So about 5 months ago, my agnostic brother married an Orthodox Jew in a private ceremony to which I wasn't invited (don't get me started - because I am trying to be "over it"). My family is really a hodge-podge of religions, as we were encouraged by my parents to "find what is right for us".
The religion thing REALLY isn't an issue for us (although when we heard "Orthodox Jew", we all kinda got a little nervous about Easter...just like you aren't sure about inviting a Mormon to a kegger, you don't know what to think when an OJ is coming to your "ham & heavy cream extravaganza")...we made sure that we made "as kosher as we could" dishes for her (my sister just DOESN'T have separate cooking utensils, but we made Kosher dishes for her at Easter and provided paper plates if she wanted them. Considering she chose to eat off regular china and a few other clues, there is a bunch of speculation that she is looking at marrying my brother as an "excuse" to move from Orthodox to Conservative or even Reform...at least in the eyes of her family).
She is sweet, a great Aunt (kids are NOT in their future), sarcastic, biting (just like me) and completely in love with my brother. She is everything I could have hoped for in a SIL.
Because her family is Orthodox and my only exposure to Judaism has been through my mom converting to Reform Judaism and having exposure to only the Reform way, I don't know what to think about an invite from her stepmom to a Sheva Brachot. When I got the "Save the Date" from my brother, I immediately called him and he explained that their tradition is a series of 7 "parties" to introduce the married couple to different social groups. That's fine. I actually think that is an AWESOME thing that builds community. So here are a few questions:
As the sister of the groom, I feel obligated (and not in a bad way) to attend as many of these as I can. Is a gift expected at each one of these? I would have probably given my brother an $x gift at his wedding (if he had had the traditional one). I would hate to think I needed to give him an $x/7 gift at each one...because I would rather give them one GREAT gift than 7 "lesser" ones.
I know that there are many Orthodox and Conservative Jews in this forum. How many of these am I expected to attend as the sister of the groom? Obviously, I will attend as many as possible, but my husband is a retail manager and we are heading in to Christmas Season (ironic - no?). If I can attend 4 of the 7, but the other 3, because of Hubs schedule, would require me to get a babysitter...am I in the "clear" for not attending all of them?
Finally - all these invites that I am getting seem to be some generic invite that they created in Word, then pasted in to an email sent ONLY to my personal email (my brother learned LONG ago that my husband only checks his email about every 3 weeks, so I am sure mine is the only email that they have). The problem is, there is no mention in the email of "Your family is invited, etc", so I am not clear if kids are invited (I am assuming my husband is invited). I sent the following email to the stepmother of the "bride" (in quotes since they have been married since June...although in fairness, she did send my sister and I an additional email explaining the whole tradition of the 7 blessings):
Thanks so much for inviting us and I already put it on my calendar after I got a “Save the Date” from XXX & XXX (and XXX did explain to me this whole “7 events/blessings” thing. It’s completely foreign to me, but it sounds like a wonderful tradition).
Just one quick question – is it ok if I bring my 3 children (they are ages 6, 9 & 11)? If not, that is perfectly fine and I will try to arrange childcare (or XXX will stay home and I will come). If children are welcome, please let me know!
I guess I am looking to get some guidance through the Sheva Brachot process. With my brother being a complete agnostic (and we joke about him marrying an Orthodox Jew 6 months after he completed a "30 Days Of Pork" cooking challenge...it's complicated), but with her seeming to be completely cool and willing to fit herself in to our "family culture", I just want to make sure that I do everything I can to respect her culture/traditions/upbringing.
If it matters, I am seriously considering being rebaptized in my own church (I was baptized in a different denomination over 20 years ago) and I am especially attuned to possible issues that it can create at family dinners - might just be my over-paranoia!
Edited for formatting