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Life After Intermarriage

Andrew Silow-Carroll, editor-in-chief of the New Jersey Jewish News, thinks he knows why Jews intermarry. It has nothing to do with self-hatred or because Jewish women are taboo. He wrote in a recent column:

Jewish Americans marry non-Jewish Americans because Americans marry Americans. Distinctions between Jews and non-Jews have all but disappeared in the past 50 years, while acceptance of Jews among non-Jews is nearly complete. Besides, Jews are a tiny minority comfortable among a vast majority. Odds alone favor non-Jews meeting Jews, and falling in love.

Silow-Carroll brought this up because he had been out with a friend who had intermarried and was displeased with the way intermarriage is sometimes represented. Andrew could see his point, but also wanted to try and defend promoting in-marriage “without sounding like Archie Bunker,” which is especially difficult as the Jewish community grows more diverse.

His argument was reasonable – it’s hard enough to raise Jewish children with two Jewish parents. “The best way to keep [Judaism] going is not only to marry a Jewish woman, but to raise kids to appreciate Jewish culture in a positive, sustaining, organic and holistic way.” While we don’t feel in-marriage and raising Jewish children are mutually exclusive (he does acknowledge that many families are “doing a heroic job of raising Jewish kids”), his point is that it’s more about how Judaism is presented.

You don’t get people to appreciate a culture and work toward its preservation by laying on the guilt, not in 2009. You do it by raising them in an atmosphere that cherishes the culture and makes it natural for them to want to maintain its traditions.

He’s absolutely right. Intermarriage is a reality. Creating a community where these families are welcomed and encouraged to lead a Jewish life - rather than making people feel guilty for their decisions - is what will keep them involved.



3 Comments

  1. What are the reasons for exclusivity? What are the fears that prevent Jewish communities from accepting: a) intermarried couples; b) children of intermarried couples; c) converts - ?

    If the goal is to preserve Judaism for future generations and to transmit the culture and its values, why keep people out?

    What is the source of this seemingly illogical attitude?

    Comment by Sara — March 15, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

  2. I am blessed to be the rabbi of an inclusive congregation of 400 folks. Until this year, all of the children, about 30, in our school only had one Jewish parent. To me, this shows that intermarriage is NOT a barrier to raising Jewish teaching. If the non-Jewish spouse is welcomed and made part of the community, then we have increased out Jewish community base. Love knows no boundaries and when folks fall in love, we should celebrate and open our hearts, our teachings and our tents. To me - then Judaism will grow and flourish.

    Comment by Rabbi Ann White — March 16, 2009 @ 7:34 am

  3. What would you say to an adult born but not raised Jewish? There are many of us. Some of us have children. My impression is we are generally regarded as throwaways.

    Comment by Sara — March 16, 2009 @ 12:24 pm

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