Joel Hoffman
Rabbi, Teacher, Columnist

Why not intermarry

Dennis Prager once said “If Judaism is important to a person, then no arguments against intermarriage are necessary, but if Judaism is not important to a person, no arguments against intermarriage will be effective.”  Nevertheless, in this article I will briefly explain two reasons why Judaism is important and three reasons why one should not intermarry.

As a disclaimer, although the purpose of article is to explain why marrying a non-Jew is baseless, it is important to point out that non-Jews are a part of God’s creation and require respect.

1.  Judaism is the Truth.

The Jews (who were called Children of Israel at the time) were enslaved in Egypt for over 200 years, and then 3,300+ years ago Moses lead the Jewish people out of Egypt to Mount Sinai where God gave the Ten Commandments.  Then, over the next 40 years in the Sinai Desert, God revealed the rest of the Torah which contains a total of 613 Mitzvot, or Commandments.  Even Christianity and Islam posit all of this as being true.

Judaism represents God’s will and wisdom, and classical Jewish texts contain amazing teachings on practical matters such as how to maintain a good marriage and how to raise one’s children so they are appreciative and respectful, as well as teachings about the natural world that scientists are just discovering, all the way to deep mystical teachings about the universe.

Judaism does not require blind faith, but requires one to “know” that Judaism is the truth.  This is gained through studying the Torah, the Talmud, and Jewish philosophical texts on an adult level and reflecting on it content.

One of God’s commandments, because God knows what is best for a person and for the Jewish people, is to not marry a non-Jew.

2.  The Jewish People Have a Mission to Fulfill.

The Jewish people as a whole have a mission to fulfill, and each individual Jew has their own personal mission to accomplish.  Abraham was the first person to introduce Ethical Monotheism to the world, and some of Judaism’s other contributions to world civilization include: respect for all human life, the value of peaceful co-existence and harmony, justice and equality for everyone under the law, a basic education for everyone, a strong family structure, and the social responsibility for caring for the less fortunate and for the environment.

By a Jew living a Jewish life which entails observing mitzvot, and includes being married to another Jew and raising their children to be Jewish, there is an osmosis effect which improves one’s surroundings and is a part of fulfilling one’s mission.

3.  If One Intermarries, Their Marriage Will Probably End With a Divorce.

In the United States over 50% of marriages end in divorce while couples who have different religious backgrounds have a 75% divorce rate.  One reason for this is because maintaining a good marriage is already challenging, and a couple having different religious backgrounds is one more thing that a couple does not share.  Additionally, even if religion was not important to each party when in their 20s and dating, often with pregnancy at least one set of in-laws advocates for a bris or a baptism which puts tension on the marriage.

This tension grows when one or both of the parties begin to explore their religious heritage which is something that often happens to people in their thirties.  Even more tension arises when one or both parties suppress their desire for religious inquiry for the sake of keeping harmony in the marriage.

It is good for a person, and for society, when one becomes more educated about it their religious heritage and grows in its practices (unless it is radical Islam), but this is not good for a marriage when the religion is different from one’s spouse’s religion.

4.   If One Intermarries, Their Grandchildren Will Not Be Jewish.

Currently 72% of non-Orthodox American Jews who get married marry a non-Jew. Other statistics show that despite an agreement with one’s future spouse to raise their future children Jewish, only 24% of the children who were raised by intermarried parents identify as Jewish when they become an adult — with approximately half of these identifying Judaism as their religion and half considering themselves just a “cultural Jew.” The other 76+% identify as either Christian or No Religion as their religion. Then, over ninety percent of children of mixed marriages intermarry. The net result which the various demographic studies have uncovered is that only 2% to 5% of the grandchildren of intermarriages identify as being Jewish when they are an adult.

By intermarrying one is breaking their link in the chain of 3,800 years of Jewish history from the time of Abraham. Over the millennia the Jewish people physically fought against the Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and today’s Arab nations who seek annihilation. During the times of religious oppression, such as under the Communists, Jews undertook great risks to observe Judaism by creating and attending underground synagogues and schools.  Additionally, thousands of rabbis throughout Jewish history, including the great Rabbi Akiva (2nd century), were executed because they got caught teaching Torah.

Marrying a non-Jew makes 3,800 years of Jewish sacrifice and heroism all for nothing because one’s grandchildren will not be Jewish.

5.   If One Intermarries, His/Her Soul Could Be Cut Off From Having an Afterlife.

According to traditional Jewish theology, there is a list major sins that if committed, and one does not properly repent, his/her soul is cut off from having an Afterlife.  Marrying a non-Jew is one of these sins.  This is not something one will hear from a Reform rabbi who does not believe in the Afterlife as described in traditional Judaism and who makes extra money performing intermarriages.

To be intellectually honest, I must state that this is a very complex topic since there are different stages of the Afterlife and different interpretations even within Jewish tradition.  Nevertheless, the risk of losing one’s eternity if this is true versus the reward of marrying a non-Jew of which the marriage may only last about ten years before ending in divorce, hardly seems worth the risk.              

In essence, this article advocates that one limit their dating and marriage prospects to just two percent of the American population.  This may seem unreasonable, however, it is said that since creating the world God spends a lot of his times making Jewish matches, but only for those who are worthy.  To be worthy one needs make the spiritual actions of engaging in Jewish learning (I recommend the website Aish.com), by praying that they and their friends find a Jewish boy/girlfriend, and by doing physical actions such as joining JDate.

About the Author
Rabbi Joel E. Hoffman is a special education teacher for his "day job," and an outreach rabbi in his free-time. www.birthrightjudaism.com
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