Voices: Jewish holiday of acceptance
my view by rabbi kerry olitzky
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The story of the Jewish holiday of Purim sounds like it could
have been written by crime novelist Raymond Chandler. A pretty young
dame with a secret marries a guy with a whole lot of dough. What
follows is a tale of intrigue, deception, money, sex, murder and,
It’s also a story of intermarriage. The pretty young dame was
Esther, and she had to hide her Jewish identity from the Persian
But all those adult-themed components of the story — the thinly
veiled sexual innuendoes, the horrendous slaughter of the villain
Haman's relatives in revenge for his misdeeds, and any difficult
questions about an intermarriage gone right — are swept under the
rug to create a kinder, gentler holiday we can share with our
Esther was raised in a household, where the religion of power and
influence was of greater importance than the religion of her
ancestors. Synagogue attendance and Jewish education were not
So when she meets someone who isn’t Jewish but can give her
everything she wants and more, they marry. Eventually she comes to
identify strongly with her people and, luckily for all of us, her
husband the king also throws in his lot with the Jews at a crucial
moment in history.
Today, it’s no secret that intermarriage is not looked upon
favorably by many in the Jewish community. Other ethnic and
religious groups in America feel challenged by intermarriage as
well. In extreme cases, family ties are severed, but mostly it
causes a lot of heartache. The reason is usually attributed to
assimilation. Parents fear that if their children marry outside of
the religion, the religion won’t last very long.
But that doesn’t have to be the case. Certainly some Jews have
left the fold, but we also have hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish
family members who are equally dedicated to preserving the Jewish
identity. Purim is a good opportunity to honor and thank them.
In the Purim story, Esther and her uncle Mordechai were heroes,
but so was King Ahashuerus, who “married in” to the Jewish people.
If we are willing to bring the intermarried into our Jewish family,
we too will live to see another day.
Rabbi Kerry Olitzky is the Executive Director of the Jewish
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