Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud


Intermarriage: No Easy Answers

It’s one of the most challenging situations that faces many American rabbis today, especially in the progressive movements: a young couple approaches a rabbi and asks about officiating at a wedding. One partner is Jewish and one is not. The rabbi is suddenly confronted with two young people–deeply in love and ready to make a commitment–who want to spend their lives together. More than that, the couple is sufficiently interested in having a Jewish ceremony, perhaps even committed to creating a Jewish home together, and they are seeking out a rabbi to perform the wedding to solemnize their relationship in a Jewish framework. If the rabbi says “no” he or she risks alienating these young people from Jewish life–a dangerous precedent given the high intermarriage rates in the American Jewish community. If the rabbi says “yes” he or she is contributing to the same demographic trend that threatens the community’s long-term existence given all the statistics and evidence that children of intermarriage identify with and affiliate with Judaism at an alarming low rate. What to do?


For some rabbis the answer is easy–marrying a Jew and a non-Jew would be a betrayal of their title and role. For others–even for rabbis who generally do not perform intermarriages themselves–the question is not so straightforward. Non-Jewish spouses are often committed to creating Jewish homes, sometimes more so than the Jewish partner is. I’m always impressed and moved by the commitment of non-Jewish parents in our congregation who are get up early on Sunday morning to bring their children to Hebrew school, or who pray at services (often in Hebrew) at a family Shabbat dinner, or who ask me for ideas for the seder they are hosting for their in-laws. Many members of my congregation are Jews by choice, who converted long after they married, after many years of living effectively Jewish lives in a Jewish community.
In our time, tragically, Jewish identity is a fragile and precious quantity and I believe we must do everything in our power to nurture it, because it is infinitely precious. Despite what demagogues on both sides of the intermarriage question say, it is not always so clear what the best choice is to ensure Jewish continuity. For my own part, I do not officiate at intermarriages because I cannot sanctify (kiddushin, the Hebrew word for wedding, means “sanctification”) the relationship of a Jew and non-Jew, even if I can appreciate the positive aspects of the relationship. Yet, while I do not perform intermarriages myself, I understand why some rabbis choose differently than I do, for either philosophical or practical reasons.
Intermarriage is not an easy issue and it doesn’t have an easy answer. Accordingly, (returning to the couple in the rabbi’s office) it does not seem that a simple “yes” or “no” is necessarily the best response. Rather, the rabbi best serves the couple and the Jewish community by engaging the pair, affirming the love that they feel for one another, and challenging them to think through the ramifications of an intermarriage. Perhaps the non-Jewish partner will convert, perhaps the couple will be better prepared to recognize the challenges they will navigate. Perhaps, despite the rabbi’s best efforts, they will merely walk away feeling rejected. But, whatever our position, rabbis must engage–it’s the least we can do for the next generation and the ones that follow.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(51)
post a comment
Anonymous

posted July 31, 2007 at 5:15 pm


Look. Its very very simple. A “Jewish Ceremony” means absolutely, ABSOLUTELY AAAAABBBBSSSOOOOLUUUUTELY nothing if both people aren’t Jewish. Period. It is not about the ceremony, or the flowers or the food and it is irrelevant who gets lifted on a chair! It is about a literal binding together of souls. An elevation in spiritual spiritual status as two neshama’s bind together as they were meant to. That cannot happen to a couple unless they are both Jewish!! If the non-Jew wants to convert honestly (according to the laws of Judaism as they have always been) gezuntehiet, but they have to really be doing it for the right reasons, and getting married isn’t one of the right reasons.



report abuse
 

Micah Sachs

posted August 1, 2007 at 8:54 am


Thank you for your sensitive post on the issue of officiation. It’s refreshing to hear a rabbi who doesn’t officiate who understands and empathizes with rabbis who do–and the interfaith couples who ask for their assistance. While in the strict traditional sense a wedding between a Jew and a non-Jew is not valid, it’s difficult to see why the more progressive movements aren’t willing to adapt the tradition to the times in the way they have for so many other issues.
At InterfaithFamily.com, we offer a service for interfaith couples looking for a Jewish officiant, as well as resources for rabbis contemplating how to assist interfaith couples who ask for their help.



report abuse
 

ann

posted August 1, 2007 at 10:43 am


I was amazed to read of this Jewish intolerance of diversity. It was my previous belief that the “JEWS” were the primary promoters of mixed/inter-racial marriages or at least reproduction. This seems to be promoted to the youth via MTV,Movies,Hollywood media etc. Why would this be OK for others yet unaccepable to the Jews ?? I am confused ?
Could someone comment on this Hypocritcy ?



report abuse
 

Marian Neudel

posted August 1, 2007 at 10:44 am


Was the marriage of Moses and Zipporah “sanctified”? I could go through the whole well-known list of illustrious Jews who were married to non-Jews, and who seemed nonetheless capable of making major contributions to the Jewish legacy, but you get the idea. If there is no accepted ritual for “sanctifying” such unions, we need to create one.



