Jewish Mother, Catholic
I don't want to keep my new relationship a secret, but is interfaith dating ok?
How do you tell an Orthodox Jewish mother that you are dating a Catholic girl? I am a Jewish man who was raised Orthodox, but am not currently practicing. I am involved in a relationship with a Catholic girl who I love spending time with. She had introduced me to her family and they like me and let me come to their house. I however have kept her a "secret" from my very Jewish mother, and my girlfriend is now getting on me to tell my mom about her and even let her meet my mother. What's the easiest way I can go about telling my mother about my girlfriend without giving her a complete heart attack?
Firstly, forgive me for my strong opinions on this subject. You did ask for it, so now you're going to get it. Boy oh boy, are you going to get it.
I hope you have heard of the movie "Mission: Impossible," because you are now starring in Tom Cruise's role. Simply stated, there is no easy way to introduce your mother to your non-Jewish girlfriend, because doing so will confirm to your mother her failure in instilling within you a desire to make Jewish choices in life, to build a Jewish home, and to raise Jewish children. Even for secular Jewish parents, this remains a high priority.
I know it can sound highly unfair that certain groups demand that the faithful marry within the faith. But if Jews don't marry other Jews, then there won't be any Jews left. Everyone from Catholics to Mormons make a similar demand. They want their adherents to marry in the faith so that the faith is preserved.
I know your mother loves you, but I can tell you from endless experience that while she will of course one day accept whomever you marry, she will never make peace with the fact of you're marrying someone who isn't Jewish. It's the one line in the sand that Jewish parents do not compromise on, no matter how much or how much or how little Judaism they raise their children with.
Your girlfriend can, of course, convert to Judaism, and if the conversion is undertaken for the sincere desire to be part of the Jewish people, she will be completely accepted by the Jewish community. But this is a long and rigorous process, as you probably know, and many potential converts find the process too demanding.
There is another consideration. I often ask Jewish men to think of the many Jewish women who need Jewish husbands.
With so few Jewish men available to Jewish women anyway—Jewish men marry outside the faith at twice the rate of Jewish women—every time a Jewish man dates or marries a non-Jewish woman, it leaves another Jewish woman who will never find a Jewish husband.
So you may ask, to paraphrase the Beatles, "all those lonely (Jewish) people, where do they all come?" Well, a lot of them come from the paucity of Jewish spouses left because of high incidents of intermarriage.
But you should also consider dating and marrying a Jewish woman because it greatly increases the chances of a successful marriage and relationship. Sharing similar values and ideals, while a must for its own sake, is invaluable in solidifying a relationship. And however much one professes not to care about one's religious identity, I have seen many times in my career as a rabbi that while religion may not be very important to people at earlier stages of their lives, that changes greatly when they have children. They suddenly want to share their tradition with their children and raise them within their own faith.
Whatever you do decide regarding your dating and marriage choices, please do not hold it against your mother for not embracing your non-Jewish girlfriend, for in her mind, accepting your girlfriend would be the same as condoning intermarriage. She doesn't mean to be difficult, and it would certainly have been better had your parents imparted a Jewish identity that was more than simply the negative idea of refraining from "marrying out." Still, your mother may feel that this is the only control over your dating that she has left.
Should you ever wish to discuss this I am available to you. I have written about the subject of interfaith dating and marriage extensively in my book, "Moses of Oxford." I wish you all of G-d's blessings in finding a Jewish bride and later happiness in life.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach