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Why are my Non-Religious Parents Against my Marrying a Non-Jew?

Why are my Non-Religious Parents Against my Marrying a Non-Jew?



Rabbi, I am not asking for a sermon - I get enough of them from my parents. I am asking for an explanation.

I am seriously dating a girl who is everything I ever dreamed of. She is smart, pretty, funny...definitely marriage material. But - you guessed it - she isn't Jewish. My parents have refused to even meet her and have told me that if we get married they won't come to the wedding. My grandmother is beside herself.

My question is: my parents aren't religious, we never kept kosher or any of the festivals. There was nothing very Jewish about our home. Why all of a sudden are they so Jewish when it comes to who I marry? Isn't that totally hypocritical? When I ask them this they just answer, "This is different", but that makes no sense to me. Why is this different?


That is not just the question of the week; that's the question of the generation: Why does intermarriage touch a nerve in so many people more than any other Jewish issue?

Your frustration is well-founded. It is unreasonable of your parents to expect Judaism to be important to you if it never seemed important to them. What's more, they can't explain to you why they feel the way they do. They probably can't even explain it to themselves. But I have a theory.

There is a profound truth that somehow our parents learnt subconsciously from their parents, and that is: Jewishness is who you are, not what you do.

There is no such thing as one Jew who is more Jewish than another. Whether you practice Jewish customs or not, keep the festivals or not, live in Israel or not, eat chopped liver or not, a Jew is a Jew is a Jew. Jewishness is an irreversible status that is not defined by how you live your life.

A Jew may be sitting in a church eating bacon on Yom Kippur dressed up as Santa Claus, but he's still 100% Jewish. Is he a good Jew? A faithful Jew? A proud Jew? G-d knows. But a Jew he remains. Because Jewishness isn't something you do; it's something you are. Nothing you do can affect who you are.

Nothing, that is, with one exception: whom you marry.

The person you marry becomes a part of who you are. Getting married is not a hobby or a career move; it is making someone else a part of your identity, and becoming a part of theirs. Your spouse fills a void in your very being, and you fill the void in them. So marriage, like Jewishness, is not something you do, it is something you are.

There is nothing wrong with non-Jews. But they aren't Jewish. If you marry a non-Jew, you're still 100% Jewish, but a part of you - your other half - is not. You can be happy together. You can be in love with each other. But there is a part of you that you will never share.

Maybe this is the challenge of our generation: to face the questions of what it means to be in love, what it means to marry, and what it means to be Jewish. And - unlike any generation before us - come up with real answers.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to
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Discussion (125)
June 4, 2015
answer to Debra, June 3 Yes, a Jew is always a Jew
Whatever sins a Jew commits, he is still a Jew. Yes, certain sins incur cutting off (koreis) from the Nation of Israel but that is referring to his soul after death.

The person is still considered a Jew. Even one who marries out, or converts, G-d forbid, though he will receive a very severe punishment for this, is still a Jew and will be punished as one.

There are some differences, though. Such a Jew cannot be used as a witness, and there are many other prohibitions as well.
June 3, 2015
Is a Jew always a Jew? A part of the Covenant of G-d?
Why do you not explain the severe consequences of one who chooses not to observe the Torah? G-d says that he/she is cut off from G-d? G-d, Himself, wrote the consequences to violating the Shabbat as a severe sin which warrants the death penalty...(stoning,which is not something practiced today of course).Nonetheless,
consequences of the violation are very serious for that person. G-d said that the person is considered like an idol worshiper or non-Jew, thus, cut off/out from the nation of Israel unless that person does a complete teshuvah, correct? There is a divine penalty for violations in this world and the next, correct? So, how can you say a person who does not adhere to the commandments, Torah, and/or practices the ways of the other nations, still be considered a Jew or a part of the Jewish nation? Please clarify. Kindly and respectfully, D. H.
Debra Hebb
February 23, 2015
"...Hitler demonstrated that people can and will commit murder, gladly and freely, if a human authority assures them it is "right". .."

Every national leader who claims the right to be able to raise an army that can be used to attack another country that is not at war with them, has demonstrated the same thing. Because you needlessly dragged Hitler into this I invoke Godwin's Law on you and state you are absolutely wrong.

There are absolutes even without divinity. It is an absolute that if you stop eating and drinking you will die within a month or so. God is not needed for that.

If unfettered murder was allowed in any society then that society would disappear as each member murdered each other. Murder in a society is wrong. That's pretty much another absolute and it is not necessary to invoke a divinity.

In my opinion the major reason God had to spell out a prohibition against murder into the Ten commandments was because of illogical reasoning like yours.
January 7, 2014
You as an atheist believe that Torah and Gd are human constructs.
If you are right, then there are no absolutes. You are free to murder, to sleep around, or whatever else you happen to find yourself doing, and you need have no hesitation or compunction about any behavior you choose.