report abuse
 

Yossel

posted August 1, 2007 at 11:17 am


B”H
Marian: Regarding Moses and Zipporah, yes, it was sanctified according to Jewish law. Zipporah accepted herself as a Jew, and this was of course before the Torah was given. If you wish to understand the nature of the marriages of our leaders before Mattan Torah, you need to read up on the commentaries, such as Rashi, who explain how everything fits together. An example is Joseph, who married Osnath, “daughter of Poti-Phera.” Contrary to current mis-understandings, Osnath was NOT an Egyptian princess, but was actually the daughter of Dina, daughter of Jacob, and therefore she was a Hebrew. When Jacob was on his deathbed and asked who Joseph’s sons were, his intention was, “are they from a Jewish union?” At that point, Joseph showed Jacob his Ketuba and therefore proved that his marriage to Osnath was according to Jewish law. However, you don’t know this unless you study Rashi, who takes his commentary from the Oral Tradition passed on from the beginning of creation.
Before Mattan Torah, there was no established procedure for conversion; and before the Exodus, only special individuals, keen on their spiritual connection to the children of Avraham, even considered joining the Jewish people. Zipporah was one such person.
After Mattan Torah, the Jewish nation accepted G-d’s rules as to who is a Jew and who is not, and we also accepted the obligation to only marry within our Faith. Of course, this has absolutely NOTHING to do with race, since a white Ashkenazi Jew can marry an African-American Sefardic Jew, or an Asian Jew.
No well-known faithful Jew has married a non-Jew, after Mattan Torah…Yossel



report abuse
 

Anonymous

posted August 1, 2007 at 11:20 am


To me there is an easy answer. Just like I taught my children, if you play with fire you will get burned. Parents today need to practice and teach and live a more Jewish lifestyle along with their children so that their children will not even ENTERTAIN the idea of intermarriage. Intermarriage does not only hurt the people involved, the families involved but also their respective religions and races. Each partner loses out on not being a part of their own heritage. Marriage is difficult enough between the same religions or races don’t make your life any more difficult. We have enough divorce in this world today don’t raise the percentages. The mixing of different cultures, religions and races is only heading for disaster. We don’t have to intermarry to have peace in this world. Each race and or religion needs to keep themselves pure. If the Jewish people continue to intermarry, we will no longer exist and wake up one day and say what happened here. What happened is that we Jewish people of today have to teach and live with our children to be Jewish and be proud to be so. And if we don’t know why then find out together with your children or for yourself if you don’t have children. We, the Jewish people have a responsibility to our future generations and need to give respect and honor to our past generations who enabled us to get thus far. But more than anything I have already mentioned is that we owe it to Hashem, our Father who gave us the gift, the freedom, and to be who we are and practice Judaism.



report abuse
 

Lisa

posted August 1, 2007 at 11:21 am


It’s a big leap to say that Jewish are “intolerant of diversity.” It isn’t a question of diversity, but a way of life and philosophy. There is a lot of meaning in the rituals and way of life that creates a Jewish identity. I can understand how difficult this issue can be and understand why a rabbi would not officiate. I am not Jewish, but Native American and in my lifetime (which isn’t very long), this issue comes up for several families (marrying non-indians or indians of different tribes). Sadly, many people have a perception of Native American identity and life based on media/hollywood and it is often a romanticized or distorted image that does not even touch the surface of what it is to be Native American (specific tribes, we are not one group, there are over 500 distinct groups/nations). I know in my tribe/nation, several families will not hold a ‘traditional’ wedding if one person (bride or groom) is not a member of the tribe/nation. The traditional wedding is connected to our creation stories and hold deep meaning. It does not include only a bride and groom, but entire families and recounting of histories. Non-Indians have married into tribes/families who have been adopted and accepted, but that takes a long time – character determines that. Most Native tribes are not intolerant, I think we’ve put up with quite a bit, but there are areas we still protect because it is sacred.



report abuse
 

laura t mushkat

posted August 1, 2007 at 1:08 pm


To Ann-the media tv and movies-seem to like to hype the idea of what you call diversity. On soaps, sitcoms, etc on tv and some movies few marriages are the same type. Different types of Christianity marry, you rarely see a black mary a black or an asian marry an asian, Muslims do not marry Muslims, Jews do not marry Jews, and if a marraige was arranged it blows apart and the people marry people who are of different faiths or nationality or color. It makes for good drama. Because of differences things can be funny. Not neccessarily how things are. You should know that by now things are not like they are in entertainment and not be surprised. People who are in small groups in this country need to stick together not because of outsiders who are disliked or distrusted but because they can get lost and become extinct.
When this fear gets violent we think of skin heads and the KKK. This is not what the article refers to.
Because there are so few of us we do not think it is impossible to die out.
Article: There are steps being taken in many synagoues and Jewish communities. Slowly we realize that gentiles see “ethnics”-like Jews, having a stronger background then their own. They like that. Often it is so as not to hurt their families that they do not convert. They would not want to ask the Jew to convert. There are so-called unafilliated Rabbi’s who will join with a non Jewish clergy or themselves and officiate. Since our religon requires only that a male Jew over 13 officiate, to be legal Jewish judges are just fine.
(more)
Laura



report abuse
 

laura t mushkat

posted August 1, 2007 at 1:20 pm


(more)
One big thing is that Jews have requirements for burial that are hard to get arround if one spouse is not Jewish. Regardless of age, this has often been citied as a reason to marry in the faith.
Heard of a cemetary in the Boston area where a Jew and non-Jewish spouse can be buried side by side and not have to be in a non-secatrian cemetary where many Rabbis’ will not go. Not sure where this is exactly at this moment. Saw about it on the internet. Given the way things are this is a good idea. The article stresses how well the non-Jew often acts more Jewish then their spouse/or late spouse. The time comes when they die and the children find out about the burial problems. This is what affects many. This is something that is forever. While it is possibly thought of as a good deterent it rarely works and ends up with very hurt children of such unions.
The other was always that the Jewish person was dead to the family once married outside the religon.
Knew about this in the 1950s-60s. The Jew often converted or just became notheing and brought up the children in the faith of the spouse. This seems to be much less prevelent as we are fewer and fewer and want our children happy, married, and having their own.
Laura



