Friday, February 15, 2008

Judaism and Intermarriage: Part 2

If you haven't already read my previous posts you should do so in order to understand this post. You can read the Introduction and Part 1 for more information.

In my previous posts I dealt with two issues that are important to this conversation.

1) The Jewish responsibility
2) The basis for Jewish laws concerning marriage to non-Jews
3) The concept of Jewish perpetuity

So this begs the question, is there an acceptable situation where a Jew and a non-Jew could marry? In reality the only answer to that is one of a logical approach to the situation, which does not require one to even accept Judaism to find the conclusion.


The video below was done by a local Israeli news channel. It is a video about intermarriage and assimilation amongst American Jews. Please note that the video is really one-sided and does not explore the issues from the religious, national, and social issues mentioned in previous posts.

The above video deals with the issue of intermarriage in a way that is somewhat contrary to what is the issue from a religious standpoint. I also noticed that in the above video it only dealt with one facet of the Jewish world, and that is the European Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish perspective. The above video makes the issue seem like it a racial one. I.e. an Irish man marries a Jewish woman, and the kids are half Irish and half Jewish. This is not the case, because if there was a Jewish community in Ireland than said Jews are Irish Jews.

Further, there is no such thing as a Jewish race. Jews have been residents of various countries and at various periods married non-Jews who converted to Judaism. In Judaism when a non-Jew converts they are legally just as Jewish as someone who was born Jewish.

One thing the above video does point out is that when a Jew is willing to marry someone, Jewish or not, who does not have a commitment to Judaism there is often some level of compromise by one party in the relationship. Either the Jewish person has to give up areas of Jewish belief or tradition or the non-Jewish person has to give up areas of their belief system.

For example, the man who is Irish Catholic and married to a Jewish woman, seems to have accepted the idea that his children will not be Catholic, but Jewish. His being Irish has nothing to do with the issue, since there is no prohibition to marrying Irish people, and there is no requirement in Judaism for a person to give up cultural and national heritage. The issue is one of whether or not the children will religiously and socially live and perpetuate as Jews. A non-Jewish father committed to raising his children as Jews, normally has to do so by rejecting whatever religious concepts he grew up with. A Jewish mother dedicated to raising Jewish children with a non-Jewish father, would have to do so by not accepting the religion of her husband. Thus normally in a situation like this the non-Jewish partner would convert to Judaism, not for the sake of the marriage, but for the sake of his/her own belief in Judaism as a religious, national, and social truth.

In another segment of the video, there were people who were raising their children within a mixed religious nature. This is something that definitely goes against Biblical values, and goes back to my previous post. Especially, when a child if faced with reading Jewish texts where certain religious concepts completely fly in the face of religious acceptability. Judaism is not an al la carte religion where you can pick and choose what you want to believe about it. The Jewish reality is that if Hashem (God) said it, and if it has a proven track record as a Jewish concept that is the truth simple and plain. It doesn't stand on a platform with other or foreign concepts. So in this scenario people who want to live this way have to reject some of the most basic Jewish concepts on a path to creating a new or foreign belief system, which is essentially not Judaism.

Conversion to Judaism

Essentially, Judaism is not a world religion, in that it does not compete with world religions for members or accetability. A Jew who believes 100% in Jewish religious values does not have to answer to or convince the world of the truth he/she believes in. Nor does the world have to become Jewish, since Hashem (God) values all of humanity. Judaism does believe that there are correct and incorrect religious and moral values, but Jews don't have to convince the world that this is the case. It is only our job to stand on a moral ground and be an example of of it. If the world chooses to see it and accept it, so be it, and if not then so be it.

There is a path in Judaism for a non-Jew who desires to live as a Jew. This path called Gerut i.e. conversion to Judaism is traditional more than just accepting Judaism as a religion, but also accepting the national and social responsibilities that come along with it. I.e. it not only a beleif in values, but also joining a people and being responsible for said people, just as they are now responsible for you.

The web-site Torath Mosheh, sums up the non-Jewish paths to Judaism in the following way.

