The Price of Intermarriage?

By Sarah R. Heilbronner


  I actually have a set response to this question, a comedy routine, if you will, to gloss over a complicated personal issue.


  It’s hopeless.”


  Many Jews marry other Jews. The issue becomes whether I personally, as a Jew, am willing to automatically refuse to date or marry a non-Jew, and why.


  These poor souls will be lost forever to the world of secularity, and their psychological health will suffer for it.


  I had a beautiful childhood. My family was and still is tightly knit, and I retain strong, meaningful relationships with my parents and two siblings. I have all this, yet my mother is not Jewish. She was raised in a Christian household, but she now does not identify with any religion. For many people, including the authors of the book I saw in Tel Aviv, my parents’ marriage was doomed to a failure of familial cohesion. Objectively, this never occurred, and as I delve further into my own Jewish identity, I do not in the least feel more distant from my mother.


I, of course, want for my children to experience as rich and loving a family life as the one with which I was blessed. With my own family as a point of reference, I can confidently say that marrying a fellow Jew is not always a prerequisite for a Jew to form a stable family.


  Moreover, my mother respects the decisions I have made to become more invested in Judaism.


My point is not that there is no value to actively seeking Jewish relationships. For some, a loving relationship with a non-Jew would seem overwhelmingly impossible. I am, however, contending that the Jewish community must rethink its arguments against intermarriage. We must admit that loving, stable, healthy families can result from intermarriage. We must also admit that, with respect to whether the children of an interfaith couple will identify as Jewish, the specific parameters set up for their family by the parents in question may matter more than the surface interfaith nature of the marriage.


For me, marrying Jewish would certainly be easier, as I strongly desire for my children to identify as Jews. However, as I am not willing to admit that my parents erred in any way when they married and started a family despite being of different faiths, I admit to myself that, if I love and wish to marry a non-Jew, I will.



About Sarah R. Heilbronner

Sarah R. Heilbronner is a student at Harvard University.