Downton Abbey Portrays Reality of Interfaith RelationshipsBy Gerri Miller
Go inside Season 5 Episode 9 where the story line of Atticus and Rose's interfaith relationship comes to a head.Go To Pop Culture
Our site is full of stories of people who encountered resistance to their interfaith relationships from Jewish family. But their problems pale in comparison to the rejection and ostracization experienced by Jews from the Orthodox community who are dating or married to non-Jews.
In her latest “In the Mix” column, Julie Wiener tells the story of “Ilana,” an intermarried Orthodox woman who “was urged to hide her children from her grandfather and tell him she was still single, for fear the news of her intermarriage would trigger a heart attack.” In the Orthodox world, intermarriage is one of the great taboos–perhaps akin to declaring yourself a racist in the secular world.
At the same time, Rabbi Avi Shafran, the spokesperson for the ultra-Orthodox organization Agudath Israel of America (and a genuinely nice, if ideologically stringent, guy), tells Wiener, “intermarried couples from outside the community are, I think, increasingly seen by many Orthodox Jews as people not to be summarily rejected, at least if there is any chance of the non-Jewish partner’s sincere and halachic conversion.”
Indeed, there does seem a movement afoot among the Orthodox to accept an intermarried couple as long as the non-Jewish partner is dedicated to an Orthodox conversion. Its biggest proponent is the organization Eternal Jewish Family, which has organized conferences of Orthodox rabbis to set standards for the conversion of non-Jewish partners. This condition of acceptance is harsh, but it’s a big step for a community that once considered intermarriage one of the unforgivable sins.
On a related note, over on Jewcy, Tamar Fox talks about her conversations with friends who have started seeing non-Jewish boyfriends or girlfriends. She says, “I have seen all kinds of reactions to inderdating, from violent outbursts to ignoring the situation completely.” Clearly, she’s coming from a more traditional place than typical secular Jews, but she has some wise things to say about interdating. Her main point? If you’ve thought about and talked about the issues with your significant other, you’re on the right path.
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