New Battleground: The Prom?

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Several weeks ago there was a story in the New York Jewish Week called “Is My Prom Date Kosher?that we at JOI found discouraging on many levels, including the fact that:

  • a Conservative Jewish day school in Westchester, NY, felt the need to announce their policy that non-Jews could not come as dates to their upper-school’s prom;
  • the school seems not to understand how kids date or when people get married these days, by suggesting that “bringing non-Jews to watch a school play or a basketball game is OK” but “there is a greater assumption of intimacy associated with the prom” (the actual average age of marriage is nearly ten years after high school for Jews);
  • and that in the ensuing uproar, some students called the policy racist because it was assumed that administrators would try to stop people, and if “Most people can pass as Jewish…the only red flag would be if someone was another race.” (What RACE is Jewish? An Ethiopian Jew is Jewish, as is a Yemenite Jew or a Russian Jew);

In the end, nobody was stopped at the door even though non-Jews attended, and the article simply served to shine a light on how incapable some Jewish “insiders” (the school AND the students) can be in handling issues surrounding intermarriage and inclusion.

Now for the punch line.

In a letter to the editor about the above article, printed in this week’s edition, we learn that the “non-Jewish” boyfriend of one of the students at the school who pleaded against the policy “was not a non-Jew. He was Jewish by Reform standards, raised Jewishly and was a bar mitzvah.” The girl’s father, who’s writing this letter to the editor, explains that “our home does not encourage interfaith marriage. Though I was raised Catholic, 30 years ago I vowed to my father-in-law (of blessed memory) that I would raise our children as Jews, and that vow has been one of the central commitments of my life. We have raised our children in an exclusively Jewish environment and given them a Jewish day school education. After living Jewishly for 18 years, I formally converted to Judaism 12 years ago, in part because I realized I could best keep that vow by providing a home in which both parents were Jewish.”

The fear of intermarriage is so overwhelming in this community, it seems even this formerly intermarried person (who is now Jewish) still feels the need to justify why both parents must be Jewish (even though he himself raised a Jewish child within the context of an intermarriage for the first six years of the child’s life). Baffling.

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