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A Dialogue on Intermarriage

A Dialogue on Intermarriage

part II

 Email


go to: previous page [page 1 (1-7)] page 2 (8-18) [page 3 (19-26)]
[page 4 (27-33)] [page 5 (34-35)] [page 6 (36-42)] next page

-- 8 --

From: Gershon
To: Juan
Date: July 2

Juan:

First of all, I would like to tell you that you will never go overboard with questions that are asked in order to learn. So, go for it!

Regarding the inconsistency between the lack of observance of your girlfriend's family and their insistence in fulfilling the precept of not marrying a non-Jew, I cannot speak for them, like I said in the beginning of this dialogue. All I can say is that nobody's perfect. There are people that are more sensitive to certain precepts than to others. Many times it is due to custom and/or social pressure.

There are precepts that they do not consider that important because their transgression is reversible.

For example: When someone travels on Shabbat, he or she is not forfeiting the option of not traveling the following Shabbat. The "break" does not appear to be that harsh. Also, the change of attitude and behavior depends entirely on the individual. In the case of intermarriage, however, it is a transgression which is not easily reversible, and does not depend exclusively on the parents and their daughter. Once the daughter has married a non-Jew, even were she to regret it, there is another human being -- sometimes more than one (children) -- involved, with feelings, opinions and -- surely -- emotional attachments... The way "back home" becomes very difficult, indeed...

Best regards,

Gershon


-- 9 --

From: Gershon
To: Juan
Date: July 14

Juan:

I just returned from a trip overseas and haven't found any messages from you. Any reason?

Best regards,

Gershon


-- 10 --

From: Juan
To: Gershon
Date: July 15

How are you?

Where were you traveling?

Hey, I didn't write to you because I was very busy with work.

I want to tell you something funny...

The other day, my girlfriend read part of our correspondence and smiled when she read the part where you say that you do not know the family. In order to clarify the mystery, (with her agreement) I will tell you who she is and who is her family.

They are none other than the ______'s whom you met this summer in Punta del Este. Paulina is my (virtually impossible) love.

I suppose that all this comes as a surprise, no? Did you by any chance know that Paulina has a non-Jewish boyfriend? I am asking out of curiosity.

Boy, what a problem I have with her mother! I never had any direct confrontations with her. OK, I never went to their house and I rarely call. I changed my attitude with the mother (for the worse, unfortunately). At first, any time that she would answer the phone and would be nasty, I would be super nice. I would say to her: "Hi, Mariana. This is Juan. How are you? OK? I'm glad to hear that. Is Paulina home?" She would reply coldly: "Yes, no, yes, no, wait..." The most difficult thing for me is that I have always been a very sociable person... I never in my life had any problems with anybody. I generally develop intense relationships with people and usually win their friendship, especially on a family level. To go from that to a situation where the family does not even want to see my face on a baseball card, is very painful.

Can you imagine what it means to take her home at night to fetch a coat or to get dressed and have to wait outside, in the car, and not be able to go into her home? During those moments I think: "All because I'm not Jewish..." I feel like the worst scum of the earth. If they were to smile to me and explain to me the reason for their opposition to this relationship with the same wisdom that you do, things would be different. When I am alone with my thoughts and look at the window of their home and see them moving around inside and I imagine that the last person that they want setting foot on their carpet is me... I feel that I must be doing something wrong. All I want is the best for her, just like they do. But just like they do the best that they can, I know that I am doing the best that I can.

Let me tell you: a few weeks ago, as a result of this fascinating dialogue that I have with you, I thought about many things and I ended up proposing to Paulina that we terminate the relationship. Let me tell you what her reaction was. She loves me more than you can imagine, and her words reflected the feelings of a girl that loves her religion, but did not want to give in to its mandates. Who knows? G‑d knows that I tried. I gave her 1,001 reasons for breaking up but she did not agree with any. If she would have accepted, it would have been the end of my life, but, I believe, at the same time it would have meant the beginning of hers. I am sure that she has no future with me. Such a future does not exist. Her family will never accept me, no matter how good a person I will be, since I know that the problem does not depend on that. If it is me or anyone else who's not Jewish, they will not accept him.

In conclusion, the story is the following: we've know each other for many months now. Her parents haven't met me yet (except once, when I bumped into her father by chance). They have not expressed any interest in having me in their home. They know that I am waiting outside, and do not intend to change that (of course, they would prefer that I wouldn't be waiting outside at all). I tried leaving her, convinced that it was the best thing for both of us, but she will die if I do that and I do not yet have enough strength to go through with it. Is the solution to just drop her and ignore her opinion? I think so. I have no doubts that the suffering that we will both go through, will dissipate soon after, and this way I am giving her the opportunity to create her life with someone that will be accepted by her family, which will make her incredibly happy.

