The Intermarriage-Assimilation Myth
04/16/2010 - 11:22

 Kudos to my friend Paul Golin of the Jewish Outreach Institute for his op-ed this week entitled “Intermarriage, Assimilation Are Not Interchangeable.”
To which I’d add my own mantras: “intermarriage is also not a disease or an epidemic” and “when preventing intermarriage becomes the primary focus of Jewish life, Judaism is reduced to little more than a glorified matchmaking service.”

One of my favorite parts of Paul’s column: “If intermarriage means the same thing as assimilation, there wouldn’t be intermarried members of synagogues, children of intermarriage on Birthright Israel trips or intermarried leaders of Jewish communal organizations.” 

Indeed, I recently learned that almost half the rabbinical students at the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion grew up in interfaith households. And in a meeting yesterday at The Curriculum Initiative, a group that provides Jewish resources and cultural programming at prep schools around the country, the staff told me that children of intermarriage comprise a significant percentage of the student leaders/activists organizing events on campus.
Clearly, many people from interfaith families are eager to explore Judaism.

As Paul points out, “Even if intermarriage in America has been an assimilationist trend in the past, it doesn’t mean that it has to be in the future. That will depend on how our community welcomes in the intermarried.”

Let’s hope more groups follow the Reform movement and TCI’s lead so that, in the words of the Haggadah, we can “let all who are hungry [for spiritual/communal sustenance] come and eat.”

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the cognitive dissonance must be deafening and maddening- i really feel bad for you guys. does anyone see orthodox jews, whether modern or haredi, scratching their heads wondering how to keep their children committed, practicing jews who rarely intermarry? of course not. why? because the raison d'etre of these orthodox jews is to live a life of torah. it's that simple. if one's judaism consists mostly of universal values like truth, fairness, justice etc., mixed in with some jewish customs, zionism and hebrew, then you will succeed in raising wonderful children, but the odds of having jewish grandchildren is almost nil. is that fair? i don't know. but it's reality. judaism can only be transmitted from one generation to the next if torah and halacha are considered the "be all" of life- not just a wonderful culture. one has to truly commit oneself to a life which is utterly dictated by torah and halacha. you think it's some kind of accident that reform and conservative jews are disappearing? of course they are disappearing- one cannot transmit a "watered down" version of judaism from one generation to the next. how much more proof does one need? if one raises a jewish child to largely ignore the laws of kashrut, sabbath, family purity etc., yet hope that this system of judiasm is valuable enough so that one's child will resist marrying the beautiful, charming non-jewish person he/she meets in school, then one is delusional. again- the judaism-lite practiced by non-orthodox is certainly a nice life, but it is not transmittable, and the non-orthodox have to at least come to terms with this inconvenient fact. judaism can only be transmitted if children go to full-time jewish school, and the parents live a life which is dictated by torah. children who go to sunday school and get bar-mitvahed are so ignorant of judaism, it's appalling, and of course they don't make the necessary sacrifice to marry fellow jews and raise jewish children. why would they?- they are shown a judaism that makes so little demands, and is practiced merely as a nice culture, it would defy common sense for that child to make those sacrifices. after all, their parents and the people in their community don't make the sacrifice. think for a moment- if the non-orthodox live their lives ignoring some of the torah's laws, how does one decide which laws to follow and which to ignore? if a child asks his parents- why do we eat non-kosher?, and the parents answer that those laws don't apply anymore, then how does that parent answer the child when the child wants to ignore the rest of the laws? based on what authority does the parent tell the child which laws apply and which don't? if it's all"pick and choose", then why be surprised if the kids pick and choose less and less? who is to say they are wrong? the whole system utterly breaks down if one "picks and chooses". think again- if the torah were written by god, how can one possibly pick and choose? and if the torah were written by man, why in the world would one make the great sacrifices necessary to transmit those laws to the next generation? certainly man today can decide better than man did 3000 years ago on how to live a good, decent life, no? and is a child going to dismiss the beautiful, charming person he met as a possible spouse just because what some men wrote 3000 years ago? it's ridiculous and magical thinking. anyway- the non-orthodox are doomed, which is a shame. i hope to god they "see the light" and seek out true judaism- it's a great life.

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