report abuse
 

Florence

posted August 1, 2007 at 1:27 pm


I married 27 years ago in a civil ceremony to a Jewish man; knowing full well no rabbi or priest would consider us or our marriage sanctified. It takes a strong spirit and love to overcome the dissaproval of family and society who do not view us as equals in their group.
I became one of the converts to Judiasm and reared three Jewish children. Is this to say it is the ideal that the Jewish community wants; of course not, otherwise there would be droves of people wanting to convert and encouraged to convert and that is not the case. We will never be the role models even in a “Reform” progressive synagogue that Jews want their families to model.
My question to the Rabbi is; Why aren’t Rabbis and synagogues doing more to engage the born Jewish men and Jewish women into dialogue with each other of understanding this situation before they marry. I never see that as a synagogue program;(hey they might just meet someone),the focus is always on the topic after the facts are in on the intermarriage rate destroying the Jewish community. Just imagine how hearing that makes us who worked a lifetime to help correct the problem feel? The answer to the problem is, read your book, do your homework,if I can do it so can the Jew.



report abuse
 

Al Eastman

posted August 1, 2007 at 1:28 pm


Unapologetically I must scorn those who misuse the idea of diversity to castigate people who show pride in their own ethnicity. Perhaps my understanding of the term that implies ‘that while we are a collection of different people we can live together with respect for one another’ is not correct. I suspect some are confusing the theory that at some time in the future humanity will have so intermingled that we will become homogeneous with the concept of diversity. Be that as it may, as a Jewish parent and a grandparent, my preferences have always been for my children (and theirs) to marry within the faith. Call it what you want, that is MY belief. Some may not agree with me that is their right, but their views do not diminish the correctness of my beliefs for me. I say to them, Respect My Beliefs.



report abuse
 

hakohane

posted August 1, 2007 at 1:31 pm


As an ‘adopted’ member of the wolf clan by the six nations, Lisa’s remarks resonated with me. I believe we can all agree that our Native Americans have put up with quite a bit since their homeland security started dealing with terrorists in 1492, to say nothing of the problems with all of us illegal immigrants.
I enjoyed 45 years of intermarriage without giving up one iota of my Judiac heritage: religous, philosophical, ethical and secular. My public life has been greatly influenced by my Talmudic knowledge. My daughter and grand daughter are well aware and comfortable knowing their Jewish Heritage. My late wife took great comfort from the story of Ruth, the Moabite, ancestor of King David and from whom the messiah will be decended.
When my daughter married in a Presbyterian Church, a Catholic Deacon also participated. She requested that I give a priestly blessing. I asked the Minister to read the English Translation responsively, starting with “May the Lord shine his continence upon you.” His face lit up and he said: “So that’s where we got that from.” I gently responded: “That’s where you got it all from!”



report abuse
 

MZ

posted August 1, 2007 at 1:46 pm


Intermarriage has occured in my family. While my daughter-in-law did not convert, she has done a beautiful job of raising my two granddaughters Jewish in Reform Judaism. Both have been bat mitzvahed, both have gone on to be confirmed. Both are active in Jewish organizations and go to Jewish camps. My son was brought back to Judaism by his wife. She has been an active member of their Reform temple and has been a wonderful example to the family and the community. I could go on, but will stop here except to say that many Jewish people marry other Jews and do not walk the walk the way this interfaith couple has done.



report abuse
 

Chezzie

posted August 1, 2007 at 3:35 pm


Hakohane, you might not given up your Jewish “heritage”… but your daughter certainly has.



report abuse
 

Rey

posted August 1, 2007 at 3:36 pm


I am not Jewish but I have a great deal of respect for the Jewish Community. At the same time I have always been confused about what it meant to be “JEWISH” and how exactly you identify someone as “JEWISH” or “NON-JEWISH”. The way I hear some Jews discuss it…it comes off a little racist…meaning they explain being Jewish in terms of a race(or ethnicity is the proper term). While I hear some Jews describe it as being a FAITH meaning something a person accepts as a belief. So please someone tell what is it? From my limited understadning of JUDAISM…it seems to me that it is more a FAITH…and has nothing to do with ethnicity or a persons historical biology. I see it as a spirtually based religious faith like Christianity or Islam or Hinduism. Another question…if a married jewish couple has a child does that make the child automatically jewish…or is the jewish title something the child must accept for him/herself? As you can probably see…of the two possibilties…one is appropiately fit for “JEW” in terms of ethnicity or race, while the other is fit for “JEW” in terms of a Religious Faith; Faith can not be something forced upon any soul.



report abuse
 

laura t mushkat

posted August 1, 2007 at 4:59 pm


Rey-if one is born a Jew s/he is a Jew regardless of practice.
Same if one converts unless the leave.
Laura



report abuse
 

zehlig

posted August 1, 2007 at 5:12 pm


To be considered a Jewish person by all sects of Judaism, one is either born of a Jewish mother or one has converted to Judaism.
I appreciate my faith. I am proud to be a Jew. I love the Law, the Torah, the traditions and ceremonies. A Jewish life is a full, rich, meaningful and highly civilized life.
My wife and I are children of survivors. To us, the survival of our faith is extremely important. The only way for any religion to survive is for people of that religion, to have children and raise them in that religion.
The Jewish religion is currently at zero population growth. Intermarriage is one of the reasons for this.
I accept intermarriage. I know it exists.
That being said, I do not celebrate a marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew. I wish the family good luck, but I do not offer congratulations. I do not give gifts. I do not attend any weddings or parties for the couple.
Some understand my position, some do not. These families have the right to encourage and welcome such a union. I have the right to not rejoice.



