Intermarriage: Just Say “No”, and Mean It!

Intermarriage is probably the reddest line that exists for Orthodox Jews. There are Jews who identify as Orthodox yet are not fully careful about kashrus, about certain aspects of Shabbos observance, and so forth – but to marry out is a non-starter. It is not on the radar, it is not done, and it is unthinkable.

The few Orthodox-affiliated Jews who do marry out are assured to be a few and not more, due to the utter ban and uncompromising rejection of intermarriage by the totality of the Orthodox community. This zero tolerance stance, which has become part of Jewish tradition and is not a new, reactionary position (not that new, reactionary positions are always bad – they are sometimes needed), has worked, except in times of mass public sh’mad (assimilation), when even the highest of barbed wire fences will not help. But under normal circumstances, the system is accepted without question and seems to be doing the job fairly well.

It is therefore with shock that I read Orthodox Rabbis Confront Intermarriage, by Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky of Big Tent Judaism and Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.

For those who don’t know about Big Tent Judaism, one look at its website says it all. Featuring celebratory photos of intermarried families, we read things such as:

The Jewish people have been a global people, a “mixed multitude,” for thousands of years. Today we’re more diverse than ever, and that’s something to celebrate. Our families are all colors and include members from all other religious and cultural backgrounds. Together we strive to add meaning to our lives and to better the world, informed by our rich heritage.

We also read:

The Torah and the rest of the Jewish sacred literature contain both admonitions against intermarriage and positive examples of intermarriage. In Deuteronomy7: 1-3, the Torah says, “You shall not intermarry with them: do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. For you will turn you children away from Me to worship other gods….” This reference against intermarriage is based on the notion that intermarriage will lead the individual to another religion.

Despite this, the Torah also portrays positive examples of intermarriage. Moses married Tziporra, who was the daughter of a Midianite priest. Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David, was a convert. Queen Esther, who saved the Jews from Haman in the Purim story, was married to the Persian, non-Jewish King Ahashverus.

The prohibition against intermarriage sought to preserve Judaism by maintaining exclusivity. The laws of kashrut (keeping kosher) try to accomplish this indirectly. If you have a special diet, you are less likely to eat with non-kosher, non-Jews, and therefore, you have less opportunity to socialize, and consequently, marry them.

That being said, it is evident that intermarriage is not only a modern phenomenon; it occurred in the Bible as well. Intermarriage is inevitable, especially in a society where Jews and non-Jews work together and socialize with one another with few barriers. Prohibiting it has not stopped the trend. Realizing the realities of Jewish society, the Jewish Outreach Institute works with the intermarried, promoting an inclusive Jewish community.

Big Tent Judaism refers people contemplating intermarriage to rabbis who will officiate at their intermarriages, and its message is one of total inclusion.

Of course, Big Tent Judaism is not purposefully promoting intermarriage, and its goal is, rather, the perpetuation of Judaism:

The Jewish Outreach Institute seeks to insure Jewish continuity. By providing an inclusive Jewish community, JOI believes that children of interfaith families will develop a Jewish identity. Instead of excluding interfaith families from the Jewish community, JOI believes that it is necessary to welcome them and educate them about Judaism.

Nonetheless, when the message sent is one of acceptance of intermarriage, it is clear that danger is lurking.

It was thus quite disturbing to read Rabbi Olitzky and Rabbi Lopatin jointly write:

Some people might think that facing the challenging reality of intermarriage and being fully committed to Orthodox Judaism is an oxymoron. Yet, two weeks ago, 20 Orthodox rabbis accepted an invitation by Big Tent Judaism and the Lindenbaum Center for Halachic Studies at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah to join together for a behind-closed-doors, daylong symposium focused on the nexus of the two issues.

We promised no media coverage out of respect for the rabbis’ willingness to participate. Sponsored by the Marion and Norman Tanzman Charitable Foundation, this was a historic meeting for Orthodox rabbis — the first of its kind — since the focus was not on so-called prevention. Rather, it was about understanding intermarried couples and their families. The conversation was frank. There were no pulled punches. Yet the pervasive question taken up by these rabbis was: How do I connect with people whose life choice I disagree with — and keep them engaged in the Jewish community?

While it is common wisdom that intermarriage does not impact the Orthodox community, these rabbinic leaders know that this is not the case, even if the incidence of intermarriage in the Orthodox community is far lower than among other population segments in the community. Thus, all those in attendance took a bold step forward into American Jewish life by attending the symposium and digging deeply into the issues, knowing full well that they could help shape the future landscape of American Jewish life by how they respond to intermarriage in their communities and beyond.

…The rabbis also struggled with issues of patrilineal descent and the idea that the children of intermarriage (when the father is Jewish and the other partner is not) could be considered Jewish, even if not Jewish according to halacha. This topic also emerged while debating the validity of conversions by non-Orthodox rabbis.

…This symposium showed that Orthodoxy could maintain its fidelity to halacha and tradition while being sensitive to the complexities and realities of the diverse Jewish community. In fact, the Orthodox community might be critical in enabling intermarriage to not be “the end of the line,” but, rather, a challenge leading to a deeper relationship to Judaism and the Jewish community.

