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Why (Should I Care If You) Marry Jewish?

Why (Should I Care If You) Marry Jewish?


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A few months ago while on Facebook, I started looking at an old high school friend’s pictures. As is often the case on Facebook, pictures of someone I didn’t  know any more led me to pictures of someone I didn’t know at all.  (Obviously, I kept clicking!) And then I saw a picture of two strangers which made me sad.

Which, of course, is an odd way to feel about a picture of strangers unless it’s a picture of someone suffering somehow, which it wasn’t. No, the picture that made me sad was of a wedding, which is even odder, since wedding pictures generally elicit positive feelings from most normal human beings – a grouping which I often include myself in!

So why did the picture make me sad then? Because it was of a Jewish guy marrying a non-Jewish girl. Which was obviously none of my business, since these people were complete strangers (not like it would have been much more of my business if they weren’t). And why should I be sad? What exactly is wrong with two people who love each other (well, at least I assume they do, remember we’re talking about strangers here!) wanting to spend the rest of their lives together? Doesn’t love trump all? How could I be so closed-minded in 2012?

Let’s start with the “my business” part. While technically I know that other people’s lives – especially people I have never met, and will probably never meet – are separate from my own, there is something that makes me feel connected to every single Jew in the world – past, present, and future – even the ones who don’t consider themselves Jewish. It’s why when a random Jew commits a crime (usually, white collar, that’s our style!) it’s my shanda, and why when a random Jew finds the cure to a disease or wins some important award it’s my nachas. Although Joe Shmostein doesn’t even know that I exist (or that I’ve been clicking through his pictures, for that matter) – knowing something upsetting about his life upsets me.

But why is it upsetting exactly? These two people will hopefully make each other very happy. Am I worried about religious tension? The non-Jewish wife probably isn’t even religious if she were willing to marry him. And they’ll raise the kids with “both,” which means double the presents during the holiday season and that means that even the kids will be happy! And sure, it’s a mitzvah to not intermarry, but it’s not like this guy is observing so many mitzvos anyway if he were willing to marry her. Why does this one mitzvah count more than the others?

For the sake of full disclosure, I’ll admit right now that I have a visceral reaction to intermarriage. Blame my mother. Although she did not raise us with too much observance, marrying Jewish was something she drilled into my sisters’ and my heads. Most of my closest friends growing up were not Jewish, which included some of my greatest supporters as I was becoming more observant, so don’t think this is an anti-gentile thing.

For her it was about Jewish continuity, but since she didn’t raise us with lives too full of Jewish practice, it left me wondering what exactly she hoped we would pass on to the next generation by marrying “in.” The ability to use words like “schlep” and “schmutz” correctly? A love of lox on bagels? I think ultimately it came down to rooting for the underdog to her. That sense of “Am Yisrael Chai!” (“The Jewish Nation will live!”) despite all the people who wanted (and still want) to destroy us.

And while there’s something to that – while in the worst case scenario, I’d want our people to go on existing even if we’d completely forgotten what made us Jewish in the first place – this is not my reason for feeling sad about that picture any more. My reason – my not at all secret agenda – is that I want every Jew to get the chance to explore his Jewish heritage in a meaningful way so that he or she can make an informed decision about how much (or little) Judaism to practice and pass on.

I want every Jew to spend just one full Shabbos in a home with people who do Shabbos in such a way that it truly feels like “a taste of the World to Come.” I want every Jew to get to know at least one Torah observant family, whose lives are so committed to chesed (kindness), selflessness, and hospitality that simply being around them makes it hard to doubt God’s existence. And I want every Jew to sit in on at least one Torah class given by a teacher who ties disparate ideas together so inspiringly that the words first enter the ears, but head straight for the soul.

That is the loss I feel looking at the wedding picture – that the groom will likely never get to have any of these opportunities and his children won’t even be Jewish at all. True – many Jews who marry other Jews will most likely never experience anything on my list either. And yes, it’s possible to marry a non-Jew and still get a chance to be exposed to these amazing things. But chances are that marrying Jewish will lead to at least one more generation of Jews and that maybe someone in the next generation will get the chance to do these things and make a big stink (like I did!) until the rest of the family tries them too.

If any Jewish person reading this – married, unmarried, inter-married, or about to get intermarried – hasn’t tried any of the things on my list but would like to, shoot me an email. We may have never met, but I already feel connected to you.

*Please note – this post describes my feelings as to what a person should consider before they make a decision about who to marry. For people who are already intermarried, please read this https://www.jewinthecity.com/2012/01/how-can-i-support-my-intermarried-cousin-even-though-i-know-she-made-a-wrong-choice/

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  1. “If you believe that most Orthodox Jews are just going through the motions” I dont believe that. I think that they are sincere….which, to me, is surprising based on a minimal amount of self-examination and healthy skeptisism.

