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Is It Racist to Want a Jewish Spouse?

Is It Racist to Want a Jewish Spouse?

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Question:

I was explaining to a non-Jewish work colleague that I only date Jewish men, because I would not marry a non-Jew. He accused me of being racist. I was caught on the spot and had nothing to say. How would you respond to this accusation?

Answer:

If insisting that you will only date Jews makes you racist, does insisting that you will only date men make you sexist? You are certainly discriminating, but is this discrimination bad?

You are not talking about what type of person you want to work with, or whom you would prefer to sit next to on a train. You are talking about whom you want to marry. Are you expected not to discriminate about whom you marry, the same way you are expected not to discriminate when reading a job application?

if you want a Jewish family, he’s got to be a he, and he’s got to be a Hebrew There are plenty of wonderful women out there, but they can’t father your children. And there are plenty of wonderful non-Jewish men out there, but they can’t give you a Jewish family. You want a family, so you seek a man; you want a Jewish family, so you seek a Jewish man. There is nothing offensive about that.

And there is no racial issue here. Jewishness is neither a race nor a religion. It is a soul identity. The man you marry can be a European Jew or an Oriental Jew, a black Jew or a white Jew. He can be a Jew by birth or a Jew by choice. But if you want a Jewish family, he’s got to be a he, and he’s got to be a Hebrew.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Rosa Toronto February 27, 2017

Let each group maintain its integrity and be part of the richness of human diversity Being a Jew is neither a race nor a religion.
It is a way of life, with its own cultural worship customs.
or
It is a directive from Gd on what way of life to follow.
or
It is a tribe, but anyone who sincerely desires to live by its ways can join it.

Why do others go out of their way to accuse this teeny tiny minority of "racism"? Isn't "racism" something perpetrated by the numerous and powerful on the less powerful? This phony accusation of "racism" is itself racist, since what it really means is that Jews should cease to exist, which is what happens if all the Jews marry non-Jews and abandon Jewish customs.

All over the world a rich variety of groups practice many customs. Gd loves variety. Neither Gd nor men should want to obliterate any of these groups, including Jewish groups.

Everyone should be glad to see each group maintain its integrity, rather than disappearing into the majority. Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for Chabad.org February 26, 2017

Re: Daughter will have to convert Racism by definition means that no one other than those born within this race is accepted. The fact that there is the option to convert should be the strongest indication that this isn't racism. Reply

David Jerusalem September 27, 2016

Finally... Someone who doesn't need to write a thesis to answer the question. Spot on! I came here after reading a huge long winded article detailing the intricacies of how bad intermarriage is. Bottom line: If you need to write a 4 page article to answer the question, you've already lost the debate in the eyes of all but the most sincere. Cutting, concise and accurate answers like this one are what people need. Thumbs up! Reply

Miriam London September 5, 2016

To Deborah Right on!
If he asks you out, say to him, "I'd consider it if you'd consider becoming a Jew."
Maybe he doesn't even know it's possible to become a Jew.
At least he knows you don't care about his birth: you care about his way of life, which he has the power to change if he wants to.
If he doesn't want to, say, "That's OK. You live your way and I'll live the Jewish way. We can each find someone like-minded to date and marry."
If he then tries to call you a racist, he's admitting himself to be both offensive and idiotic.
If he says he doesn't want to marry you, you can say, "That's OK. But I only date people who are open to the possibility of getting married."
Now he's admitted he has no serious interest in you, so why should you want to date him?
You might want to read Esther Jungreis (sp?), rest her soul. Reply

Yakov England August 30, 2017
in response to Miriam:

That js very smart Reply

Deborah Boston September 4, 2016

When he asks you out, say to him, "If you want to become a Jew, yes." X asked me to marry him. He said his father had joined his mother's church, & he would become a Jew. He did it. He took classes, got circumcised, immersed in the mikveh, & we got married. After the wedding, he took delight in learning more. We read & discussed the Torah portion every week. When we reached the text on building the mishkan, he read it carefully & drew a picture of it.
We invited guests to join us for a special dinner Friday nights. He learned to make kiddush & even to read the Eshet Chayil (Woman of Valor) to me every Friday night, adding one line each week until he could read the entire thing. (See the last chapter of Proverbs.) We attended services together on Shabbat & he learned the prayers.
If someone says you are being "racist," tell him (if you like him) that if he wants to become a Jew, you'd be glad to date him. Maybe you don't like him, since he was so quick to insult you.
Some people do not even know it is possible for them to become Jewish. Tell them so. Reply

Samuel London September 4, 2016

Rachel Garber is right, but the rabbi is also right Jewishness is not a race, a nationality, or a religion.
A Jew is someone who has promised, either at Sinai or during the conversion process, to live according to Torah--its moral law, & also its so-called ritual requirements--requirements which add richness and depth to life. For a Jew, Friday nights mean a family meal with the best food of the week, guests, wine, traditional songs (in various melodies), &, for married couples, making love. Keeping kosher takes effort, but it makes an altar of every Jewish table. For Jews, a life without these celebrations is seriously diminished.

