Anne Kuretz adores Autumn. She lives in Maine, where the glorious fall leaves put on an annual spectacle “just for me.” Anne is known to drive for hours into the woods and just stop and stare at the majestic nature swirling in its warm colors. She was born in October, and feels a special affiliation with fall. “There is something that feels so historical about it; every Autumn I feel I am reborn and connected with my ancestors from the past.”
Anne has lived on the east coast since she was a small child. She loves to take tours of the monuments and statues and museums that attest to the struggles of the pilgrims and new ways of the “New Country,” so different from where she was born.
“My favorite days were when my parents would take us into town (Auburn) and get these hot, puffy pastries that were the specialty of a local baker. People would line up around the corner to get her ‘Patsies’ as she called them. They were a mix of warm spices, nuts, and golden raisins. A bit like Baklava, but with more dough and a chewy, warm center. We’d drizzle honey all over them and eat them with little forks out the paper cups.”
She doesn’t have many good memories of her father. He died on George Washington’s date of death, December 14th. “I always found this fascinating because my first dream in America was that George Washington came to me and warned me that bad things might happen to me in my new country.”
Anne and her father never got along. He thought women were weak and used to make off color jokes about forbidding women to speak, but her mother always encouraged her, secretly, to be a strong woman. So the first opportunity she could to leave the house, she did.
“My grandparents on both sides were Ashkenazim Jews who had migrated from the Rhineland (Germany) to Hungary. They both died before World War II, thank the God, but my parents had met in Hungary and reconnected when they both emigrated to a suburb outside Boston. They fell in love and were married, but they didn’t have a great relationship.”
Anne and her siblings were raised in the Hungarian Ashkenazim traditions, but the other Jews they socialized with were extremely Orthodox, and her family wasn’t, and they found their ways very foreign. When she left home, bound for college, she tried to shed some of the eastern European trappings that she felt were confining her.
For a while she practiced and followed the teachings and ways of the Sephardic rabbinical authorities. Feeling out of place, at age 21 she renounced her lineage and religion and stood in the girls’ dormitory, declaring herself “a woman first, a student second, and NOTHING ELSE.” When she told her mother about her ‘epiphany’, hoping to shock her, her mother took the next train to Boston and tried to talk some sense into Anne, but Anne was having none of it.
For the next decade Anne drifted from religion to religion. “Hey, it was the 70’s. Everyone was trying mysticism and Sufism and Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto and Taoism. A lot of those involved doing drugs, which I took to just fine.”
“Anne was so in love, she took his passion for true faith and found herself lacking. ‘So I asked Ben to help put me back on the right path, which he did, zealously.’”
And then Anne met Ben. They actually met in a yoga class that Anne loved. She immediately noticed the tall, thin and quiet young man who came in late and left immediately after every class. Intrigued, one day she followed him, keeping a discrete distance, until she saw him duck into the closest temple.
They began talking after class, Anne approaching him shyly and making the first move (her mother would have been proud of that, AND that he was Jewish!). They progressed into tea dates after class and then real dating.
Ben questioned Anne about her faith, and after hesitating, she finally admitted to him all the things she had tried and done over the past few years. The searching, the confusion and questions to which there were no answers. She expected this intellectual, caring and compassionate young man to understand her struggles, but what happened was the opposite.
“His face grew red. I could see the anger rising in his demeanor. It was kind of scary.” But Anne was so in love, she took his passion for true faith and found herself lacking. “So I asked Ben to help put me back on the right path, which he did, zealously.”
The attended teachings, readings, study classes. The temple became her life, almost to the point of shutting everything else out. After two years of this, Ben declared that Anne was fit to be a wife now and that they should get married. He announced that they were moving to Arizona where his family was, far away from her beloved east coast and its splendid Autumns.
Despite being told she was about to be uprooted from her friends and family, Anne still waited for the surge of happiness - after all, wasn’t this what she’d been working so hard on for the past two years? Yet the happiness never came. Just a slow, seeping despair, but she buried it under frenzied wedding plans. Her mother drove down to Boston to help in the preparations, but sensed the girl was troubled. When asked, Anne shook off her melancholy and told her mother she was fine.
Still worried, Anne’s mother went to speak with the Rabbi. Speaking to him quietly of her concerns, the Rabbi promised to speak with Anne, so one day Anne found herself cornered by the Rabbi. “I felt like I was being interrogated! He comes out of nowhere, no warning, and starts asking me these questions as if to test my faith. I was really surprised and since I didn’t know my mother had talked to him, it made me more miserable that this man of God was seeing right through me and that I was unworthy.”
Anne’s glow faded - she started to look downright gaunt and unhealthy. Her mother talked to the Rabbi who told her that Anne was ready to be a “good wife.” And that’s when it hit her.
Anne’s mother rushed to her daughter’s side and pulling her roughly away from where her daughter and her fiancé were discussing seating arrangements, she hustled Anne into the next room and quietly told her that she was “NOT going to marry someone like her father.”
As soon as the words tumbled hurriedly from her mother’s mouth, Anne knew them to be true. She WAS marrying her father, and this was not a good thing. After deliberations for the couple were discussed, Anne quietly broke off the engagement and returned the ring to Ben. She went home with her mother,
Bio: Anne Kuretz is a happily married Jewish woman who practices her faith religiously but not zealously. And she still loves the Autumn season more than anything except her family and her faith.
Thank you Anne, for sharing your Story with us.
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© 2009 by Adara Bernstein and Story of My Life