    “But if they want to stand in Times Square yelling themselves hoarse, have fun.” how about these folks actively trying to make our jews see the light and believe in jesus and save them….do you have a problem with that?

    “Are you really advocating a world where one’s inner mental life is totally closed off from others” are you saying there are only 2 choices? of course not, but there are some deeply personal and emotional things that, to me, are off limits to outsiders. of course there are grey areas, but to me, one’s religious beliefs are in that camp.

  2. Ziesel Miriam : May 2, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    I’d like to offer the perspective of the child of what may or may not be considered an intermarriage. My mother, already interested in Judaism before she met my father, had a Reform conversion during their engagement. She was the driving force behind most of our family’s observance, and both my brother and I were raised with (and maintain today) a strong Jewish identity.

    This reality became much more complicated as I decided to move to Israel, when suddenly my previously uncontested Jewishness came to question. While this is not the proper forum to detail Israel’s religious laws or how they formed the impetus for my convoluted journey leading to my embrace of full, orthodox Torah observance, I will say that the position of one who is not Jewish according to Jewish law but identifies as such can be very painful due to legal realities as well as personal conflict.

    My mother tells me she knew before her conversion that her children would not be considered technically Jewish, but she figured that would only matter if one of them wanted to marry someone who was orthodox, and what were the chances of that? Suffice it to say that G-d has a sense of humor. While I thank G-d every day for the journey which led me to Torah (and a proper conversion, finishing the job my dear mom started), it was difficult and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. My family is exceptional in that we maintained a Jewish identity, but my brother isn’t even technically Jewish, which does little for Jewish continuity.

    Much discussion centers around the kids who grow up not knowing they’re Jewish, or not knowing the significance of their incredibly rich heritage. However, not much is said about the kids who think they’re Jewish but technically aren’t, and those who have to deal with the ramifications of their status as they become aware later in life. I want interdating couples, particularly those in which only the father is Jewish, to know that whichever level of Jewish observance they intend to instill in their kids, it can lead to unexpectedly tension-filled situations.

  3. I am a gentile who will marry a non-beliving Jewish man (almost athiest). Its so strange when reading your article in a way i understood your feeling. Right now I’m in a conversion process so basically i will raise my children Jewish but my Jewish partner is so nervous about the fact that i am becoming Jewish. He agrees that our children will go observe shabbat eventhough he might not attend services or observe. Its strange because im not converting for marriage at all. Im converting because i believe in the god of Israel. So eventhough im a goyah who is converting i will raise my children Jewish for the Jewish nation because that is how important it is to me.

  4. Allison, thanks for posting on this subject. I’m a 23 y/o female who grew up in a Reform household (mother is Jewish, father is not) but have in recent years begun to learn from an Orthodox perspective and have developed much more of an affinity for Judaism. However, while I’m sympathetic towards Orthodox teachings and believe many of them are very beautiful, I do have serious doubts about the divinity of the Torah and the existence of G-d. That being said, it’s very important for me to marry someone Jewish (even though I don’t think my parents would care if I married a non-Jew). What advice would you have for someone like me in terms of meeting a Jewish man? I’m a big fan of the shidduch dating system and it seems to be very successful, but I’ve never heard of non-frum Jews using it. Any input you have would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

    • EK – I’m going to email you to discuss this further, but I just want to make a point about faith in Judaism. Even for the most observant Jew, faith is something that has periods where it’s stronger and weaker. There’s no such thing as static faith, just like love in relationships ebb and flow. I’m glad that you’ve been exposed to Orthodox teachings and that you’ve seen the beauty in them. I would recommend trying to add some observance to your life – even if you’re not sure you fully believe now. The purpose of mitzvos is to connect a Jew to his Creator. They’re designed to bring closeness. So while you can study Judaism from a far, there’s nothing like jumping in – like our ancestors did at Mt. Sinai – when they said “na’aseh v’nishma” “first we’ll DO and then we’ll learn.” Please also see what I wrote about the Jewish idea of faith https://www.jewinthecity.com/2009/09/you-gotta-have-faith-faith-faith/

  5. I wonder if some of the resistance to converting to Judiasm is because of the concept of “birthright”- it asserts that some people are born with rights afforded to them, and others are not. I realize that anyone with the dedication and heart to convert may convert to Judiasm, but it seems like an unequal playing field in that those who were not born to a Jewish mother are born right off that bat into a less equal place, while those who have just happened to be born to a Jewish mother (and we can’t really control who we’re both to!), regardless of observance, may automatically be accepted as Jewish. While I actually appreciate that the importance of the female in the situation, because many other religious traditions seem to be male oriented, I think it leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths that the circumstances of their birth controls how readily accepted into the community they are (again, taking into consideration that people whose heart are truly in it will be of course accepted.)

