What’s Wrong with Intermarriage?
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What’s Wrong with Intermarriage?

What’s Wrong with Intermarriage?

A response to the firestorm of comments to my article about Marc and Chelsea.

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My article last week about Marc and Chelsea’s wedding touched off a firestorm of comments. I had presumed that the majority of Aish.com readers – interested in Jewish topics and in strengthening their Jewish knowledge – accepted the premise that intermarriage is wrong.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

Indeed, a survey by the American Jewish Committee concluded that just 12 percent of American Jews strongly oppose intermarriage, and 56 percent would not be pained in the slightest by their child's intermarriage.

What surprised me most of all is not just the apathy surrounding intermarriage, but the vehement opposition to my suggestion that intermarriage is fundamentally wrong. Readers accused me of being bigoted, elitist and racist – of espousing something unacceptable in an enlightened society.

Everyone who chooses a spouse has certain values that are deal-breakers – core values that you are simply not willing to compromise, no matter how much you love the person.

So I would like to address my original premise: What is wrong with intermarriage?

Everyone who chooses a spouse has certain values that are deal-breakers. For example:

“If he doesn’t intend to be faithful, I don’t want to marry him.”

    “If she doesn’t want to have children, I don’t want to marry her.”

Deal-breakers are core values that you are simply not willing to compromise, no matter how much you love the person. They go to the very heart of who you are and what makes life have meaning for you. If you view having children as a fundamental value, then marrying someone who doesn’t want kids is simply not a realistic option – no matter how much you may enjoy each other’s company, and no matter how many other interests and values you may share.

In addition to love, marriage is based on shared life goals. Today, intermarriage is so prevalent because a typical non-observant Jew often does share the common life goals of a typical non-Jew. Why shouldn’t they get married if they love each other and primarily share the same values? Mere ethnic differences and cultural diversity will not undermine the marriage.

If establishing a Jewish family and raising Jewish children with strong Jewish values are core values that you hold dear, then the decision to marry a Jew (whether a Jew by birth or a Jew by choice) is the natural outcome.

The fundamental issue is: Why should Judaism be a “core value”? That is a question that cannot be answered in a vacuum. There is no way to understand the riches of Judaism based on a "Hebrew School" education. It requires an investment of time and energy to learn what's been driving the Jewish people to greatness for the past 3,000 years – ideally before deciding who to marry.

Allow me to share with you a one small aspect toward understanding the paramount value of Judaism. The Torah has given the Jewish people a unique mission in the world, to be a moral force as a “Light unto the Nations,” teaching humanity about God, happiness, love and meaning while striving to be an example of these values. The Jewish mission is Tikkun Olam, to repair the world with the revolutionary principles Judaism has given the civilized world: ethical monotheism, love your neighbor, peace on earth, justice for all, universal education, all men are created equal, dignity of the individual, and the preciousness of life.

For thousands of years Jews have understood the power of this mission, and the depth of personal meaning it provides. They stood tall against forced conversions, overt and covert anti-Semitism and genocide, choosing to remain Jews against all odds.

Deciding to marry a Jew does not mean that non-Jews are any less valuable or important. Every human being is a child of God and deserving of love and respect. Rather, marrying a Jew is an expression of commitment to the unique Jewish mission and desire to fulfill the Jewish people’s destiny.

Racist?

I would like to address the misnomer that opposition to intermarriage is racist.

Racism is defined as the belief that genetic factors produce inherent superiority. The Nazis were racist because they believed in a pure-bred Aryan race.

But with Judaism, any human being on the planet – Korean, Indian or Eskimo – is free to join the Jewish people with proper conversion. And for those who claim Judaism as "racist," don't forget that the Israeli government airlifted tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel – marking the only time in history that blacks have been systematically moved to another country in freedom rather than in chains.

Surely, choosing to marry someone who shares the defining values of your life is not racist.

Beyond all this, I believe that intermarriage is unwise. Statistics show that the rate of divorce is higher for intermarried couples, and in many ways the quality of family life is challenged more in an intermarriage. I refer readers to a treatment of this issue in the article, “Why Not Intermarry?”

If Jews have no unique mission, if being Jewish is not viewed as a greatest privilege and source of tremendous meaning, then nothing is wrong with intermarriage.

But if Jewish values are paramount, as is finding a spouse committed to the same core values and transmitting those values to succeeding generations, then intermarriage is a deal-breaker.

There is no way to understand the unparalleled rewards of being Jewish without learning the meaning of the Jewish mission and studying Judaism. Appraise the treasure before selling it forever.

Published: August 15, 2010


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Visitor Comments: 187

(166) Chaya, February 8, 2014 7:36 AM

Brilliant article

This is the most well-written and thoughtful essay I have read on this topic. Intermarriage is the biggest threat to the preservation of the Jewish people and Jewish religion and heritage. We must take this occurence very seriously. Thank you for expressing so eloquently and with intelligence why it is crucial that we care about this issue

(165) Bobby5000, December 3, 2013 1:23 PM

intermarriage

One of the chief determinants will be the paren't relationship. If he sees a father working 60-70 hours per week on a pressurized treadmill, a wife complaining she needs a nicer house two weeks in the Hampton and more money, the husband compared to other men supposedly more successful, the son will say maybe there is something better in life. On the other hand, if he sees a loving and supportive relationship, Jewish values of Tzedakah, a wife who who helps him travel through life's ups and down, the son will want the same.
Parents need to show and display love; telling a son or daughter to marry someone Jewish is likely to accomplish little.

(164) Chaim Leib, August 27, 2013 4:24 PM

OUTERMARRIAGE IS THE DEFINITIVE TERM

Like a beam of light in a sea of darkness, former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs has made a crucial change in this subject of 'intermarriage' by correcting this misnomer to " outermarriage"
Only once a condition is properly identified can the diagnosis begin. The other reason why the term "intermarriage" is inappropriate is because it almost implies a "two state solution:" which is completely unrealistic. On such a union one cannot recite kiddush, only kaddish.

(163) Anonymous, June 12, 2011 2:11 PM

What are we doing?

I intermarried.( My husband is wonderful- we raised our children as Jews ). How did this happen? I was raised with not enough Judaism to choose against this. Christianity is the dominant religion in the US. Without a strong Jewish foundation, children absorb the ideas and principals of the dominant culture. Christianity- although it is not my faith- has virtues. It promotes being a good person, so for the uninformed Jew, it could have much to offer- family values, community, and so on. Many of these historically derive from Judaism, but this fact is not promoted by our culture. As parents, it is our job to educate and motivate our children to be Jewish, as the culture will not. I recently met a Jewish man married to a "born again" Christian wife. I (probably rudely) commented on this and this gracious man explained that he was not raised with much religion. He also mentioned that his wife would not have married him had he not converted to Christianity- and he did. She- a lovely and strikingly beautiful woman- held him to her high standards. They are now happily married with beautiful children- and he has no idea what he gave up. I, on the other hand, "discovered" Judaism as a married adult, and now understand what it has to offer, and situations like this leave me at a loss, for this kind man, devoted to his family, found happiness elsewhere when he could have found it all in Judaism- but never had the chance. I wish my children would marry Jewish, and have tried to do a better job raising them as Jews, but also know it would be hard to argue against this, having done this myself. Somehow, we have to show our children the beauty and high standards in Judaism or they will be attracted to this in others. We can't just say it is "wrong"- our kids know many good people of all backgrounds. We need to nourish their Jewish souls better than anything else.

(162) Anonymous, June 2, 2011 12:31 PM

Surely agree. .

Offspring married outside faith. Family life is not paramount in their lives.

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