Welcoming the Intermarried: What Can Jewish Parents Really
We have made our greatest contribution to the continuity
of our people by having and raising a Jewish child or
children. That is not altered is they choose marry a
person who is not Jewish. Short of having the kind of
power that no parent ought to aspire to, it is beyond
our power to forbid or prevent our childrens intermarriage;
or to insist on the conversion of a non-Jewish fiance;
or to require that they arrange for a Jewish wedding
ceremony; or to eventually raise their children as Jews.
About forty percent of Reform and Reconstructionist
rabbis do officiate at wedding ceremonies between a
Jewish and non-Jewish person.
What we Jewish parents can accomplish for the Jewish
future of our children and grandchildren lies beyond
the realms of control, insistence or manipulation. Rather,
it is in the realm of loving guidance, thoughtful example
setting, and responsiveness to needs expressed by the
young couple. In that broad framework there is nothing
we cannot discuss as mature adults with our equally
mature adult children or grandchildren. In the final
analysis, the young couple will make their own decisions
about all the matters that are important to them.
It is important that they are aware you understand
that. But to the extent that their decisions are important
to us as well, we can and must discuss our concerns
with them naturally, in a sensitive, respectful and
mature manner. If they dont already know, our
own sons and daughters need to know, and often will
want to know, which Jewish religious and cultural issues
are important to us and why.
Certainly, they should not be expected to make important
decisions about wedding plans or any other significant
life choices without the benefit of parental guidance
and opinion. Withholding guidance and opinions is no
more mature or respectful than is the attempt to impose
them by fiat or excessive control. Communication about
even the most sensitive matters is far superior to guesswork,
and sulking will only lead to hurt.
Efforts at guidance are generally most successful if
parents and grandparents hold out their wisdom, knowledge,
and experience as a resource for the young couple to
use forging their own lives, rather than as standards
the young are expected to live up to. The success of
such efforts depends largely on our own communication
skills as well as upon those of our children and in-laws.
They are adults old enough to marry, independent enough
to have their own convictions, wise enough to know what
is important to them and, hopefully, sensitive and loving
enough to want to maintain warm family ties themselves.
Below are some of the issues that the young couple
will likely want to deal with at different stages of
their evolving life together.
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