    • I hear what you’re saying, but the people who are “lucky” enough to get born into Judaism and the acceptance that it brings are also “unlucky” enough to be obligated by the many Jewish laws that exist, whereas the convert gets to choose to take the obligation on or not. It’s kind of similar to citizenship – if you’re born in American – you could hate the country, burn the flag, but you’re automatically American. Immigrants, however, have to work hard to “join the club.”

  6. With the recent marriage of FB’s founder I had the same reaction…it isn’t just Jewish, you find this in Hispanic, African American, Asian, Indian cultures and so on. But thank you for saying in more politically correct than i would have. I simply shook my head at Zuckerbergs marriage and said to my (Jewish) husband if she converts i’ll be ok with it, but if not, we lost another one…

    just a little perspective – i work at a reform congregation but have also been a hebrew and sunday school teacher in the past. i do not agree with intermarriage or patrilineal decent even though the temple/movement i work for and worship in does. i was always very open with my students who did not have Jewish mothers about how other forms of Judaism as well as the State of Israel did not recognize them as Jews, not to discourage their faith but to make them understand what lies ahead of them culturaly and religiously as a Jew.
    there was a recent article on NPR about a young man who went to Israel wanting to serve in the IDF and they refused to recognize him as Jewish because of his mother. He was upset that they would let him die for the cause yet refused to see him as a Jew – who was probably more religious than most of the IDF soldiers he served with.
    although i realize this is a problem that will only increase for Judaism and Israel, i do believe that we can create a process of conversion that is atractive to the children of patrilineal decent so that they are recognized across the board…perhapse make it a part of the B’nei Mitzvah process?

  7. I’m one of “those” girls, I married a Jewish man, who isn’t overly observant but who does want Judaism passed on.
    I happen to be Catholic by choice wasn’t raised anything and when I was trying to decide on something for myself I had little Jewish choice where I grew up, I found recently doing some genealogy study I may actually be Jewish… Mom’s Mom’s Mom etc… but we aren’t 100% sure waiting on paperwork to see if I have made the right connections on ancestry.com

    ANYWAY… even if I have the wrong Barbara Cohen ancester… my husband and I have made the choice to raise our kids Jewish, by formally converting them under the stipulation he finds a shul and becomes more observant. I have agreed to learn more about Judaism but I won’t commit to convert myself.

    Not all of us non-Jewish women in an intermarriage are bad or are taking away from Judaism, some of us are pushing our non-observant husbands IN.

  8. One positive thing of intermarriage is the new ‘blood” brought into the gene pool. Ask any ashkanazi jew the family history of genetic diseaces and you will know why this is vital. I am sephardic and intermarried and we are passing our culture and jewishness to our children. Diversity is vital to our community and new blood, ideas and people are vital for our community

  9. I’m the child of a Jewish mother and an atheist (raised Christian) father. I consider myself Jewish, and I seem to be one of the few people in their early twenties *actually* attending a non-Orthodox synagogue. My mom actually succeeded in raising us Jewish (we actually went to day school, for one thing), but I know very few other children of intermarriage who have much to do with Judaism, and I don’t know any others who really participate in Jewish unless their non-Jewish parent eventually converted to Judaism (even if it was after they were grown). My dad seems to be the exception in keeping his nose entirely out of our religious education. Fortunately for my mom’s sanity, he’s an extremely staunch supporter of Israel.

    It is actually my own background, growing up with a non-Jewish father, that cemented my desire to marry a Jew. I saw how my mom was essentially a single parent when it came to my own religious education. I saw how much culture clash there was. I felt like our family lacked unity, because my parents had such different values. I felt rejected when my dad refused to build a sukkah, because it was work and unimportant to him.

    I tried dating an atheist. I figured that maybe it would work out, because there wouldn’t be a competing religion. It didn’t. We broke up largely because he couldn’t respect my desire to be involved in the Jewish community (he’s a good guy though. I do hope he finds happiness). I’m realizing that there’ll probably always be a closely held Jewish value that a non-Jewish significant other won’t understand.

    Yet, despite my conviction that I must marry another Jew, I struggle with my own beliefs. I don’t particularly believe in God, although I particularly disbelieve either. But I was raised a skeptic. I’m starting to feel like we cannot say anything about the existence of God without making enormous assumptions. However, I think that my own confusion and struggle is suboptimal. If I could choose easily, I would believe. I want to raise any future children so they believe in God. I think it’s a healthier place to be (and research supports my claims! Theists have lower suicide rates and generally live longer, and the benefits increase as they get more observant. The effect is strong enough that it cannot be entirely attributed to participating in a community). So I am on my own search for belief. I have heard the atheistic arguments, and none of them have convinced me that God doesn’t exist. So I’m now seeking out the Jewish arguments for God’s existence, and generally exploring. I do, however, know that my mom would be sad if I became Orthodox (because then I wouldn’t be able to eat her food, prepared in a non-Kosher kitchen) and my dad would probably alternate between sad and furious.

