Exogamy (intermarriage) is a fact. Whether you or I like it doesn’t create, nor even perpetuate, that fact. Nor will loathing it make that fact go away. Talk about liking or loathing exogamy is beside the point. Exogamy simply is; and we should focus on how to confront and deal with this fact of reality effectively rather than merely venting love or hate for it.
Part 1 of 2: Analyzing the problem
Competition of relative attraction, not a race war
You can only compete against exogamy; either as a rival attraction or continue as we have been – venting against exogamists while entirely abdicating competition against exogamy (much the same as we routinely abdicate logical polemics in favor of venting against European misojudaism, Islamist enemies, Christian missionaries, etc.).
To prevail over exogamy, Jews must have more to offer. The Pew statistics demonstrate that, presently, we are not offering anything remotely competitive. That’s why outflow exceeds inflow. And this is NOT a new finding. A hard introspective look is in order.
Racism rears its ugly head
Why would we expect that opposing exogamy based on blood-line or culture would be any more successful than similar campaigns by, say, Irish Americans, Italian Americans, French Americans, British Americans, etc. Blood-line is indefensible racism and culture is free for all no matter who they marry.
Moreover, today’s world, rightly, does not look kindly on race-based argument.
How would we view Italians who insist their children marry only a pure-blood Italian. Would that not be racist? Does this not hold for French, or British, etc.? (Ethiopian? Sepharadi?) Though there is good reason Israel should be different, most Jews are not grasping – and, therefore, not communicating – any sane reason why, or (therefore) how, we should be different.
“Jewish” culture, cuisine or rituals more attractive?
Culture? No one has to marry a Jew in order to eat East-European cuisine or dress in Middle Ages costume. As a matter of fact, no one has to marry a Jew even to read Tan”kh, to wear a ta•litꞋ or tᵊphil•inꞋ or to commemorate Biblical holy days – whether or not the Ra•bân•utꞋ approves or disapproves. Culture is free to everyone, and anyone, who wishes to adopt it; no conditions. Creator-endowed free will trumps mortal metaclaims of Biblical – Tor•âhꞋ – Authority.
Worse than wasting everyone’s time, advocates of racist and cultural definitions, beside being anti-Biblical (often self-professed, proud atheists), misdirect those who are concerned away from solutions that have a genuine potential for success.
So, if we don’t have anything “Jewish” that is significantly – differentially (in marketing vernacular) – superior to the Irish or Italian or French, etc., then it’s foolish and self-defeating to insist that Jews can be significantly more welcoming, or outgoing, or attractive, or engaging or meaningful than the Irish, the Italian, the French, or any other people.
Marketing 101: Differentiate the product
What is the underlying premise, ASSUMED by some Jews, that so many even think in terms of offering superior racism or culture? If not Tor•âhꞋ, which is open to everyone, then why should Jews regard themselves a superior goy in any way to any of these goyim? And what would that imply if, indeed, you find that your premise is based on the racist view that Jews are somehow more attractive; i.e., superior? This is the face of “Jews” that the world routinely sees. Are you at all glimpsing why so much of the world has a negative reaction to “Jews”? Is this not our own fault? The good news is that, if so, then remedy is within our own control to change this outlook instead of continuing to blame-shift everything to misojudaism: “the world hates us no matter what we do, so why bother?” Misojudaism is a serious problem. But exogamy is a contradiction of misojudaism.
Critical introspection is essential.
From the days of the Bible (Yeshayahu ha-Navi 29.13), the dangers of reducing Tor•âhꞋ to the sanctimonious hypocrisy of vacuous lip-service have been cause for alarm and rebuke. These days, not only closet atheists, it would seem that even open agnostics and atheists may occasionally be among the most pious Ultra-Orthodox as long as they keep the rituals meticulously; especially if they can “lip” things like ten Sages of the Talmud, the Six Orders of the Mishnah or 4 sections of the Shulkhan Arukh – like a school child who has memorized a list while ignoring its content. Such “Orthodoxy” has no connection to ha-Sheim or His Tor•âhꞋ.
Rabbinic shortcomings center stage
Today, rabbis reply to life’s most important questions as “too high to be grasped by mortal intelligence” – in other words, don’t ask! Tor•âhꞋ has been lost as an equitable and meaningful way of, and personal guide to, life. Somewhere along the line, “Judaism” – Tor•âhꞋ as it was, historically, perceived by Mosheh and specified in Tan”kh at Har Sinai – has been displaced by unquestioning ritual and obedience to the dictates of Ultra-Orthodox rabbis; idolatrous enslavement to mortal intermediary intercessors instead of serving ha-Sheim, the Creator-Singularity, directly.
Accordingly, Ultra-Orthodox repeatedly claim to be exclusive intermediaries whose prayers, alone, save Israel – not realizing that the converse, therefore, would then hold true as well: lack of rain, terrorist attacks, horrific accidents, losses in battles, even the Holocaust would, therefore, be because the intermediary prayers of the Ultra-Orthodox are feckless, having failed to save Israel – for which, Tor•âhꞋ demands (Devarim 13.5), they should be fired (or excised)! Speaking of which, isn’t a primary argument against Christianity that Jews shouldn’t have intermediaries between ourselves and ha-Sheim? Is it not ironic that the Ultra-Orthodox are corroborating Christianity in order to lock down their own rule?
Where are the “People of the Book”?
The “people of the Book” have been transformed into people expected NOT to know, NOR ask; just mindlessly obey (worship) absolute rabbinic authority – no matter that the rabbis routinely override and displace Tan”kh and logically valid Halakhah – flirting with idolatry; unquestioningly and mindlessly. Does this not describe a zombie nation?
And these form the face, communicated by the world’s media, that the world sees of “Jews”. Perhaps there is contained in this a glimpse of the world’s “attitude” toward Jews. Maybe the Ultra-Orthodox face that the world sees as “the Jews” has something to do with the most educated Jews finding no good reason to make the Ultra-Orthodox definition of “Jewish” their #1 priority in choosing a spouse for life? How realistic is it to expect educated Jews to choose such a spouse?
Focusing on qi•ruvꞋ (outreach) to “interfaith families” is a misdirection; focusing on the minuscule and the fait accompli, which diverts us from the critical task of preemptively addressing the macro-problem: why endogamy isn’t competing successfully against exogamy, remedying the primary causal factor.
(Part 2 of 2 to follow.)
This post is part of the 9 Adar project, an initiative of the Pardes Center for Judaism and Conflict Resolution, part of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies.