Writing this particular column is a challenge, and here’s why. As most of you know, I avoid politics because that subject upsets everybody. I don’t touch serious religious topics because of so much intolerance. Of course, I realize this is Easter Week. Not only is today Good Friday but also the beginning of Passover — two important days for two major religions. No way could I cop out and do something silly or sappy, and the only other option was to tell my editor I was taking a pass. However, it occurred to me I haven’t missed a Friday, not even when my beloved husband Burt died suddenly of cardiac arrest. If I could do it then, I can do it now — but it has to be my truth.
I grew up in an Omaha Christian family who expected me to marry a Christian man, which I did, and it was a horrible, abusive marriage. But from that union I got a beautiful daughter and a firm resolve to never trust or marry again.
Meanwhile, far away in Brooklyn, N.Y., a boy had grown up in a Jewish family who expected him to marry a nice Jewish girl, which he did, and it was a miserable marriage, but that union produced two beautiful daughters. This man eventually ended up in Los Angeles, divorced and wary of women. He was a successful businessman in the entertainment industry, and I worked for a large franchising company in Beverly Hills.
This was the late ’60s, and psychological testing was in vogue in the business world. My company wanted Burt Lippman, who was well known for his financial smarts. In February 1969, they lured him in for testing, and my job was to administer and score the tests — four hours of tests. He aced every one of them, and I secretly fell in love with his brain. I honestly took no notice that he was very tall and handsome. I was a professional and conducted myself as one. This man had the same ethics, and while he negotiated with my company for the next three months, we thought of one another, but that was it. After saying no to their cushy job offer, he called and asked me to dinner.
I was conflicted and terrified about everything. From the moment we met, I knew this man was more than special, but I was highly suspicious Burt might be Jewish. I didn’t know for sure, but agreed to one date. At dinner we never ran out of things to talk about. However, if he was Jewish, it would really complicate my life. I had to find out. To this day, I can’t believe how stupid I must have sounded. Here is a replay of us at that dinner table:
Me: “I’ve been wondering about something…”
Burt: “Sure, what?”
Me: (hesitating) “Uh, well, it’s like I’m curious about…” (long pause)
Burt: “So, what are you curious about?”
Me: (still hesitating) “Well, it’s just that, well, exactly what is your, uh, ethnic persuasion?” (Who even talks like that?)
Burt: “Are you asking if I’m Jewish?”
Me: (weakly) “I guess so.”
Burt: (not weakly) “Yes, I’m Jewish. Is that a problem?”
Oy vey! I couldn’t even imagine how all my evangelical relatives would react, and I also worried that Burt’s family in New York would disapprove of a “shiksa” (gentile female).
Burt, being Burt, did not seem to have any concerns. By September, I could finally say those three little words. One afternoon in November, friends asked us to fly over to Las Vegas for dinner. When their small Cessna hit a hailstorm at 9,000 feet, Burt proposed. Assuming we were going to die, I said “Yes.” At that moment, the sun blasted through the clouds and it was like God saying, “Gotcha!”
A month later we chartered a six-passenger plane with our friends and a minister who agreed to officiate. At 10,000 feet, with 9-year-old Rocki on my lap, we were pronounced man and wife.
And thus began 45 years of finding out that a great love conquers everything in its path. My Bible Belt family embraced Burt, as he did all of them. During visits to Omaha, out came the guitars, banjo, Dad on harmonica and Mom tapping her toes to the music. Burt, who loved to sing, quickly learned the gospel songs and sang along with the rest of us. On Sunday, we all went to church together.
I was also lovingly accepted into Burt’s East Coast family. Together we went to Temple, Passover Seders, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs and many family celebrations.
What I rapidly realized is that it all came down to love. Both families had seen our unhappiness during those first marriages, and now they saw two people deeply in love. There was never any conflict. Both religions presented us with newfound meaning and joy.
And so this week, right now, I can only wish God’s love and blessings to people everywhere, whether you worship at a church, a temple, a mosque, at home — or not at all.
With love and respect for others, we can all make this world a better place.
Bobbie Lippman is a professional writer who lives in Seal Rock with her cat, Purrfect. She is the author of “Good Grief: A Collection of Stories As One Woman Journeys From Heartbreak To Healing Through Honesty and Humor.” The book, with all proceeds going to the Rotary International Foundation, is available at JC Market in Newport and directly from Bobbie, who can be contacted at [email protected]