Over Shabbat I read a book: “Doublelife” written by my friends Harold and Gayle Berman and their journey as intermarried couple. I have been following Harold’s blog and I was intrigued. I am not intermarried or from an intermarried family so I was not sure how relevant the book would be but we have developed a good friendship with Gayle and Howard over the past few years and was interested to learn more about their lives. I was captivated from the first page.
Gayle and Harold now live an Orthodox Jewish life in Efrat, outside of Jerusalem. But they traveled a long and fascinating journey to get there. Howard was born Jewish but came from a very secular/ reform background and Gayle converted to Judaism as part of their story.
I loved the depth and the ironies that they encountered while exploring Jewish life. One story made me chuckle but also gave food for thought. Howard was on the search committee for his synagogue for a new rabbi. One rabbi they interviewed was a reconstructionist rabbi and when the committee asked him if he observed Shabbat the answer was, “Yes, in my own way”, meaning that he and his family sometimes drive to a movie on Saturday afternoon. One of the board members explained the problem, “As conservative Jews, we go to the mall on Shabbat but we do not want to see our rabbi there”. We live in a world where people feel if they have a big, flashy bar mitzvah party or go see Old Jews Telling Jokes then they are living a Jewish life
It definitely made me laugh but also made me think how many of us are living a double life? Religiously, emotionally, socially, financially?
We all know the seemingly perfect couple who suddenly get divorced or the couples living the good life on credit card debt. Gavin and I have a conservative parenting style and we don’t believe in spoiling our kids. Relative to their peers they are not spoiled but relative to so many children in the world, they live a very privileged life. I often wonder what people living below the poverty line in various parts of the world would think of our lifestyle. Even though Gap is where I go for an “upmarket clothes shopping” rather than the usual Old Navy, there is no denying the comfortable and privileged life we live.
When we were struggling to get our daughter with Down syndrome included in a Jewish day school we repeatedly heard from the community and leadership how bad and sad it was that she was not included but no-one was willing to change the situation. We have so many clear examples from the Torah that the special needs, different, disabled are to be included in our community but the reality simply does not reflect that. Just one of many situations where people are living a Doublelife.
When I feel lost in life’s choices and predicaments I know that Torah is the ultimate guide. Torah does not change with the times. I just think of our parents who followed Dr Spok parenting; today there are thousands of parenting books offering contradictory ideas for parenting. The modern world has evolving views and shifting morality on every issue from parenting to gay rights. Let’s strive not to lead Double lives and use the 3300 year old guide given to us at Sinai to direct our lives
Originally published: May 22, 2013
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