Aliza Worthington recently wrote an op-ed titled Rigidity is the real threat to Jewish continuity, in which she argues that “Sanctimony, Superiority,and Judgmentalism” are the greatest threats to Judaism today. Judging from the comments she received, she is absolutely right.
In her piece she mentions that she is married to a Catholic. The comments section is rife with condescending intolerance towards this marriage. One person said her marriage was “an insult” to Judaism. Another said that Reform Judaism, of which she is a practitioner, is not “real Judaism”. Yet another person went so far as to say that she is “no longer Jewish.” The problem isn’t being opposed to intermarriage, the problem is the absolutism and rigidity of those who write off and bash Jews who intermarry or subscribe to a different religious philosophy. Attacking and disowning a fellow Jew who decided to marry a Catholic isn’t just wrong. It’s also impractical.
In a recent survey I took of my grade at my pluralistic Jewish high school, I found that over half of the grade, 51%, is “open to marrying someone who is not Jewish”. A further 19% said that they “don’t know” if they would be open to it. Only 30% of the grade said that they are not “open to marrying someone who is not Jewish”. Keep in mind that these results are from students at a Jewish school!
Is the peanut gallery that claims to have been invested with the power to define “real Judaism” and therefore insult all other Jews who don’t fit that definition, prepared to repudiate a huge portion of the next generation of American Jews? Perhaps their energy would be better spent appealing to rather than insulting Jews, in order to ensure the continuity of the Jewish people.
The haftarah that we read yesterday came from Ezekiel Chapter 37. While it is often read out of context as a prophecy of resurrection, it is clear from a closer reading that its real message is of a national revival and reunification. In verse 19, God tells Ezekiel to tell the Israelites:
I (God) will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his companions; and I will put them unto him together with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in My hand.
God is speaking of the reunification of the two rival Israelite kingdoms, Ephraim and Judah. It is a powerful message that God believed these rivals could come together as one.
The perpetrators of the warrantless hatred of Jews who intermarry and of Reform Judaism (or any other stream of Judaism that they don’t agree with) should take note of this Divine prophecy of reunification, and work to unite rather than divide the Jewish people, whether or not they agree with the beliefs of every single Jew and every single Jewish movement. Only this will ensure Jewish continuity.