'And other great Jews,' I added quickly. 'Spinoza, for instance, and Epstein.'
Mother looked at me a little sadly. She wasn't licked, but she was for the moment out of arguments.
What Ben's mother said to him I can only conjecture, for he has never told me. 'Ben,' she most likely said, 'it grieves my old heart to have you marry a Shiksa rather than one of us. The old persecutions are rising again throughout the world. We have need, as never before, to stick to our own people and traditions.'
But, loving Ben above the rest of her children, she probably also said, 'Well, then, if you love her and are sure that she is the one woman for you, you have my blessing. Above everything I want you to be happy.'
Our mothers met, embraced, and promptly forgot their differences in purely feminine discussions of wedding plans (we were to be married by a civil judge to eliminate difficulties), motherly landings of their respective offspring, and the honeymoon. Once marriage loomed up as a certainty, not another word against Ben's race or religion escaped my mother's lips. She could have maintained this negative attitude and still have preserved the family peace. But gradually, as she learned to know Ben better and saw how fine he was, and how good to her daughter, there came shy words of affection and admiration.
'He's a fine young man with a great future,' I hear her tell her friends, with pride in her voice. 'The Jews make excellent husbands; so I've always maintained.'
'But,' she always adds, 'I am happy to say Ben is not at all Jewish in his make-up. He doesn't look Jewish and his ways are not Jewish, In fact, you wouldn’t think he was a Jew at all.'
Naturally, to our friends, the most interesting aspect of our marriage is its interracial side, I know that even now many of them, aware of my pro-German leanings, still chuckle behind our backs; 'Well, well, our little Nazi Gertrude had to go and marry a Jew, of all people.'
At, one time at another almost every one of my intimates has asked me sotto voce, ‘What is it like, living with a Jew? Is he very Jewish? Do you ever discuss the differences between you?'
It was this that finally propelled me to our typewriter—to tell the world how it really is between a Jew and a Christian, since the world is evidently so intensely interested. I wish I could say that, because Ben and I have worked through to complete happiness, there is no reason why Jews and Gentiles everywhere cannot live peaceably and happily side by side. But I am afraid that this harmonious relationship can come about only when Gentiles stop being one-hundred-per-cent Gentiles and Jews one-hundred-per-cent Jews—when both sides drop their false pride of race, their hidebound, worn-out, traditions, and meet each other halfway.
Yes, we discuss our differences. Our discussions are not frequent because I seldom think of Ben as being Jewish, and he seldom thinks of me as a Gentile. We are just Ben and Gertrude to each other. It is that way when you love. But when we do have discussions we fire away freely. I know that in many Christian-Jewish alliances it is thought wiser and more conducive to marital harmony to treat these differences as nonexistent, to shroud them in a veil of silence. Ben and I have always looked upon this as an unhealthy practice. To throttle a subject and make it forbidden, we think, leads to distortion and often to explosion.