Two recent events have brought the subject of intermarriage back to the forefront of conversation in the Jewish community. The first, of course, was the Clinton-Mezvinsky interfaith marriage. The other was a new study by Dr. Steven Cohen, in which he claimed that the Jewish community is sufficiently welcoming to intermarried families, therefore outreach work is for the most part “misguided.” Both have stirred a lot of emotions in people, including many who have re-aired the fusty old argument that intermarriage will ruin the Jewish community.
This kind of response shows there is still much that people don’t understand about intermarriage, so JOI associate executive director Paul Golin wrote an article in Jewcy.com to try and set the record straight. Titled “Continued Confusion about Intermarriage,” Golin illustrates exactly why it’s so important for the Jewish community to continue to find more ways to engage and embrace intermarried families.
In the piece, Golin explains that outreach isn’t a simple strategy of being more welcoming. It’s about education and engagement, motivated by the knowledge that welcoming the stranger is a cornerstone of Jewish history and philosophy. But being inclusive caused many to voice their concerns that the Jewish community would lose its uniqueness. Golin says we need to move beyond the “big fear” that intermarriage will somehow lead to a dilution of Jewish ethnicity, and the best way to do this is by “building more ramps” to the Jewish community. Outreach is about helping people come up to Judaism, not forcing “all the rest of us to dumb it down.”
The recent Clinton-Mezvinsky wedding, he added, has “opened anew the entire spectrum of opinions on the issue,” giving us a great opportunity to elevate discussions about intermarriage. Ultimately though, if we believe “there is relevancy and value in our traditions,” Golin writes, “we must find better ways to share it, and intermarried families represent the best place to start.”