Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Two Intermarriages Avoided

Conservative Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom officiating at an intermarriage (JTA)
What a revelation! I was both amused and appalled by the responses to Carey Purcell’s oped in the Washington Post. Carey, who described herself as a stereotypical blond WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) – was raised in a community where Jews were scarce and grew up knowing little about Judaism. After moving to New York and landing a job where almost everyone was Jewish she began being invited to Chanukah parties and Pesach Seders. Which she said she grew to love.

Because of this environment she had opportunities to date Jewish men.  But after dating two of them she has sworn that off. She proclaimed that she was tired of being a Jewish man’s rebellion and vowed to never date them again.  (I only wish all non Jewish women would take that pledge. But I digress.)

I don’t blame her at all. The description of how those two courtships progressed explains why she feels that way. Which seemed quite reasonable to me as follows.

At first religion was not an issue. These men were not observant in any way. In each case the relationships developed and became serious. But when things got serious enough to consider marriage, then ‘out of the blue’ all of the sudden their Judaism started to matter. Which eventually led to a breakup. In both cases her former fiancés ended up marrying nice Jewish girls.

For an observant Jew like myself, this is a positive outcome to what could have been a disaster for the Jewish people by adding two more people to the vast number of intermarriages. Had they married Carey, it would have been the end of the line for them. Unless Carey would have had a Halachic conversion which required her to become observant, their offspring would not have been Jewish. And that was a highly unlikely scenario. After century upon century of Jewish continuity the Jewish line would end with them. Their offspring would not be Jewish.

It is impossible for me to know whether these two Jewish men will raise their children with any sense of Jewish consciousness.  But at least their children are Halachicly Jewish and will have parents that cared enough about it to marry a Jew. Hopefully that spark of Jewish identity that caused these two men to end a relationship with a non Jewish woman and marry someone Jewish will flower into something bigger and even more meaningful.

As for Carey, she was hurt by those experiences. She will never date Jewish men again. And I don’t blame her one bit. But if one reads the responses to her column in social media, one would think she was a closet antisemite! (Or to put it the way one Jewish man did - vaguely antisemitic.) In my view this is a gross misrepresentation of her attitude about us.

Carey was fully prepared to marry these two men. She was probably in love with them. Closet antisemite don’t do that – even those that say ‘Some of my best friends are Jewish’.  Coming from a community where she had practically no clue about Jews and Judaism she took a job where almost everyone was Jewish and came to learn more about it by experiencing some Jewish culture through them. Which she learned to love. That may have even been her motivation to date Jewish men in the first place. 

How any of that translates into closet antisemitism is beyond any rational interpretation of her words. She is no more an antisemite than I am. Her reasons for not dating Jewish men were legitimate. Her experiences led her to believe that at the end of the day those 2 men just wanted to have a fling with a ‘Shiksa’. At least subconsciously. She invested herself emotionally into those relationships only to be rejected in the end. I think she’s probably right about that based on who those two men married.

I am going to ho out on a limb here and say that only Jews that value dating non Jews had this reaction. It is though they are proclaiming to the non Jewish women of the world, ‘Don’t listen to Carey’. ‘She clearly  didn’t have a grasp on the real problemss of those relationships and blamed it on Judaism.’ ‘Please do not get scared off form dating us.’  ‘We want to date you… and even marry you.’

Bolstering this view is the cold hard fact that according to Pew over 70% of non Orthodox Jews do marry out. Without the slightest hint of guilt about it. Often  with the approval of their Jewish parents. A 21st century phenomenon that was unthinkable just a few short decades ago. Most non observant parents cared about their children marrying Jews then. That’s why there were so many sham conversions. Now, nobody cares.

The typical young Jewish male has been assimilated to the extent that he could not care less whether his Judaism will be perpetuated through him into future generations. They just want to be fully assimilated to the point where Judaism is not an issue anymore. And what better way to do that than marry out and live a successful fully secular life and raise children with no religion at all. 

The consequences have two possible scenarios. If the woman isn’t Jewish and the children are raised as Jews, the problems can be enormous if they ever begin to take their Judaism seriously. Because even though they think hey are Jews and were rasied that way, they will have to convert. And if the woman is Jewish and her husband decided to raise their children as Christians… do I even have to explain the tragedy there?

All of this quite clearly demonstrates why the future of non Orthodox American Jewry is so bleak. As long as there are Jews that think it tragic that a Non Jewish woman has sworn off dating Jewish men, then I am hard pressed to see any kind of future for them as members of the tribe.