A writer and photographer of German descent tells the story of how falling in love with and then marrying a Jewish man changed her life.
Gendler did not expect to meet "the man of her life" three weeks after her father's death, nor did she expect he would be Jewish, just like the man her Bohemia-born great-aunt Resi had wed and then divorced to protect herself and her children from the horrors of Nazism. Yet it soon became clear that Harry, who had grown up in Germany (as had the New Jersey–born author) but carried a French passport, was someone with whom she could share interests along with “a certain sense of not belonging.” The difference in their religious backgrounds, as well as Gendler’s own unfinished business with an ex-boyfriend and Harry’s fear of upsetting a father who would say “[Kaddish], the prayer for the dead” if he discovered the relationship, made them cautious to become closer. All too aware of the obstacles that stood in their way, they hid their relationship for more than two years from everyone except close friends. A trip to Israel and, later, to various Jewish memorials around Germany with Harry led to a deepening of Gendler’s interest in Jewish culture and religion and her eventual decision to marry him and convert to Judaism. Her decision to become “part of a minority saddled with centuries of prejudice” caused painful endings to long-standing friendships. It also created tensions with Harry’s parents, who the author realized would have waged “a steady and relentless war” to keep the pair apart had they known she and Harry were dating. A move to Chicago allowed the pair a chance to build a successful marriage and life away from those who would judge them. Interwoven with the story of Gendler’s great-aunt and illustrated with family photographs, the author’s story offers an intimate and interesting—though not especially compelling—look at one woman’s life choices and their outcomes.
A somewhat lackluster but candid and heartfelt memoir.