Note: Names and other identifying details have been changed in order to protect the privacy of the people involved

-- 1 --

From: Juan Garcia
To: Rabbi Gershon Abrahamson
Date: June 23
Subject: my Jewish girlfriend

Dear Rabbi Abrahamson

My name is Juan Garcia . As you can tell from my name, I unfortunately do not have the honor of being a Jew. I would like to ask you something with utmost sincerity and hope that you will answer me.

I am 26 years old and a year ago I was lucky to meet a Jewish girl whose name I prefer not to reveal. She is an alumnus of a Jewish school , with a very strong Jewish education. She is today the source of life for me.

Obviously you must imagine where all this is leading to. In her home, they are experiencing a growing family crisis because of the "goy" that she is dating. Obviously, the parents have never met me and neither have they expressed any desire to do so.

At first, I did not understand the reason for all of this. Even though from childhood on to this very day, one of my best friends was Jewish, I have never noticed the existence of such a great rejection towards the "gentiles" when Jews would date non-Jews. I am very familiar with the theory that calls for avoiding mixed marriages in order to combat assimilation. But this is going even further. In Jewish families such as hers, where Judaism is not the most important concern, it's more a matter of the embarrassment that the mother will suffer in the beauty parlor than concern about the dangers of assimilation.

Recently, her grandparents found out about us and her mother — seeing the horror of the grandfather — tried persuading him that our relationship wasn't anything serious. They could not make peace with the fact that their daughter was dating a non-Jew. One of the things that the grandfather said was: "A goyshe iz a goyshe." Excuse my Yiddish, but you understand what it means. What I had thought was a simple inclination against mixed marriages, became a clear act of intolerance.

See? Your religion, which merits my highest respect, which has always acted most wisely, ends up professing against tolerance which has always been an emblem on its flag.

Having experienced this problem myself, I found out about many similar cases. Families that disinherited their sons or daughters, or even worse, put them on a plane to Israel so that they never again see their goy boy/girlfriend. This shows me that it is not an isolated incident, nor a minority.

I hope that you will be able to understand my pain and will not react by calling me an anti-Semite, because for me it is clear that if G‑d decided to put the most beautiful woman in the world in my path, obviously he took her from His great chosen people.

Could you clarify my view, if it is indeed clouded?

Perhaps your words will help me understand.

Juan


-- 2 --

From: Gershon
To: Juan
Date: June 23

Dear Juan:

Thank you for your mail and for the sincerity and candor with which it was written.

I will attempt to answer you likewise.

I understand your frustration very well. You have before you — or beside you — a woman whom you love and with whom you would like to share the rest of your life.

You perceive that there are those who want to take her away from you for unjustified reasons ("What will they say in the beauty parlor...")

I do not consider it correct on my part to defend the position and attitudes of a family that I do not know and whose arguments I haven't heard. All I can do is talk to you about the subject from my point of view and not as a spokesman for them.

I agree with you that love is one of the strongest factors in determining who you will marry. But, obviously, it is not the only one. Imagine if you were to find out that the woman of your dreams is your sister; would you marry her?

The Torah clearly defines whom a Jew may marry and whom not. And, for the Jew, the Torah is what defines what constitutes a "marriage". Marriage is a Divine institution, and can be effected only on the conditions that G‑d himself has stipulated (to again resort to my previous example: there does not exist marriage between siblings — even though they can physically procreate, and even though they may love each other very much — because their union is forbidden by the Torah).

I think that you have to distinguish between objective criteria (what does the Torah say) and subjective criteria (what her family says). I can understand that you feel hurt by the apparent hypocrisy of individuals that do not practice Judaism in their personal life and — all of a sudden — they oppose their child marrying someone only because of the fact that he or she is not Jewish. But your children are not at fault. Neither should you make decisions based on attitudes (of her parents) that are — apparently — incoherent. I'll tell you even more: even were her parents to agree to her marrying you, you would be at fault with your own Creator.

Believe me, I understand the hell that you must be going through. It is not easy. But one thing I would like to tell you: the ways of the Torah are the ways of peace and justice. Violating the laws of the Torah does not bring any blessing in the long run, even though it may be very difficult at first to accept it. On the other hand, doing what G‑d wants — albeit with much sacrifice — will bring you true, infinite, eternal blessings...

If you would like to talk to me personally, I will gladly meet with you in order to discuss this matter. I am interested in protecting you — as well as her - from making a false move as a result of ignorance or as a reaction to attitudes that seem to be unjust...

Sincerely

Gershon

There's a booklet on the subject of Intermarriage I would recommend that you read. If you are interested, I will send you a copy.


-- 3 --

From: Juan
To: Rabbi Gershon Abrahamson
Date: June 27

Thank you very much for answering my mail. I thank you dearly. The points you make are very true, but they are obviously based on the canons of a religion that is not mine.

It would be nice to have a conversation some time.

Thank you very much, and of course I would be interested in reading the material about this subject you mentioned.

Juan

P.S. What did you mean when you said that my children are not at fault? I understand that you were referring to the future, but I don't understand, why would they suffer?