report abuse
 

Dave

posted August 1, 2007 at 7:20 pm


While intermarriage is causing the Jewish population in the US not to grow (to say the least), I’m not that pessimistic about the future. In intermarriage-free places like New Town and Kiryas Yoel, New York (and similar places) the population growth is 5% per year. Even starting small a growth rate like that could lead to huge numbers in the future (the ‘miracle’ of compounding?).



report abuse
 

Jeri Greenberg

posted August 1, 2007 at 8:18 pm


I believe, traditionally, and by Jewish Law, one is Jewish if born of a Jewish mother. The reason for this is that before DNA map technology, knowlege of the identity and faith one’s mother was the only true method of proving Jewish lineage, given the possiblility of infidelity or rape especially due to the long historical practice of ethnic cleansing.
That having been said, in modern society, especially in the U.S.A, the practice of blanket exclusion usually is called racism and often breeds bad feelings if not utter bigotry on both sides of the spiritual fence.
It is my feeling that religion and, yes, Judaism is a living religion and, therefore, should evolve. Perhaps our lousy marketing plan, i.e. the practice of not readily allowing or encouraging conversion. Perhaps if the Rabbis in power looked to G_d for guidance, instead of just clinging to historic interpretations of a human-transcibed documents more people would be inspired to learn about our religion. Perhaps they would be spiritually awakened to become Jews. If we do not want to sanction discrimination, we should not practice it. We should not exclude if we do not want to be excluded from this Human Race, and I do believe it is a race, a contest of survival, if you will. With the number of individuals, who consider both Jews as well as Christians to be infidels, approaching 1 billion, I think the spiritual and theological panorama of the world is changing. I think it is critical we consider being more open to some pratices and laws to change in order that the majority of our culture can survive, live dynamically, and indeed prosper in peace and for peace.



report abuse
 

Elonna

posted August 1, 2007 at 9:28 pm


I was born into a xtian family, but never believed in that religion, ever. To this day, it makes my skin crawl to hear any of my relatives pray to Jesus. When I hear this, I always think I never want my future children hearing someone pray to Jesus. I wonder what the Jew is thinking when they finally have to deal with something like that? Mind you, I’m 34 years old and was raised around xtians my whole life. If my skin is crawling, I can only imagine the Jews skin will be running! People don’t think clearly sometimes before marriage, especially the younger ones who jump in. Because they are clueless….maybe it won’t hit them until somebody starts praying to J at the dinner table! That’s my take on it. I have a relative who was briefly engaged to a Jewish man. She ended up leaving her xtian church because the preacher reprimanded her in front of the entire congregation over her engagement to a Jew. I thought the preacher had nerve. But so did my relative when she attempted to push her religion on her fiancee. That’s what scared him off. It’s a good thing she showed him “proof in the bible” (her words) of Jesus as messiah BEFORE any wedding could take place. He told her he was born a Jew and he’d die a Jew. She found another xtian church.



report abuse
 

Anonymous

posted August 1, 2007 at 10:45 pm


As a rabbi who preforms intermarriages, I have a long discussion witht he couple before marriage and will not perform the marriage usless they are willing to have a jewish home and raise the children as Jewish. It is my job as a rabbi to preserve Judaism. Why turn this couple off by refusing to officiate and have them find someone else who will perform the ceremony for what ever reason. I don’t see any statistics that says a Justice of the peace or other clergy will do anything to preserve Judaism.
As to having a Jewish ceremony, there is a lot of wonderful symbolism and meaning to a Jewish weddng ceremony. I have officiated at friends weddings who know that I am a rabbi and once explained to them about the richness of a jewish wedding have asked for a full ceremony from the chuppah to the breaking of a glass.
All of my children have married people who were not Jewish, are raising their children as Jewish and attend Jewish dayschools. My daughter also keeps kosher in her home and her husbandis not Jewish.