But if there are absolute moral standards of ANY kind, then there is a Source for those standards. Hitler demonstrated that people can and will commit murder, gladly and freely, if a human authority assures them it is "right". The only stance from which to say that Hitler was "wrong" is to affirm an absolute moral authority.

For two-thirds of the world's people, that Source is the Torah, given at Sinai to a tiny group of people and accepted by Christians and Muslims as having been so given.

That same Source says that a person with a Jewish soul (by birth or conversion) has a lifetime obligation to uphold it.

If the person neglects this duty, he has merely failed to advocate morality.
But if he denigrates it, he has actively opposed morality as well.
January 7, 2014
To Anonymous
1-It is not I who do not recognize conversion out, it is Jewish law. So whatever a person believes or doesn't believe, and even if he calls himself an atheist, and even if he converts to another religion, G-d forbid, if his/her mother were Jewish, he is still a Jew. And at the time of his death and even after it, he is still considered a Jew and is judged as one, by the supreme Judge Who gave him his Jewish soul and life, and the Torah which tells us how to live it.

2- The study of Judaism as a child is very different than as an adult, and anyway, you are already sitting by your computer............

3- As far as recognizing your identity as an atheist is concerned, in truth, a religious Jew has trouble believing that a person could really be an atheist, because the whole of creation is filled with plan and purpose, and it calls out, "Lift up your eyes and see Who created all this".
January 6, 2014
There is indeed no difference between a Jew who "converted" and a "born" Jew
Indeed, those who have "converted" were also "born" Jews. That's why they "converted": because they already had Jewish souls.

A Jew is anyone, of any race or color or ethnicity or background, who has a Jewish soul.

And any person who perseveres and becomes a Jew despite all discouragement does have a Jewish soul.

So of course there is no difference.

But if someone announces to me that s/he has just converted (and of course I don't ask; since the very fact of asking would be discrimination)--IF someone is so happy that they want to tell the world--then I say, "Welcome home."

And the person usually says, "That's how it feels to me."
January 6, 2014
Re: Race
"Race" is the wrong word is that there are white Jews and dark Jews, Oriental Jews, and Hispanic Jews.

Rather, the best way to look at it is "family." We're all one family. Even if one (sadly) does not adhere to the family rules, you're still part of the clan. It's something built-in that can not go in.
Yisroel Cotlar
Cary, NC
January 5, 2014
To Shoshana
I myself am not a Jew because I simply don't believe in God or souls to begin with. I was BORN a Jew but decided not to maintain the label because I lost my faith in religion as a whole. I identify as an atheist.

To Shoshana:
Don't recognize conversion out? You don't recognize my identity as an atheist? I HAVE to be a Jew because my mom is a Jew.. wow...

Regarding studying the people and the religion, I had 13 years of religious day school, K-12.

This is a trend among reform and conservatively educated wishy-washy flip-flop practice-when-its-convenient Judaism. Over 50% of us are inter-marrying. Sadly, some of our parents (like mine) disapprove of our decisions, causing tension and inharmonious relationships.

Shame on you if you are willing to sacrifice your relationship with your kids to uphold a Jewish "bloodline" "soul-line" "religious-line" "faith" "tradition" or "population density". Let them love freely.
Los Angeles
January 4, 2014
To Anonymous
I have followed this forum for years. I attended an Ivy League school and nearly all of my 'white' friends are Jewish. I am not, though I am a minority and understand discrimination and the pressure from one's parents for continuity to marry within one's race/culture. I married outside my race/culture and so far it has been wonderful - we both learn so much from each other every day and have grown to cherish our different backgrounds and try to present the best of each to our mixed children.

It is a very sensitive topic but it is my conclusion that many Jewish people are ironically guilty of perpetuating the same type of ethno-centric 'racism' that they themselves have been persecuted for for centuries.

Is Judaism a religion, or an ethnic group/culture?

I love my Jewish friends very much. I think they are vastly different from those who've posted on this forum - for them, there is no difference btwn someone who has converted and someone born a Jew.
humbly disagreeing
January 4, 2014
non-Jewish girl friend
The reason we say, "once a Jew always a Jew" is because Judaism does not recognize conversion out. Which means that whoever is born a Jew remains one.
It has nothing to do with racism.

If you marry your non- Jewish girlfriend, your children will not be Jewish. You will have ended your ties with your 4,000 yr old family, starting with Abraham and Sarah.

Before you take such a drastic step, I would advise you to learn about yourself. See who your people were, what illustrious ancestors you have.
Find out why we are called the "eternal people", delve into the covenant that G-d made with us on Mt. Sinai and see what it's all about.

Even if you say that you don't believe in all that, if can't hurt to check it out. Sort of like a research paper. We have such a rich history, there is so much wisdom here, it would be a tragedy for one to turn his back on it without first checking it out.

You wrote "eugenics",( which I had to look up in my Websters,) and it's not that at all.
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