But it is difficult. Especially since she says that she doesn't care at all that I am not Jewish ("OK... It would have been better if you were Jewish... but I know that there is no better man than you..." etc. etc.)

It's unbelievable. The only thing that disqualifies me for her is my religion. Paulina once asked her mother if she'd rather that she date a Jew who was a miserable person... To which she replied: "Why do I have to choose between a deaf man and a deaf-mute?" Very sharp.

OK, I'll leave you here. I hope that with what I've written, you will someday put yourself into my shoes and you'll see how difficult it is to put G‑d's laws vs. human nature on the scale.

Best regards,

Juan


-- 11 --

From: Gershon
To: Juan
Date: July 15

Juan:

I received your mail and all I can say is: How fortunate is he who walks with truth and candor!

I can imagine how difficult this whole thing must be for Paulina. She -- no doubt -- loves you very much and I can imagine how difficult it must be for her to reject you because you are not Jewish. Believe me, I understand.

But from the very beginning I told you that. It is not easy. It is not easy to overcome feelings just because G‑d wants it that way.

I can tell you both one thing: It is worth it. It pays to make this sacrifice and I am sure that G‑d will not remain with outstanding debts. Each of you will find their proper mate and will be successful in building happy families, with health, happiness and blessings. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to visualize this. Love blinds. But it is worthwhile. I can tell you this based on lots of experience with others who have gone through the same struggle.

Don't do it for the sake of her family. Do it for yourselves.

Best regards,

Gershon


-- 12 --

From: Juan
To: Gershon
Date: July 22

Dearest Gershon:

How are you? Everything OK?

I just finished reading the booklet you sent me (about Intermarriage) and with the greatest humility, I think that it is lacking an important point. It does not deal with the social element.

I think that very few of the arguments proposed are the real arguments of a modern-day Jewish family.

The arguments (perfect and conclusive from a religious point of view) would be the salvation for many Jewish parents. They would serve as the perfect excuse for not allowing their sons and daughters to marry non-Jews, but they would not reflect their true feelings.

Gershon: I understand your beliefs and I deeply respect your deep-rooted faith, but you know very well that not even a tenth of the Jews of Buenos Aires think this way.

Without even touching upon the fact that they openly transgress the majority of the Mitzvot, we know that the generation of today's Jewish parents (as opposed to the grandparents) never had the opportunity to go to Jewish schools and they lack a Jewish education. At most, they know what has come to them through tradition, from father to son.

To give you a concrete example, in Paulina's family, the children know much more about religion than their parents do for the simple reason that they (the children) did receive a Jewish education (I will get back to that later...).

The fact of the matter is that the real motives are not always based on religious considerations, but rather social ones.

Nobody can make an in-depth study of the relations between Jews and non-Jews in today's society. But, believe me, there are some very unpleasant elements in this relationship. Just like there are many non-Jews that have negative attitudes towards Jews, I would venture to say that the same percentage of Jews have the same attitudes towards "goyim".

It is not my intention to speculate about the topic of racism and intolerance, but I am interested in stressing the social aspect. The differences between Jews and non-Jews are far from being resolved. And this weighs very heavily. It would be untrue to say that the resistance to intermarriage within the Jewish community does not contain a heavy dose of racism, just as it would be untrue to say that there is no discrimination towards Jews. It is a problem that weighs heavily.

I think that the Jew has more than enough reasons for not being more open to a society that has persecuted him so many times. I think that these are some of the social factors that may be the cause. I think that, similar to these, there are many more reasons that have nothing to do with religion. In any case, the arguments that you present in your work are the most noble.

Coming back to the subject of education, I see that you are not happy with the Jewish education in your community.

As far as I see it, this is but another example of the fact that day-to-day Judaism in South America is more and more a social issue rather than a religious one.

It has been a little over a year since I have begun to have a connection with a stronger Jewish environment. I have some very good Jewish friends whom I've met at the University. This has allowed me to meet many families with different religious levels. Of course, they all celebrate the holidays and some attend synagogue, but few are "Jewish" according to the requisites that you laid out in your work. The majority of these families, Zionistically inclined, don't even have an idea of what this means.

