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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.
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Discussion (523)
August 19, 2014
For Rabbi Tzvi Freeman...Jon has a point.
Charcoal colored people can become milky white colored by hiding their color with white makeup. Usually, charcoal colored people report that they are generally treated better if they hide their dark skin in that way. However, of course it may all be in the head. For instance, perhaps without consciousness the charcoal colored people acted differently.
Craig Hamilton
Sandwich, MA
August 18, 2014
Gd loves variety. That's why there are thousands of species of grasses and thousands of species of flowers and thousands of species of mushrooms.

Humans are all one species but many cultures. Gd delights in each culture and wants them all to continue. But that is up to us. If we demand that all cultures anglicize and assimilate and become the same, the delightful variety of cultures will be lost.

Each culture has at least one custom, probably many, which are life-preserving, and none of us knows (although Gd knows) which of the thousands of customs known to various human cultures will enable us to survive when such-and-such a disaster hits. The entire human species will live or die because this one custom was around to save us--or was lost and unable to save us.

Our job is to appreciate all of our own cultures and everyone else's culture too--rather than to ask any culture to "be like everyone else". And disappear.
Chaim
Baton Rouge
August 18, 2014
Jewish exclusionism
Chaim!! Chaim!! What references are you being influenced by! Certainly not by any book, web site, or personal discussion with some one who is acquainted with Judaism! Certainly, there is discussion among Jewish people, and scholars, about an after life, and what may be a surprise to you, resurrection! A very JEWISH theme! One a past Jew from the Holy Lands also preached! Judaism is the model up on which many religions base their traditions. 613 is not just a number, it defines how the religion should be practice by Jews. Every one else in the world only has to follow 8' at least since Noah! I just was involved in an uncomfortable " debate" accusing Judaism's thoughts of choosiness as prejudicial , elitist, and proof Jews are not " nice". Choosiness, is synonymous with Obligated! Not privileged! Not chosen to belittle, but enlighten, not from superiority, but from concern! g-d's covenant has associated punishments ,for failing to " represent! If you will, for Jews!
Howard
Ma
August 17, 2014
Being a member of Chabad--I find it insulting to the human race and I to listen to so many whose views of non-jews is an embarassments to everything decent.
Anonymous
Staten island
August 15, 2014
Once again, religion ruining lives and forcing people to box themselves away from the world. No parent would force his children to keep away from each other, so why would God?

Thereisnogod
Toronto
August 15, 2014
Jewishness is not a religion. A religion is a set of practices and/or beliefs calculated to achieve a certain goal. Example: believe in Jesus and you will escape hell and achieve eternal bliss in heaven. Jewishness has no such technique for achieving a blessed afterlife or anything else. It is also not a "faith" since this implies the fundamental nature of "faith IN" something. There are beliefs associated with Jewishness, but "I believe with perfect faith" is not the test of a Jew's faithfulness. The test of Jewish faithfulness is their way of life. A new convert is asked if he promises to keep all 613 mitzvos.

Jewishness is neither a creed nor a magical procedure for achieving something.

Jewishness is a way of life, and faithfulness to that way of life does not magically guarantee anything in this world or the next. We are faithful, not as a servant who seeks a reward, but as a servant who loves his master (or a lover who adores his beloved mate).
Chaim
Indianapolis
August 14, 2014
Snobbery?
Again this string was about presumed Jewish snobbery! many people with a Liberal bent, who express freedom, love, tolerance, do so theoretically. When personally faced with opposing views, become intolerant, result in personal attacks, rather than trying to understand that decent people may have views in opposition to the ones they hold! Judaism is a religion, a culture, and a nation. It contains the full gamut of human views . If you believe or don't believe in a G-d , you still accept cultural, national, or even local values to live by. Judaism is a group of believers, free in America to practice their beliefs, as long as it does not stop others from their practices. Part of that groups beliefs , centers upon saving the world by good deeds, as prescribed by G-d. The loss of such a group is feared to have repercussion on all mankind! The Military, sports teams,other religions, even the Boy Scouts, try to dissuade, people from leaving their ranks for similar reasons.
Howard
Ma
August 14, 2014
For Jon
Can a black become a white? At any rate, why say "white?" Why not "Aryan?"

The assertion ignores entirely the thesis of the essay. There is certainly a difference between an arbitrary distinction of color and a peoplehood that contributes to the world's rich diversity.

Try replacing with the name of some other cultural and religious minority, such as "Kurd" or "Zoroastrian" or "Sikh" and see if it is equally distasteful.
Tzvi Freeman
August 14, 2014
Read that article back but this time replace the word Jew or Jewish with the word White and see how horrific it would sound, then explain to me why its acceptable in 2014
Jon
UK
August 13, 2014
clique
Blind tribalism is a major force behind any organized religion, in my opinion, but especially Judaism. Growing up, I never fit into this culture and now I understand why. It's very cliquey. I could never get why "keeping the Jewish faith alive" could be more important than immersing oneself in humanity. I pity those who define themselves as Jews everywhere they go. This really cuts off people's ability to learn who you are beyond your religion. I say religion, not faith. No one can tell you what your spiritual beliefs are, at any age. This is, obviously, an issue with most organized religion, but it seems to me that the Jewish mentality is particularly zealous. I don't feel at a loss without Judaism in my life anymore. Now, I am surrounded by the most giving, kind, beautiful human beings, none of whom are Jewish, and I see them as my family. Shame on so many of the Jewish people for prioritizing the integrity of their tiny clan over branching out into humanity.
Danielle
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