It’s not clear who had the idea, but Ginny converted to Judaism for Alek who may or may not have cared.
It’s a lot of work, going to the synagogue, learning the prayers, perfecting the passive-aggressive tone (How many Jewish mothers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? “Don’t worry about it, I’ll sit in the dark.”) Whatever her reasoning, Ginny went through the process with the same attitude and concerted effort that she went through everything else in her life and studied Judaism as if it were another Ph.D. Again, we are not sure at this point how much Alek is invested in this process. One of the components of converting to a new faith is becoming a part of the community. In this particular instance, this would mean making friends. Jewish friends. Which means eating together.
Ginny’s conversion group consisted of mostly engaged couples looking to make the commitment of religion before the other commitment of spending the rest of their lives with a person capable of award-winning passive aggression. Side note, my Catholic friends say their mothers are just as talented at this as the Jewish mothers and also the Hindu moms but they are funnier about it. Also, I have an aunt who is a practicing Wiccan and she’s the same except she just casts spells on you and tells you after the fact. So Alek and Ginny now spent their Friday nights rotating through the new friend’s homes for Shabbat dinners. This could be hit or miss.
In the best case scenario, Shabbat dinner has good food and wine and there’s enough candlelight so you don’t feel like you’re in the Beauty and The Beast castle but not so much you feel like you’re in The Red Wedding in Game of Thrones. The point is to rest. But going to a stranger’s house full of more strangers sitting in the semi-dark is not necessarily restful. Especially not if any of those people have children or poor taste in liquor. Ginny looked at those dinners like steps to passing the bar and, by any measure, aced them all. Alek was a different story.
Alek is funny. Not funny-weird or funny-uncomfortable or funny-haha but funny because he doesn’t give a fuck about the majority of what's happening around him. It's a truly admirable trait. If you know him and love him, he’s most likely your favorite person. He’s brilliant and dry and checks out immediately if he is uninterested. If you hear him say, “huh,” you’ve lost. And, if you find yourself sitting next to him in the semi-dark trying to converse about religion and you don’t have anything truly remarkable to add to the dialogue, he might get on his phone and check the scores of the hockey game. (He is Canadian.)
These dinners can be long as the more observant people are not driving or watching TV until sundown on Saturday which means they don’t have anywhere else to go or anything else to do. For the less observant, Game of Thrones is waiting. The dinners eventually peter out, becoming less and less frequent and Ginny and Alek have a very unreligious wedding, all considering, and then two ridiculously smart boys who are barely mobile when they start wondering about religion. Ginny explains:
“Your father and I are Jewish. Even though I was born basically on a cross in Ireland. I converted. So you are Jewish.”
The boys want to know why they had never been to a synagogue. Alek suggests they watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The four-year-old scrunches his face, dissatisfied with the answer, and probably goes off to read the Old Testament cover to cover or something like that.
When the kids are finally tucked in and Ginny and Alek find themselves on the couch with the remote and a few shreds of brain power left, Alek spontaneously wonders why the conversion group had stopped their weekly Shabbat dinners. Ginny looks up from her phone.
“But you didn’t like them.”
“I liked them.”
“You didn’t like the people or the food or religion in general. And you didn’t hide it.”
Alek seems taken aback. Not by the facts, but that there was a problem with them.
“I think everyone probably stopped when our conversion class was over.”
Time goes on, Fridays came and went, the Earth turned on its axis, and the occasional holiday was celebrated.
One day, after a long week, Alek and Ginny manage to lock down a babysitter on a weekend and go out for a date night. They pick the cool, new restaurant that Ginny heard some younger colleagues raving about, and head out for a night on the town.
The young, too hip for his own good maître’d greets them with what would pass for a smile from a corpse and leads them to a small table in the corner. They take off their coats, sit down, and try to talk. But the cool new restaurant is very loud, especially the table next to them. It is a very big table, ten or so people who obviously know each other well. Alek glances over.
“Hey, that’s our Shabbat people. What are they doing here?”
Ginny shrugged, “I guess we should say hi.” Alek turns and waves,
“Hey, you guys, Ginny and Alek, from Shabbat!”
The group side-eyes each other, sharing uncomfortable looks. Alek doesn’t get the memo.
“Why did we stop doing that? It was fun.” Alek turned to Ginny, “We had fun, right?”
The group says hi and smiles politely and Alek and Ginny go back to their dinner, served on toddler-sized plates and “meant for sharing.”
As they’re leaving, they put on their coats and are just about to wave goodbye to the Shabbat table when the woman sitting at the head raises her glass and shouts, “Cheers! To five years of dinners! L’chaim!”
Ginny puts on her hat, her head down, and pushes Alek out of the restaurant. Alek fumbles with his zipper in the cold New York air, “What was that about?”
Ginny’s eyes roll somewhere close to her prefrontal cortex.
“I just wanted to say bye and that maybe we should start doing a Shabbat again.”
Ginny puts her arm around her brilliant, funny, dense husband.
“Babe, they never stopped.”