Dear Babka: How do I break it to my orthodox parents that I no longer want to keep kosher?

Dear Babka,

I grew up in an Orthodox home. I love the memories I have of growing up and keeping Shabbat, the values that were instilled in me, and the warmth I feel about my Judaism. However, as I have gotten older, I have explored more of my Judaism and what it means to me. As a result, I realized keeping kosher is not important to me anymore. I do not feel I need to keep kosher in order to fulfill my Jewish customs. How do I break it to my orthodox parents that I no longer want to keep kosher?

Dear Unkosher living,

Oftentimes we are brought up in the eyes of our parents’ desires. How we dress, how we speak, how we pray, what we believe, and how we live our day to day lives. It is typically as a teenager that individuals start to realize their own desires. Sometimes they coincide with our parents’, but oftentimes they are the exact opposite. Whether this is an act of questioning or self discovery is not always clear until we reach adulthood. 

It seems from your submission that you have had time to discover yourself and come to terms with who you are. You seem to be someone who appreciates your upbringing and the traditions that were instilled in you at a young age. However, just because we appreciate some things from our upbringing, does not mean we have to live by all things that we experienced in our childhood. 

The fact of the matter is, your parents may not have always lived their lives in the way they reared you. They may have had a time when they were rebellious. What brought them to their discovery of wanting to live an Orthodox life? Did they ever experiment with not keeping the sabbath? Have they had months, weeks, or years in their lives when they decided they could not follow all the rituals and customs of Judaism? This is a question you could engage them in. 

Learn more about their Jewish journey and see where they may have lost or gained faith, where they have decided to break the rules, or what rules they felt could never have been broken. By having a conversation about their Jewish journey, not only are you learning more about them, but you may also realize that it is not as black and white as it is perceived.

Once you have this conversation, you might gain the courage to talk about your own Jewish journey. What do you appreciate about your childhood? What has been hard for you as you have become an adult? Opening up and sharing your experiences will help your parents understand the many things you value about your Jewish identity and upbringing. 

After this conversation, you may also feel more confident and comfortable sharing how your Judaism continues to evolve as you get older. You may decide not keeping kosher is something you want to try, until you decide that you want to keep kosher again. Or maybe, it becomes a life-long decision and you decide to live your life Jewishly in other ways that are more meaningful to you. With this, your parents may find some disappointment in your decision, but by opening up the conversation about their Jewish journey and your Jewish journey, they may also find more empathy and understanding in your choices. 

You are not turning your back on the way you were raised, you are just now deciding what the most meaningful way to celebrate your Judaism is. If you do not find the spiritual connection in kashrut and are able to have an open conversation with your parents about it, they could have more empathy for you as you continue to discover your Jewish self as an adult. 

This is a powerful feat and you can be successful in this conversation. Remember, empathy is a powerful tool and it can help you discover a new perspective both about your parents and yourself. Good luck to you in this conversation!


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