An honest question requires a truthful answer.
Most young Jews who are contemplating intermarriage are not asking “why not?” Therefore, for them, the best approach is to make Judaism meaningful. Their interest in intermarriage is not a problem, it is a symptom of a lack of Jewish commitment. Therefore, address the commitment.
Occasionally, however, an educator may hear a sincere question from a young person: “Why not?”
Perhaps this person heard some negative feedback from family members about their choice of a potential partner. Perhaps they are feeling a sense of guilt, but rationally, our pluralistic society condones interfaith marriage as it implies open-mindedness.
Such a question should not be answered with statistics nor other psychological, sociological or historical data – too cerebral. If you are trying to convince an academic audience that marrying Jewish is sensible, these may be all the right arguments. But if you are talking to Sam who’s in college and likes this really cute Chinese girl, your arguments are going to fall on deaf ears.
Rather, the Moss approach (below) will make such claims of happiness, happy kids etc. believable because it gets to their pintele yid.
Therefore, we humbly submit that R’ Moss’s is the superior approach for anyone who asks, “Why marry Jewish?”
Once the questioner gets this pintele-yid idea, then all the cerebral stuff too will help them deepen their resolve to marry Jewish. The Moss approach helps them experience, on the spot, their own Jewishness. This is the Art of Amazement approach – give them the emotional experience of appreciation first before teaching them about brachot. But: do follow-up with the rational stuff (including the pragmatic advice such as not even dating the cute girl) so that they can define the experience intellectually and own it.
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By: Aron Moss
Question: Rabbi, I don’t want a sermon – I get enough of them from my parents. I am asking for an explanation.
I am seriously dating a girl who is everything I ever dreamed of. She is smart, pretty, funny-definitely marriage material. There’s only one problem: She isn’t Jewish. My parents have refused even to meet her and have told me that if we get married they won’t come to the wedding. My grandmother is beside herself.
My question is: My parents aren’t religious. We never kept kosher or celebrated Jewish holidays. We didn’t even belong to a synagogue. Why, all of a sudden, are they so Jewish when it comes to whom I marry? Isn’t that totally hypocritical? When I say this, they answer: “This is different.” But that makes no sense to me. Why is it different?
Answer: There is a profound truth that our parents learned subconsciously from their parents, and that is: Jewish is who you are, not what you do.
There is no such thing as one Jew who is more Jewish than another. Whether you practice Jewish customs or not, keep the festivals or not, live in Israel or not, eat sushi or not, a Jew is a Jew is a Jew. Jewishness is an irreversible status that is not defined by how you live your life.
You may be sitting in a church, dressed as Santa Claus, eating bacon on Yom Kippur, and still be 100% Jewish. Are you a good Jew? A faithful Jew? A proud Jew? G-d knows. But a Jew you remain. Because Jewishness isn’t something you do, it’s something you are. Nothing you do can affect who you are.
Nothing, that is, except marriage.
The person you marry becomes a part of who you are. Getting married is not a hobby or a career move; it is making someone else a part of your identity and becoming a part of theirs. Your spouse fills a void in your very being, and you fill the void in them. So marriage, like Jewishness, is not something you do, it is something you are.
There is nothing wrong with non-Jews. But they aren’t Jewish. If you marry a non-Jew, you’re still 100% Jewish, but a part of you — your other half — is not.
Love is an overwhelming emotion, but marriage is about more than just love. It is also about identity, and so, when choosing a spouse, it is important to be true to one’s identity. For Jews, that means marrying someone who shares our heritage. Because Yiddishkeit, Jewishness, is not just our religion, it is fundamentally who we are.