There is a program I know about that supposedly serves to promote a spirit of Zionism amongst Jewish youth. Do you want to know what these youngsters do during their year in Israel? Well, the boys dedicate themselves to getting drunk and experimenting with marijuana. The girls, in addition to the above, lose their virginity with some young Israeli. I am not speculating. This is the case with the majority of Jewish boys and girls that I know. But the program is perfect. Look at it this way: They come back fascinated with Israel. But, tell me: If you are an adolescent who has been repressed in your youth, who has been rubbing shoulders with the same people since pre-school, that has never had any relationship with a non-Jew (as is the case with my Jewish classmates... the year they entered college meant the discovery of non-Jews), you are young and you have the opportunity to travel to a far-away country where nobody tells you what to do, you live for free, your parents send you large sums of money so that you can take a little trip through Europe whenever you want to, and not only that, but you discover drugs, alcohol and parties. When you come back, you think that Israel is the greatest country in the world! You then decide to eventually go back to Israel and Zionism has accomplished its goal.

If this deep life experience would have taken place in Timbuktu, they would have been fascinated with Timbuktu.

I insist that religion has become less and less the main motive for their actions. Social factors are what are important now.

Regards,

Juan

P.S. I think that my analysis is applicable only to the middle and upper class of South American Jews.


-- 13 --

From: Gershon
To: Juan
Date: July 24

Dear Juan,

Thank you for your last mail.

If you remember, from the very beginning I told you that I would not answer you as a spokesman for Paulina's family, but, rather, I would tell you what I personally think.

Regarding the arguments presented in the booklet about Intermarriage, it is true that it does not reflect the opinion of the majority of Jews today. But that was precisely the objective -- to educate the people (both the parents as well as the kids) regarding the true reasons as to why Judaism opposes intermarriage.

The main point is not so much why not marry someone that is not Jewish, but that there is no such thing as marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew, just like there is no marriage between siblings.

Besides, I firmly believe that even though the majority of Jews are against intermarriage for the wrong reasons, this is really nothing more than the conscious manifestation of subconscious feelings and conviction that they are not (yet) aware of.

Freudian psychology speaks a lot about the subconscious. The Talmud spoke about it thousands of years ago! Our sages teach us that the connection that the Jew has with G‑d is unbreakable. Anything that a Jew does against this connection is due to ignorance or weakness. In other words, if he or she were to be fully aware of the true, negative consequences of his or her actions and would be in control of him/herself, a Jew would not go against G‑d's wishes and commandments.

The same is true regarding our relationship with the Land of Israel.

Perhaps the youth think that they are enamored with Israel because of the good time that they had... I think that it is much deeper than that, even though they may not be aware of it...

The reason that I am concerned about the level of Jewish education today is precisely because the students are not being given the tools with which they may discover and become conscientious Jews. The final product of the existing education is a Jew with conflicts who does not know how to reconcile his conscious (acquired) values with his natural, subconscious convictions and intuitions.

A Jew is a natural believer. The formal and informal Jewish education that is being given in this country tends to deny this condition of innate faith. The education that they receive, nourishes itself from sources and criteria that are foreign to Judaism. They deny the special condition of the Jew. It aims to "normalize" the Jew, redefining him as a universal citizen of the world. "We are the same as everybody else, although we have our own customs, language and land." It doesn't work. It doesn't work because we are not the same as everyone else. We are essentially different. We have a life mission that is totally different. We have a soul that is totally different. We have totally different spiritual needs. We have totally different spiritual conflicts.

What happens is that many Jews openly deny that they are different because they do not know how to defend it or because they do not want to assume the responsibilities that it implies. But this does not change the fact that they are different.

(Do you know the difference between a psychotic and a neurotic?

A psychotic thinks that 2+2=5. A neurotic knows that 2+2=4, but he can't handle it...)

Many Jews live their lives attempting to convince themselves that they are identical to their non-Jewish neighbors. They fight against their special condition as Jews.... until... they see that their children took them seriously and took this philosophy to its logical conclusion... they want to marry a non-Jew... All of a sudden, the parents realize that they were fooling themselves.... Hey! We are different! We didn't really mean it!

Many times, it is already too late...

So, I think that our differences about this subject are due to the fact that you are looking at the symptoms and outward appearance... I am judging the situation by what it really is and not by what it appears to be... A Jew does not (really) want to, nor can s/he, sever his or her connection with G‑d, even though s/he may not be consciously aware of it.

Best regards,

Gershon


-- 14 --

From: Gershon
To: Juan
Date: August 2

Juan:

It's been a long time since I've seen any sign of life...

Any reason?

A hug,

Gershon


-- 15 --

From: Juan
To: Gershon
Date: August 3

How are you, Gershon?

