Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
When Judy Schindler officiates weddings, something she is still called upon to do even though she is no longer the senior rabbi at Temple Beth El in Charlotte, North Carolina, she shares her wisdom about marriage with everyone present. “I am not just speaking to the couple getting married,” Judy says, “but to everyone there who is married or wants to be married.” And one of her staples at weddings is to remind folks that a good marriage is not only about findingthe right partner, but about beingthe right partner.
Recently, Judy and her husband, Chip, celebrated their 21stwedding anniversary. And Judy found herself considering what a great partner Chip has been and all the ways her life would be different if he were not in it. She wrote that without Chip she would be:
Hungry — as he cooks.
Lonely — as he is my company.
Boring — as he gets us out enjoying music and the world.
Poor — as he thinks about saving some, when I’d probably give everything we have away.
Sad — as he makes laugh.
Possibly a hot mess – as he keeps me together.
She thanked Chip for all the ways he makes her life fun and full and said that she was feeling grateful. This post resonated with me, because I agree with Judy that gratitude for the good things and people in your life is a good way to stay grounded and happy. And appreciating your spouse and all the ways he or she makes your life better or makes the life you so enjoy possible is a key component of a happy marriage.
Part of Judy’s appreciation for her own marriage comes from seeing marriages failing or faltering. “I see marriages going off course a lot,” Judy says. “I learn from every experience.”
She says that her gratitude was served up with humility. “I am very cognizant of all the people who are struggling and all the things that the future can bring,” she says, “and I weigh that with expressing my gratitude.” She is well aware that you cannot take a marriage for granted. “You have to cherish what you have and work really hard to keep it,” Judy says. And knowing how fragile marriages can be, having seen firsthand how they can be damaged and destroyed, makes her all the more grateful for her own. But she has also seen how couples can bounce back from devastating blows to their marriage and has seen them rebuild trust and reclaim a lost love. “You can move beyond things,” she says.
For her, part of that hard work is finding a balance between the drive and ambition she feels professionally (she is now an Sklut Professor of Jewish Studies and Director of the Stan Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice at Queens University) and giving her marriage the time and attention it deserves. This lesson is reinforced at the funerals she officiates as well. “I try to take a lesson from the deceased person’s life,” she says, “and incorporate it into my life.” She learns something from every funeral. And the funerals also drive home the lesson that life is fragile and we never know what the future will bring.
Judy first met Chip when hewas sitting shivafor his mother, one of her congregants in Westchester, New York. She had worried that becoming a rabbi would make it difficult to find a life partner, but she now knows that pursuing her passion is what led her to Chip. “I always tell people that when you are following your own passion and following what you love,” Judy says, “you will meet people who love that too.” She advises young people that you cannot change yourself to meet someone or be with someone.
But even with shared passions and a strong connection, marriage is a leap of faith. Judy has given us all a great reminder that the leap is not a one-time thing. We have to keep finding what works for us. And we have to remain grateful for those who are on this ride with us and who help keep the ride, as Judy says, so fun and full.