The Book of Ruth from the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) is a story that takes place over 3,000 years ago yet still has meaning for our lives today.
Back then---like today---Jews lived in places where they were a minority. Jews traded throughout the Fertile Crescent, beyond the Land of Israel, and wherever individuals went to do business, communities followed. City life created new possibilities for interaction with others. The opportunity to marry someone who wasn't Jewish presented itself frequently, as it does today. The Book of Ruth shows how, as with many other issues, the Bible does not outrightly reject intermarried couples but instead illustrates the complex nature of life.
Ruth was a Moabite, and elsewhere in the Bible (Deut. 23:4) Jews are specifically forbidden from marrying Moabites. This makes Ruth's own eventual acceptance of Judaism---her role as the great grandmother of King David and the beginning of the line that will lead to the Messiah (Ruth 4:18)---even more dramatic. She was the non-Jewish spouse in an intermarriage who came to love the Jewish people through her family, and that produced a very positive outcome.
It is important to remember that at first Naomi didn't like that a non-Jewish woman married her son. Eventually Ruth and Naomi developed a special relationship, the kind you can't find anyplace else in the Bible. Eventually, Naomi was able to open her heart and welcome Ruth. It's another valuable lesson still relevant for today.
In today's world, Ruth's experiences are relevant not just to Jews-by-Choice but also for the literally hundreds of thousands of people who have chosen to cast their lot with the Jewish people without the benefit of an official conversion. We understand the essence of this commitment in Ruth's own awe-inspiring words: "Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God" (Ruth 1:16-17).
Contemporary Judaism has become a religion that celebrates personal choice. Those of us who have chosen to live Jewish lives, however they are defined, who have chosen to live within the Jewish community and raise our children in its midst, have all become Jews-by-Choice.