up in any particular religion, but I am sure she will grow up having some experience of, say, Buddhist and Quaker stuff. And probably C of E stuff through school.

I suppose it's just that I wonder if I ought to give her some exposure to Judaism, as that's part of her cultural heritage too.

Pretty sure she will look Jewish enough to make people wonder, or to wonder herself. Regardless of babydaddy and his scary super-genes, me and sister do, although we aren't!

DontWorryYoniMe Mon 27-May-13 19:55:16

tiredy, you're quite right, technically she won't be Jewish as I'm not.

DontWorryYoniMe Mon 27-May-13 19:56:24

Leo, I don't know AT ALL what I'm going to tell her about him.

It's pretty hard to imagine how to say 'your father didn't want to know you' in a less psychologically damaging way.

(Any ideas?!!!)

Weegiemum Mon 27-May-13 19:57:35

I (think) (know) that Judaism is matrilineal.

If you can't get in touch with her Dad, you need to do it as you see fit.

I'm not sure but I don't think I'd be able to sink into another culture (as Judaism) without a guide. Did your dds dad give any indication before he bowed out? (And how lame is that?)

DontWorryYoniMe Mon 27-May-13 19:58:02

Vatta, yes, that's a really good point - I hadn't thought of it as being confusing but you are right and it might feel a little artificial.

DontWorryYoniMe Mon 27-May-13 20:01:02

Weegie, he said he'd find it weird having a kid who wasn't Jewish. I think it's quite important to him.

BUT... I don't really want to ask him what he thinks on this one, since he's decided to feck off out of little one's and it makes it sound like I value his opinion. I am busy doing the whole 'I'm an independent woman' thing and want to make the right decision for little one and me regardless of what he thinks.

Maybe I am just being bolshy and overly proud about this to cover up a bit of sadness here smile but there you go.

ZZZenagain Mon 27-May-13 20:01:21

what are you going to tell her when she asks where her daddy is? If you are going to tell her about him, you could also mention that he is Jewish and I don't see why, since it is part of her heritage, you cannot generally bring her up knowledgable about Judaism without actually taking her to a synagogue for religious instruction. Read about it, make recipes together, read stories which have something to do with a Jewish setting. You say you grew up exposed to different traditions, so your dd can do the same maybe. I don't think you need to teach her all the complexities of a religion you don't practise yourself but what is the harm in learning a bit about it?

I think you have no need at all to worry about whether she looks Jewish and therefore needs to know about it. Seriously, drop that, it is a bit odd. Focus on the positives of Judaism (in particular the food!), some nice traditions and songs. When she is older, she can get into it if she wishes in more depth

ZZZenagain Mon 27-May-13 20:04:09

Looks though like the dad is gone for good, so even if he would want his dc to be Jewish, if he is not going to be around at all, I wonder how relevant that is IYSWIM

DontWorryYoniMe Mon 27-May-13 20:08:19

ZZZenagain, I don't really know what to tell her on the whole 'daddy' thing. At the moment I start crying when I think about it! But I know I need to think seriously about what is best to say when she asks, apart from 'I wanted you very much from the moment I knew you were growing inside me'.

I suppose the attraction of getting involved with a community of people is that they are actually Jewish and I am not! God knows what a hash I would make of trying to explain Judaism when I know nothing about it!

Good point about food, though... drool... that is a nice easy in, with little explaining.

DontWorryYoniMe Mon 27-May-13 20:10:27

ZZZenagain, I don't think it's really relevant to me to know or care about what he would want. As you say, he's not around, and I do think you forfeit the rights when you forfeit the responsibilities.

I just want to think about what's best for little one.

Justfornowitwilldo Mon 27-May-13 20:14:10

I know this is a bit of a minefield and it would open you up for more rejection, but would his family be interested in contact with your baby?

