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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?

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Question:

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?

Answer:

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 Chabad.org.
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Discussion (122)
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.
Chaim
Cinncinnati
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".
Shoshana
Jerusalem
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."
Chaim
Cinncinnati
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.
Anonymous
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.
Shoshana
Jerusalem
January 4, 2014
My congregation has black Jews, native American Jews, and Chinese Jews
Jewishness is not a "race".

It is not a matter of having Jewish ancestors or Jewish blood. If all your ancestors are Jews except for your mother's mother's mother's mother's mother, then you are not a Jew.

If NONE of your ancestors are Jewish, but you were converted by an orthodox "bet din" (court), then you ARE a Jew. If you are female, all of your children are Jews, & all of your daughters' children are Jews, forever and ever.

It's not blood. It's not race. The Jewish SOUL, not the body, makes you a Jew. When a Jewish woman gives birth, her child receives a Jewish soul. When a "gentile" becomes convinced that s/he is a Jew, & learns a certain minimal amount, and goes in the mikveh (to be immersed), that person has a Jewish soul.

What IS a Jewish soul?

It comes from Sinai. Besides the Children of Israel who came out of Egypt, millions of souls came down from under Gd's throne to stand at Sinai with the Children of Israel & receive the Torah.
Batiah
Philadelphia
December 30, 2013
Racists
The original post says that no matter how you live your life or practice the religion, you "are a Jew if you are a Jew:.

That sounds like a race to me. You can be black even if you live in the whitest neighborhood on Earth and follow no traditions of African culture.

To encourage marriage within a race is simply racist.

This is no different than disapproving of your child marrying outside of their race. I am a victim of parents who disapprove of my non Jewish girlfriend and it turns my stomach every single day.

This is a simple issue of maintaining a blood line of thousands of years of Jewish people. Don't give me that garbage that it's something "different and special". It's the same thing. It's eugenics.
Anonymous
Los Angeles
December 4, 2013
My brother doesn't live a very Jewish life.
His daughter, my niece, began dating a non-Jewish man who pursued her assiduously.

Finally she agreed that if he would convert, she would marry him.

After they had been married for a year or more, she had a baby girl.

This year she had a baby boy, and we all attended the Bris.

She is not observant. But she is a Jew. And so are her children.
Ruth
St. Louis
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