For Love or Judaism? New Books Discuss Motivations for Marriage

When I was much younger I wanted to ask someone who wasn’t Jewish to a dance. Now, I had been the recipient of a steady stream of anti-interdating lectures from my parents almost since the day I was born (we have the first one on video from when I was an infant )…so naturally, this went over poorly with them. My father forced me to read a book called The Grave Concern, which he had earlier insisted my mother read as part of his failed campaign to get her to agree to send my brother and me to Jewish day school. The book talks about the dangers of assimilation and intermarriage, and despite reading it, I promptly asked the boy to the dance anyway. Earlier that year I had read another lovely book on Jewish ethics, which compared sacrificing romantic feelings for those of other religious backgrounds to earlier times when young Jews were forced to martyr themselves for their faith. The message seemed to be, “You may not be allowed to interdate, but at least you won’t be burnt at the stake!” Needless to say, I did not find this message to be tremendously inspirational.

Recently, The Jewish Exponent published a review of two anti-intermarriage books, both of which the reviewer thinks are brilliant works that will help people understand why they need to end interfaith relationships or not enter into them in the first place. He lauds one book for talking about how frequently intermarriages go sour, and another one for discussing reasons based upon Jewish law and philosophy why intermarriage should be avoided.

First of all, most people probably don’t sit down and read books against intermarriage before asking people on dates—or falling for people they meet over the course of their everyday lives. Second of all, what about the intermarried families that are involved with the Jewish community and the 50% of Jewish teenagers and college students that come from intermarried homes? How will they feel to read that “by his own admission, Kornbluth [Doron Kornbluth, the author of one of the anti-intermarriage books, whose picture is above] did “hundreds of hours” of research to disprove the belief that intermarried families live ‘happily ever after,’ and that, if the parents want it, the kids stay Jewish.”

Not all families live happily ever after in any circumstances—but the fact that 50% of college students who identify themselves as Jewish come from intermarried families certainly shows that children in intermarriages quite frequently do grow up Jewish. Moralizing book reviews will do little to prevent intermarriage and will only serve to drive intermarried families farther away from the Jewish community.

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