I am sorry for not writing sooner, but I really hardly have time for anything due to the fact that we are in the middle of exams at school and it fills the little time that I have.

Soon I will be back to normal and I will write you regarding some doubts that I have, the fruits of recent events.

A big kiss,

Juan


-- 16 --

From: Gershon
To: Juan
Date: August 4

I am sorry for not writing sooner, but I really hardly have time for anything due to the fact that we are in the middle of exams at school and it fills the little time that I have.

---- Thank you for responding, in spite of the little time that you have. What I didn't understand was: The exams leave you with little time, or do u prepare for the exams in little time?

Whatever the case is, I imagine that you do not even have the time to analyze the meaning of this question and definitely no time to answer it... So, I will wait patiently...

Best of luck with the exams (even though they compete with me for your time...) ;)


-- 17 --

From: Gershon
To: Juan
Date: August 15

How are you, Juan?

One question:

I have some acquaintances that I feel would benefit by reading our dialogue. Of course, I would take out any identifying information in order to protect your privacy. Is that OK with you?

A hug,

Gershon


-- 18 --

From: Juan
To: Gershon
Date: August 21

How are you, Gershon?

Everything OK?

I am just getting out of a complicated exam season. I just wanted to quickly respond to your mail and one of these days I will write a bit more.

Look, I have no problem with you sharing our mails with others. Personally, I don't think that I have contributed anything to the subject that others might consider interesting. It is more than obvious that you would never reveal the name of Paulina's family because that would not be good for anybody. With that condition, sure, go ahead and share it with whomever you want.

I am now in a decisive stage in my relationship with Paulina. The coming days will determine the destiny of our relationship.

Regards,

Juan.

go to: previous page [page 1 (1-7)] page 2 (8-18) [page 3 (19-26)]
[page 4 (27-33)] [page 5 (34-35)] [page 6 (36-42)] next page

From an e-mail correspondence between Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov and "Juan Garcia" (not his real name). Click here to send e-mail to Rabbi Shemtov.
© 2002 by Chabad.org. Any usage other than for personal use must be previously authorized by author.
From Dear Rabbi, Why Can't I Marry Her? - A Dialogue on Intermarriage by Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov. Click here to purchase online.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Susan seattle, usa December 16, 2011

conversion is there a place where one can read the thoughts of the Rebbe about conversion to Judaism? Reply

Isavel November 3, 2007

A non jew cannot go into intermarriage with a jew just because he might be one of the lost ten tribes. even if he was. Unless of couse he converts and follows all the laws completely but he has to go the extreme. we have no way of knowing who is from what tribe even from the known jews. If you are a non jew, or gentile whataver you prefer to call it, you must follow the 7 nohaide laws and nothing else consolt you local rabbi for more infomation Reply

Isavel November 3, 2007

first of all you are fooling yourself if you think that all non jews are the ten tribes, those lost tribes may be some of the non jews but not all of them. Reply

Wesley W. Fairmont, WV November 3, 2007

Israelites It is amazing to read this whole thing. I find so much information here and two very well spoken adults. However, I must entirely disagree with the Jewish priest. Your people (the Jews) are descendants of only about 2 and a half tribes of the entire Israelite nation. Which means that the ten lost tribes descendants are what is referred to as the Gentiles. Strangely enough, these descendents could very well include Juan, who most likely has a European origin in his bloodline. Tracing it back would bring him to be related to a common ancestor in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So therefore, the young lady would NOT be abusing God's laws and Juan can consider himself one of God's people, even if misled by the traditions of Roman Catholicism and paganism.
PS - I observe all of the Holy Days instituted in the Torah and also the weekly Sabbath or Shabat. I met quite a few Jewish people while attending the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot about a month ago. I extend a formal hello to you all and God bless! Reply

Jan Weiss Greenwich, CT via chabadgreenwich.org April 7, 2006

Wonderful What a wonderful discourse. Juan I can't agree with your comment "I don't think that I have contributed anything to the subject that others might consider interesting". This is a very real issue that needs to be understood on both sides of the argument.

I have to say that I land on Gershon's side when it comes to Jews thinking that is doesn't matter if they marry outside of their religion. Most of them do but don't realise it untill a child comes along and then it become a big issue but one that it's too late to resolve. I converted before I married my Jewish boyfriend, not because he cared at the time- it was me who cared. But once our son arrived he realised he really did care. And even though we are now divorced and don't really see eye to eye he has thanked me many times for converting and raising our son as a Jew. It really does matter when it matters and a Jew is a Jew even if he doesn't know or feel it. Reply

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