Diary of a BT: The Family of My Dreams


Beryl Tritel, LMSW


Everyone has an opinion about this word. After all, we all come from one, and we hopefully will create a new one, as well. Whether you are part of a close-knit family, or one that likes to keep their distance, there “ain’t nothing like family” – for good or for bad.

While we didn’t celebrate many holidays when I was growing up, Thanksgiving was sacrosanct. Nobody missed Thanksgiving. After all, here was the big chance for us to “be like everyone else.” This was my one opportunity a year to compare plans with my non-Jewish public school friends. How many relatives would be at our different houses? What was being made? It was great.

Sitting at the Thanksgiving table, eating my mother’s turkey, my grandmother’s matzah stuffing (which I still make even today), and my aunt’s apple pie created a sense of togetherness as we ate and schmoozed. Often, long after the plates had been cleared and the coffee drunk, we would sit and talk about life. Sharing confidences with my cousins, spending time with aunts, uncles, and grandparents was a wonderful way for me to remember that I was part of a greater whole.

When I was becoming frum, I loved being at people’s Shabbos tables. The kids, the food, the conversations, the bickering, the chaos, the connection – I thought it was all great. Coming from a pretty small immediate family, with not a lot of extended family, the energy and camaraderie that was found in these homes was something so special that I wanted it too. It was like Thanksgiving every single week.

Some of the more touching scenes that I remember are sitting at a yom tov table and seeing the grandparents shepping nachas from the grandchildren. Seeing the cousins play together. I couldn’t wait for my family to have it too.

Once I became frum, Thanksgiving got a lot more complicated. No longer could I eat the turkey my mother prepared, or the stuffing or pies that went along with it. I tried making it all myself for a few years, but the comments about how “dry the kosher turkey is” made it hard to swallow (on all levels). But, I was determined not to let any of it get to me, and it did get a bit better once I got married, as everyone’s behavior shaped up in front of my new husband.

When I started having children, I couldn’t wait for those Shabbos scenes to be replayed in my own home.

And, baruch Hashem, we have it all: the kids, the food, the conversations, the bickering, the chaos, and the connection that we all share. I love it. (Though, I have to say, I don’t remember thinking about how I was going to referee the bickering, or serving a meal while there is a temper tantrum going on. But, I digress…)

However, there remains one yawning gap: There aren’t the grandparents. There aren’t the cousins.

Don’t get me wrong. Our children have wonderful grandparents, and they love each other very much. And when we get together for a few days, and the visit includes a Shabbos, we are honored to have them at our table.

But, there is a difference. The grandparents in those scenes were able to test their grandchildren on the parshah and shep real nachas over their learning. They could relate to their grandchildren in a way that is missing between our children and their grandparents.

As for cousins? It may seem obvious, but, no one told me that just because I became frum didn’t mean that I would magically get Orthodox siblings who would have Orthodox children.

So, our children have each other. And for all of the hustle, bustle, fighting, laughing, and memories being made, the lack of cousins to share it with is palpable. They hear their friends talk about “Shabbos at Bubby’s” or “Going to see their cousins this chol hamoed.” And they look at me, and I look at them, and we both wish that it was different. In terms of extended family, we wish that we had some that shared our values and lifestyle. But we don’t. At least not yet.

Baruch Hashem, our children are growing up. Our oldest just graduated from high school, and she is about to start her seminary year. We daven that as our family grows up and expands, we will soon merit to see the table of my memories.

And of my dreams.

Beryl Tritel, LMSW is an individual and marriage therapist, specializing in the full range of Women’s Life Issues. She has offices in Ramat Bet Shemesh and at The Place in Jerusalem. She also sees clients all over the world over via Skype. She can be reached at 011-972-58-9454 or at beryltritel@gmail.com