Editor's note: Our regular readers will surely recall the “Dialogue on Intermarriage” we published in our Devarim 5762 issue — a correspondence between "Juan", a graduate student in a large South American city, and "Rabbi Gershon Abrahamson," the local Chabad rabbi (not their real names). Juan, who describes himself as someone who "unfortunately does not have the honor of being a Jew", had fallen in love with "Paulina", a Jewish woman; the two wished to marry, but were met with vehement opposition on the part of the young woman's family. Seeking to understand the basis of this opposition, Juan wrote to Rabbi Abrahamson. Their resultant correspondence, spanning 42 e-mails and 14 months, is a fascinating document on love, marriage, religion, racism, anti-Semitism and Judaism — in addition to being a captivating human drama. It also captivated our readers, who sent us hundreds of e-mails with questions, criticisms and compliments — and requests for "the ending" (which was published in our Ki-Teitzei 5762 issue). Some of them were too good not to publish — so here goes. (If you haven't read the "Dialogue" itself yet, go here).


Dear Chabad On Line,

I have just finished reading the "Dialogue on Intermarriage."

It is fascinating, not only for its amazing wisdom, but for the love, kindness, sensitivity and profound respect displayed by the two men for each other, for the young woman, and for the issue at hand.

I would like to know, however, do we ever get to know the outcome of the underlying situation between "Paulina" and "Juan", or, at least, whether there was ever any conscious closure to the dialogue between Rabbi Abrahamson and "Juan?" Or did the discussion just peter out?

In typing this, I feel a bit like a voyeur, or a soap opera fan who missed the final episode, so I will end with "Expiring minds want to know!" :-)

Thank you.


Dearest Rabbi,

I have read this continuing story about intermarriage. I have my own views as well. Mine are from a child of an intermarried couple. My father was a Jew and my mother was a Christian. Both of them were good people who loved each other and had no intention of hurting anyone. Most especially their own daughter.

When I was born the decision was made to have me converted to Judaism. No questions asked. An Orthodox rabbi was brought from New York...

As I grew I studied everything and left nothing unnoticed. My religious identity was the greatest part of my governing conscience. I didn't study as much about Judaism as I did Christianity, Islam, Hindu and Buddism. I did my best to rebel against parents and thoroughly let them know that this wasn't fair. I had to choose whether I am Jewish, and if I did that I dishonored my own mother. If I didn't choose Judaism, I dishonored my father. How could I do that to either one? So I dishonored them both... Logic doesn't allow me not to choose, because by not choosing I have also chosen....

I ultimately chose G‑d over both my parents and they had to deal with their own deeds for the rest of their lives. Both of my parents did state that they would never approve of intermarriage for any selfish excuse again. "Love isn't enough," is what my mother said, "not when there is G‑d."

I still to this day have painful memories because of my parents' intermarriage. I have dishonored my mother in a way that I can't change, and it was caused by intermarriage. I don't expect many to understand my view, but I do give great caution to anyone who wants to try it. Not wise at all.


The Rabbi's entire presentation of his ideas struck me as an ongoing assault on the dignity of both Juan and his beloved Paulina. And every time he said he was merely "explaining" rather than "judging" opinions with which he disagreed, he was in fact severely judgmental.... His goal is to change two young people to his way of thinking, an easy thing to do, as most educators know. And in the process he invokes G‑d, family, society, the perpetuation of Judaism. This is a lot of heavy duty ammunition he uses in his "dialogue" with inexperienced young people. He will no doubt change their minds, which is his purpose all along. He is not interested in dialogue, only in persuading the immature to see the world as he does.

The entire correspondence (I read every word of it) was nothing more, in my view, than a picture of a man foisting his belief system on young, inexperienced people. That the believer should find his beliefs so satisfying is no surprise. After all, he is arguing a case within a closed circle, where every idea reinforces the others. The problem is that a true "friend" should be wiling to think outside of his favorite circle in order to see other people's ideas as well, with the goal being to understand the "other" more and more fully. It should never be to create in the other a clone of oneself, especially in the name of friendship.


What a find! Your recently published "Dialogue on Intermarriage" is nothing short of fantastic. Having lived through a similar scenario — and now watching as a sister struggles with her decisions — I assure you that this article will provide an objective and non-confrontational launching point for a much overdue family conversation....