But what if we did call Jewishness a "religion" a la Christianity? What did Paul say? "Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers," wasn't it? That is, a Christian should marry another Christian.

What's sauce for the goose (Christians) is sauce for the gander (Jews). We need to marry one whose way of life we hold dear. To sacrifice our integrity for "love" is asking too much; "love" may suffer & die. Reply

Rachel Garber Philadelphia, PA September 4, 2016

Hypocrisy No one would think twice about an Italian (man or woman) only married an Italian, or Irish, or Polish, or any other ethnic group for that matter, yet when a Jewish person declare that they will only date and marry another Jew, for some reason, that's considered racist. Which is one of the highest forms of hypocrisy I can think of. Don't listen to other people, do what's right for you, and marrying a Jewish person is what's right. Reply

Gavriel Columbus April 19, 2016

Thanks for your response to "why is this so hard?" In response to Faiga from March 19, 2015.

Thank you for your wise suggestions and insight from the book. I am still looking, although not so actively over the past year. Mainly putting together a game plan.
I actually am just now seeing this response from you, so I will incorporate your suggestions into my search and with Hashem's help will see success soon.
Thank you again
Gavriel in Columbus Reply

Daniel Newark January 15, 2016

To anonymous, who lives in a rural area That would make it so difficult indeed. My heart goes out to you. If only you could move to a city with a modern orthodox congregation. Then you could convert in about a year by taking classes and doing a great deal of heavy-duty reading and learning to read the prayer book in Hebrew.

May Gd enable you to find a way to move, for a year, to a community with a modern orthodox synagogue, or a Young Israel synagogue. Once you have converted in any orthodox community, you will be recognized as Jewish almost everywhere. (No matter where you convert, there will always be one or more small communities who do not recognize the group which converted you as valid.)

However, once you have become a "ger" among the modern orthodox, you can more easily be accepted in most other, less modern, Jewish communities.

May Gd grant you what you need in order to complete your conversion so that you can date other Jews. Reply

Anonymous January 11, 2016

Intermarriage I believe that we are all entitled to date and marry those who meet our preferences. While I see where the questioner is coming from; I have been on the other end of the stick. That is to say I have been the person rejected because I haven't (yet) undergone the formal conversion process. Yes it is discriminatory. I want to convert not because I am already dating a Jewish man, but because I feel Jewish in my soul and want to be a part of the Jewish community. However; this process is extremely difficult if you live in a state with many rural areas. Effectively; you are held hostage by conversion requirements and something that should be a happy positive experience is made unnecessarily difficult. So; who do you date? Jews (because that is with whom you identify) who may reject you because you are not formally Jewish yet or settle for non-Jews (because you can't complete the formal conversion process due to its excessive demands)? It is a very sad situation to be in that is for sure. Reply

Hanalah Newark December 1, 2015

It is nice to think there is a reward. It is sweet to think that a wonderful child has gone to a wonderful reward.

Maybe she is.

But in any case, we exist to serve. We exist to serve Gd and to serve other people. That is why we were sent into the physical universe.

If there are rewards, they are incidental or even irrelevant. Ask those who learned, to their surprise, who would sit beside them in Olam HaBa. They sought out their future neighbors, who seemed so ordinary in their merits, and learned that it was they, the great scholar and mitzvah-machers, who should feel privileged to sit beside these "ordinary" people.

Even so, I am errantly focusing on another kind of reward.

We must forget rewards. If we serve, well, that is why we are here. Just pray to serve well. And pray for emunah and gratitude. Reply

Lev Anenberg Vaughan, Ontario November 27, 2015

To whom it may concern especially Miriam and Yvonne Judaism as a religion is a way of life, like many other religions. Its reward is salvation due to fulfillment of the commandments, even if they do not make any sense ( see Moré Navokhim-The Guide to the Perplexed by RaMBaM.) It is true that there is no Jewish DNA. However the so called Jewish way of life is structured, guided and controlled by the commandments as interpreted by the Rabbis - thus a religion. The first level of (any) religion is the fear of punishment and expectation of a reward. Second level is a belief for its own sake ( for the love of heaven)and the third -esoteric- which I will not discuss now.
It is about time, people stopped viewing their religion superior to other. They all lead to same God Almighty. Reply

Miriam New Orleans November 26, 2015

Jewishness is a way of life, not a religion.