Geir: (non-Jew/resident-alien/stranger): Most Geirim (eventually) converted (in olden times), which is why the term Geir eventually blurred with "convert." However, when the Geir converts, Orthodox halakhah (law) then recognizes him or her as a Jew(ess). The Jew(ess) -- whom Orthodox halakhah prohibits from even being reminded of their non-Jewish past -- is then no longer referred to as a Geir(âh)--other than at important halakhic times (i.e.: Marriage and Aliyah) where his/her status is must be known. This is important. A Geir must be recognized by a Beit Din as learning - and applying as he/she learns - to become non-selectively Torah observant and integrating into the Jewish community, with the goal of converting (except when circumstances prohibit conversion).

Geir Tzeddeq: These were some of the many Geirim (non-Jews) who, either because they feared circumcision or were married to a non-Jew who didn't want to convert, never converted.

Upon becoming conversant and responsible to the entirety of Torah like a Jew, the Geir Toshav (see definition below) who didn't convert was then instead recognized as a Geir Seddeq (who was still not a Jew). This category actually fell outside the category of the confirmed idolater who didn't convert. This term has taken on a totally different meaning in modern times. I believe I've heard it used to refer to righteous Jewish Proselytes. But this could not have possibly been it's original meaning--because they were not Jews and yet they were not idolaters either--because they never resolved themselves to be circumcised in their Geir Toshav status. But they remain non-Jews.

Geir Toshav: A Geir toshav is a non-Jew candidate for conversion to Judaism, who had come before a legitimate Beit Din (i.e. in the legitimate Jewish community') and had been recognized as a non-Jew, with probationary status in the Jewish community, committed to learning, and keeping as they learn, Torah and halakhah.

The Jewish Concept of Marriage

Previously we dealt with two sub-issues. If your son will marry a non-Jewish woman, the children born of this union are no longer considered to be your children. In the event that your daughter marries a non-Jew, inevitably your grandchildren will stray very far from the path of Judaism even though they will still be considered Jewish. While Orthodox Judaism rejects proselytizing non-Jews, it does embrace kiruv, the concept of working to convince non-observant Jews to adopt a more traditional lifestyle.

The Talmud and Kabbalah teach us that marriage is not merely a union between two totally independent individuals. Marriage is the reunion between two halves of the same unit. A couple shares the same soul, which, upon birth, divides itself into two incomplete halves. Upon marriage, they reunite and become, once again, complete. What we are dealing with here is not only a union on the physical, emotional and/or intellectual level. What we are dealing with here is a union on the deepest, most essential level of self. There are souls that are compatible for marriage and there are souls that are not.

A Jewish person who cares about the religious and social status of his children would normally not a consider a mate who is not currently Jewish or not willing to convert to Judaism. If said person loves the idea of raising a family within a completely Jewish context, which requires both parents to be on the same page, they would seek out someone who has the same love for Judaism.

In the next post I will discuss Judaism and race in regards to this topic.

Part 3: Coming Soon


Bohemian Hippie Chick said...

This is an interesting series of posts Ehav. I have a Jewish friend, and he married a Catholic woman. They are raising their children with a mixture of both religions, which seems impossible to me. Thanks for clearing that up for me!

Ehav Ever said...

Hey BHC,

Thanks. Yes, it is impossible. Legally, the children from the marriage you described are not Jewish by traditional or orthodox Judaism. Even the conservative movement would have problems with them, based on the mixed belief system.

Also, there are a lot of things in Catholicism, which are considered pagan in Judaism. That is why so many Jews who were hunted down by the Spanish Inquisition were willing to die before converting.

So there is no way a person can accept the basics of Judaism and accept any element of Catholicism. The problem may come up if the kids grow and ever decide to identify as Jews. Especially, if it has never been explained to them why they are not legally considered Jewish.

Sometimes kids in this situation come out of such an experience blaming Judaism, because they were never informed by their parents about the issues.

shavonne said...

Thank you for posting this. This answered my question that I sent you in an email.

Ehav Ever said...

Hey Shavonne,

It has been a while. I hope you are well. Glad that you found the answer you were looking for. Don't be a stranger. (smile)

shavonne said...

I had been meaning to ask for a while. I got my answer and then some. It was refreshing to learn something new about Judaism.

Will there be a post on how to convert?

Ehav Ever said...

Hey Shavonne,

Since you asked I will do one. It should be up by next week.