Already a New Yorker for a decade when we met, my non-Jewish husband was somewhat intrigued by Jewish life.As he puts it, whether you take the subway or a taxi, you know if it is a Jewish holiday–the trains and taxis are rather empty on those days, and there are fewer beautiful women around.Its function is to remind a practitioner of the concepts and ideas of Buddhism, not to idolize the object, which is but a label for our mind to grasp the ideas better.Also, most Buddhists are vegetarian, quickly solving the problem of pork in the kitchen.His most common response in lieu of “no” is “Let’s think about it.” It took him a while to believe that when people argue around the table, participating in and interrupting several conversations simultaneously, they are having a great time, sharing a Jewish dinner, and are not going to break into a fight.It took years before this Buddhist man who barely tasted any fish in his life came around to gefilte fish (a traditional Jewish dish of stuffed fish or fish cutlets).The esoteric aspects of Judaism and Tibetan Buddhism are frighteningly similar.
Verbally, he also used to avoid discussing any personal feelings such as love or any negative feelings and thoughts. I had stayed to help clean up after a Buddhist prayer meeting I had attended in Queens.Young Tibetans, speaking Tibetan, Nepali and Hindi (none of which I knew at the time), came in for the secular Tibetan fundraising after-party. Don’t embarrass your hosts by asking them for things they can’t provide. Don’t ask to be shown the food while people are cooking. Eat and drink at least a little of whatever the host offers you. When lamas or elders come in or leave, you should stand up. If you meet a lama, remove your hat and bend down a little. Be patient with elders, and flatter them a little from time to time. Apart from questions about sex and love, feel free to ask any questions. Men and women shouldn’t sit too close to each other. Men should avoid making contact with women they don’t know. Don’t point your fingers at image of lamas, Buddhas or deities. Men should generally sit on the right hand side of the house. Don’t pass things like clothes or shoes over the stove. On the other hand, we both agree a Jewish-Buddhist relationship is probably the easiest cross-cultural mix.Compared to other “mixed” couples, we can tolerate our cultural differences, and are open to the religious differences of our numerous Jewish relatives and Tibetan friends.My husband was born in India, in exile from the communist Chinese occupation and genocide in Tibet.Neither of us has been to our true places of descent–the Middle East for me and Tibet for him.He assumed I was Israeli, and that like many Israelis he had met, I was interested in Buddhism and had stumbled upon a secular Tibetan get-together by accident.He spoke to me out of compassion for “the only white girl in the room.” But once we exchanged a few phrases, in limited Japanese and then fluent English, it became clear the world was not as we’d assumed.