Is This Our Future?

The Jewish community doesn’t have a monopoly on combining concern with future numbers with ambivalent attitudes towards intermarried families. A New York Times article entitled “Zoroastrians Keep the Faith and Keep Dwindling” discusses how the 3,000 year old religion of Zoroastrianism is facing extinction because of a communal unwillingness to accept converts and embrace interfaith families. Echoing the controversy in the Jewish community about how we embrace newcomers, Zoroastrians who were more open to outsiders were accused of “diluting traditions.”

When we look at our own community we see many who worry that embracing the intermarried will result in Jewish traditions being “diluted.” They back up this claim with demographic numbers, but simple statistics do not paint a full picture, and do not take into account all possible causes for population decline (such as low Jewish birthrates). We know from our own experience that it is not uncommon for the Jewish partner in an intermarriage to be re-inspired about Judaism through his or her partner’s curiosity and desire to learn.

The article says “Zoroastrians….are divided over whether to accept intermarried families and converts and what defines a Zoroastrian.” The Jewish community cannot afford to be divided over these issues. Luckily, Jewish survival looks hopeful due to an increasing awareness of how important it is to welcome interfaith families. Communities like San Francisco have demonstrated that sustained outreach encourages more intermarried households to raise Jewish children. By providing such outreach to intermarried families and welcoming all those who wish to join us, our community can not only survive but thrive.


  1. the New York Times article was very interesting. prior to reading it, i had no knowledge of Zoroastrianism. the only thing i knew about it was that the late Freddie Mercury was Zoroastrian, though not a practicing one.
    there are a lot of similarities between the two faiths, with the exception that Zoroastrianism subscribes to patrilineal descent and Judaism to matrilineal descent.
    as far as the intermarriage issue, Jews are a much larger group than the Zoroastrians. but that does not mean that things are necessarily better or easier for us. while Judaism generally accepts converts, there have been cases where Jews-By-Choice have been met with hostility and ambivalence. the same applies to all those non-Jewish spouses who have willingly chosen to raise their children as Jews, even if conversion is not in their immediate future or at all. intermarriage itself is not the only problem when it comes to Jewish decline. low birthrates, as Amanda pointed out, are also a huge issue. non-Orthodox women conceive an average of 2 children, whereas Orthodox women conceive an average of 5. but what about those women (regardless of denomination) who cannot conceive at all? is it necessary to blame them for something they can’t help?
    Amanda has a point when she says that the Jewish partner in a mixed relationship/marriage is often re-inspired about Judaism because of their non-Jewish partner. there is a book written by Dr. Samuel Osherson titled Rekindling The Flame: Hows Jews Are Coming Back To Their Faith. Dr. Osherson (whose wife is Protestant and only too happy to raise their children Jewish) feels the same way. and so do i. my family may think otherwise, but i feel more connected to Judaism now and with someone who is not Jewish than i did in all of my years of Jewish Day School or whenever i was dating someone Jewish. and i am glad to share much of my interest with my partner, who appreciates it and respects it even though he is not of any religious background. dwelling on the past will not help us. turning our attention to the future and how we can improve Jewish continuity will, no matter how we do it. we can push for in-marriage all we want. but we must also be sensitive to those who have intermarried or will intermarry by reaching out to them, otherwise we will be in an even deeper hole than we already are.

    Comment by heather — September 11, 2006 @ 1:49 pm

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    Comment by search — October 4, 2014 @ 8:49 am

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