    I once asked my mother of her opinion on intermarriage. She told me to marry a Jew. I told her that seemed hypocritical. She told me that she could explain all of the downfalls, in detail, of intermarriage, even when my dad and his mom both have very positive feelings towards Judaism.

  10. This is an older post, and you may not read this, but after reading your post, I am moved to share a short true story.

    I was raised in a moderately religious Ukrainian Catholic family in Canada, and when I was 12 we moved to New Jersey.
    When I was 13 I met a girl and … well, she was my ‘first love’. It was immediate. It was sweet. It was innocent. It was chaste and it was confusing.
    Typical First Love stuff.
    We went to some dances, some movies, I visited her home for lunch a few times.

    L was/is Jewish and it only lasted for a few months because one Day she came to me in tears and said that her parents had told her that she was not allowed to date me any more. She explained that they had thought at first that the relationship was harmless but then realized that it was getting serious and they told her that if she married a non-Jewish boy, they would sit shiva for her. (I think that’s how she put it)

    Anyway, that was that. We stopped seeing each other, it was awkward in school, etc.
    But we worked it out and stayed friends until I moved a year later.

    The thing I want to express about the experience was that at the time, even though I was hurt,it made perfect sense to me. Not because of some intellectual understanding, but because of my experience of her and my experience of her family.
    Her parents were awesome. (I was a little jealous of how powerful a relationship it was compared to mine with my parents)
    They had treated me with genuine warmth. They even asked to sign my yearbook after we had broken up and they wrote something in it that I still cherish to this day.

    So, while I do not have the theological understanding of why it is important for Jews to only marry Jews, and I also don’t even have a cultural understanding, I believe that G-d gave me an understanding of why it is inportant: why it is law.

    Thank you for letting me share that: I made me feel wonderful to re-source those memories and feelings.

  11. The saddest thing about intermarriage is not for the kids but for the couple. I recently began practicing Taharat HaMishpacha, aka going to the Mikvah, nearly eighteen years into my life with my husband, which feels by the way like coming to a cave after eons out under the sun, wind and beating rain.
    And if both members of a couple are not Jewish, they cannot do the family purity laws. This is the BEST piece of marital anything in all of Judaism! It is so good! So rich and so nurturing and healing and g-d connecting. Ok, I will stop there, for brevity’s sake.
    This is what saddens me about intermarriage. That all my intermarried friends cannot join me in the Mikvah experience and the resulting effects on their marriages and their lives.
    If you are reading this and you are married to a Jewish person, I want you to understand that…Judaism looks really different from within than from without. Even if you are participating or seeing all the things we do, be they orthodox or just cultural…you are not able to see it in its true…light.
    One woman wrote of being Christian, raising her kids Jewish, and not converting “because of not wanting to hurt her parents.” Yet… if she were Jewish, she would see this differently I am sure!
    All that is Judaism and Jewishness is not found in the rituals and — yes a lot of it is — but not all of it is put into writing! There is an essence to what Jewishness is that…underpins all the little actions and is supported by them and is really the most important part.
    Ok, Judaism honors the parents. But…we honor them best by reaching beyond them into our own marriages. They want us to give our own marital journey’s primacy, at least in the Judaism I know. Into creating grandkids for them who have deep roots in the ways we raise them.
    Hey ladies (I think its all ladies) Lets Turn The Statistics Around. Lets TALK ABOUT HOW TO DO THAT. Do do this though, the partner in a marriage who is not Jewish needs to convert. Jews don’t push conversion. But…if a mother does not convert, in some form, her children will miss…this essence of being raised by a mother who is seeing that Jewishness and Judaism from the inside. And without this…its just a to-do list. Ok, maybe more than a to-do list. Its a beautiful interaction with an ancient and valuable tradition. But…it is off course in terms of actually being a Jewish experience.
    By the way, I would NEVER shun anyone who is involved with Judasim, caring for Judaism, in this world. And I personally feel it is important that I welcome every person who love’s Judaism’s perspective on…how to express that love.
    But as it looks to me Jewish children are raised by Jewish mothers. Any kind of Jewish mother.
    I think the reason Orthodox conversion is good as a way of entering is because…it gives you a chance to absorb that essence fully, to be Jewish yourself without having had that key factor — an experience of being Jewishly mothered. If you enter a country and you know the language, you can go right out to eat! And do and live! But…if not, you have to go to language school to really get it right. Yeah?
    You do not have to stay orthodox practicing after the conversion do you? I think its just an entrance exam. I mean, if you do, how wonderful and beautiful. But if I understand correctly, once you convert, you can then find your own truth within Jewish tradition.
    I am simply urging any woman who truly desires to raise Jewish children to understand that to do this truly, one needs to be looking at Judaism…from the inside of it.
    And try the Mikvah! Even many of us Jewish-raised are somehow missing this key part of….the payback for having a Jewish marriage in the first place!