ZZZenagain Mon 27-May-13 20:18:14

when she goes to nursery or to school, she will at some stage pick up on the fact that most dc have a mum and dad at home and at that point, she'll ask you about him. You have a bit of time to think about it. I think the general advice is not to say anything negative about him because she will reflect it back on herself. There must have been some good things about him for you to have wanted to spend time with him - tell her about those things and maybe all she needs to know is that he lives somewhere else and it didn't work out between the two of you but you are glad you met him because it means you have her.

Don't know why I am assuming a dd actually. Sorry about that. I don't know enough about Judaism to tell you which congregations are likely to be open to you as a non-Jew and your dd as half-Jewish but on the father's side. There are different streams within Judaism. Perhaps someone else knows which type of synagogue/Jewish organisation would be open to her. A friend of mine is half-Jewish (on her father's side), she is Christian and so is her dh but she sends the dc to a Jewish Children's Club which meets on Sundays. They are in age-based groups, dance, play games and learn about the Bible stories etc, bake together. It seems nice and the dc seem to be accepted but we are in Eastern Europe and I don't know what is available in the UK. Since Judaism is not a missionary religion, possibilities might be restricted but ask around. If you have a liberal Jewish synagogue near you, in your shoes I might just go in and ask to have a word with the rabbi, get some advice.

hermioneweasley Mon 27-May-13 20:20:09

Does his family want to have any involvement (finding it hard to imagine a Jewish grandma not wanting to be Parton her grandchild's life)

ZZZenagain Mon 27-May-13 20:22:14

AISH.com is a nice website I have found for learning a bit about Judaism. We look on there when things come up in our reading which we don't know about - festivals etc. They have a nice video on there with Moses organising the exodus online. We had a chuckle at that one. When dd read something about Rosh Hashannah which is Jewish New Year she looked it up on there and found a video she liked of some crazy boys prancing around Jerusalem. In a light-hearted way without too much depth, you can learn about other cultures and I think that is good for kids. They want to be proud of whatever elements make up their cultural heritage.

Why would you? HE does not care. Do what is easiest for you. No reason why you should turn into a "quasi Jew" to appease and honour and absent father who cant be arsed either way.

DontWorryYoniMe Mon 27-May-13 20:23:58

Hermione and justfornow, he has decided he doesn't want his family to know he has a child, so no, they won't know and won't have the option of being involved. Long rubbish story, but it is as it is.

I don't know them and it would feel really wrong and appropriate for me to make contact.

sunshine401 Mon 27-May-13 20:24:13

Religion is not a heritage. It is a personal choice. All children should be raised understanding all religions, therefore in a position when they are old enough they can chose which (if any) religion they believe in and want to follow/practice.

WouldBeHarrietVane Mon 27-May-13 20:26:10

I think you are a lovely mum for even thinking about this.

I think you would want to look into reform or progressive / liberal Judaism and start doing some research. I am similar in heritage to your dd (dad is around though) and I like knowing about where I come from.

I think it's very important to understand your genetic makeup, so at the very least I would tell her in the early primary years about her exciting genetic heritage and maybe eg read a book about Jewish religious holidays and tell her about Jewish food.

If you happen to live anywhere near Marble Arch there is a lovely Jewish nursery there where my friends send their kids - at least half of the children are not Jewish and it is Ofsted outstanding.

ZZZenagain Mon 27-May-13 20:26:48

I think being Jewish is more than adhering to a religion, it is also to do with being part of a cultural tradition beyond the religion. So some people feel no real draw to the religion but do feel a part of Jewish culture. At least that is how I understand it.

WouldBeHarrietVane Mon 27-May-13 20:28:30

Judaism is both a religion and an ethnicity, so it is a heritage. No one in my Jewish family has been religious for at least 70 years, but the heritage is still important to me.

A Jewish friend of mine said "The last thing the world needs is more Jews, considering the massive problems we have as a People". Said in relation to people converting.

WouldBeHarrietVane Mon 27-May-13 20:30:38

That sounds quite racist, Quint, even if they said it first.

