In the past 24 years, we at the Jewish Outreach Institute have seen a dramatic change in the attitudes of the American Jewish community around intermarriage. The community has become more welcoming and open to providing support to intermarried partners who wish to raise their children as Jews. And as the American intermarriage rate remains high, we seek to continue to help interfaith families feel at home in Jewish organizations.
Israel, however, is a different story. Because of the intertwining of “synagogue and state,” questions about the acceptance of interfaith families have real legal consequences. In Israel, one’s religious identity influences a number of legal standings, especially who one can marry. Because of this, questions about intermarriage are inherently political. From the Israeli Ministry of Immigration’s recent anti- immigration and anti-intermarriage ads, to this story in Tablet magazine of a small but growing movement of Israelis formally giving up their legal religious standing in solidarity with the children of interfaith marriages, intermarriage is a hot political topic in Israel as well as the United States.
As we at JOI champion the rights of intermarried families, we understand that many challenges will remain to the children of those unions as they experience the full spectrum of opinions in Jewish life. As such, we seek to bring our message of tolerance and inclusion to all who will hear it. Because the truth is, given the demographics of emigration in Israel and of intermarriage here, the intermarried family is the new face of the Jewish community.
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