report abuse
 

zehlig

posted August 2, 2007 at 6:06 am


A kosher-style restaurant is not necessarily kosher. Raising children as Jewish does not necessarily make them Jewish.
Being born Jewish, is one who is born from a Jewish mother. It is not about DNA.
An embryo, created of the seed of a Jewish man and the egg of a Jewish woman, grown in the womb of a surrogate mother who is not Jewish, does not produce a Jewish child.
An embryo, created of the seed of a gentile man and the egg of a gentile woman, grown in the womb of a surrogate mother who is Jewish, produces a Jewish child.
You may not agree. You may not like this. This is Jewish law.
There is a famous line from the show “Fiddler on the Roof”. It speaks of bending laws and traditions too far, until they break. If we continue to change Jewish law to fit our needs, it may come to a point where it will not longer even resemble Jewish law.
I have seen, on television, the wedding ceremony of a Jewish man to a non-Jewish woman. When he broke the glass, I wondered, “Why is he doing this? What is he destroying? Why is he electing to follow this custom? Is it for show? Does he like the drama? He knows that his children will not be Jewish. He knows he is turning his back on his faith. Why break a glass”?
I find it offensive.
Yet, many Jewish parents attend their child’s intermarriage. They contribute financially to the wedding. They invite their family and their friends (some of whom remain polite, but consider it an imposition.) They eat. They drink. They dance. They give gifts. They say, “I did not want to lose my child.”
These parents gave this child life. They gave this child nourishment. They gave this child a roof over their head. They clothed this child. They educated this child. They loved this child. They gave this child their faith.
When this child says, “If you do not do what I say, you will lose me,” I think perhaps, this child is already lost.
A child who is not lost, understands that personal happiness is one of many goals in life. Respect, honor, duty and responsibility are a few others.
Children know which parents they can emotionally blackmail. A smart parent would never allow themselves to fall victim to this. Once they have, the child may employ this same device over and over again.
If your child, against your wishes, chooses to marry out of the faith, wish that child well. Understand that this child is breaking a chain that has linked all of you to generations of Jewish ancestors. Know that that statistically, the future generations of this child, will not be Jewish. You do not need to celebrate this union and to ask other to join you.
Those who encourage you to go rejoice, including clergy, family and friends, are probably not friends of Judaism.



report abuse
 

xtina

posted August 2, 2007 at 8:20 am


I am surprised at how harsh zehlig’s comment is. As a catholic born and raised woman, I am in a relationship with a Jewish born and raised man. Religion has never been an issue for us. We feel that a deep sense of understanding and respect for each other and strong desire to care and love each other should be enough. As for any children, they would be raised Jewish. (My choice) I have no desire for a catholic wedding, and had even thought of converting far before this wonderful man came into my life. He has told me this would not be necessary. His mother is opposed to our relationship And his father has been his biggest support for it. Both parents are jewish, although the father has remarried to a non-jew woman. He still carries his faith and has not let her religon interfere with his, nor has he ever pushed his on hers. Funny, for being raised in a very jewish household, my boyfriend also remebers celebrating xmas every year, as well as many other jewish families that I know. Isn’t that a double standard? I think that if more people were open to new possibilities, the world would be a better place, after all, isn’t there strength in numbers?



report abuse
 

zehlig

posted August 2, 2007 at 9:17 am


For Xtina
Yes, there is strength in numbers. I would like to see the numbers in our faith grow and give us strength.
Love is wonderful. Clearly, religion is not an issue for you. A deep sense of understanding and respect for each other is important. A strong desire to care and love each other should be enough. But there could be more.
You may choose to raise your children Jewish, but they will not be accepted as Jews by each sect of Judaism.
If you thought about converting, what changed your mind? If you convert before you have children, your children will be Jewish.
Certainly one can understand your future husband’s father supporting your relationship. It gives validation to his marriage to a non-Jewish woman.
I suppose that there are Jewish families who celebrate Christmas. Your frame of reference certainly is not representational of our faith as a whole.
The world would be a better place if people were open to new possibilities. Here is a new possibility; If Jews continue to marry non-Jews and do not have Jewish children to raise in the Jewish faith, there will be no more Judaism.
I hope that you have good health and a happy life together. That being said, I agree with your future mother-in-law.



report abuse
 

Chana

posted August 2, 2007 at 9:28 am


What harms Judaism is the lack of equanimity among us. The various branches of Judaism seem to be rant angrily at each other, spreading Lashon Hora. Its OK to disagree, but how we do it can harm us.



report abuse
 

Florence

posted August 2, 2007 at 9:59 am


Zelhig:
If your sect thinks the way you do; do you really have to worry?
I was under the impression the article was directed more towards non-practicing conservatives and reform Jews who live in a secular society and don’t make Jewish choices a priority.



report abuse
 

Kathy

posted August 2, 2007 at 10:59 am


I was raised Roman Catholic. I attended Catholic schools from 1st to 12th grade. I even spent time in a convent training to be a nun, but left during the novitiate when I discovered that this was not the lifestyle for me. I later married a man (in a Catholic wedding) who had been a monk. That marriage ended after 15 horrible years. Through the years, I became more and more disillisioned with Christianity and its basic fondation, that Jesus was G-d and the Messiah. I always believed in G-d and began learning about Judaism on my own. Later on, at work, I met a wonderful man who was raised Jewish, though he was not observant and even questioned the existence of G-d. He and I got married at the courthouse. A year or so later we began attending services at the local Conservative synagogue and I decided to convert to Judaism. My husband began studying the Torah and we became more involved in our synagogue. I completed my conversion in April of this year and we were remarried under the chupah after the conversion ceremony. We are planning a trip to Israel in the Spring of 2008 with our Rabbi and members of synagogue. My husband and I feel like we were given to eachother by G-d and we are very committed to our Jewish faith. Even though we did not begin our married life as a Jewish couple, we are now and forever will be in a Jewish marriage. Things can work out. I realize that we are very fortunate and this is not always the case.



report abuse
 

Jeri L. Ludwig

posted August 2, 2007 at 11:03 am


God loves ALL! nothing more to say about that…but if YOU feel You have to be a certain way isn’t that being judgemental? And is God the only one to judge… not man? There is just no logic…God made man..women..to love, care for each other…why do you think it has to be just a certain birthright? Isn’t that closed minded? I once heard a Jewish Mother call her G-children Mongols…because their birth Father wasn’t Jewish…my heart sank..my thoughts were…who cares who donated the egg/sperm…these are a creation in GOD’S imagine!!
I wonder…should you use your mind and heart or rely on what someone wrote and wants to have you think never outside your/their box.
I am blessed to have no structured religion to be made held accountable for…just me and my time with my Creator!



