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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 (562)
January 28, 2015
Do you think that if a Jewish man falls in love with a Christian girl.,,,then the young male then forsakes the Judaism for the person he has identified as his soul-mate, might be the reason why your followers are low? or if you were to embrace change and allow other people to explore and unite that your numbers will grow? just saying x
Rhiannon
wrexham
January 24, 2015
Of course, it's a religion
If the mitzvot are seen as a giftcommand that connects the Jew to Hashem by its performance, then the person that accepts the mitzvah is accepting the giver of mitzvah and the conditions that allow the mitzvah to work. Mitzvot don't exist unless there is a Giver and a receiver. Why would the receiver do a mitzvah if he didn't believe/sense/felt there was a Giver? The same dynamic is found in Christianity and in Islam. Emunah shlemah is no different from the Islam-Iman-Ihsan trilogy or the going through Jesus to get to the Father. Complete surrender is the end-point.
Anonymous
Baltimore
January 20, 2015
Additional Question
In reading your response I am curious, why being Jewish is identified almost as a race instead of a creed? I think the girl above is really looking for why one's following can conflict so heavily with relationships - if you care for someone/love them, isn't that enough? I've seen many "betrothals" if you will among Jewish friends/coworkers where the parents continually set up the son or daughter with other Jewish people. Isn't this practice just as likely to end poorly as a convert?

I'm also curious as to why many Jewish friends and people I know identify themselves only with Israel. Is a Jew born in America not an American? In Italy, an Italian? It seems that there is no line between creed and country - why is this so?

I appreciate your feedback and shedding light on these questions.
Anonymous
NJ
January 13, 2015
It's not the Jews. It's your area.

In Houston, all who want to convert go to United Orthodox or to the Sephardic congregation, Torah v'Chesed. At UO, it takes a year. At the TvC, it may take several years. Both accept converts of all colors and nationalities. Most of their converts are black, Latino or east Asian.

Chabad is less likely to accept converts, especially if the motive is to marry a Jew. Such a motive is seen as insincere. Chabad says that a person who wants to convert almost certainly already has a Jewish soul and merely got born into a non-Jewish family. All the "conversion" does is confirm a reality that was already there.

Once converted, they are welcomed at Young Israel & elsewhere.

Any orthodox conversion is accepted by the Conservative and Reform. Non-orthodox conversions are NOT accepted by the orthodox.

Suggestion: convert Conservative but keep ALL the 613 commandments; keep learning; attend orthodox shuls. Try to convert orthodox 2-3 years later.
Marc
Houston
January 13, 2015
conversion
Well I've been trying to convert to Judaism for quite some time now, but I've found it to be near impossible to find a rabbi that's willing to teach me, and eventually convert. I've gone to a number of synagogues and It's like no matter how sincere I am about learning and seeking to convert there's like a brick wall that I cannot get across. I understand why conversion is difficult and is a long learning process. But it's very frustrating when i'm willing to change my life to be a part of Judaism, and yet there is no path in front of me that leads to it. If that's not exclusion, then i don't know what is.
david
NY
January 10, 2015
Why do Jews exclude other people?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with other people. It's just that fact that other people don't have the same mission as bringing a light to the world. If you marry a person, in the Jewish Family, you are attaching yourself to every rule, norm, custom and not to mention 613 commandments. Not many coverts stay in the faith after the marriage is dissolved.
אליהו
January 8, 2015
I would like to point out that half of the Jews in the U.S. marry non-Jews. So it can't be true that all or most Jews feel that "a Jew marrying a non-Jew is worse than the Holocaust". Most Jews in the U.S. are not Orthodox. Naturally Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn would be against marrying outside their faith. But for most Jews being Jewish is as much a cultural thing as a religious thing. From what I understand is that in most interfaith marriages the children are raised as Christians. There are more doors open to you as a Christian than as a Jew. But most Jews don't exclude gentiles. I hope that I have made this a little clearer.
Harvey
January 1, 2015
Mel says he never hears of Jews converting to become Christiansq
Jews cherish gentile friends. We don't reject you.

Jews hear plenty about Jews converting to become Christians.

"Hebrew Christians"
"Jews for Jesus"

For each Jew, 200 Christians. A Jew who converts reduces the ability of local Jews to maintain Jewish community--to maintain a synagogue & a rabbi to serve public spirituality, to maintain places to buy kosher food to serve private spirituality, to maintain opportunities to invite guests for dinner on Sabbaths and festivals, etc. With so few Jews in the world, each loss of a Jew to Christianity or Islam or to the secular world is felt as a severe diminishment. The individual Jew loses his place in the World-to-Come when he abandons the loving ONE Gd of the Hebrew Bible (Christians call it the "old" testament).

Christians want all souls. Jews welcome converts but do not consign non-Jews to hell. We ask only to keep our own few. Mel asks us all to convert out and leave no one to uphold Gd's Word given at Sinai.
Menahem
Cleveland
January 1, 2015
Nobody does Gd's will every second, nor did Rabbi Tzvi say anybody did, including himself.
Life is a journey towards improvement. That's why Jesus said he was "the Way". If you believe that Gd is all there is, and if you make every effort to follow the Seven Laws of Noah, such that your life becomes more and more godly despite occasional backslidings and setbacks, then you are assured "a portion of the World to Come" (Olam HaBa). It is enough for us humans to be on the path, and to return whenever we fall back. Gd always waits for our return, as Ezekiel says. Perfection is a goal rather than a requirement.

In fact, if our return is based on our grief at having disappointed our Beloved, and at having compromised our relationship to Him, then our return makes us closer to Gd after our return than before we sinned. I believe Christians understand this very well, as it appears in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

Loving Gd and standing in awe of Gd are two prongs.

Gd bless you.
Chaim
Chicago
January 1, 2015
Re: It hurts my friendshipTwo Cents / It Hurts My Friendship
Some really dangerous misconceptions here. I hope you'll read the clarification:

Certain foods are forbidden to Jews—such as shellfish, pork, mixtures of milk and meat, and meat that wasn't slaughtered properly.

Now let's say a pot was used to cook some of this forbidden food. Or it was cooked in an oven. Or stirred with a spoon. Any food cooked with the same utensil or in the same oven will not be kosher—meaning, a Jew cannot eat it.

So it has nothing to do with the person who cooks it. In fact, the cooks in most kosher restaurants are not Jewish. As long as the cooking is supervised, it's kosher.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
mychabad.org
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