Tag Archives: inarticulate fury

Jews, intermarriage, and the love that is actually quite comfortable speaking its name

Do Jews have a future?  Maybe, but only if we stop marrying goyim, says Jack Wertheimer, a professor at JTS, in a long article I found infuriating for reasons I find hard to articulate. Maybe you guys can help me be infuriated by it in a more fully worked-out way!

There is the confusion about causation and correlation, which annoys me as a mathematician:

The bottom-line fact is that in both religious and communal life, intermarried families participate at decidedly lower rates than their in-married counterparts. The 2000-01 NJPS offers ample evidence comparing the two populations. In the realm of religious engagement, four times fewer intermarried families than in-married families join and regularly attend a synagogue, and five times fewer keep a kosher home. The same trends obtain in the area of social and communal participation: three times fewer intermarried families report that two or more of their closest friends are Jewish, and four to five times fewer join and volunteer for Jewish organizations or contribute to Jewish philanthropy.

And of course hysterical overreaction to disagreement, which annoys me as a human being:

In short, it remains unacceptable to encourage Jews to marry other Jews, unacceptable to state the obvious about the downside of intermarriage, and unacceptable to invoke such a thing as a responsibility to the Jewish people. In today’s environment, Jewish endogamy has become the love that dare not speak its name.

I’m a Jew married to a Jew, and nobody throws rocks at me, nobody vandalizes my house or calls me names on the Internet, and I can very definitely tell you that nobody suggests that I be forbidden from marrying, or institutionalized, or just plain thrown in jail, like those people who loved in the way that actually didn’t dare speak its name.

I’m the kind of person who, in Wertheimer’s mind, ought to be part of what he hopes is a “silent majority” —  I’m raising Jewish kids, I belong to a synagogue, I give to Jewish charities.  And yep, I favor my kids marrying other Jews.  I’m in the Jewish community.  But guess what — it’s exactly articles like this one that make me want to tell the Jewish community, or this part of it, that it can go take a leap.

It reminds me of going to Orthodox Talmud Torah as a kid.  They told us that any one of us who married a non-Jew was fulfilling Hitler’s plan.  They also told us that if the United States ever went to war with Israel, we would have to fight on Israel’s side.  Fair to say they took commitment to the Jewish people fairly seriously.

But I actually like those guys, in retrospect, better than I like this article!  Because let’s face it — they knew my family didn’t keep kosher.  They knew we weren’t shomer shabbos and they knew that when we came to pray on Saturday morning, we drove there, parked three blocks from shul, and walked the rest of the way, just to keep up appearances.  It wasn’t a problem.  They let me keep going to Hebrew School there, and they let me stand up and be bar mitzvahed there just as if I were observant.  I think it’s fair to say I learned a lot there that helped keep me part of the Jewish community for life.

Should they instead have tossed me out, the way Wertheimer wants synagogues to do with Jews who marry outside the faith?

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