Is Debating Intermarriage a No-Win Endeavor?

While some people follow the debate over intermarriage in the Jewish community in the Anglo-Jewish press, there are probably fewer among us that follow the debate in the ever-increasing number of personal blogs that are proliferating in cyberspace. In a recent posting on the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) blog, by Esther D. Kustanowitz, the well-known (and resident JTA) blogger pictured at right who also has a regular column in the (New York) Jewish Week, asks the question, “Good for the Jews? Intermarriage destroys Judaism—does intermarriage equal racism?” It is clear that she is asking the question to be provocative, although her conclusion is what struck me. Kustanowitz asks, hypothetically, if there is anything to positive to be garnered from this back-and-forth debate. In her mind, the quarrel is futile and only weakens the community as a whole:

Beneath this admittedly incendiary post title lies a language infused with violence, paranoia and blame. And whether you’re destroying Judaism or advocating racism, no one wins.

While there are serious thinkers who take opposing positions, I agree that the debate is not good for the Jewish community and therefore not helpful for Jewish continuity. We here at JOI enter unwillingly since we know that if we don’t respond, those with other opposing positions, which we deem harmful to the creation and nurturing of an inclusive Jewish community, will have the last word. If there is little to be gained by entering this inflammatory debate, perhaps Esther’s advice should be used in response to those who beg us to participate into the on-going dispute: It simply isn’t beneficial for anyone to do so, and we prefer to apply our efforts in hands-on ways that enhance our community.


  1. Thanks for noticing this post; I was hoping the JOI would respond. One minor correction: the second half of the post’s title was “Does InTRAmarriage Equal Racism?” I was hoping that people would also respond to the fact that people who want to only marry Jews are sometimes treated like racists, while people who are marrying “out” are ostracized, and that the two extremes together create a difficult situation wherein everyone’s calling everyone else names. Which, as you noted, is why JOI prefers to apply efforts in constructive ways. Which is good.
    Thanks for continuing the discussion and the outreach.

    Comment by Esther Kustanowitz — June 1, 2007 @ 6:57 am

  2. To quote Rabbi Harold Schulweis, “either/or questions are not good for the Jews.” Thanks for putting both ideas out there.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — June 1, 2007 @ 7:16 am

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