QueenOfIndecision Mon 27-May-13 20:32:02

hi, can't really help much with your question but just wanted to say that you sound like you will be a superb mum to your DD. Congratulations and don't worry too much about the absent Dad.

Justfornowitwilldo Mon 27-May-13 20:36:11

I don't know if I'd accept him not telling his family. I think it's very unfair for him to make that decision for his parents.

I know WouldBe, I was very surprised. Is this a common view?

WouldBeHarrietVane Mon 27-May-13 20:42:11

Is it worth pointing out to him that you will tell dd his name so she will be able to track his parents down herself as a teen, should she choose to, so it might be more sensible for him to just tell them now??

WouldBeHarrietVane Mon 27-May-13 20:44:36

Quint, I don't know about how other Jewish people would feel, but it's certainly something a lot of dubious people would feel!

There is a general prejudice within some branches of Judaism about conversion, as I understand it and it is extremely hard to convert to become Orthodox.

I think also within all ethnic groups people feel entitled to poke fun at their own shortcomings, but don't want others doing it.

ZZZenagain Mon 27-May-13 20:50:11

I don't think it is inappropriate for you to contact the family. Why should your dc be deprived of his grandparents? However it is tricky and if I did it, I think I would wait til after the birth and write enclosing a couple of photos.

Stuff him if it doesn't suit him. It is just awkward because you can't really speak negatively about him to his family, so I'd avoid saying much about him.

Consider it, they know about Judaism and they'll care about her. Bit different to a bunch of strangers in some organisation

MrsFrederickWentworth Mon 27-May-13 22:14:14

On the father fucked off line, two friends from v diff backgrounds have said in terms to the dc, he never wanted a child with me and he wasn't interested in aong term relationshipbut when I realised I was having you I really really wanted you.

And then they point out what a wonderful family the dc has and they have both given the dcs fabulous adult friends as sponsors aka godparents ( should prob not say that as I am one of the gp to one of the dcs...not a brilliant one but the other gps/ sponsors are ). So the dcs have great adult role models who are engaged in dcs lives.

AFAIK, dcs fine. Children v accepting of the status quo if said with conviction and love.

DontWorryYoniMe Tue 28-May-13 14:44:41

Gosh, thank you so much for such fantastic responses.

WouldBeHarrietVane, thank you so much for your comments. It is really interesting to hear from somebody with a similar background for whom it is important and I really appreciated your recommendations. On the dad thing, yes, I've told the father that I will tell DD the truth about who he is and so he knows it is possible she will come looking for him later on. I think it probably sounds easier to him to postpone a difficult moment than to tackle it sooner!

Zzzenagain, I just can't contact the family, they don't know me at all and it would be so inappropriate - and they're abroad, so I don't think it would be helpful in any case. If the situation was slightly different I'd think this was a really good idea though! Thank you so much also for the AISH.com site recommendation.

MrsFrederickWentworth, what a lovely lovely anecdote to hear. I am thinking carefully about sponsors/godparents and planning on giving DD a double dose - four rather than the usual two - to make up for the lack of parent smile

WouldBeHarrietVane Tue 28-May-13 17:48:38

Glad the thread helped smile

I just had another idea - would it be nice if your dd is interested when she is old enough for her to have a pen pal in Israel? Would be a nice way for her to make contact with a Jewish child of a similar age.

MrsFrederickWentworth Tue 28-May-13 22:47:43

We gave Ds masses of gps because we are elderly parents and wanted him to have masses of adults around if anything happened. So he has 6. With a range of talents and interests. Some are more engaged than others. That's on top of the aunts etc..

The more the merrier, say I , apart from the think you letters.

