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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 (636)
February 1, 2016
Circumcision was a Rite established by G-D to designate those who belonged to G-D's chosen people. For Christians the introduction of baptism later on down the line and confirmed at the Council of Jerusalem (Acrs 15) taught that circumcision was no longer required. With baptism we became children oh G-d. Is circumcision still a requirement in the Jewish faith?
(Deacon) Moran McMahon
Manotick, Ontari
January 27, 2016
Re: Susan
On subject, my first post was for Paul on Jan 11, and then later to Shoshana Jan 24, 27. That is why I wrote, "Re: Paul," or “Re: Shoshana.” It helps to keep things simple. I meant no personal harm or neglect Susan. May Hashem bless you in your ways.
Craig Hamilton
Sandwich, MA
January 27, 2016
Re: Susan
"we both find Jewish thought interesting, important, and emotionally appealing, right? So that is a "we" that includes both of us."

Great! That was precisely the answer I was looking for. Shalom.
Craig Hamilton
Sandwich, MA
January 27, 2016
Craig
Why did you not say which "we" you meant?

First, as a Jew, I am not a "friend interested in practicing Judaism"--so you are looking for a "we" which excludes me.

But we both find Jewish thought interesting, important, and emotionally appealing, right? So that is a "we" that includes both of us.

You may be able to think of others along these lines.
Susan
Austin, TX
January 27, 2016
Re: Shoshana - Inclusion
Neither city person nor a member of your Jewish family; but a friend interested in practicing Judaism.
Craig Hamilton
Sandwich, MA
January 24, 2016
Re: Shoshana
My problem was that I felt like you gave a bunch of uses of the word "we," but not the one I was looking for. You listed many other ways, but none of which was to be a friend of the Jews.
I was concerned about inclusion among those with Jewishness. Do you, Shoshana, feel that I, as a non-Jew, should be welcomed as a friend among Jews, even though I have no desire to convert (there is no way I am kicking out my gentile wife. She is essential)? Chabad.org treats me as a friend, and as a fellow chabad.org user, such that I was hoping that we could share that condition - friendship (like many other fellow chabad.org users do).
Craig Hamilton
Sandwich, MA
January 18, 2016
Craig
I don't exactly get your question. Would it be terrible to include you where? As what? Where exactly are you not included?
Shoshana
Jerusalem
January 17, 2016
To Craig
If you and I are together in some situation, then "we" would certainly include you. Did you see the movie, "Spotlight"? We could discuss it, & when I say "we" I include you because you & I (both of us) saw the movie & enjoy discussing it.
If I am talking about Shabbat observance, & I say "we," then I mean those of us who are keeping Shabbat.
The meaning of "we" varies according to the group being discussed.

Each of us belongs to many overlapping groups.
Surely, one or more of your groups includes me, and one or more of my groups includes you. Those are the times when you & I can say "we" and include each other.
For example, black Jews can say "we" about Jews, and we Jews can say "we" about black Jews (& Asian Jews etc).
Ditto black Jews can say "we" about all blacks, whether they are Jews or not. Asian Jews can say "we" about all Asians, whether they are Jews or not.
Ditto homosexual Jews. Similarly with all kinds of groups.
People allergic to ragweed. People who enjoy boats.
Susan
Austin, TX
January 17, 2016
To Shoshana
By using, “us“ “we,” and “our” are you including me? My chabad.org comment emails tell me that I am a “Dear Friend.” Would it be terrible to include me?
Craig Hamilton
Sandwich, MA
January 15, 2016
I don't know how I'd keep kosher if I learned it after becoming an adult
"We" can mean "we Americans" or "we Texans" or "we who attend the University of Texas" or "we who celebrate Easter" or "we women" or whatever. Yes, "we" can mean "we who keep Shabbat," since the whole world sees Saturday as the day to go shopping or to a movie (both being non-Shabbat activities). It is hard to be a Jew. Being a Jew means our days of rest or festivity or holiness are everyone else's most commercial days. It is a struggle to abstain from what everyone else is doing. And, beccause it IS hard, most Jews do not make the effort and simply do what everyone else does, such as trimming a tree in December instead of decorating a sukkah in October for the Festival of Tabernacles (the festival of Sukkot) as the Bible directs the Children of Israel to do. It is also hard to obey the Torah & abstain from the foods which are available everywhere in grocery stores & restaurants. It would be easier if everyone kept kosher, so that kosher foods were available everywhere.
Susan
Austin, TX