report abuse
 

Nancy Cronk

posted August 2, 2007 at 11:30 am


I cannot tell you how many couples I have met, talked to on the phone, or married that tell me the same thing. Jewish partner’s family is religious but Jewish partner has distanced himself/herself away from Judaism. Says he/she does not feel “spiritually connected” and didn’t like being sheltered from the outside world. Or, feels the shul experience he/she grew up with was superficial, not personally rewarding.
Jewish partner meets non-Jewish partner. Non-Jewish partner encourages Jewish partner to re-examine his/her relationship with Judaiasm. Jewish partner grows from the experience, and identifies more with Judaiasm in his/her own new way. Couple decides to marry and wants an interfaith wedding with an emphasis on Jewish tradition. Consults Rabbi, who turns them away. Any chance the Jewish partner had in connecting with Judaism bites the dust.
SAD.
Nancy Cronk, Founder and Chair, InterfaithOfficiants.com



report abuse
 

Nancy Cronk

posted August 2, 2007 at 11:39 am


P.S. What could happen is this:
Couple finds Officiant willing to honor deep beliefs, values, dreams, yearnings of each person, and helps them to honor the unique sprituality of each person. Officiant offers them resources in the event they want to affiliate with their birth-faiths, or another faith, or none at all.
In my experience, when young Jewish people are given freedom to choose, they often return to Judaism for the rich cultural gifts it offers, NOT out of guilt, NOT out of shame, NOT out of a sense of obligation. And when they do, the things they have experienced make their contributions to the community more thoughtful, sincere and honest.
As a Jew by choice who helped my husband rediscover his deeper, more spiritual Jewish identity 25 years ago, and is helping our third son with his upcoming Bar Mitzvah, helping other interfaith couples on their own journey is an honor, and a privilege.
B’Shalom.



report abuse
 

Arie

posted August 2, 2007 at 12:17 pm


I feel Judism closes themselves off to people of other faiths, while all other faiths reach out to others of different faiths. This is Why intermarriage is growing. They cause so many young people of Jewish faith to want to rebel and alienate the faith. Growing up Jewish for me was not a happy joyful experience like it Should be. The hebrew School classmates where nasty. The other Jewish Girls Where judgemental and superficial, and the few Jewish men who don’t fit the stereoptype of being nerdy, or controlling and neurotic, tend to go after Shicksas, probably because they had a bad experience Jewish Girlfriend like the ones Who Where unkind to me. Most of the Jewish People I’ve met like myself, who don’t identify with Stereotypical Jewish community(sadly, this stereotype tends to be an overwhelming majority)end up preferring other faiths and cultures, because our culture was so uninviting and superficial, and closeminded to other faiths. The Hebrew school teachers used to basically try to poison our minds against Christians, and teach us they are bad and hate us.My Uncle Married a Non-Jew, and they let their son choose for himself what he wanted to be, and after my brothers bar mitzvah, he ended up choosing Judiasm, and their Synagogue was a very welcoming loving place, and he had a nice Bar Mitzvah, and of course my Jappy Long Island Cousin Scoffed at it Since it wasn’t as Flashy as her tastes. Until We make Juddiasm a more welcoming, and loving and the beautiful religion it’s supposed to be, and not so much a superficial ethnicity about Shopping and Shutting out people of other faiths and cultures, Interfaith Marriage is not going to go away, because we want to be with someone who wants to be a part the Beautiful religion Judiasm is meant to be, and usually non-religious people brought up christian tend to be more open to that than many other Jews. They are much more accepting and open to us than we are to them. Rabbi’s need to accept interfaith Marriages, or try to figure out why so many non-interfaith marriages have som many problems, and so many get divorced, so they try to fix things, and than can make More Jewish people want to be a part of their community.



report abuse
 

laura t mushkat

posted August 2, 2007 at 1:01 pm


Not long ago I was talking to a person who, like me was Jewish. We were talking about a poll in the pager that said Jews were getting fewer and fewer. A local Rabbi had said that as a result the Jewish faith as we know it might die out.
The topic of interfaith marriage was pointed to a part of the problem.
This gentleman had, I think, a very good point: He said this has occured thruout our history when we felt safe. That the religon is kept going by the ultra-religous who not only do not intermarry but have many children. He thought this was what will always save our faith from dying out completely.
A fascinating thought, is it not?
Laura



report abuse
 

Al Eastman

posted August 2, 2007 at 2:28 pm


Several Non-Jews have made comments regarding the apparent disinterest of today’s Jews in seeking converts. They somehow have the impression that we NEVER proselytized. This is far from historical truth.
I copied two paragraphs from this Beliefnet site: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/109/story_10994_1.html
“Jewish proselytizing was so successful, it’s estimated that by the first century C.E. fully 10 percent of the Roman Empire was Jewish, close to 8 million people.
“Jews only stopped open proselytism because of pressure from Christian and then Muslim rulers, beginning in 407 C.E. when the Roman Empire outlawed conversion to Judaism under penalty of death. But the internal, theological impetus to be “a light unto the nations” (Isaiah 42:6) persisted through the centuries, albeit undercover, advancing and retreating along with Jewish fortunes in the Diaspora.”
I urge you all to visit that site.



