Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I am 22 years old and keep getting into the same argument with my parents (since I started dating), because despite the fact that I have a serious courtship, they encourage me to find a Jewish guy. They act as though I don't have a "real" courtship. They are not religious so I don't understand why they are so adamant about this. I have never dated a Jewish guy, because the guys I am attracted to simply are never Jewish. (I guess there are more non-Jews out there.) Are they wrong for treating me this way, or am I? Is there a reason to seek out a Jewish man?
Hillary in Atlanta
Our answer begins with a question you must answer. How strongly do you identify yourself as a Jew? This has nothing to do with how religiously observant you are; it has to do with how you define yourself in terms of your history, your culture, your spiritual beliefs and your relationship to God. We see that you feel a connection to Judaism from the fact that you clicked onto this website! So spend some time thinking about how important your Jewish identity is to you. Do you envision a life in which you are conscious of your Judaism, maintain some Jewish tradition, and/or raise your children as Jews?
If you do, then you should date only Jews, so that you will marry a Jew. Lets face it: It's much more common for mixed-faith families to gravitate toward the predominate culture (i.e. Christianity), than to incorporate Jewish traditions and values into their home. Sadly, the majority of people who marry out of the Jewish faith maintain only minimal connections with Jewish life. Their children and/or grandchildren frequently do not consider themselves Jews. The beauty of our 3,000-year faith, rich history and culture often ends within a generation of intermarriage.
You don't have to be religious to treasure your Jewish identity and to want your children and grandchildren to be Jewish. This feeling is undoubtedly at the root of your parents' strong sentiments. It is to their credit that they have always expressed their hope that you date Jewish men. They understood that even people who insist they will stop dating non-Jews once they are ready for marriage may find themselves pushing this aside when they fall in love with the nice non-Jewish friend they've never thought of marrying until now.
About your statement that you've always been attracted to non-Jewish men: Is it possible that you may have dated non-Jews out of rebellion to take a "stand" against your parents, and now that you're an adult you simply are accustomed to being with men who are not Jewish? Could it be that if you learned a little more about our rich heritage, you'd be more inclined to date Jewish? The man you are now dating may be a great guy, but we'd like to see you maintain your link to our faith by learning more about Judaism, and strengthening your emotional ties to your heritage.
Have you ever visited Israel? This can be a great jump-start to a Jewish connection. Check out the programs at http://goisrael.org.
You may also try the Discovery seminar, which helps answer the question, "Why be Jewish?" The seminar is given in hundreds of cities throughout the world. For a current schedule, go to: http://www.discoveryproduction.com/
Rosie & Sherry
Dear Rosie & Sherry:
I am 19 and grew up not knowing of my Jewish blood. I started practicing Judaism about a year ago and much of this is still so new to me, but I have never felt so fulfilled in my life. I only dated non-Jewish women, mainly because there are few Jews in the middle of Kansas, and because I never knew of my heritage until recently. I do not think it is fair to put restraints on love and say that it has to stay exclusively in the same religion or race, but sometimes I think non-Jews do not understand where I come from as a Jew.
Because of this, I think that maybe only a Jewish woman would be able to understand me. Should I stop dating non-Jews? Am I too far out in left field? I would appreciate any help you could give.
Kenny in Kansas
Mazal Tov on discovering your Jewish roots! You've begun a spiritual journey that we hope will continue to fulfill you for a lifetime.
As for your question: Jews should date only Jews. First of all, it is forbidden for a Jew to marry a non-Jew, as is clear from the Bible, Deut. 7:3. Not because Judaism is racist (clearly not since any human being can convert to Judaism), but because we believe that the Jewish people are a precious -- and endangered -- species. When a Jew marries a non-Jew, they effectively sever themselves from the Jewish people forever.
Further reasons are as much practical as they are spiritual. Judaism is a lifestyle as well as a religion. It's much easier to date someone who shares your overall outlook on history and life in general, your observance of Jewish traditions and holidays, your desire to increase your Jewish knowledge. That's the practical side.
On a spiritual level, consider that our traditions go back thousands of years. Intermarried families tend to break off from these traditions within one generation. When you date non-Jews, you significantly increase the chances that you will marry a non-Jew. American Jews have much in common socially and culturally with their non-Jewish countrymen, and it's easy for them to form an emotional bond.
Since you live in a geographic area where there are few Jews, it will help to find a rabbi and/or mentor to help you out socially. Consider hooking up with a mentor in Kansas City or St. Louis -- each of those cities has vibrant Jewish communities. Or check out a Jewish student organization at the nearby university.
Your knowledge of Judaism is new, and will continue to bloom over the years. Your journey will be much more meaningful if you can share it with the people you date.
Rosie & Sherry