Interfaith Marriage IS a Recipe for Big Problems


A new ad campaign in Israel that strongly discourages Israeli men and women from marrying American Jewish men and women has the Internet all abuzz. Its message is clearly insulting to all Jewish people who live in the US, especially those of us who are very involved in and active around the State of Israel. As an American Jewish woman, I should take these ads as a massive insult (and they have since been pulled thanks to the American Jewish outcry). But I don't. Because I know that, in many ways, they're true.

I am everything this video fears will happen. I am the product of an intermarriage (my mom converted from Catholicism to Judaism to marry my dad), and I am now in an interfaith marriage (my husband took all the conversion classes, but opted not to convert). Though I consider my children half Jewish, by blood they're really only one-quarter Jewish, and if they marry gentiles, then it dissipates more and more.

I would never say people shouldn't intermarry, but I have and, at times, it's very hard. 

One of the biggest fears for many who lived through the atrocities of the Holocaust is assimilation and intermarriage. Those who intermarry generation after generation will likely forget they were ever Jewish in the first place and some believe that is a tragedy.

Unless you are Jewish, it's hard to understand what a cultural and religious identity rolled into one can mean. Judaism isn't just a religion, but a cultural identity, a heritage many are proud of. It's true that in the melting pot that is the US, it's very hard to keep strong ties to one faith or one identity, especially when it isn't the majority.

That said, I know plenty of American Jews who do maintain their Jewish identity, but they do so by largely only having Jewish friends, by building a strong community within a community. I, on the other hand, celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, have less Jewish friends than I do Secular/Christian friends, and generally feel ambivalent about religion and cultural identity in general.

I celebrate, love, and defend Israel every day. But I love my secular/non-Jewish husband more. I wouldn't want to live there. I feel enormous guilt, though, about the intermarriages I have experienced. I would never marry anyone but my husband, but certainly intermarriage is difficult. I can't delve too deeply into that here (look for the book coming soon). It's a hole I will never crawl out of alive. Suffice it to say that many on my mother's and husband's sides of the family judged our decision to intermarry and have shown it in some pretty cruel ways.

I don't blame the Netanyahu Israeli government for the ads. I disagree with them, but I also know they're right. Assimilation does take a person away from their Jewish identity. Living in Israel doesn't.

I will likely never move to Israel even though I could (both my parents were technically Jewish) because I like knowing and interacting with people of every faith. To me, that is progress. But I don't take offense to the ads. After all, they're correct.

Do you think the ads are insulting?


Image via YouTube

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Melis... Melissa042807

I can see why people would find the ads insulting. Who you marry should be your choice. I think people should be aware of the potential issues they will face in life due to intermarriage, like the family issues you mentioned, but that doesn't mean it can't still be a successful marriage. 

nonmember avatar Mike M

One thing that is overlooked in these ads is their attitude of intolerance. What religious people pride themselves on being intolerant of others? And for those who do, why? Moreover, didn't the Jews learn anything about intolerance from the Holocaust?

poshkat poshkat

i am in israeli Jew and i married a catholic American. i feel NO GUILT and no remorse for my marriage. our son gets the best of both worlds. what kid wouldn't love to have christmaka? i got so much crap for marrying my husband and deciding to raise our DS with both holidays (we are not really into religion). we have our traditions and our own way of doing things. people need to chill. just because you marry someone out of your religion and our of your own culture does not mean you lost it! it just means its a little harder (if you make it that way) to keep it.

nonmember avatar Michael Gilboa

Hi Sasha, you have a brought up a lot of great points here about the difficulties of intermarriage and assimilation, but I just want to comment that if your parents are both Jewish (whether by birth or by choice) then you are NOT a product of intermarriage. I don't mean to dismiss your self-identity, but calling the marriage of a Jew by birth and a Jew by choice an intermarriage implicitly buys into a false biological definition of Jewish peoplehood. Likewise, your children don't have 1/4 Jewish blood, because there's no such thing as Jewish blood, only human blood. Yes, there is an element of Jewish peoplehood which is often inherited from one's family, but there is no such thing as Jewish DNA or "pure Jews." In each generation going back to Abraham men and women from every nation have been inspired to join the Jewish people, and they have all added their own spark to the Jewish flame. It is very important to honor the legitimacy of their choice by acknowledging that they are fully Jewish and their marriages are Jewish marriages.

nonmember avatar Javes

Mom was a Catholic and her presumably Catholic family doesn't approve of Christian husband? Was he a Protestant, worse than marrying a Jew? P.S., don't you have to have a Jewish mother to technically be a Jew?

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