360 at 50: A Grandparents Guide to Raising Children All Over Again

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I know exactly who these people are. And the way she talks about them! Tsk, tsk. In fact, in Ms. This is not a story specifically about her grandparents, but rather her reaction to them, their behavior and her upbringing by an equally not-maligned father who either created or exacerbated this mess.

So if members of your own family behave badly, it must be kept a secret? Papa, your attitude is what keeps all kinds of abuse going. This writer has chosen to speak up about estrangement in a way that will be thought-provoking and useful for many readers. You are a courageous woman for doing what made the most sense to you.

Too bad your grandparents missed out on knowing you. As the bubbe of 12, I know how special grandchildren can be. I applaud your bravery in sharing this story. Nicely written, poignant article. Its so sad that your grandparents behaved that way. There is a lot more to this story than the writer is letting on to. Burying in the story in a glancing reference to the grandmother saying nasty things about the writers mother, for example. As an adult the writer you would think would take a different look at the grandparents motivations: it takes two to have a relationship and clearly the writers sister, and to a lesser degree the writer did little meaningful as a child and even less as an adult to build that relationship.

One visit 20 years ago? Clearly, the writers fathers family are fath seekers: the writer in Orthodox Judaism, her father in Hinduism and his father in the Episcopal Church. As much as the writer should be ashamed for assigning all blame on her grandparents, equally if not more to blame is her father- do other readers find it odd that even in an estranged relationship that a father would not tell her daughter that her grandfather had died- for two years?

He certainly should have attempted to play a greater role in building a relationship with his side of the family, and the writers mother should have done less that is making an assumption on my part to dissuade that relationship from forming. The writers grandmother is still alive. Your an adult, you have strong religious beliefs…they are old, seeking a way to find meaning in their lives.

My guess is that they have love for the writer, for their granddaughter. As a Messianic Jew, I can tell you that Rebecca understandably cut her grandparents out of her life. The way that her grandmother went about pursuing a relationship with her granddaughter and why she did so is entirely unacceptable. As Rebecca herself stated, her grandparents refused to even remotely expose her to Christian rituals and theology while they expected her to convert to Christianity. If they truly loved her, they would have let her explore the facets of their faith and let her make her decision, whether or not they agreed with her decision.

Which Jewish Ethnicity? Yet both are Jews because their faith, their Jewish theology, their Jewish belief system, their Judaism, is Jewish. Just as many people convert to Judaism, and thus become Jews, those Jews who convert to another faith are no longer Jews. Remember, the Jews determine who is a Jew — not ex-Jews who have become Christians, and not Christians themselves.

The Jews determine for themselves who is a Jew. The biblical basis for this is I Kings Elijah the prophet asked Jews who were beginning to slip into the worship of the idol, Baal,How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Gd of the Jews is Gd, follow Him! You cannot believe in two opposite, mutually exclusive ideas simultaneously. Judaism and Christianity believe in opposite, mutually exclusive ideas, and you cannot be a Jew and a believer that Jesus was the Christ at the same time.

Rabbi Moses Isserles demanded a formal conversion back to Judaism for those who had converted out, but then wanted to return. He demanded ritual immersion mikveh and repentance before a court of three Beit Din. The very famous rabbi, Moses ben Maimon, called Maimonides the Rambam , also wrote that if a Jew converted to Christianity, he or she was no longer a Jew. Thanks for your lengthy comment on my article. However, I felt it was important to share this facet of the story on its own because my intent when I tried to expand my relationship with my grandparents was to create a relationship independent of my parents divorce, etc.

The basis of the conditions they placed on their love were also independent of my parents, neither of whom raised my sister and me as Christians. Hate for who I was. I felt like my grandparents hated who I was once they recognized who I would never be. Moreover, the exclusion from the obituary of my sister and myself makes it doubtful that my grandmother loves me even now.

But I still would like to know and as I mentioned in other comments may pursue some leads to locate her. I assume responsibility for my own role in indefinitely withdrawing in adulthood and not earlier reconciling. Be well! One thing I have come to realize in my life is that you owe nothing to someone simply because of a mistake of genes.

While some of who we are due to our ancestors, who we chose to be in our own lives is solely dependent on us. You do not have to respect nor care for those who have no care or respect for you. It is a two-way street and simply because someone is elderly does not mean they ipso facto deserve your respect. Also simply because you share a genetic bond does not make someone family either. Family is about unconditional love, care and support. Genetic has very little to do with it. What right did they have to denigrate those that gave love and support to the author?

They most likely blamed her mother for the choices their father made in life instead of looking within themselves, how they raised him, or quite frankly that he was entitled to make his own decisions in life as well. In the end it came out that whatever issues there were with their son, the paternal grandparents blamed these issues on the fact that her mother and by extension the author is Jewish. The author can do better than this woman and her offspring.

However, the issue is whether her paternal relatives would actually be accepting of her and her sister or if the author actually cares at this point. She can figure out her native American heritage and other aspects of her heritage without them. Something tells me she will be better off in the longrun. Sorry if I offended you, for some reason. It was entirely unintended. Your comment is taken out of context, and frankly twisted.

