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Why Do Jews Exclude Other People?

Why Do Jews Exclude Other People?

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Question:

I've been asking this from everybody and I can't get an answer: Why do Jews exclude other people? My fiance's parents told me that for a Jew to marry a non-Jew and have children is worse than the Holocaust! I don't get it. Am I really that terrible? In a world with 6 billion people, what kind of G‑d is the Jewish G‑d, who chose a tiny percentage of the population of the world and left the rest without G‑d's mercy?

I don't think I have to mention that I'm not a Jew myself, but I am in a relationship with a Jew, and I want to know more. I want to understand, because right now, I have big problems finding acceptance and respect for Judaism, which of course causes problems in our relationship. I could ask him, but I would rather ask a rabbi, since I expect you to have deeper knowledge than my boyfriend.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Answer:

I'm glad you were persistent in asking your question, and I'm glad you've given us a chance to answer.

First, please keep in mind that I didn't make any of the statements you are citing. Start reading fresh, like we've never discussed this before. Because, we haven't.

I'm sure you understand that every creature G‑d has made on this planet wishes to survive. Not just each individual critter wants to go on living, but the mothers want to see their children survive and those children want to see their children survive and so on. In other words, each species wants to endure and survive.

We Jewish people also want to survive. We are a tiny portion of the 6 billion you mentioned. We've been around for almost four thousand years. At times, we made up more than 10% of the world. At other times, much less. Right now, we're less than a quarter of a percent.

Each people makes their contribution to humanity -- inventions, ideas, wisdom, music, art, culture. As a people, we've made many important contributions to the rest of the world. Such as monotheism, the value of human life, equality before the law, the concept of world peace. All these and many other ideas that are central to our society today find their source in the Bible and the other traditions of the Jewish people. Since Biblical times, we have made many more contributions to the societies in which we lived, whether in ethics, in philosophy, in medicine, in the sciences...you name it. So it would make sense that the other nations of the world, as well, would want us to survive.

Do we claim superiority? I don't think so. Christians and Muslims both attest to the truth of the Biblical account, where we were picked out by G‑d to perform a mission -- to be a light unto the nations. We contend that G‑d never changed His mind. And, as anyone can see, we've accomplished much of that mission. Most of the ethics we were charged to teach have been accepted by most of the world. Maybe they haven't put it all into action -- but they will, and we believe that time will come very soon.

Do we exclude others? Absolutely not. Any person who wishes to join the Jewish people and their holy mission is welcome, regardless of race, color, sex or family background. We only ask that they commit to keeping the rules G‑d gave us, just as the Jewish people accepted those rules when they received the Torah at Mount Sinai some 3300 years ago. And if they opt not to join, we believe that the righteous people among the nations will share in the rewards of the time to come. I don't know of any other religion so liberal as to say such a thing: You don't have to join us, you don't have to do the things we do, just believe in one G‑d and fulfill the basic requirements of every human being to society, and you're in.

So what's so terrible about us wanting to survive? Obviously, we aren't going to survive if we intermarry with everyone else and raise our kids as just a muddle of everything. Our only route to survival is for Jewish people to marry Jewish people and bring their kids up as good Jews.

Of course, if a girl from a non-Jewish family decides she wants to join the Jewish people, well, what's stopping her? But we don't push that sort of thing, because, first of all, we're not out to push our thing on others. You can be a righteous non-Jew and be loved by G‑d, so why should we push you down a path you weren't born into? You may well resent it later on -- as often happens -- and that doesn't make for a good marriage. And, secondly, some people become Jewish just for the sake of marriage, and then once they're married, the whole thing is dropped. Which means we have to be a little scrutinous about accepting converts, to be sure they're doing this because they truly want to.

I hope this explains things a little for you. If you still can't swallow it, please write me back.

I wish you all the wonderful things your life has in store, not one should go missing.


Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Discussion (729)
December 20, 2016
Israel is the only face of democracy in the Middle East. It also stands as a beacon of freedom for Egypt and Africa countries in turmoil. It's existence is essential for keeping the nuclear arms race in check. Israelis have been a key player in worldwide intelligence. They participant in critical military actions. Israelis are leaders in scientific, industrial and medical discoveries. They champion the arts. Israel supports NATO, the United Nations and other organizations who perpetuate democracy, help the less fortunate and participate in peacekeeping actions.The USA needs Israel, as do other democratic countries. Israel and the democratic world benefit equally from their relationship. Anyone who denies this or believes that the USA should no longer support Israel, is, at best, not being realistic.
Alice
Sarasota, Fl
December 20, 2016
On going comments on why Jews exclude..
This discussion is tapping into the universal hatred religion exposes. Shame on everyone who has chosen to be negative, chastise others for their benign beliefs, and expound venom rather than understanding!! It tries my sensibilities to see in print this presistant anger!! Christians where is the love ! Jews where is the understanding of the Golden Rule? There is one G-d who is manifesd in many ways! It is man that distorted and abuses G-d's words!! Are we at the Tower of Babel again? Is not the slaughter in the MiddleEast ,being caused by distorted religion doctrine ,not enough for all good humans to see how hate leads to insane behavior! fey!!
Howard
Ma
December 12, 2016
Dear Lynn
Thank you for your answer. That's really not what I was referring to, it's fine to learn about other cultures and peoples. I wish you much success in your studies and also your life!
Shoshana
Jerusalem
December 1, 2016
I think the 98% non-Jewish USA has bent over backwards to support Jewish survival in that US has spent, is spending more on Israel, the size of NJ & economically well off, than any other recipient of US foreign aid in US history. What do we get for that? Nothing but a target on our backs.
Oscar Shank
November 30, 2016
Shmulie
Why do us non-Jews marry Jewish people when there are plenty of Christians that we could marry?

The last I checked, it takes two people to say, "I Do." Maybe the question you should be asking is, why are your Jewish sons and daughters marrying non-Jews? Maybe, the problem isn't with the non-Jews perhaps it's within the Jewish culture. Why aren't you able to retain your people?

You claim to be oppressed and persecuted by Christians, but yet you see nothing wrong with mistreating and ostracizing your child's spouse because they didn't marry who you wanted them to marry. Maybe, you should just go back to arranged marriages, so you can keep supporting the Jewish future.
Melissa
November 30, 2016
Melissa, I had to go back 50 posts but I did see Shoshana's posts & I saw that she
used the word you object to, but she used the Hebrew word. She seems to live in Israel where people know Hebrew and do not know Yiddish. You and I speak English, and we cannot tell which word is being used, but Shoshana, who knows Hebrew and not Yiddish, the word truly does mean "nation" rather than only "gentile". She did not say anything negative. You made an assumption from her using that word (I am not using it since it offends you), but your assumption (from hearing English speakers use the Yiddish word with its negative associations) do not apply to her. Your continued ire makes her think you are just prejudiced against Jews, and if you keep it up she will feel like making truly negative comments, since it is almost certain that she, too, has lost kinfolks to pogroms. But I can tell you that, living in the USA where 99% of the people we meet are not Jewish, we all have dearly loved friends, & often kin & in-laws, who are not Jewish. I certainly do.
Chanah bas Cohen
Houston
November 30, 2016
Melissa, for nearly two thousand years in Europe, becoming a Jew won the death
penalty. Some got burned at the stake for becoming Jews.
Knowing this danger, Jews discouraged them from joining. We wanted them to survive. We knew that they, as decent people, and as non-pogromists, had a portion in the Next World & did not need to risk their lives by becoming Jews. But some were eager to take the risk. Some left Europe to seek refuge in Muslim lands where they could pretend they had "always" been Jews--& they felt as if they always had, in their souls. In the USA's freedom of religion, it's much safer to become Jews--except that families disown those who "reject Christ" (my sister-in-law's parents and siblings never spoke to her again & her father left her share of his large estate to charity). Christians tell me of gentiles whose friends all shun them for becoming Jews. 3 ways to help them: Orthodox warn them off but do convert them. The Reform let us marry them & permit them to participate in Reform Temple activities w/o converting. Conservatives convert most all.
Sarah
Buffalo
November 30, 2016
@Shoshana
It is not fair that you put all Muslims in the same category as rapists and pillagers. Such a comment is borderline xenophobia, I know many kind Muslim people who would give you the shirt off their back. It is extremism in any religion that is dangerous
Rachel
SEATTLE
November 29, 2016
Education in response to Shoshana
Shoshana, I am sorry that you are upset by people wanting to know "what or why" Jewish people do things. I stumbled across this conversation while reviewing some student papers about death and dying in cultures other than their own backgrounds. It is a class assignment to help nursing students learn about other cultures and how best to provide care for people of other cultures. I found this site when I was attempting to verify some of the information in student papers.
Not everyone is questioning for the same reason. I thought that I would offer my reason, because you asked.
Lynn
PRESCOTT
November 26, 2016
Tzvi, you have always had an awesome way with words. Thank you.
sandy price
Phoenix