    By the way, I am a Jewish woman married to a Jewish man. I am not orthodox and am actually the daughter of a fairly secular-minded Israeli and…and a mensch. I grew up much more observant though than my husband and am also helping him return to his own heritage that was lost for him. For him, it was not intermarriage, but the divorce of his parents, that separated him from his own tradition. I married him because I fell in love with him. I…guess I knew I wanted a Jewish husband, but I was very open…I think though that his Jewishness just…excited me. Because Judaism excites me.
    Thank you Allison for sharing how you really feel. Nothing really happens until we all have a chance to do that.
    I hope anyone who reads my comment understands that I mean it all with love for every human heart.

  12. Also, we are raising our child too, so I am a Jewish mother myself….

  13. I am Mormon. We also believe very strongly that a Mormon should marry a Mormon. I have the same reaction when I find out one of my friends has maried someone who does not share our faith. It has nothing to do with me thinking that the person that isn’t Mormon is evil, it’s more that there are blessings they will miss out on . There are blessing their kids will miss out on. Yes, you can have a great marriage and be married to some one that isn’t of your faith. But, most of the time. The second you want to be more active in your religion, things get more tough . There tends to be more arguments , little things like going out for coffee ( Mormons don’t drink coffee or drink alcohol ) start to change. There are all kinds of things that just get more complicated .
    All of this is me trying to say I completely understand what Alison is saying . And that I support it completely

  14. Hello Allison,
    I would like to add that I completely understand your desire to maintain Jewish tradition for years to come. To a certain degree, there is pressure among all ethnic groups and cultural backgrounds to maintain tradition. With the growing amount of interracial and interfaith marriages in the country, the acceptance of diversity within family is not as controversial as it once was. However, such controversy is still alive for many people and will be for years to come. I have known people who have been the first in their family to marry outside of their own ethnicity, religion, etc. and the reaction from family members is often less than accepting. While many people, particularly Progressives, are trying to embrace this melting pot of various backgrounds, many more (such as yourself) have differing opinions on the issue. At the end of the day, I think it is all about what directly affects us. You wish to see the Jewish people continue because you are a part of them, so it hurts you to see somebody with a background similar to your own not feel the same way. Though it is unlikely that you would feel the same way if, say, a Catholic and an Atheist (not Jewish) or an African American and an Asian got married because none of them are a part of the Jewish people. Maybe I’m wrong, but that is how (I believe) many people seem to interpret it. Does this degree of discrimination when it comes to choosing a partner make people racist? Essentially, yes. Even if it does contribute to racism within our society, most people view it as a positive way of staying true to their heritage rather than a negative way of bashing others for simply being who they are. Most people (at least from what I have seen) do not hate a person solely because of their religious beliefs or their ethnic background, I think that society has pushed aside that way of thinking. With that being said, just because a person has a diverse set of friends and people they interact with on a daily basis does not necessarily mean they would welcome them into their family through marriage.

  15. I like how u described your feelings about this and totally understand. But what if there’s a girl, she loves Israel, Jews history, learns Hebrew, with all this she feels complete and without that she’s like death. Wants to be part of this all. Is there an option when she will marry Jews man and their children will grow up with all Jews traditions, can she and their children became a part of it? Or the other Jews will look at them like to a strangers…
    Thank you for your respond

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs : August 13, 2013 at 5:18 pm

      Thanks for your question, Karol. There’s an option to convert to Judaism. We don’t seek out converts, but if a gentile is sincere in his or her desire to become Jewish we’re supposed to welcome him or her with open arms.

  16. Yeah, that’s also an option, but even she would love to become part of jewish community, her family is against and I’m sure that family is everything for all of us. She’s standing in front of big decision.
    So do u think she and their kids would have problems even she will be still non Jewish but her heart will belong to Judaism? His family is not Orthodox they even don’t believe. But she’s afraid if they will live in Israel, she will be stranger and their children will be for laugh to others and because of the mother blood line, can they celebrate their Bar Micvah for example…

  17. you shouldn’t care. it makes no difference to your life. if this topic was ”why should i care if you don’t marry a white person/a catholic/a sikh/a nigerian”, it would be explicit racism – and rightly unacceptable in polite society. this is no different – there are no exceptions to discrimination.

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs : January 6, 2014 at 6:06 pm

      thanks for your comment, tanya. so the thing is that you’re mixing races with religions. to not want to marry a person because his skin is a different color than yours is racist and wrong. to not want to marry another person because his convictions or beliefs do not line up with yours is not racist – it’s how many people choose a life partner.

      there are jews of all colors, races, nationalities. this is nothing against the stuff that a person is born with, that we can’t control. everyone can become jewish. anyone could be an eligible suitor to a jew.

