Sunday, October 7, 2012

Various Types of Jewish Intermarriage, The Good, Bad and the Risky

The Good: In the Jewish World, there are all sorts of Jews from various countries, ethnic groups and cultures.  In the days when travel was rare and generally in one direction only Jews married within their own village, ethnic culture and even extended family.  Today's world is very different. There's lots of traveling, moving etc.  A Jewish neighborhood or social group will have Jews from a wide variety of ethnic groups, Ashekenaz (Europe,), Aidot Mizrach (North-Africa-Arab,) converts and more.  Jewish Life and customs, like food and prayers are sometimes very different but still based on the Torah.  In the Israeli branch of my very Ashkenaz family we now have a new generation of Tunisian and Yemenite Jews whose mothers were born Ashkenaz.  This new generation unites the Jewish People. That's the good intermarriage, in italics l'havdil-to differentiate between this and the real one when a Jew marries out of the faith.

The Bad:  According to traditional Jewish Law, a child's religion is according to the mother, so when a Jewish man marries a non-Jewish woman, his children won't be Jewish.  Of course if she converts according to Torah Law, she and the children born after conversion are fully Jewish, but conversions are rare.   Most intermarriage is between Jewish men and non-Jewish women.  There's a double problem here.  The resulting children aren't Jewish and there are fewer Jewish men available to marry Jewish women.  That's the bad intermarriage.

The Risky: According to traditional Jewish Law, a child's religion is according to the mother, so when a Jewish woman marries a non-Jewish man, the children are Jewish, but these children are generally raised with both religions. They are frequently told that they can choose their religion or none when they are older.  Very few are given much of a Jewish education even when the parents both decide that the children should have one, because in most locations only Reform synagogues will accept these families as members.  It's extremely difficult to raise Torah observant children when their father isn't Jewish.  There is less support and in many cases they have loving family members who aren't Jewish which makes the kids more ambivalent about their religious identities.

Modern life is very complicated.  Most Jewish families have all of these situations.  Mine does for sure.

6 comments:

rutimizrachi said...

There's another sub-group in the "risky" category. When religious kids marry less-religious kids, there can be problems. The Talmud relates a situation wherein a religious couple divorces. The religious man marries a less-religious woman, and becomes like her. The religious woman marries a less-religious man, and brings him up to her level.

I guess we daven. But that's what every marriage needs, nachon?

Pesky Settler said...

A different category of intermarriage is where both are Jewish but only one is observant. IMO I think that's just as dangerous.

goyisherebbe said...

A marriage between two halachic Jews is not called an intermarriage. Calling it one is misleading. Also when people call a convert a goy or a shiksa they are not only inaccurate, they are committing a serious transgression against the Torah.

Batya said...

Ruti, pesky, sometimes the kids go for the more religious...
goyish, I edited this to make it more accurate, thanks.

Jennifer in MamaLand said...

Well put.
@goyisherebbe - I suppose it's all in how one defines "inter." There is more than one type of marriage that puts am Yisrael at risk. I think what Batya's (accurately) got her finger on is that we shouldn't only obsess about the kind most parents do worry about most - and then heave a sigh of relief: "as long as they marry Jewish, it's okay." Plus the fact that people DO worry about marrying different kinds of Jews - Ashkenaz, Sefard, Yemenite, converts, whatever. And btw, she has also clarified the very simple fact that when a person becomes Jewish, he or she is NOT a goy and that's not considered an "inter" marriage if, by "inter" you mean - "to a non-Jew". As a person who has married 2 geirim, however, I will say there are still countless cultural issues to overcome in most situations... and always, always, the family influence. Though it's not intermarriage, I'm afraid - looking back with 20/20 hindsight - that those influences are significant, making this sometimes (though it's not intermarriage) a less-than-ideal situation for raising a Jewish family. Just a few thoughts.

Batya said...

Jennifer, thanks. I didn't get into the Baal Teshuva issue when none of the relatives are Torah observant and "kibbud av v'em" sometimes is very complicated and promotes a bad role model.

I do consider all the marriages between various ethnic groups (including ger tzedek) in Judaism very good, bringing the Moshiach.