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Going to Bat for the Coming Majority

When discussing interfaith matters, we should not forget that in the 21st Century, the Jewish community benefits from the presence of a growing number of “ready-made” allies and supporters from other religious backgrounds.

The most recent op/ed by Rabbi Olitzky, published in the NJ Jewish News, speaks to this issue. Jewish communal institutions have spent time and money in the past reaching out to the non-Jewish population in an effort to increase tolerance and allow for more mutually beneficial interaction between the Jewish community and other segments of the population. JOI’s executive director goes on to point, out, however, that:

In an effort to find friends in the community to make their work easier, we are missing the proverbial answer that is right in front of us: all of the non-Jewish relatives of those who have intermarried. These relatives can seamlessly be incorporated into Jewish celebrations and life-cycle events, and we know we can count on them to support us.

We are all concerned about Jewish survival, and we all have ideas for preserving our culture and bolstering our society as a whole. It is comforting to consider, though, as this article states, that recent phenomena such as the growing rate of intermarriage may actually enhance rather than diminish the strength of the Jewish community.



8 Comments

  1. You write, “It is comforting to consider, though, as this article states, that recent phenomena such as the growing rate of intermarriage may actually enhance rather than diminish the strength of the Jewish community.”

    Does the JOI then take the position of being “pro-intermarriage.” Meaning, if someting enhances the strength of the Jewish community we should advocate for it, right? So rather than just reacting to intermarriage as a “reality” the JOI, if it truly believes that statement, would actively support the idea of Jews marrying non-Jews (and perhaps even fight against the idea of promoting in-marriage). Please let me know if I’m missing the boat here.

    And Adam, I would still like to hear from you on my comments re: your recent article on Chabad at SUNY Binghamton. Thanks.

    Comment by marc — May 10, 2007 @ 9:15 am

  2. As you know we are grappling with the reality of the Jewish community in the 21st century. We are pro those who have committed themselves to the Jewish community, intermarried or inmarried, and those who have “not yet” made their commitment as Rosenzweig was often heard to say.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — May 10, 2007 @ 9:14 pm

  3. “Grappling with the reality” is something we do when we recognize things are not ideal, but we want to find a way to make the best of the situation. Regarding the intermarriage situation in America, I agree this describes it.

    The article you quoted, though, indicated that intermarriage may be a positive (I believe that to “enhance” the strength of the Jewish community would be considered a positive). If that is the case and if the JOI agrees with that statement (I believe made by its Executive Director) then does it not logically follow that the JOI’s position is one of actually advocating intermarriage…unless the JOI takes the position that it is not good to advocate something they believe strengthens the Jewish community???

    I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

    Comment by marc — May 11, 2007 @ 11:18 am

  4. Sorry, I neither agree with your suppositions nor your logic. Intermarriage is part of the North American Jewish community fabric. We are seizing it as an opportunity for community growth and expansion.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — May 13, 2007 @ 11:42 am

  5. I think you have to address my point and my logic, before you are entitled to disagree with either on logical (as opposed to emotional) grounds.

    Does the growing rate of intermarriage, in your opinion (as stated in your article) “enhance rather than diminish the strength of the Jewish community” ?

    If you believe intermarriage strengthens the community you should be PROintermarriage. If not, you should be ANTIintermarriage, though you still may wish to devote your life to making the best of what you see as a bad situation. The mere fact that it is a “reality” says nothing about whether we, as a community, should see it as a positive or a negative. I am asking what is, based upon your own article, a very fair question and would appreciate an honest answer.

    Comment by marc — May 14, 2007 @ 8:37 am

  6. Marc, why do you demand that we have to see this “reality” of intermarriage as either a positive or negative in-and-of itself? Why can’t we be neutral on the phenomenon but positive when the outcomes are Jewish? The quote you’re taking issue with was an attempt to highlight the potential positive Jewish outcomes of this real-world phenomenon that we believe is going to happen anyway. If the wording wasn’t clear enough for you, we apologize. But we’ve stated this countless times before. JOI is not advocating for intermarriage, we’re advocating for the intermarried. We’re not on college campuses encouraging single Jews to marry non-Jews. When we are on college campuses, it is to encourage the inclusion of the young adult children of intermarriage in Jewish life.

    The phenomenon is happening. We are addressing it in a positive Jewish way. We believe that the fact that there even IS a positive Jewish way to address it is still something that is not heard often enough in the organized Jewish community, and thus the use of our blog to promote potential positive outcomes of a phenomenon that we do not believe can be stopped unless there are massive sociological changes in North America (return of Jewish ghettos, for example, and the reinstitution of the anti-Semitic quota systems…i.e., the turning back of the clock 50 years).

    Comment by Paul Golin — May 14, 2007 @ 12:45 pm

  7. Are you saying that the phenomenon of intermarriage, by itself, neither enhances nor diminishes the strength of the Jewish community?

    If so, I think this is being purposely blind to empirical realities. Clearly the phenomenon hurts the community, but, as you say, there may be individual positive outcomes that help minimize the overall damage done to the community. This, it seems, is a much more realistic approach to the issue.

    Comment by marc — May 14, 2007 @ 1:01 pm

  8. By the way Paul, nice to hear from you. (sincerely) I read a couple of blogs on Jewlicious where you are active. Not sure you are making any friends there.

    Comment by marc — May 14, 2007 @ 3:57 pm

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