  18. do you really care what faith or ethnicity your grandchildren or great grandchildren are? i certainly don’t. that’s not a ‘loss’ in any sense of the word – they are the children and grandchildren of people who love them – that’s the opposite of loss. the rest is just irrelevant detail.

    i should apologise for the scattergun approach to my various posts, but the more i explore here, the more uneasy i become. i would’ve posted under the woman on the modesty topic who rather horribly said women who wear ‘immodest’ clothing are easy – we certainly are not – i am very difficult, and very far from available to any passer by.

    but i didn’t comment under that topic because i didn’t want to get into an argument with someone like that. i do however feel really put out reading this topic, and how other people’s happiness and families are a ‘loss’ to you. that’s an awful thing to say, no matter how you cut it.

    • Allison Josephs : January 7, 2014 at 10:56 am

      Thanks for your comment, Tanya. I care what faith my descendants have – not what ethnicity they have. I see the two things as very different. The idea isn’t to preserve a certain type of food or music per se, it’s to preserve a certain purpose in living.

      I understand that this is personal for you as you mentioned in another post that you have a Jewish grandfather. It’s not that I wish you “unborn,” God forbid, or for your grandparents to not have had their life together. Intermarriage, on case by case basis is two people falling in love, starting a family, hopefully raising good, happy kids. It’s hard to complain about that.

      But on a national level – it is the Jewish people – a people who has been knocked down again and again and again – in every generation – being partners in their own end. My ancestors kept the torch going to get it to me. I will do my best to pass it on to my children and their children. It’s a combination of wanting to see the Jewish people not get snuffed out and about having my descendants have the opportunity to experience the beauty and wisdom of their heritage. They can speak any language, have any race or nationality. It’s the sense of purposeful living that I don’t want to die out.

      • i can see that – but even if one of your children did marry a non jewish partner, you can still have the joy having your grandchildren for holiday celebrations, for shabbos dinners, of teaching them about the jewish part of their heritage and ancestry so it becomes a precious component of their identity and outlook – which is actually rather a lovely gift to give to a child, particularly one that’s attached to various other things too.

        and they can then go forward into adulthood and proudly incorporate the various parts of their heritage with their identity in a cosmopolitan blend that excludes nothing. when you think about it, intermarriage is no threat to any of that – and the fact that so many people are so nonchalant about marrying whoever they love, regardless of who they are, and having ‘mixed’ children is a valuable counter point to fearing the world at large is anti semitic or anti anything else.

        probably the best there is i’d say.

        • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs : January 7, 2014 at 7:49 pm

          but the likelihood of intermarried children having the next generation have a Jewish identity goes way down. have you see the recent Pew Study on American Jewry? http://www.pewforum.org/2013/10/01/jewish-american-beliefs-attitudes-culture-survey/

          please understand that it’s not a dislike of other people or cultures or ideas. i majored in philosophy at an Ivy League college. there’s a Jewish idea that there is wisdom among the non-Jewish nations. this is about Jewish survival. we’ve had a very tortured 3000 year history and i believe we’ve gone on because we have something important to contribute to the world. the idea is about surviving to be able to preserve that message and pass it on. nothing about xenophobia, everything about avoiding extinction.

          • yes, i thought it was around half marry ‘out’. it is here too. i do really understand what you’re saying, and which angle you’re coming from. i’m not saying it’s xenophobic, but that is the counter point – if you say for instance ”i don’t want my children to marry out”, then within orthodox circles that goes without saying. outside orthodox circles and outside of judaism altogether it gives the impression that the grandchildren are hmm ”oh dear, well we’ll try to accept it, but i’m not happy, and your brother/sister has done the RIGHT thing and given me grandchildren that don’t have a question mark over their heads.”

            which might be one reason people who marry out don’t want to raise their kids jewish/take them to synagogue for celebrations/etc – how many of them i wonder have parents who have said ”we’re upset, we’re disappointed, you’ve let us down, i don’t want to know your husband/wife, your children are less to me than your brother/sisters kids”. any one of those things would be a slap in the face – and a certain percentage of those turning their backs will have heard all of it in one spiel.

            whether by design or result, it’s somewhere on the spectrum of calling someone a ‘race traitor’. the danger from that ultimately comes from other people saying ”i’d be horrified if my child married a jew” – which i’m sure you’d agree is an outrageous statement. at whatever point in the future, your great great great grandchildren will be able to place you on a tree and draw a direct line from you to them.

            that’s not extinction – they will exist, whether they practice or not. and how much better if they are able to point to it and say ”she was lovely, look at her picture, look at the things she did”. extinct comes a couple of generations before that IF those kids grandparents say ”she was disappointed in us, she favoured our cousins, her funeral was a formality”.

