You can almost see the panic beginning to well. The Jewish community loves actress Natalie Portman, and really, what’s not to love? She’s beautiful (even when bald), intelligent (graduated Harvard), independent-minded (does some films outside the studio system), politically active (stumped for Kerry), socially conscious (vegetarian), funny (hosted Saturday Night Live)…did I already mention beautiful?…and she is openly proud of her Jewish/Israeli heritage. She even played Anne Frank on Broadway. So why the creeping panic? It seems that Ms. Portman is a little too much like the average 20-something single Jewish American, in that she doesn’t limit her dating just to fellow Jews.
In a recent article facetiously titled “Help find Natalie a nice Jewish man,” Portman is attributed as saying “a priority for me is definitely that I’d like to raise my kids Jewish, but the ultimate thing is to have someone [as a spouse] who is a good person and who is a partner.”
While statistics suggest that it would be easier for Portman to raise her future children as Jews if her partner is also Jewish (and sorry, Natalie, I’m already married), we at JOI are thrilled that raising Jewish children is “a priority” for her. We know that if it is a priority, then it can be achieved even if she married someone who is not Jewish. Yes, it might require adjustments, negotiations, conversations, and perhaps even compromises, but all good marriages do, even in-marriages.
The Jewish community makes a mistake when it laments intermarriage for intermarriage’s sake. The truly lamentable fact is that so few young Jews believe that raising their children Jewish is a priority for them, regardless of who they marry. We are not at all worried about the Jewish continuity of someone like Natalie Portman — so private in other aspects of her life but so vocally up-front about her Jewish identity. If she intermarries, my bet is she will continue to be a role model for her generation by raising Jewish children, even if the Jewish media misses the point.