report abuse
 

doris

posted August 2, 2007 at 3:05 pm


it depends upon the couple who are being wed. if they both are unaffiliated and have no attachment to their church or synagogue then maybe they can make a go of a marriage.
it is hard, however, if children are involved. the children become confused and are not able to understand why they have to celebrate certain holidays differently.



report abuse
 

Arie

posted August 2, 2007 at 3:58 pm


Posted by: Al Eastman | August 2, 2007 2:28 PM
hey I actually made a comment about Jewish people not seeking converts, but IAM Jewish by birth.



report abuse
 

Arie

posted August 2, 2007 at 4:23 pm


Posted by: Rey | August 1, 2007 3:36 PM
Hi, Being Jewish this has been a big issue for me. It seems many of My family seeem to see it as an ethnicity, they call themselves Jewish, but say they don’t believe in God, So I tell them they are not Jewish, they are aethist. though some say I am right, others say Jewish is a culture, we have cultural traditions that make us Jewish. They are wrong, because Israeli Jews have different cultures than the european Jews. Israli Jews consider Jewish their reliogion, and Israeli their ethnic Heritage, yet the Jews of european decent, seem to think certain religious cutoms are ethnic customs. I tell them if Judiasm is an Ethnicity, than how come people who are not Jewish can make the choice to convert to become Jewish, however a non Italian cannot convert to become Italian? The whole mixed up idea of Judiasm being an ethnicity is due to Hitler. He stripped european Jews of their ethnicity, and said they are a race, and it has seemed to rubbed of on modern day Jews, And they are Still giving him victory by taking up that attitude, and it needs to be corrected. And if Someone wants to convert to Judiasm, we Should welcome them openly, the way Christians and Muslims do.



report abuse
 

Arie

posted August 2, 2007 at 4:37 pm


Posted by: Lisa | August 1, 2007 11:21 AM
I’m Glad as a Native american you have Joined this discussion. As a women born of Jewish faith, I can tell you that Jews and Native American’s are both the most devistated victims of one of the most atrocious crimes there is, Genocide. So because of that we have a fear of extinction. The one thing I can tell you about the Jewish faith that makes it less of a worry, is that if the mother is born Jewish, her child is Jewish, regardless of the father’s religion. We have that law so Rabbi’s Should be at least opened to marrying a Jewish woman to a non-Jewish Man. It must be even tougher for Native Americans, because they don’t even have that option, and you had an even larger number of fatalities to genocide than we did. And though a person can convert to Judiasm, they can’t convert to become Native American. anyway, because of the fear of extenction as a result of Genocide, Jews and obviously Native American’s as well, often don’t like the idea of marrying outside their faith, or in your case, their ethnicity.



report abuse
 

Cheri

posted August 2, 2007 at 5:14 pm


I would like to make a comment to Lisa’s statement. Historical one can not be a “Native American” and Jewish, unless there was an interfaith marriage in her family’s history.
Americn Indians were not part of a genocide; they were merely rounded up and not put to slaughter, they were just merely repressed.
I am a convert as well as my husband and so are two of our three children.
I would hope that since two of my children have converted that they would stay within the faith of Judiasm.
The question was about infaith marriage not genocide or repression.
P.S. I am also part American Indian.



report abuse
 

Jeri Greenberg

posted August 2, 2007 at 5:48 pm


When I make a choice to be kind, charitable, loving, understanding, those are what I call the behavioral choices a decent Jew would make, and I know, because I am one.
When I hear a bigot spew garbage of hatred, exclusion, and at his best, rigid judgementalism, I hear the same rumblings that any extremists make, whether Jewish or Muslim, Nazi or KKK. And the next things that follow are division, active hatred, war, and genocide.
It is not enough to go into temple and pray for peace.
It is not enough to carry on traditions chanting mindlessly that ask for G_d to bring Peace. It is the dynamic task of every human to create and sustain peace on every level, whether people are too ignorant or far away from G_d to hear it. My faith is in my G_d not Religion. He brings me to my center, directs me to righteousness when I listen and this brings me my peace.
He tells me not to hate. He handed down the 10 commandments. People wrote the Torah, excluded many things, altered it over time. I listen to G_d.



report abuse
 

Arie

posted August 2, 2007 at 8:23 pm


You’re wrong. Your family is Jewish. For purposes of ethnicity, all you need is one Jewish parent.
You can be an atheist and be a Jew.
You can be just about anything – except a Xian – and be a Jew by ethnicity.



report abuse
 

Scott R.

posted August 2, 2007 at 10:51 pm


Actually, that last post was from me. I was addressing it to Arie.



report abuse
 

GP

posted August 3, 2007 at 6:31 pm


I can speak on this one :) I’m a jewish woman married to a lutheran and the wedding was presided by both minister and rabbi. I think it exemplified exactly how G-d wants His people to live… in harmony .. it’s all different roads to the same G-d.
My husband was a PK (preacher’s kid for the acronymn impaired) and his dad knew more about judaism and other religions, frequenting those places of worship often than most people have forgotten.
GP in Montana
http://www.fishcreekhouse.com



report abuse
 

Arie

posted August 4, 2007 at 10:02 pm


Posted by: Scott R. | August 2, 2007 10:51 PM
Jewish is my Religion by Birth, my ethnicity is eastern European(Polish Russian Austrian)!!! Judiasm was not considered an ethnicity until Hitler made it into that, stripping German Jews of being German, Polish Jews of being Polish, etc. He started this whole thing.And YOU Are buying into it! I don’t think it’s any fair that my religion Should be my ethnicity, While for example italians are italian, yet their religion is Catholic, and so on. Why do Jews have to be Jews and nothing else, It’s boring and unfair. I consider my FAITH today Spiritual/New Age based in Judiasm. My Ethnicity is Eastern European, and I’m taking my ethnicity back, I refuse to Allow Hitler’S sick beliefs to haunt me and strip my of my Ethnic identity!



