Dear Debra

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DarvickNeed some advice? Send your request to DearDebra@renmedia.us, and be sure to look for Debra’s reply in the next Red Thread.

Dear Debra: I was recently invited to a wedding for a couple, both in their 50s. It is the second marriage for each of them. I don’t want to offend anyone by giving either too much or too little as a gift. Is a monetary gift even appropriate? The couple sent no information regarding a bridal registry. What’s a guest to do?  To Gift or Not to Gift 

Dear To Gift,

Imagine the riff George Carlin would have done on the “stuff” of second-time marrieds!

A gift for those remarrying is not a requirement. However, your desire to acknowledge their marriage with something tangible is as understandable as it is generous. You could give the couple a certificate to their favorite restaurant. Or consider joining with mutual friends and order three/six/12 months of flowers to arrive on each month’s anniversary. A gift of money would not be appropriate. If they are throwing themselves a wedding, they surely have the means to meet their own expenses. But a donation to their favorite charity would also be a lovely gesture.

Dear Debra: I have wonderful in-laws — supportive, loving and not intrusive. They are very involved in Jewish community organizations. Even though they are not pushing my husband and me to get involved, I feel that the expectation is there, which makes me feel inadequate and also that I may be disappointing them.

     Right now, my husband and I are focusing on our careers, (growing family, etc.) and enjoying not being in school. How do I show my in-laws that I respect what they are doing, but that this may not be the life that we choose, without disappointing them or not meeting their expectations? Non-Committal 

Dear Non,

How fortunate you are to have supportive, loving, non-intrusive in-laws. And they are not even pushing you and your husband to follow their lead and match their involvement in Jewish community organizations! They indeed sound like wonderful stand-up folks.

The bigger issue seems to be your own inner conversation and ambivalence about not being as involved as they are. It is laudable that you do not want to disappoint your in-laws, but do you know for a fact that they are actually disappointed in you? They already know that Jewish communal volunteerism is not the life you are choosing because you and your husband are focusing elsewhere, which is your right as an adult married couple.

As for showing respect for their efforts, listen actively when they choose to share their latest project and maybe even ask how they got involved, what they love most, etc. If they ask you to attend an event on occasion, make time to join them.

You sound like a caring, sensitive daughter-in-law. Let go of the anxiety over doing as they do and, instead, maintain genuine interest in their efforts. And stay open to the entire concept of Jewish community organizations. You and your husband may one day want to get involved with volunteer efforts as a family. At that point, your in-laws will be a valuable resource and an enthusiastic source of support and approbation.

A Mea Culpa

In last month’s column, Day School Dad wrote about the struggle he and his wife were having over sending their kids to Jewish day school. In advising that home ritual and summer camp can also steep children in Jewish values, rhythms and values, I partially missed the mark. Dr. Melissa Ser, Director of Congregational Learning at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, filled in an important piece of the equation:

“Synagogue schools educate the whole family in a supplementary environment that might meet the family’s needs better. Day school is not the only option for a vibrant and full Jewish education, especially if the family is actively engaged in Judaism,” Ser wrote. 

Thank you, Dr. Ser, for keeping me on my toes, and providing solid advice and perspective on an issue debated by many families.

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