-- 4 --

From: Gershon
To: Juan
Date: June 27

Dear Juan.

Thank you for your reply. I will respond by quoting your words (in italics) and then replying, preceded by '----'.

The points you make are very true, but they are obviously based on the cannons of a religion that is not mine

--- That is a valid observation.

Nevertheless, you must take several things into account:

1) The girl that you fell in love with also belongs to a religion that's not yours... Even though she may not respect it, by marrying her, you would be causing her to violate her own religion and the laws of her people. Do you think that somebody who really loves someone, would make her betray her own people and G‑d?

2) My initial argument was not with the intention to convince you what you should do, but rather to explain why this is not a matter of personal discrimination, but a biblical injunction.

3) In your first mail, you wrote about G‑d and the Chosen People. I understood from that that you do accept the Bible as a valid point of reference... If it is valid enough when it comes to defining the girl as part of the chosen people, why should it cease to be valid when it tells you that you cannot marry her?

It would be nice to have a conversation some time

--- Whenever you'd like. You are welcome to come alone or with the young lady.

I would be interested in reading the material about this subject you mentioned

--- I'll send it to you by e-mail.

What did you mean when you said that my children are not at fault... why would they suffer?

--- Do you consider it healthy for a child to be brought up in an environment in which the parents belong to different religions? How will they educate him? As a Jew? As a neutral? Will you tell him: "You are a Jew and belong to a people which is not mine"? Will you tell him to choose what he wants to be? Is it right to subject him to choosing between his father and his mother? Does this choice even depend on him? And what about his relationship with his grandparents, cousins and other family?

Let me point out: Any argument that somebody will have against intermarriages can be refuted by another argument in favor. The only argument which I think is unassailable is that G‑d has expressly forbidden it. All the rest is just commentary...


-- 5 --

From: Juan
To: Gershon
Date: July 2

Dear Gershon:

Thank you very much for the time that you are dedicating to me. I am trying to get the most out of your words as possible.

I have some doubts regarding what you wrote in your first mail. You wrote: "even though her parents would be happy with your marrying their daughter, you would be at fault with YOUR OWN CREATOR..."

Even though I am not a practicing Christian, I have nevertheless received a Christian education in a Catholic school and I know my Bible well. I do not remember any passage that defines with whom I may get married. Of course, no church would recognize my marriage with a girl that has not been baptized, but that can be resolved. But in the case of Judaism, according to you, I would not resolve the matter by converting, because your following sentence (in reference to my future children) would still be valid: "Will you tell him 'you are a Jew and you belong to a Nation that is not mine'? Will you allow him to choose what he wants to be? Is it right to subject him to the need to choose between his parents? Does this choice really depend on him? And what about his relationship with his grandparents, cousins and other family members?"

I think that I should have asked you something else, first: Do you believe in conversion? Do you think that I can be expected to change all my beliefs?

OK, I don't want to take up more of your time. Again, thank you infinitely for the great amount of it that you are dedicating to my doubts.

A strong hug,

Juan


-- 6 --

From: Gershon
To: Juan
Date: July 2

Even though I am not a practicing Christian, I have nevertheless received a Christian education in a Catholic school and I know my Bible well. I do not remember any passage that defines with whom I may get married.

---- See Deuteronomy 7:3-4.

I think that I should have asked you something else, first: Do you believe in conversion? Do you think that I can be expected to change all my beliefs?

---- Judaism accepts as Jewish any man or woman that has been born from a non-Jewish mother if they go through the process of giyyur, or conversion. Conversion to Judaism consists of going through the same steps that the Jewish people went through in order to become Jews, namely: 1) Circumcision (in the case of males); 2) Immersion in a Mikveh; 3) Accepting to fulfill the 613 Mitzvot (Commandments) in their totality. All this in the presence of an authentic Rabbinic Tribunal.

As far as you are concerned, nobody is asking you to change your beliefs. What motivates one who wants to convert to Judaism is precisely his or her desire to give full expression to their beliefs, and not in order to change them.

OK, I don't want to take up more of your time. Again, thank you infinitely for the great amount of it that you are dedicating to my doubts.

--- You're very welcome.

A strong hug,

--- Ditto.


-- 7 --

From: Juan
To: Gershon
Date: July 2

Gershon:

Continuing this interesting contact:

How are you? I hope that you are well. In your last mail, I found some of the passages interesting.

You are right regarding the passage in the Bible that forbids a Jew to marry a non-Jew. That is clear. But there is something that I don't understand.

I understand that one who does not fulfill the precepts is to be considered a sinner. It therefore follows that if someone permits his daughter to marry a non-Jew, he is to be considered a sinner. "You shall not give your daughter to him in marriage..." Right?

On the other hand, being that the family of my girlfriend does not observe even a tenth of the precepts of the Torah, why do they have to fulfill the precept that prohibits them from giving their daughter to me in marriage? If they do not permit their daughter to marry me, but on Saturday they travel by car to a barbecue, what, then, is the point?

I think that this time I have overextended myself with questions. My apologies. If you do not answer them, don't worry. I'll understand.

Regards,

Juan.

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