MrsFrederickWentworth Tue 28-May-13 22:50:29

And both DSis and I had 4 gps each. Sounds normal to.me.

specialsubject Wed 29-May-13 15:19:08

I have to say that as he had sex outside marriage with a non-Jew, he is a little selective about his 'practising' and is unlikely to be Orthodox.

also be aware that if his parents are observant Jews, the sudden revelation of an illegitimate child with a non-Jewish mother will be a shocker. Not your fault, not your problem but be prepared for some bizarre reactions. That said, as so many Jews now marry 'out' or live together, the community as a whole is becoming somewhat more tolerant. Probably because everybody loves babies!

all this does not exempt him from paying for the baby.

your child will not be Jewish as you, his mother, are not, and should your child wish to become Jewish later he/she will have to go through the conversion route. Judaism is quite unusual in that it is quite hard to get in!

you might want to do some reading while you have time; the Jewish Chronicle ('News of the Jews') is online at thejc.com and there is an 'ask the rabbi' column with all sorts of dilemmas.

good luck - teach your child about what people believe and then he/she can make up their own mind.

MerryMarigold Wed 29-May-13 15:37:11

OP, I know you feel it would be wrong and inappropriate to contact them, but I feel that if I were to have a grandchild, I would really want to know whether my son is irresponsible or not. It's something for you to think about. If your really want her to connect with her heritage, then it could be in that way. But I guess you would also need to be open to that rejection as well if they don't want to know. For me, a connection with that side of her family would be the only point of getting involved with Judaism.

Personally (although I don't speak from experience), I would forget the Jewish links as it somehow would be a reminder that he's not around and didn't want her (why do you do Jewish things when your Mum isn't Jewish?), that there's this huge part of her life missing rather than just letting it fade into the background and her Dad becoming unimportant. I don't know, maybe that is wrong and someone on here who had no Dad could tell you better the way forward. You may have a chance to start a new life with someone else one day and she may have other brothers/ sisters where you wouldn't want to be emphasising that she is different.

Just because she looks Jewish doesn't make any difference, I don't think. I look quite Jewish and I am half Asian!! (nothing Jewish in my family at all).

MrsFrederickWentworth Fri 31-May-13 23:27:05

And I look extremely like some Jewish people, get blessed in parks by kind chaps who are horrified my parents didn't teach ne Hebrew when young, have a cousin who is a dead ringer for Stephen Fry, but unless our great great grandmother in Glasgow was having a more exciting life than we have been led to believe, am not Jewish.

If you are Scots or Welsh you can easily look levantine.

MareeeyaDoloures Sat 01-Jun-13 19:06:03

Do you have a mini-hope, rational or not, that he might (many, many years down the line) become a somewhat better absent-father if your dc is raised Jewish now? Or want/ need to understand Judaism yourself, as the expectant mother of a baby whose heritage will be 50% full-on-Jewish?

MareeeyaDoloures Sat 01-Jun-13 19:07:59

There are quite a few reputable 'ask the rabbi' sites online.

DontWorryYoniMe Sun 02-Jun-13 15:50:54

Thanks very much, everyone.

MareeeyaDoloures, yes I suppose part of me does wonder whether he will ever see her in future. I also just don't want to do the wrong thing by her, and leave her feeling disconnected from part of her heritage.

specialsubject, thank you for the 'ask a rabbi' suggestion! I am still not quite sure what I will do but I may well ask somebody again in future and see what they think about it all.

DontWorryYoniMe Sun 02-Jun-13 15:52:18

WouldBeHarrietVane, that is a totally brilliant idea about an Israeli penpal when she is older! I will definitely keep that on the to do list, it would be a really good gentle connection.

I still remember my penpals from when I was little! Miguel in Spain and Hema in India smile

scottishmummy Sat 15-Jun-13 12:29:21

tbh more important than faith is the pragmatic stuff,money.id be raising that
Jewish passes by maternal line.youre not Jewish,your baby won't be Jewish
I'd be seeing a lawyer ESP given he doesn't want family to know he to be a dad.

how on earth did you end up in a relationship with someone who did not want acknowledge your relationship or child.this has nothing to do with him being Jewish ,it has everything to do within being vile and underhand

you may want to open social contact with the grandparents,extended family but only if they kind and respectful to you and their grandchild.hopefully they have better moral compass and can value a loved child

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