Why I Do Not Want My Children to Intermarry

When I first graduated from my MBA program a lot of important things happened in my life.  I got a new job, I got engaged to a Jewish man and I was called out in a lawsuit for being anti-Semitic.  This is not something I think about much anymore, but I was specifically named in the lawsuit for my anti-Semitic ways.  I remember the day I was served I thought, but I am marrying a Jew, how can I possibly be anti-Semitic?  I am raising my kids as Jews.  The whole thing didn’t make sense to me.

The woman who served the company with the lawsuit took what I did and said out of context, and the lawsuit was eventually ruled on in my favor.  But, what she said to me has in some part stuck with me.  She told me that the numbers of Jews are decreasing.  By marrying a Jewish man I am in fact aiding in decreasing the number of Jews in the world.  Her final conclusion was that I was so dedicated to ending the Jewish religion that I was giving my life to marry a Jew in my attempt to lessen the numbers.  She called me some not to nice names as well, but I won’t repeat them.  She was a little crazy.

I have been thinking about this a lot, as I have been trying to formulate a response to Steve’s comment regarding my recent post about not wanting my kids to intermarry.  Is my reticence to allow my kids to do what I did rooted in my desire to prove her wrong?  Or at least not let her be right.  I think that there is more to it than that, but there is probably a small amount of truth there.  I don’t want to contribute to the decline in numbers.

Being intermarried is not super easy, especially when the spouse does not convert.  Right, wrong or indifferent, I was inaugurated into the Jewish faith with “a don’t ask don’t tell policy.”  I look Jewish enough to pass muster at temple.  No one questions me.  I don’t correct people.  While everyone at our temple is really friendly and I doubt any of them care, there is still a sense of not belonging that is hard to shake.  My peers in this situation have responded by either converting or not being involved.  There is a small stalwart group of us that is involved and not converted.  We meet for coffee under the cover of darkness.

Again, the people at our temple are really warm and welcoming.  What I am talking about is not a specific issue, but rather a general feeling.  There is so much written and discussed about not wanting Jews to intermarry.  There is still an underlying current of disapproval for making that choice.  Just look around and see how easy it is to find a rabbi that will marry an interfaith couple, or a mohel who will perform a bris for a baby born to a non-Jewish mother, even if the non-Jewish partner is fully and wholly committed to raising the children as Jews.

Being a clueless optimist, it really never occurred to me that it might be hard when I made these choices.  But, I am less pie-eyed about my decision, and I realize that it is not something most people can do.  I do not want my kids to find themselves in a place where they forced to choose between their religion and their potential spouse.  One way to eliminate that is to not date out of the faith.  Old-fashioned, archaic one might say, but also avoids the potential for conflict.

Bottom line, marriage is hard work.  The fewer areas of potential conflict you have with your spouse the better.  I want my kids to be happy and successful, and as such, it seems marrying a Jew would be easier.  That said, my husband and I make a good team.  I don’t know that I could have found a better partner in my own faith.

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5 thoughts on “Why I Do Not Want My Children to Intermarry

  1. How much i can related to this.  I am Jewish and I married a non Jewish man.  As i have increased my observance, i feel more and more that I would want my son to marry a nice Jewish girl.  I keep wondering how i will teach him to make different choices that I did.  I am hoping when the time comes i will have the right words. 

    We were invited to a Shabbat lunch one time, and our host’s friend announced that what the Nazis couldn’t do, non Jews are finishing off the job by marrying Jews.  Our host was astounded (the friend didn’t know that my husband isn’t Jewish).  We sat there quietly.  Our host told her friend eventually who never did apologize.  I also deal with the don’t ask don’t tell strategy at my Shul when it comes to my husband (its a Modern Orthodox shul). 

    thanks for sharing your thoughts. 