And in retrospect, the happy ending is that the culmination of my search has been in finding Chabad in ________. Without belaboring the details, my son and I blindly walked into Chabad about a year-and-a-half ago, searching for a shul that felt right for us on Shabbos. We've been going ever since and our growth as father/son, and as Jews has never been deeper — even though I was raised very traditionally... That's why we support Chabad as we do. Thanks!


Our greatest leaders came from mixed unions. Our faith was built and preserved by the product of mixed unions. Ruth was a Moabite — not born a Jew... I live in a small town. Because of deaths, childlessness, people moving away, etc., what was once a thriving congregation now can't get a minian.... We are a religion (Jews are not a race as Hitler would have us believe) — what should be done is active search for converts....


Dear Rabbi

I read with rapt facination your correspondence with "Juan". I have walked in those shoes with my first marriage.

Briefly, I was raised Catholic, but had been a believer in the Torah for many years prior to my meeting _____ (my first husband). My parents, bless them, were most supportive of this. I wish I could have said the same for his mother.... Even after I converted, a decision I made, I was never "Jewish" enough for her. And they were Reform!

She never came to our apartment. He was always asked over to her home, without me. We struggled through this for four years until things simply went apart.

Do I know what Juan is feeling? And HOW! I pray that he finds out that Paulina's family will never change, nor should they, given his decision to remain in his faith, a good thing no matter what religion one is or how much a follower is of the laws of that religion....

Juan does sound at times as if he needed to hear that it was okay for he and Paulina to marry. It isn't. It's against the rules, so to speak. He can understand what you wrote, but he isn't listening...

I wonder how your correspondence with Juan concluded, if it has. I can only empathize with them both and pray they will come to the right conclusion.

Thank you for sharing this with everyone.


My 25-year-old daughter went to yeshiva for 10 years, always belonged to conservative synagogue, always active with Jewish friends. She found a non-Jewish boyfriend 2 years ago. As of May we no longer speak to her. Can you imagine a child giving up her entire family and all old friends for this horrible situation? Any suggestions?


Dear Gershon,

I am a 34-year-old woman who was raised in a strongly fundamentalist Christian home. I went to conservative Christian schools and college. I married a Christian man that I met in college, and divorced him 6-1/2 years later...

I distanced myself from my family a bit any time we had friction over religious beliefs, and in that distance I started exploring and wanting to know exactly why I believe what I believe. I went to a Buddhist zendo for about a month just to sort of see others' beliefs and see that there are others who believe as fervently about things as Christians, yet have different foundations for their beliefs.

I visited my parents a few weeks ago, and my mother told me that a distant grandmother on her side was a Jew, and that it was passed down through the females.

I went home and started reading about Judaism, and then got more and more hungry to learn all that I could. I bought a Stone Edition Tanach as well as the JPS and was dismayed to see that they differed so much in interpretations from the Christian Bibles I've studied. I went to the Judaism section at Barnes & Noble one day, and a young man standing there asked if I was a Jew. We ended up sitting on the floor, talking about things. He pulled out several books, told me I need to find a Chabad near me....

I'm very confused about everything and looking for answers. I don't want to be someone who accepts a hand-me-down religion. I want to know why I believe what I believe and that I'm believing it because it is the truth.


Dear Rabbi:

I came across your email interchange with "Juan" while searching for a synagogue in which to begin my conversion to Judaism.

I have been interested in Judaism for as long as I can remember. My interest has steadily grown, culminating in a relationship with a Jewish man that I simply adored.

I was too shy to really press my interest in Judaism....afraid that he would think I wanted to convert merely for him. The truth is I have been fascinated by the religion since I started kindergarten...when my first best friend, Sarah _______, explained Hanukkah to me.

I am now a 37-year-old divorced woman with four young children. The man I was in a relationship with was a 40 year old divorced man with three young children (from a non-Jewish wife). After his divorce, he returned to his religion and seems to be fairly serious about it. His children will need to convert, so I didn't understand why it would have been a problem for me and my children to convert as well.

At any rate, we seem to have ended for good. However, my interest in the religion (and unfortunately in him) continues. I will be leaving the city in which I met him and returning to ______ where I will begin searching for what to do next.

