Three daughters of rabbis startled me with their revelation in this spring’s Lilith magazine that each was okay with the idea of never marrying someone Jewish. The three 20-something women are passionate about their commitment to Judaism. They just do not think they necessarily need a Jewish partner.
Being Jewish is “internal,” the young women say. Agreed. Yet, being Jewish is also external. We are part of a bigger community. I was raised in a non-religious home in towns with few Jews. I dated non-Jews into my 20s. Then, in my 30s, as I became closer to my faith, I dated with one goal. I wanted to marry someone Jewish. Why?
- Marry a Jew, and no debate ensues about the religion of offspring.
- Many Jews share unspoken sentiments, including what it is like to be Jewish at Christmastime in America.
- Inter-faith couples are becoming more and more embraced, but it remains easier to become a part of a larger Jewish community when both spouses are Jewish.
- Spouses can share a faith that is much more than a religion. Judaism has its own culture, music, food, and complex, rich history.
- We can together enjoy the experience as we each learn more about our faith and draw closer to it.
The women in the article say that among their peers “it’s largely seen as racist (or otherwise discriminatory) for a Jew to want to date or marry only other Jews.” Whoa. In a way, it’s heartening to read that inter-faith dating is so common and accepted by this younger generation that it could be considered racist if a Jew will not date outside of the faith. I never had a problem with dating non-Jews in my 20s, but can remember rarely being asked out to date as a teen because I was one of so few Jews in our rural Ohio town. Even some non-Jews I dated in college were uncomfortable with the fact that I was not Christian. Well into my 20s, I allowed for the possibility that I might fall in love with and marry a non-Jew. I figured that we would find a way to live with our religious differences as a couple and as parents.
As I aged, my viewpoint changed. Relationships are complicated enough. Sharing the same religion would be so much smoother and ultimately more comfortable. I did not marry until age 42, and met my husband through jdate.com. He, like I, grew up in a non-religious Jewish family. He, like I, became more interested in Judaism after college. He also had dated non-Jews. Both of us are happy about the way life turned out. One Jew married another. We are proud not only to be Jews but to be able to pass along our heritage as a couple to our son. By marrying another Jew, I am not closing myself to other cultures and races. I am helping to preserve my own.
Note: The article referenced above was written by Rabbi Susan Schnur, Lilith’s senior editor and the mother of one of the women interviewed.