Oy Vey! Mike Doyle is right.

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Talk about Jewish guilt? You sound like a wonderful person — tell yourself that, and get over this. How utterly sad! And I see both sides at fault for this failed relationship. No one seemed to make an effort to really talk and communicate and express their beliefs and ask the other one to understand and respect. Where is the religion here? In the first place, neither side of the family seems to me to have the true sense of what their own religion should be.

Where is the love and understanding that religion should bring to a person? It seems such a waste. Too much selfishness involved. And it is too late. Perhaps the children can be taught how incredibly wrong this was and it is time to stop blaming one or the other. Just talk, communicate, forgive and believe me, you will all feel better.

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Anger and bitterness never helps. Generations appear to hold a myopic opinion of those members of the past; their own, however, will many times not be spared similar judgments in the future.

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Our lives are colored by the prism of the light that guides us; most times not a light of our own choosing. Learn and grow from your experiences to brighten and expand your own illumination because no one can offer what they do not first possess. Rather religion is being used to work out some very unhealthy dynamics. Their relationship with their son seems to give a clue.

Sad for the family. What a burden was placed on the grandchildren!


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I wonder if anything here is really about religion. It seems more about control. UCC and Episcopal churches are usually pretty liberal. He apparently gave up contact with the kids.


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  • Grandparents had very little contact. If their purpose was really conversion it would have made more sense to have a great deal of contact. People criticizing the writer need to remember she was just a kid when this started. Little kids should not be blamed for family dysfunction.

    The letter the grandmother wrote seems very strange. I wonder if she had also suffered a small stroke or had a medical condition that caused the strange and bitter expression in the letter. This does seem to me to be about religion. Religion is being used to work out some very unhealthy family dynamics. I hope the writer of this article is able to make peace with herself about this terrible burden that was put on the grandchildren in this family.

    She sounds like a wonderful loving granddaughter. There are times all one can do is let go of a relationship. You make a good point about the affect of aging on how our elders communicate. What you seem to forget is your grandmothers age, that she is of a different era. You did and therefore you have the advantage. It was most likely done by the undertaker who knew the family. I am seperated and it was I who kept my son in contact with his fathers relatives, not his father as I felt it was his entitlement to know them.

    They are very close now that he is an adult and a father himself.. I do agree with you , Rebecca but my problem is not religion but the knowledge of science… I am a total non-believer but respect all religions… You see…..

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    Having 2 daughters from my first beautiful pure Sephardic wife they grew up without imposed religion which did not affect one but the other… who married into a family with absolute no foggy concept of what religion is all about…. My eldest married twice and divorced the equal number seeing no material nor mental gain in both her relation…. He is pure Jewish but does not practice, is a solid real estate man.. But America being what it is and super shy of science I became the akward know-it-all queer with 2 masters in Naval Engineering….

    I know too much… I am the pariah.. Rebeccah,I know this is many days past your writing but I am hoping to add a small bit of information not privy to all people. It sounds insane but hear me out. If you recognize how strongly held this belief is and then look at their actions it may become clearer to you. They truly believe that you and yours will spend eternity in flames and agony. It plays on the mind and the heart in a myriad of ways. I bet every card they sent was meticulously looked at for a message that may covertly change your religious view,prayed over and sent with the best of intentions.

    I realize this is total disrespect of your own beliefs,practices even identity but all they can see is two people they love who are going to suffer greatly. She knew that letter may cause even more estrangement but her motives behind it were of sincere yet misguided love. I hope this helps you see another side of the story. Thanks for sharing your insight and experience.

    Honestly, I wish I had kept the letter. Reading it now as a more mature adult no longer a 22 year-old student would be very, very different. But even on the hard days, it is my job to notice the good, the light, the potential in my children and love them just the same. In fact, a child who disappoints us probably needs our love expressed more. Thus, when my grandmother wrote a uniformly negative letter that not only outright rejected my choices in life, but provided no positive words to balance them out, it was difficult to see any love there.


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    Had she cushioned he words with affection, apology, or remorse for not previously being a bigger part of my life , the message would have been received differently, I think. After the years ticked by, I feel my own desire to love unconditionally. But when I received that letter, I was still very much a child in many ways.

    I look at the person I was then and feel compassion for my younger self much the same way I feel compassion for my own children or for my former students. Bless you Rebeccah for being the kind and thoughtful woman you are. I am sorry things are so difficult sometimes but somehow I believe it all makes us grow into an independent person. You are obviously the better person in every way for seeing degrees when some restrict their sight to such a small area. If I was your grandmother I would be very proud of you. If she wanted your conversion out of love then she should have demonstrated the superiority of her values.

    Constant showering of love and attention with invitation to prayer and service is the way to show family they are loved and that you honor the values that Jesus as Christ stood for. Good luck and peace and happiness to you and your family. You have strong convictions, and distorts the Christian concept of the religious sect.

