Thanking Fathers of Other Religious Backgrounds

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Children teach us the truths of living. On Father’s Day each year, children look to their fathers as heroes. While they may be simple men doing the hard work of daily living like most others, in the eyes of their children, no matter the age, they are heroes nonetheless. We have a lot to learn from these children, especially when they are being raised as Jewish children by non-Jewish fathers. In the Jewish community, these fathers should be celebrated for the heroes they really are.


  1. My dad is a hero to me, and to others. And I want to thank him on this Father’s Day.

    He taught me to value every individual;
    to love the ideals that contribute to every individual being able to live her or his life freely and to shape his or her own destiny;
    to love our country, our community, for its ideals and its best self–not blindly, but with the love that can criticize in hopes of improvement, while looking with clear eyes at both the triumphs and the tragedies of the past.

    He was born in Havana, Cuba, to a Catholic Cuban mother and a Protestant Kentuckian father of Scots-Irish descent, while his father was serving in the Coast Guard during World War II. When war ended, his mother brought this baby home to Bowling Green, Kentucky–where she had gone for secretarial school and met my grandfather. My father grew up there, and learned from them and those around him, and went off to far-away Cambridge, Massachusetts for college at Harvard.
    And then to University of Chicago law school, where one day in his second year he met a pretty girl named Judith Solow, a Brooklyn-born descendant of Russian Jewish immigrant stock. And he asked her out.
    And a year later, two days before Christmas, they married–under a chuppah, brought there by his parents and by hers, with a Reform rabbi officiating.

    I never knew that skinny young man in the formal wear and top hat, walking down that aisle to wait for his bride. Though I wore on my wedding day the dress he saw her approach in–altered to fit me, and to suit Louisville in August rather than Long Island in December–I will never know what it was like to be that man, that woman.
    But I am their child.

    They gave me the middle name Melora after a character in Stephen Vincent Benét’s book-length poem about the Civil War, _John Brown’s Body_. I am my father’s daughter, as John Vilas says of his daughter Melora:

    Because this daughter has too much of me
    To be content with bread made out of wheat.
    To be in love and give it up for rest.
    To live serene without a knife at heart.
    (John Brown’s Body, Book Eight)

    This refusal to settle for less when the heart yearns for more and the mind dreams of better–it may cost us some present happiness, some comfort, some satisfaction with the world that we have found. But it also drives us forward, as Benét saw:

    We made this thing, this dream.
    This land unsatisfied by little ways,
    Open to every man who brought good will,
    This peaceless vision, groping for the stars,

    We made it and we make it and it’s ours.
    We shall maintain it. It shall be sustained.
    (“Listen to the People: Independence Day, 1941”)

    So I suppose in a way this Father’s Day reflection comes appropriately between Flag Day and Fourth of July, because I often feel that my father’s story, my story, is the kind of story that used to make those new to this land exclaim:

    “Only in America!”

    These days, maybe not only–but especially–in America:

    can I be a one-quarter-Cuban Jew with an Irish last name;

    do I not have to choose between the culture of my country and the religion of my forebears;

    do I have the freedom to shape the life that I want, and the responsibility to make good use of that freedom.

    My father is not a Jew. But he raised me in a Jewish household. It happened to have just one Jewish parent in it–but it had two good parents in it, who both contributed to making me the person, Jew, woman I am today.
    If it’s not strange to say that my father helped make me the woman I am today, why should it be strange to say that he helped make me the Jew I am today, though he is neither a woman nor a Jew? He helped make me who I am, and I thank him.

    “Because this daughter has too much of me,” said John Vilas. And I say to my father:

    Because this daughter has too much of you to give up on the promise of all that you love, all you have built, all you have known–because of this, I am here now as who I am: American. Jew. Woman. Scholar. Wife. Sister.


    Happy father’s day —

    to Danny Julian Boggs, son of Robert Boggs and Yolanda Pereda Boggs

    from Rebecca Melora Corinne Boggs, daughter of Danny Boggs and Judith Susan Solow Boggs,
    b’Yisrael: Rivkah Leah bat Yehudit Sarah…v’ha-shofet Danny!

    Comment by Becca — June 17, 2005 @ 6:18 pm

  2. This was beautifully written, and I especially liked the lines: “If it’s not strange to say that my father helped make me the woman I am today, why should it be strange to say that he helped make me the Jew I am today, though he is neither a woman nor a Jew? He helped make me who I am, and I thank him.” Great analogy.

    Comment by Paul Golin, Assistant Executive Director, JOI — June 20, 2005 @ 6:22 pm

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