  19. what has rather oddly been handed down to me is that i don’t eat or have bacon/pork in my house. it was never served to me as a child, and when it was served in other peoples homes, i never tasted it. i remember my great grandmother quite well – she died in the 1990’s. she broke every rule going but evidently stuck to that one, and handed it down.

    i have nearly all my family tree and documents* stretching back to the times of henry viii, mainly in britain, but also in switzerland, ireland, italy, and barbados via an unknown port in ‘west africa’ – a slave girl who was taken to work on sugar plantations in the late 18th century. i even have her ‘receipt’ – her freedom was bought for £7 by an englishman who fell in love with her, married her, and brought her back to london – i think that’s rather romantic. her death is registered years into the 19th century at her house in mayfair (top of the monopoly board) – i like to think that somehow the people who owned her and traded her, found out that she flourished in london and lived better than they did, with a son who was raised to the peerage.

    *i was struck to discover the absolute dearth of documents relating to the jewish side, who came via the russian empire, through germany, and onto london (they were mainly actors and singers). it’s only once they start to move out of the pale of settlement that the full records are accessible. i even have scratchy recordings of them singing when recorded voices were a novelty, & the theatre posters and newspapers relating to them. again i like to think their former tormentors and petty bureaucrats sank into hell while my family forged ahead in the west end of london.

    but it’s not just jews who were tormented and the records aren’t around for. they run out pretty quickly for the gypsy lines too. and certainly for the black african part, there is nothing before her ‘ownership’ documents and no way of ever knowing. even on the english lines, it can be heartbreaking to see the court sentences – ‘public flogging with 40 lashes’, ‘shipped to australia’, ‘died of exhaustion at the borough workhouse’.

    but in a way it doesn’t matter – we know some of our ancestors suffered, but really, most people lived insecure lives without emancipation/were thrown out of places/dragged from land or even continents before recent history – and no matter who you are, if you’re alive today, then you come from people who were alive 500 hundred years ago, 1000 years ago, 10,000 years ago…

    apparently modern humans also have a certain percentage of clearly distinct neanderthal dna, which is rather interesting considering we largely assume they were wiped off the face of the earth – they weren’t, they interbred, and they ARE us too.

  20. how sad.

    the truth is that you’re not a jew…you’re a human being.

    the spiritual terrorism you have been indoctrinated with since an early age blended with the wishful thinking you still possess even as an adult, is holding you back from several truths.

    i’m truly horrified at what you’ve written here. but in no way surprised.

    i wish every person alive today could read your post as it’s microcosmic of the battle that we are facing as a species. when presented with a beautiful image of people sharing their love and commitment with others, you’re disgusted.

    the response you have presented here is completely disgusting.

    i am so happy we have the internet, it gives me hope people like you will wake up and stop putting yourself in pathetic narrow boxes limiting your human potential and that of others.

    • Allison Josephs Allison Josephs : May 6, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      thanks for your comment, avi. of course i’m a human being, but i am also a jew. from the sound of your name, it appears as if you have a jewish heritage as well. if you choose to ignore it or disavow it that’s your choice, but my choice is to embrace my heritage not in an attempt to put down or judge other people God forbid, but to give meaning and purpose to my life and the lives of my children.

      i’m not sure what exactly is wrong with wishful thinking. i think it’s good to have hope. love is definitely a beautiful thing, but love is not always the right thing. what about an image of the love between an adulterous married woman and her lover – is that a beautiful image?

      what about the love between two consenting adults who happen to be brother and sister – is that a beautiful image? and what about the love between a husband and wife, but the husband goes off to war to protect the freedom of his country and his wife loses her husband. are there not some values in life bigger than love?

      you may not think there are, i do.

      like i said, i cannot tell people what to do or not do. my only wish is for all Jews to know what it is they have before they walk away from it. my only plea is for education.

      you can look at different cultures and heritages as narrow boxes that limit or you can look at them as flavor and diversity and that we can each bring something to the table. if my world view was one of elitism i could see that being troubling. but it’s not. i believe that we’re all made in God’s image and that God loves all His children and that we each have unique purpose in the world.

  21. Shalom,
    I Married 2 Jewish Men and LOVE the EXPIERENCES shown to me. I am planning on converting soon and feel blessed that I’ve been introduced to Torah, Mishnah, Shabbos,The Vilna Gaon, Hebrew,Challah and Matza, Rabbi Shmuley(lol). Looking forward to becoming a member of The Tribe.

  22. In world where so much pain comes from small mindedness and a refusal to look beyond what we know I can’t believe that these opinions persist. We’re telling our kids to go out into the world, broaden their horizons, to see people as people and not as their religion or race or class…but to stop short of falling in love. I was so sad to read this article, things need to change.

    • Rabbi Jack Abramowitz : February 25, 2015 at 7:57 am

      Let’s say you’re a staunch vegan. In your opinion, animals should have basic rights and for us to cage them or to use them for medical experimentation is immoral. Eating them is certainly barbaric! Then you meet a man who is smart, funny, kind, etc. You fall head over heels at first sight. On your first date, you ask him, “So, what do you do for a living?” He replies, “I own a chain of slaughterhouses.” Is that not a deal-breaker?

