Letter to My Brother

An introduction to the letter below:
The Genesis Prize Foundation selected Michael Douglas as the 2015 Genesis Prize Laureate, citing his professional achievement in the film industry and commitment to his Jewish heritage. Particularly compelling about his story is his choice to affiliate with Judaism, as the son of one Jewish parent and one non-Jewish parent, and after marrying someone who is not Jewish. We launched a blog in March 2015 to encourage a conversation around meaningful ways to involve intermarried families in the Jewish community. Since its inception, we have had several contributors publish original pieces. One of the submissions to our blog was a moving, emotional piece, and I wanted to share it here. As you can imagine, some of the most interesting stories and reflections on this topic are also the most personal ones, and as such, the author has asked us to keep his name private. Therefore, please read the letter below with permission from the original author.

-- Jill W. Smith
Deputy CEO
Genesis Prize Foundation

Dear Brother,

I was wrong, and I am sorry. I was fearful that when you married someone who wasn't Jewish and to whom conversion was not a significant consideration, that we would lose you, mom wouldn't have Jewish grandchildren, and that everything that is beautiful about Judaism that we both love would cease. I saw it as the end of a generation and that you would have a life filled with difficulties because of whom you fell in love with and married. But two years into your marriage I've had some realizations that have changed my perspectives and views as a person on interfaith marriages. You see one of the beautiful things about being Jewish is that we can and do ask for forgiveness for our wrongs and we change. There is a cycle to this process: we feel bad, we express regret, we change our ways, we apologize, and we make a commitment not to do that again. I feel like in the past few years I've gone through that cycle. I'm sorry that I prejudged you and your wife. Just because you didn't fit into the constructs that I had formed for who my brother would marry doesn't mean that those constructs were justified in hanging on to. The constructs that I had needed to be deconstructed were torn down.

But now, I see that you have the opportunity to strengthen your connection with Judaism through your wife. I am impressed by how she went out and learned how to make the Passover charoset, the Hanukkah Latkes, and her natural curiosity. I was impressed that you both came to Israel and the impact it had on her. She felt a connection and was able to feel the suffering and joy of our people and history.

I am sorry if I ever made light of your relationship, or spoke badly about either of you. Much of this was out of fear of losing my best friend and only sibling. I consider myself as being an open minded person; I'm disappointed in myself for my behaviors and thoughts. Just expressing them to you in this letter gives me hope that I can repair any damage that may of been done, or bring us closer than we have been ever before.

But know that you are not alone. Your marriage is the increasing norm. It is important that I, along with everyone else, am able to adjust to the times while honoring our past. I have changed my perspectives and ways. I feel terrible for having caused you and your wife any pain or discomfort. I promise that I have changed, and I am so very sorry. Will you please forgive me?

I love you dearly, and your wife too. I'm sorry for my thoughts and how they were reflected or felt in action. I never meant to hurt you and only want the best for you. I was at one time embarrassed to say that you were married to someone of another faith. Really, that was my insecurity. But now I feel secure, and I can say without embarrassment that my brother is in an inter-faith relationship. They both work very hard to strengthen each other and she works hard to strengthen his Jewish identity. Judaism teaches that if I am to judge, that I should judge favorably. And by my judgment, I am thankful to have you both as family and look forward to you having a beautiful life, a Jewish life together. Oh, and sister-in-law, thanks for making my brother a better, more committed Jew.

I wish you many years of love, joy, and happiness.


Your Brother