I realize you must be a very busy man. However, if you have time, I would appreciate any thoughts you might have. I am terribly heartbroken....wishing I would have converted before I had met him.


Thank you for sharing your amazing correspondence. I plan to send this to a student of mine who has a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father. She is becoming religious and he feels hurt and is trying to tell her that it's a mistake She is conflicted. I think that this will help her....


Dear Rabbi Abrahamson

I am just writing to say how impressed I was reading this dialogue. It is the first time I have read articles on the Chabad website, and I have just spent at least an hour and a half at work reading this unbelievably detailed and well written real-life drama! No doubt this is a very sensitive and controversial area — I was very impressed with your reasoning. The reason I am writing is just to satisfy my curiosity — are you able to tell me what eventually happened in this story? We are going through difficult times at home with my sister and her relationship and I really benefited from reading some of your arguments...


....Thank you for these emails. I wish I had read them before my daughter secretly wed a non Jew. She has now returned home, ready to seek a divorce, and we pray for the wisdom and guidance to support her at this point in her life, and to offer her guidance she will accept...


I found your dialogue with Juan very interesting. If Juan would choose conversion (to Judaism) would their relationship work? I'm in a similar situation, except that I'm married. I would like to read more of the correspondence.


I think Juan should do a good look into his family tree. If he shakes it and a Jewish root falls out, he should convert...


Would it be wise to let Mr. Garcia know that Jews are not only born, but also made?

I suspect not, because I think conversions aught to be motivated by different aspirations. Plus there are those rules which require that Jews discourage a person's conversion three times and so on.

Still, I can't help but see the potential for Mr. Garcia, that is, with his current religious tabla rasa.

What are your thoughts?


What if this non-practicing Christian is a Jew whose ancestors were forced into Christianity by the sword over the past centuries or is part of the "Lost Tribes"... and the Blessed and Holy Creator who is in control is drawing this man back into the fold via this love and marriage? What right does the rabbi (a human being) have to get involved and stop what the Blessed and Holy Creator may be doing...?


Dear Rabbi Abrahamson:

You are a credit to the Jewish Community, a bright shining light that one must respect. I will continue to follow the dialogue between you and Juan because I am learning so much from both of you.


Rabbi --

I had just spent a good portion of my time at shul last Shabbat wrapped up in the ChabadOnline Weekly Magazine, more specifically, your dialogue with Juan. It was one of the most important (for lack of a better word) articles that I had read anywhere in quite a while. You are to be commended for bringing this conversation to light. I passed it on to a friend who is running such a risk with his daughter.

Keep up the good work and don't let the "fame" get to you :-)


Please keep me up to date on the dialogue, I find it very interesting. I am quite impressed with the rabbi's knowledge, and his ability to relate it to someone that is not of our faith.


Dear Juan and Gershon — why don't you two get married. You could spend the rest of your lives discussing this problem and never reach a conclusion. There are no answers. You just do the best you can and follow your heart. That's what G‑d would expect, no more, no less. You don't get points for being a martyr. You only get heartache.


I really, really enjoyed reading the first part of this dialogue. I was really, really disappointed by the "epilogue", however. It had little to say beyond the wealth of insight provided in first part. Basically, in last installment, Rabbi Abramson's responses were lazy and unworthy of the provocative questions that Juan continues to raise — and, more importantly, of the pain he evinces.

Perhaps, even after such a long break, both men simply are tiring of each other and of the meaty issues they chewed over previously in such detail. It's perfectly understandable for the dialogue to run out of steam. But just because the dialogue has resumed — and just because your readers clamor for more — doesn't mean that you have to feel compelled to publish it. Let's see where (or even if) the dialogue continues, and then decide if the two men have anything new to tell us.

Please accept this in the spirit with which it's offered. I am writing my comments both as a reader and an editor.


Thank you soooo much for the updated post! Some very important statements were established with Juan and should be with us.

1) It is Truth not Happiness that is key.

2) We obey Torah because it is Truth, it is what it is, and not because it necessarily makes us happy.

However, the third key or finishing thought:

3) When we pay attention to truth, and obey because it is truth and we have faith that it is our good that G‑d ultimately desires, then.... we find happiness. How? Through finding the Truth that G‑d longs to bestow upon us. So many are looking for happiness without understanding what it is.