report abuse
 

Scott R.

posted August 4, 2007 at 10:40 pm


Arie,
Whatever. Go be happy.
Judaism is much more than a religion. It is a civilization and an ethnicity. It isn’t a race. You’re confusing ethnicity with race. AH did as well.
I was born a Jew. My genes are Jewish – I’m a kohanim. My ancestors were German and Austrian. You really think I’m going to claim THAT as my ethnicity? I’m a Jew through and through – religion, ethnicity and blood – and if anyone doesn’t like that, they can go “f” themselves.



report abuse
 

Dave

posted August 5, 2007 at 10:26 am


I know of no rules for Jewish ethnicity (although the Torah does have rules for memberships witin tribes). I don’t see how anyone could say that someone with a tiny bit of Jewish blood is or is not ‘ethnically’ Jewish. I don’t see why someone could not be Christian by ‘ethnicity’. Was Edith Stein Jewish by ethnicity?



report abuse
 

Jack

posted August 5, 2007 at 11:56 am


I am a Sephardic Jew, and I can trace my origins to about four hundred years ago. I am married to a wonderful lady for more than 40 years, a lutheran chistian. I do not regret it. I lost more than 15 relatives to the Holocaust, and no religious education,per se,in the Jewish Faith. we visited Israel many times where part of my family reside. My wife is more Jewish- minded than I am, I must admit. We go to the synagogue sometimes, and I feel great about it. And G-D has been watching upon us every step we took in our lives, for sure. and we are thankful for it.
Jack



report abuse
 

Rose

posted August 5, 2007 at 1:35 pm


Shalom all. Just a point that occured to me from the ealier part of this discussion about the historical background of matrilineal Judaism. I was fascinated to be told by our Rabbi that before the fall of the Temple, Jewish inheritance was patrilineal, and changed due to the pragmatic reasons mentioned earlier as we became dispersed. This rather shed a different light on our feelings towards patrilineal Jews who are only welcomed by the Liberal movement as far as I am aware.
In the case of friends of ours at Shul, the girl was patrilineal, converted, met a Jewish born boy who was at that time a New Age practitioner. Gradually, by sharing together he grew more deeply into his Jewish heritage and they now run an observant home – marriage is a truly wonderful adventure.



report abuse
 

Elonna

posted August 5, 2007 at 1:57 pm


Has anyone seen the documentary Out of Faith? “www.outoffaith.net” There’s a clip and one guy says intermarriage is finishing where Hitler left off. I don’t agree with that comment. But the documentary looks very good. It’s about a grandmother who hasn’t spoken to her grandson in six years because he married a non-Jew. Now her grandaughter is going to marry a non-Jew. This woman survived Auschwitz. I felt so sorry for her. My heart hurt. That was from just watching the 3 minute trailer.



report abuse
 

Scott R.

posted August 5, 2007 at 5:01 pm


Any person that has a Jewish parent is ethnically a Jew. Edith Stein was still a Jew even though she was an apostate. She died for being a Jew.



report abuse
 

Cully

posted August 15, 2007 at 7:33 am


“I know of no rules for Jewish ethnicity (although the Torah does have rules for memberships witin tribes).”
I don’t understand… I thought being “Jewish” was a matter of spiritual practice – faith in and relationship to G-d; and being Hebrew or Israeli was a matter of ethnicity. Are you saying that to be Jewish one must be from a specific ethnic group?



report abuse
 

Jeffery

posted July 23, 2014 at 3:38 pm


Hey there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group? There’s a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Cheers



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

The Task Is Never Finished
It has been heartwarming to read the warm responses to Rabbi Waxman's post asking Beliefnet to reconsider its decision to cancel Virtual Talmud. Virtual Talmud offered an alternative model for internet communications: civil discourse pursued in postings over a time frame of days (rather than moments

posted 12:31:46pm Apr. 03, 2008 | read full post »

Some Parting Reflections
Well, loyal readers, all good things must come to an end and we’ve been informed that this particular experiment in blogging as a forum for creating wide-ranging discussion on topics of interest to contemporary Jews has run its course. Maybe it’s that blogging doesn’t lend itself so well to t

posted 1:00:29pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

Obama's Lesson and The Jewish Community
There are few times in this blog’s history when I have felt that Rabbi Grossman was one hundred percent correct in her criticisms of my ideas. However, a few weeks ago she called me out for citing a few crack websites on Barak Obama’s advisors. She was right. I never should have cited those web

posted 12:09:08pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

The Future of Race Relations
As a post-baby boomer, it is interesting to me to see how much of today’s conversation about racial relations is still rooted in the 1960s experience and rhetoric of the civil rights struggle, and the disenchantment that followed. Many in the black and Jewish communities look to this period either

posted 4:04:41pm Mar. 25, 2008 | read full post »

Wright and Wrong of Race and Jews
Years ago, as a rabbinical student, I was one of a group of rabbinical students who visited an African American seminary in Atlanta. My fellow rabbinical students and I expected an uplifting weekend of interfaith sharing like we had experienced in visits to other (largely white) seminaries. We were

posted 12:50:11pm Mar. 24, 2008 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.