      You can replace vegan with smoker or racist or anything else that exists in the world that another person might not be willing to live with, even if the person is perfect in all other ways.

      Similarly, Jews have certain ideals. We have certain ideas about what G-d wants from us. These ideals are as dear to us – or dearer – than the vegan ideology in my example. Another person has the right to believe in Jesus, Mohammed, Vishnu, whatever, but the idea of marrying a person who does should be as foreign to me as the vegan marrying the butcher. This person is simply not going to help me live according to my ideals and spread them to the next generation.

      • This comment is just spot-on. Yes. I only wish one Jewish man would have been interested in me. Marrying a non-Jew was never something I wanted to do. Just like how I wouldn’t date a man who didn’t respect and show kindness to cats. I had no option and I didn’t have the means to remain single. I feel guilty everyday.

  23. This attitude is what chases away the children of interfaith couples to the family members who are hurt by the fact they didn’t marry within the faith. Or by in laws who feel excluded cause they converted and do exclusionary things like in the Mormon example marry and seal in the temple in the three countries where church leaders make you wait a year if you have a public wedding first. No way to start a family. How can the couple lead a happy life with the in laws doing their pressures on the couple? Are you saying people need to stay the faith they were born into? You didn’t, you became more observant. Does Judaism accept converts? Yes. If you accept that people convert how can you not accept people leaving or even simply being other faiths? That said most the cases of interfaith marriage I know about as a catholic the kids are raised Jewish. The spouse may stay catholic or convert. Catholics see Judaism as the root of Catholicism. If the spouse converted to Catholicism and the kids raised catholic they would have to believe something more/new. And then there is the holocaust. It just seems wrong on a numbers level. The company line of course is it’s easier to marry a Catholic and raise the kids catholic. But honestly the reality when the couple sits in front of the priest and rabbi separately the priest doesn’t really sell Catholicism. Maybe it’s unique to the Midwest where it probably does come up as much? And permission is granted for the catholic parishioner to marry outside the faith. And the kids could always decide something different in adulthood. I think it’s hard if a believer of God married an atheist. There is no common ground.

    • Rabbi Jack Abramowitz : July 27, 2015 at 11:34 am

      There’s one point I’d like to address. You write:

      “Does Judaism accept converts? Yes. If you accept that people convert how can you not accept people leaving or even simply being other faiths?”

      In other words, why do we accept converts in and not converts out. Good question. Judaism does not see itself as religion A and, say, Catholicism as religion B so that people can make a series of lateral moves between faiths. It’s not like moving from Ohio to Nebraska and vice versa. Rather, according to Judaism, G-d gave the Jews 613 commandments. He gave everybody else 7 commandments. If a non-Jew wants to voluntarily accept the rest of the Torah upon his or her self, they have that prerogative. But if a Jew wants to divest himself of 606 laws, like keeping kosher and Shabbos – well, that option is not open.

      Being Jewish is like being in the army – you can be drafted or you can enlist. Either way, once you’re in, you can’t just leave. If you do, that’s not a discharge; you’ve just gone AWOL.

  24. I am non-Jew and currently converting to Judaism. My boyfriend is Jewish and I hope to get married raise Jewish Kids one day. This is a very sad article for me to read and It is hard to believe that you feel close to all Jewish people If you are against Intermarriage. I’m reading a lot of article to help me during my journey and I have to say I am very surprise to read an article like this one. All Jews around me and my boyfriend included are celebrating our decision to get married and I am shocked to realize that not all Jews are supportive of that. ( I am really ) You may feel close and connected to all Jews but many Jews would actually disagree and feel very far from anyone having this type of thoughts including my friends and my man.

    I understand your opinion but I feel in your article and your comments that you hide behind the way you were raise or your mother. On my side I was very lucky to have a mother who raised me telling me to listen to my heart . She did not cared about other people business as long as they were happy and I feel the same way.

    I cannot see the difference between someone being against intermarriage with Jewish and non Jewish and someone being for example against White and Black people being married (don’t they have an history and cultures that white people don’t have too?) Sorry but for me it’s the same thing as saying people should marry their own people.

    I hope one day you’ll be able to experience loving and supporting people without judgement and open your heart to other people happiness. I guess there’s things you are missing on too.

  25. I married a non-Jew, and I’ve regretted it from the beginning. I was almost forced to get married, I was in unfortunate circumstances (not what you’re thinking though). It had no family and no support network. It was just me and it was either do or die, essentially. I had always planned to marry Jewish, but no one was interested. I got married at 36. I’d been on a total of 6 dates before this. I now want a divorce, yet have nowhere to go.

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Allison Josephs

Allison is the Founder and Director of Jew in the City. Please find her full bio here.

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