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Nearly three years ago I moved to St. Louis. A friend of ours insisted that we join a local synagogue with a rabbi he described as the most thoughtful and knowledgeable he had ever met. It sounded like a plan–the synagogue was a quick walk from our home. The next day was Shavuot, when we celebrate revelation, and I was eager to see why my friend was so enthusiastic. I was shocked. There were Jews from every denomination attending classes taught by rabbis and teachers from every denomination. (This is really unusual in an Orthodox synagogue.)
Over the next two years, I got to know the synagogue‚Äôs rabbi, Hyim Shafner, who insisted I call him Hyim and not rabbi, which is also unusual. I was always struck by his spirituality and how he helped everyone who walked into Bais Abe to connect with their Judaism and spirituality. He just concentrated on helping those around him and developing a community of like-minded individuals. He never judged and I rarely saw him criticize. He is also a great counselor.
Rabbi Shafner just finished writing The Everything Jewish Wedding Book . A wedding blogger who reviewed the book interviews Hyim about intermarriage in the context of being an Orthodox rabbi. When asked how he feels about interfaith weddings, Rabbi Shafner puts interfaith weddings into both a historical and spiritual context:
Rabbi Shafner is certainly not advocating interdating or intermarriage, but does not discount the impact a wedding can have on one‚Äôs spirituality and connection to their heritage.
In yesterday’s Huffington Post, one of the original plantiffs in the California Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage, Robin Tyler, wrote about the one thing more shocking than her pending marriage to a woman: her pending marriage to a non-Jew.
Tyler (original last name: Chernick) and her partner Diane Olson plan on being married by Rabbi Denise Eger of Kol Ami, an LGBT-friendly Reform synagogue in West Hollywood, Calif. However, the wedding itself will be held on the steps of the Beverly Hills Courthouse, where Tyler fully expects a mix of drag queens and protesters.
In his (presumably) last trip to the Middle East as president, Pres. Bush joined in the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Israel. But he also, as Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times, “received something else: a little lesson in cultural awareness.”
In a museum garden, where Pres. Bush and his wife Laura were speaking with a group of a dozen young people selected by the American Embassy, he asked if Jews and Arabs dated one another, or went to dances:
Earlier this year, JDate began offering bulk-rate discounts¬†on JDate¬†subscriptions for rabbis interested in promoting Jewish dating among younger, unmarried members of their congregations. Nothing wrong with that, although the measure is more symbolic than practical, given the small number of young, unmarried people in most synagogues.¬†And the kind of young, unmarried Jews who join synagogues are the type of people who are already dedicated to marrying another Jew. But kudos to anyone who wants to help someone find their beshert–whether he or she is Jewish or not.
Less encouraging have been the explanations that rabbis have given for offering the JDate memberships. From the aforeblogged Newsweek article:
Three weeks ago, Rob Eshman, editor-in-chief of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, wrote a provocative editorial arguing that the Jewish community should encourage single women in their 30s and 40s to interdate–better to intermarry and be happy than be Jewishly pure and miserable.
Predictably, it inspired a lot of response. Unpredictably, an equivalent number of the letters printed in the Jewish Journal supported his proposal as opposed it. One of the endorsements came from us:
Rob Eshman, editor-in-chief of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, has written an op-ed that is sure to generate controversy. In “Hindu Widows,” he argues that the Jewish community should encourage single women in their 30s and 40s to interdate. Why, his article ask, should Jewish women sacrifice their happiness and their child-bearing years at the altar of endogamy?
Catching up on some notable articles from the last few weeks:
Everyone who’s dated–that is to say, everyone–knows that figuring out why you are attracted to someone is often the greatest mystery in your life. Are you interested because the other person is interested? Is it physical attraction? Does the person laugh at your jokes? Is there a chemistry that can’t be explained?
One factor that is particularly difficult to untangle is the cultural factor. Are you attracted to someone because they come from a similar background–or because they come from a different one? In Elizabeth Rosner’s “Everything I Know About Being Bad I Learned in Hebrew School,” an excerpt from Bad Girls: 26 Writers Behave published in The Forward, a girl who grew up with a stringent Orthodox upbringing rebels against Judaism and dates every non-Jewish boy she can find:
Joshua Gross, a public affairs consultant in Washington, D.C., wrote a poignant story in last week’s Forward about how his relationship with a Lebanese woman was threatened by last summer’s war between Israel and Lebanon.
As is the case with many Arab-Jewish or Muslim-Jewish relationships, politics was a topic typically avoided in their relationship:
A response to More Than a Succubus: Confessions of a Shiksa, published in our Web Magazine on Feb. 13, by Ellen Jaffe-Gill:
I had taken a stand on the Yiddish word shiksa long before the afternoon I visited my husband‚Äôs Hebrew class. Having learned, while researching a book on intermarriage, that it (and its male form, shaygetz, and the plural shkotzim) derived from a Hebrew word meaning ‚Äúabomination,‚ÄĚ I was already gently correcting people who used it, asking them questions like ‚ÄúAn abomination ‚ÄĒ is that really how you think of your daughter-in-law?‚ÄĚ
Then one day I celebrated the meeting of a major deadline with a day off, a nice lunch, and a little text study at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, where my husband had been enriching his life studying classical Hebrew on Wednesday afternoons. The class was looking at I Kings, chapter 11, in which Solomon wrong-headedly builds altars to pagan gods for his foreign wives.
Most Hebrew vocabulary is organized into families of three-letter roots, and I recognized the Hebrew root shin-kof-tzadi spelling the word shikutz before I looked at the translation.
‚ÄúHey, there‚Äôs the root for shiksa,‚ÄĚ I said. ‚ÄúIs ‚Äėabomination‚Äô an accurate translation of shikutz?‚ÄĚ I asked the teacher, a native Israeli.