    It is an abyss distort their grandparents. Creadme live and apprehend Catholics of all cultures and are enriched in the way of good living. What stands out is the difficulty it caused for you. Thank you for sharing a painful part of your family history. It resonates with those of us who have similar, difficult family relationships. It makes sharing something so personal worthwhile. I hope that people in similar conflicts consider how their children will be affected in the future. I am so sorry that this has happened to you. I really wish I had the wisdom of Solomon that had the words to say that would heal.

    Being a christian, I find it very hard to understand this attitude in people who claim to know the Yeshua of scripture who was Jewish. I have had non Christian family members, and I love them… period. Do I hope someday that they will know this Yeshua? Of course I do, but in the end, G-d does His own work.

    We are taught in scripture that love is the thing G-d uses to reach us. These are very high benchmarks, and I hope that in time G-d will bring me closer to hearing and understanding and doing these, and in that spirit I want to say that for whatever it is worth my heart goes out to you. Again, I wish that I had words that could heal, and at the end of the day I hope that these words do not ring hollow. Rebecca, what you are missing and maybe will never understand is that your grandparents wished for your conversion simply because they loved you very very much.

    Christian parents of non-Christian children agonize over these children and the same goes for grandparents and their grandchildren. Whether Christians obey Matthew or not, they will always pray for non-believers in their family and look for opportunities to share the Good News. If you choose to be offended, that is your choice, but I look on your strained relationship with your grandparents as a result of their spiritual ineptitude as well as the probability that they blame your mother for their son turning to a false religion.

    Remember that God told Abraham in Genesis that the whole world would be blessed through him and his seed. If you turn away from you grandmother that is your business as well. Its too bad that this is looked as a Jewish issue. Your grandparents from your description, which is very limited, were myopic and very self centered. It also seems like your sister took after them. Your father sounds very mixed-up, but with the parents he had, its understandable. Your better off without them. It would always be a one way street, with you chasing their acceptance.

    Its too bad that issues of religion divided your family. Its too bad that religion continues to divide society. It would be best if religion, and fog it brings, would disappear. We are all fools or fooled. Keep to your study your religion that is the only truth, use your reasoning to determine what you should do or not do, G-d loves you. As an american christian currently living in israel and have been a resident here for the last 4 years there is so much i would like to say so many questions I would like to ask you, but I am not sure you would hear me to be honest.

    I respect your religion and your beliefs and your choices because they are yours to have and to make. You became angry for their beliefs yet you wanted yours respected? I am just slightly confused about somethings is all. I understand all to well how hard it is at times when two religions join together in one family buttttttttttt that being said its only has hard as you yourself make it.

    I would love the chance to talk with you if there is a chance of that please let me know. You would not exist without your grandparents, but you have chosen a set of divisive believes over your own flash and blood. You made this choice — being Jewish vs being Human — not your grandparents, as misguided as they were in their quest to make you switch to another set of divisive believes.

    Now they are gone and there is no way to fix it. I hope your children will not repeat your mistakes. The progression of differences expressed in the article mimic my own, except in my case it is because I am atheist and my parents are southern baptists. For me, I endured so many years of their prostelyzations, not coming to my wedding but sending a family bible instead I married and currently live overseas… and do in no small part to that whole situation , and much more.

    Being that my wife fit both in that, and remembering how they had at our last visit spoken so well of her and their like of her, it was so painful to read how they were so hatefully ignorant and contradictory in what they were saying. At first they did then they started up again at which point I warned I would block their mails if it continued. From that point they stopped. Now, the only acknowledgements between us occur at holidays with e-cards or gifts and even then they still drop the religious sentiment here or there.

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    It hurts and were it not for my wife as an anchor and perspective from both a life and culture that is predominantly devoid of this, I would have become extremely miserable. Reconciling with such a lonely feeling in their regard is something I will have to do for the rest of my life. But this experience is not limited to just parents but friends, aquaintances, and more; but the hardest was the cancerously slow erroding that has occurred with my parents. Im rambling I think at this point due to just the the thoughts and feelings that are welling up. At any rate, thank you for writing this article.

    Your story is sad but without religions involvement most probably would never had occurred. Was i being smug? Well, many people might say that the dysfunctionality in my family of origin was due to atheism. Some Christians for instance get smug about being Christian. My purpose is just to advocate a higher standard for atheists. And it keeps getting bigger, with initiatives like internet. In terms of revenue per user - a particularly interesting stat that Facebook highlights in their results - the numbers declined slightly in all markets, but interesting to note the comparison between the significant amount per user Facebook makes in the US and Canada, underlining the potential for similar in other markets.

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    Ah summer. I remember being outside from daybreak until the streets lights came on, and sometimes even after. We used to ride our bikes and pretend we were cars. Blue bikes got to be police; a wagon tied to another was an ambulance. And then there was the peculiar ice cream truck. Why in the world was a turned-over tricycle that we pedaled with our arms an ice cream truck? Despite the fact that it looked nothing like our favorite Good Humor Man vehicle, to us, it was an ice cream truck.

    Other adults have told me they did the same thing, though it really makes no sense at all. I like to think our childish minds were simply being innovative. Books covered with a tissue became a doll bed.



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