  2. It’s very hard. I was “born” Jewish but raised in a mostly secular Christian environment, and married another secular person who is not Jewish. We have been married for 20 years, but it wasn’t until about 12 years into our marriage that I began to feel a pull toward Jewish observance. I am on my own entirely. My husband, while initially raised as a Christian, rejected that faith and became an atheist who wants nothing to do with organized religion. Our children are equally uninterested. I am not raising “Jewish” children because they want nothing to do with religion or ideas about God, and can’t relate to the cultural issues – they wouldn’t be interested in Humanistic Judaism, for example. They struggle with encounters with anti-semitic attitudes just as I did as a child, and this seems to have created fear in them that makes them non-receptive. I find myself in a situation in which I need to teach myself how to live Jewishly, and to do so alone in my home. No one is trying to stop me, but I don’t have anyone to share the experience with, and it is hard to find support because I am not living in circumstances observant people would approve of. I can now understand the feelings of those who don’t want their children to marry non-Jews, which in the past I might have found discriminatory, intolerant, or even hateful.

    That said, how people define what it means to them to be Jewish varies across quite a spectrum. Even if my husband had been born or raised as a Jew, he might not care to be involved. I’ve met quite a few Jews who have no interested in Judaism as a religion. In the end, we can only make our own choices. We can’t make them for others.

  3. Dear Friends:

    I’m the Coordinator of the Half-Jewish Network, a large organization for children and grandchildren of intermarriage.

    I always read the “I-wouldn’t-want-my-kid-to-intermarry” articles by interfaith parents with sadness and amazement. Here are some things adult children and grandchildren of intermarriage would tell you:

    Because we have two heritages — no amount of raising us as “real Jews” or “real Christians” will eliminate them — no matter who we marry, we will be intermarrying — because one ‘half’ of us is Jewish and another whole part of our lives and experiences and DNA isn’t Jewish.

    If we marry a Jew, our Christian or other faith/cultural ‘half’ — our Christian parent’s relatives, family history, bloodlines, and appearance and interests — will accompany us into that marriage. Our Christian parent will be the ‘non-Jewish or Christian grandparent’ of our children.

    If we marry a Christian, our Jewish ‘half’ — our Jewish parent’s relatives, family history, DNA and appearance and interests — will follow us into that marriage. Our Jewish parent will become the ‘Jewish grandparent’ of our children.

    Some of us have Jewish genetic ailments, regardless of who we marry and our personal spiritual or cultural beliefs.

    I could go on, but you get the picture. When we are kids, give us the foundations for a happy adult life. Please be supportive when we make choices as adults of Significant Others and particular faith-based cultures, whatever they happen to be. That is all you can do. We honestly aren’t expecting more than that.

    We need love and respect from you, not 100 percent perfect decision making. If you are not perfect, we are OK with that.

    If you visit my group’s website, you’ll see dozens (soon to be hundreds) of discussions about our adult issues and needs. There is not a single post saying, “I wish my parents hadn’t intermarried.”

    Finally, the idea that you somehow damaged the Jewish community by intermarrying — that is the thought pattern of some Jews, sadly. But I doubt you have harmed Jewish spouses by giving them homes and children.

    Cordially,
    Robin Margolis
    http://www.half-jewish.net

  4. The numbers argument against intermarriage doesn’t hold up! I was born Jewish and married a Jew and we have two kids. If each of us had intermarried and brought up a couple of Jewish children, that would be twice as many new Jews. (Likewise, I like the idea that because our kids were adopted and converted, the number of Jews has increased without increasing the number of people on the planet.) I know so many people, mostly women, who were not born Jewish and are raising children as Jews whether or not conversion was right for them and I don’t get why people see this as anything other than net gain, in many ways.

  5. It is good to read this article and to see all of your responses. I also am hearing the idea of “ending” the jewish community through intermarriage from a conservative relative of mine, and it defintely makes me panic when i think about it. I am dating a non jew and he is fantastic in every way and I know we will raise wonderful jewish children together (he is very supportive of my need to raise jewish children) and I am happy to read that in the end support is what matters. Yes, keeping the jewish faith going is important but comparing us to Nazi’s well… that’s something that makes me very mad.

    Still, doubts float around in my mind all the time… But as long as my kids are jewish (and I will make sure they are raised as such no matter what) i think we, and the jewish people, will be just fine.s

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