A religion is a set of beliefs and practices which promises a certain result to those who follow it. Christianity promises eternal bliss in the next world. Buddhism promises enlightenment and thus bliss.

Being Jewish promises nothing. It is a covenant which Jews are committed to uphold. Many Jewish practices make no sense. There is even a name for them: "hoo-keem"--Practices which serve no discerniable purpose, such as keeping kosher.

The joy of Jewishness is simply the opportunity to gladden Gd and to contribute to the repair of the universe in the company of others who, like oneself, also seek to uphold the same covenant.

Religion is about what succeeds in gaining a reward for the practitioner. Jewishness is about the joy of service & of belonging. Reply

Yvonne Chicago November 17, 2015

Jewish DNA doesn't matter. For example, it doesn't count at all if it is on the father's side.

And Jewish DNA doesn't count if the person has learned Torah and has become a Ger Tzedek (a Jew by choice, initiated via the mikveh).

What matters is that you are faithful to Torah. Not a religion or a belief, but, on the contrary, a covenant and a way of life. A group with a common culture and a commitment to keeping that covenant even though it is inconvenient and often makes no sense.

Sometimes, to preserve life, the covenant must be set aside. But the fact of a covenant gives shape and form to the amorphous intent to be a "good" person. The ladder is there to be approached and climbed. The Divine Presence is accessible. The love is there.

Go for it. Reply

Anonymous Ireland November 14, 2015

The early Christians were Jews As many of the first Christians were Jews then it must follow that there will be Jewish DNA in many nonJews anywhere in the world today.

Homo Sapiens originated in Africa. We should accept all people regardless of Color, ,race or creed. We should love our families and respect all others. We share a planet and we are, basically, all the same: non better non inferior. Reply

Isaac NY May 27, 2015

Proud to be a Jew I'm proud to be a Jew. I want to marry someone who is also proud to be a Jew and shares my values. What is racist about that? Reply

Anonymous March 25, 2015

Jewishness is neither a race nor a religion????

Jewish is not a race true...it is a Religion in terms that a any religion is a set of codes, morals and beliefs that we follow. Reply

Faiga Atlanta March 19, 2015

I have read books and articles by Jewish men of color. For example, "From Ghetto to Ghetto" by Ernest H. Adams, who married a Jewish woman and has had at least one child with her.

Suggestion: Have you asked your rabbi for help? Mr. Adams reported that he was much in demand--that women eagerly introduced their daughters to him, or approached the rabbi and asked to be introduced to him. Yes, here in the USA, in New York city.

If you do go elsewhere, I suggest Israel. You will encounter many Jewish women there.

I'm 73 and past bearing, but there are many single women in your own age range.

Happy hunting in any case. May Gd bless you in your faithfulness. Reply

Gavriel Columbus March 15, 2015

Why is this so hard? Okay, so I've read this article. I have been looking for a Jewish spouse for the past 5 years.
First disclaimer I am a jew of color, dating interracially has never been a problem. Albeit, they have all been non-jewish women however still not a problem.
Second, I have started taking my jewish observance more seriously. I have always kept the holidays and Shabbat to some extent. However it's getting kind of boring doing it as a single guy.
Thirdly, I hear conversations or come across articles often where a Jewish female is or has dated non-jewish black men. So I am at a loss why I fall in the "not an option" category. I've never used an electronic dating service to find a nice young lady to date. Using these service for my jewish search seems to be a waste.
Finally, I have decided that I'm going to take the next 5 years and travel. Maybe the United States is the wrong territory to locate my jewish bride. Never thought this country was too small for anything I wanted.
Gavriel
Columbus Reply

Miriam Indianapolis December 31, 2014

"a" says "not liking someone on a date"--but I do like you on a date. I like you so much that I may even fall in love with you and want to marry you.

I need to establish a home in which we observe the Eve of Sabbath together by lighting candles, blessing the children, singing the Hebrew blessings over wine and bread, discussing the Torah, and singing at every course and after dinner, a dinner which lasts for hours because we are all enjoying the chance to serve Gd. If my beloved is a Jew (from birth or by conversion) we can do this every week. If he is not, he will be unable to participate, unwilling to keep kosher, and unable to teach our faith to our children. However much I like or love him, he cannot join in living a Jewish life in a Jewish home. He won't know the culture and his refusal to convert shows he has no interest in learning it. Reply

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