I got the very disturbing news this week that my cousin is engaged to marry a non Jew and I know her sister isn’t far behind.
It seems to me that when I was growing up in Canada years ago we were Jewish Canadians. Our focus was Jewish schools, youth groups, our friends Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and how we could counter xmas with Hannuka. I always found it strange that such a minor holiday in Judaism became a major one as a combatant to the sights, sounds and advertisements of xmas.
I also know that my grandparent’s generation looked down on intermarriage and that it happened infrequently because of their disapproval. Our last grandparent passed away less than four years ago and I know that this wouldn’t be happening if he (or any other of the grandparents) was still alive today.
Have things diluted so badly that the next generation doesn’t care anymore? I naively thought that it must bother her parents and briefly commented to one of the cousins when she was on Birthright last summer that our grandparents wouldn’t have approved, that the girls didn’t grow up unconnected they went to Jewish schools, camps and youth groups; they both have been to Israel numerous times. It’s hard enough making marriage work, that starting on the same playing field really helps and that marrying Jewish is important.
I wasn’t the only one, her aunt and uncle from the other side also commented to her about their concerns. We thought that the parents would be glad that we had spoken to her; that it must upset them to know that both their children were leaving the fold. How wrong we were. We were sent very disturbing emails on how we had “ruined the girl’s trip to Israel” and we have all been in ‘the dog house’ ever since. The only word I can use to express our receiving this email was ‘shock’. The parents had folded. They’ve decided to be Canadian Jews or maybe just Canadians.
Where did this come from? Cognitive Dissidence is a common psychological occurrence when you can’t decide whether to eat the chocolate bar or not; calories verses enjoyment. Your mind plays games and tips the balance to give you the decision that you really want. And I believe that this is what has happened. Without the grandparent’s generation, the parents have played the game and accepted that the girls will marry out. Rather than cause discontentment and risk ‘losing’ their girls they have chosen to tell us this is ‘Happy News’. The grandparents on the other hand, would have risked the relationship because they were Jewish Canadians, the Jewish was more important.
What kind of connection will remain? The children will be Jewish, so it’s OK a friends tells me. Like that’s any kind of comfort. Working in tourism, I see so many people who come to Israel and tell me that one of their grandparents was Jewish. There is nothing left in them that resembles Jewish, they live their lives as Americans, Australians or French. Occasionally there are those who are more or less Jew-ish.
I’m sad to see that this is the choice that my cousin has made, I’m concerned that my aunt and uncle gave up so quickly and completely and I’m hopeful that there are still those out there that will recognize that being Jewish is still more important.