If the idea of the Big Tent Judaism-YCT symposium was to prevent intermarriage, or to try to work toward Orthodox conversion of intermarried families (something that is not practical), that would be one thing. But by teaming up with Big Tent Judaism and entertaining engagement and acceptance of intermarried families, the central authority of Open Orthodoxy has crossed yet another bright red line.

A few weeks ago, YCT graduate Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz posted in favor of embracing intermarrieds. I just hope that this changed stance toward that which tradition has heretofore unequivocally shunned and excluded without exception will not be yet another major trend and fault line that divides Open Orthodoxy from the rest of the community.

Imagine sending a message that Orthodox Judaism does not allow intermarriage, yet if one intermarries, he is still welcome and can still even be “frum”. Imagine setting precedent for people to be intermarried yet “Orthodox”, effectively dropping the ago-old zero tolerance policy. Open Orthodoxy must urgently consider the very real dangers at hand.

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44 Responses

  1. Raymond says:

    I recall something that my mother said regarding the 1960’s hippie generation, that they act as if their generation invented sex. This is what comes to my mind when reading articles like the above. From what I have heard about the Open Orthodox movement, they act as if they have re-invented the wheel, when all they are really doing, is re-hashing old mistakes made by those generations of Jews who came before us. For the pattern seems to repeat itself over and over again in our long history: our people arrive in massive numbers in a certain country, at first very insulated from the gentiles and thus very religious, but then as time goes on, and our people get too comfortable, we find ways to assimilate into the larger, gentile society, to the point of disappearing as a people. And then just when we have all but disappeared, just when we have decided that Berlin is the New Jerusalem, that host country decides that we have become too friendly with them, and find ways to throw us out, even if they have to kill us to do so.

    This is what seems to be happening in America as well. The vast majority of American Jews are so lost from our Jewish people, that they know virtually nothing about their own Jewish heritage, nor do they seem to even care. Non-Orthodox forms of Judaism only help in this disappearing process. And now even within Orthodoxy, namely this Open Orthodox movement, they are finding ways to make our people become indistinguishable in any way from our gentile neighbors. And there can be no more direct of an assault on our identity as a people, than to encourage intermarriage. Marrying out of our religion means bearing children who are not even halachically Jewish anymore. And thus the final hammer blow falls on our people. Perhaps it is no coincidence that while all this assimilation is happening, we have never had a man in the White House quite as antagonistic to our Jewish people, as our current President is. Perhaps it may soon be time for all of us Jews to pack up and head permanently to our Jewish homeland in Israel.

    • Robert Schwartman says:

      To correct a misnomer, “Marrying out of our religion means bearing children who are not even halachically Jewish anymore” only applies when the mother is not Jewish, i.e. the Jewish father intermarries. As long as the mother is Jewish, the children are Jewish. Raising them as Jews who live a Jewish life that is meaningfully distinct from non-Jewish living is another matter.

  2. Robert Schwartman says:

    Astonishing. Are they also teaching Great Man Theory of history at YCT instead of instilling yirat shamayim? It seems some egos are so big that they can deny Jewish history and can change Torah and Halakha by repeating new-age mantras like “big tent” over and over again.

  3. mycroft says:

    There have been those who are from OO who have stated that we should encourage the Jewish partners of a mixed marriage to stay within the Jewish community. the position does not equal acceptance of mixed marriages the same way that encouraging mechalel Shabbos to come to schul does not equal acceptance of chillul Shabbos.

  4. dr.bill says:

    Rabbi, You referenced a meeting where YCT Rabbis met with a group of decidedly non-orthodox orientation, some writings of that group and the view of a Rabbi who graduated from YCT who himself grew up in an interdenominational family. Any discussion of so complex an issue must differentiate between their distinct points of view. Conflating those views does not help clarify what approaches might be pursued.
    Like many such issues, I would defer to the decision of local Rabbis who are closer to the context of a particular situation. I would not criticize a group meeting to discuss the issue; however, unlike Rabbi Lopatin, I would not have talked about it publically.
    I hope everyone noticed the arrival of my (almost) namesake who posted the most vile comment I have seen in a while. On the other hand, mycroft made an excellent point, which we need to consider. The level of intermarriage and chillul Shabbos require innovative approaches.

  5. David Ohsie says:

    “This stance […] has worked, except in times of mass public sh’mad (assimilation), when even the highest of barbed wire fences will not help. But under normal circumstances, the system is accepted without question and seems to be doing the job fairly well.”

    What??? This *is* a time of mass assimilation and excommunication is working not at all for that problem, because many/most of the Jews who intermarry don’t know their right hand from their left, let alone would they be affected by the notion that they can’t enter an Orthodox synagogue. If an intermarried couple with a Jewish child decides that they are interested in Orthodoxy, are we to turn them away and send their kids to the Conservative and Reform? In fact, I don’t think that is what most Kiruv organizations would do. And in fact, neither do Orthodox schools universally reject the kids of the intermarried, just as they don’t reject the children of the Sabbath violators.

    What R. Gordimer seems to be doing here is taking a complex issue and oversimplifying in order to score debating points. The problem is obvious: on the one hand, if you don’t shun the intermarried, that weakens the affect on an “on-the-fence” Orthodox who will not go over that fence in order to leave the community. On the other hand you have the much, much larger population of non-Orthodox on whom the only effect of shunning is to make Kiruv for them and their kids impossible.

    No one has worked out the solution to that conundrum.

  6. Mr. Cohen says:

    The Jewish Bible [Tanach] condemns marriage between Jews and non-Jews 12 times:
    {1} Exodus 34 {2} Bamidbar 25 {3} Deuteronomy 7 {4} Proverbs 2
    {5} Proverbs 5 {6} Proverbs 6 {7} Proverbs 7 {8} Ezra 9
    {9} Nehemiah 10 {10} Nehemiah 13 {11} Hosea 5 {12} Malachi 2.

  7. Ari Heitner says:

    Seems Rabbi Gordimer has never been to an out-of-town shul, or especially a Chabad – he would find that the Rabbis בשטח know they have to walk a fine line between welcoming and encouraging everyone while making it clear what the Torah does and doesn’t condone. And I could introduce him to a nice spectrum of Rabbis – YU, yeshivish, chassidish, Chabad, Sepharadi – who are doing an excellent job.

    YCT is looking to score points against a straw man of close-minded Orthodoxy. “Look at us and how warm and fuzzy we are, not like those other guys!” Nothing new there.

    For the record, R’Shlomo Zalman told the מקרבים: once the couple has intermarried, there’s no longer a חשש that the non-Jewish spouse has ulterior motives for גירות, and you try to be מקרב and מגייר him/her לכתחילה.

    • dr. bill says:

      Ari Heitner, Seven or so years ago i had the privilege of sitting next to a gentleman on a flight to Israel and witnessed a few (sefardi looking) passengers coming up prior to takeoff and kissing his hand. In conversation, it became clear he was a son of ROY ztl. In a long discussion about geirut, he said that his father strongly supports a position like the one you attribute to RSZA ztl.

  8. Steve Brizel says:

    Once again , R Gordimer demonstrates convincingly that the eladership of OO has crosssed the line beyond any reasonable definition of MO by engaging in “dialogue” about intermarriage instead of preventing the same.

  9. ehrlichnotfrum says:

    Wow, I definitely never expected a response by Rabbi Gordimer when I saw the Jewish Week article! What a big chiddush! Gordimer is against something that Lopatin did/said? Mashiach must be on his way. /sarcasmoff

    It is amazing that you could take the minimal comments in the Jewish Week article and make such a huge mountain out of that molehill. Ari Heitner’s comment is correct-rejectionism simply doesn’t work, and many Orthodox rabbis of all shades are working on how to deal with it. Rabbis out in the field get it. That’s why Chabad houses (especially in outlying areas) focus so little on standard tefilla – because if they had minyanim they’d never know who they could count in a minyan, give an aliya to, etc.-and if they so much as hint that some Jewish man’s son with a non-Jewish woman isn’t Jewish, that person will be out the door so fast…so they focus on engagement, and hope that eventually these people will convert from a sincere desire to be Jewish l’halacha and keep the mitzvot. Get out of your insular box, Rabbi Gordimer, or admit that you have no business talking about what’s going on outside your bubble.

    • Shmuel W says:

      Thanks “ehrlichnotfrum” I didnt note the sarcasm till you said it. Its not about “rejectionism” its about sending clear messages re Judaism generally and intermarriage in this instance. OO/NC (and its intellectual forebears) sends muddled messages on each that stem from their intellectual assimilation, and the result is intermarriage and assimilation b/c ppl dk what our beautiful Judaism actually stands for and means. Regarding your non-sequitur of Chabad ( which is also in many ways marginalized from mainstream frum communities) of course we should reach out to every single Jew, Chabad themselves do not do geirus from what I understand. Perhaps you should also use your name, “or admit that you have no business” discussing your views without the courage of your convictions to back it up.

      • ehrlichnotfrum says:

        You heard it here first, folks. Shmuel W thinks that Chabad is “marginalized from mainstream frum communities”. But they’re still Orthodox right? It’s also the case that Chabad rabbis don’t require RCA/BDA/GPS gerut-but you won’t declare them NC (neoconservative? neochristian?) because they have long beards and don’t call women rabbahs. That’s right, they don’t push the boundaries on the issues that YOU decide push someone over the line, even if they might take more liberty with halacha and hashkafa than almost any YCT musmakh.

        I don’t need to defend myself to you. (Shmuel W? W for….) Feel free to discount me because I’m anonymous. That’s fine. I don’t have a horse in this race. Just pointing out the absurdity of the rhetoric of Rabbi Gordimer, who declares “let people not think for a minute that the no-press-allowed, against-the-trend symposium was merely to promote the current approaches by out of town shuls and Chabad operations.” Because he knows.

      • Shmuel W says:

        Actually the world I come from does not view Chabad as Orthodox. and my name is Shmuel Winiarz. I await a smidgen of courage on your account.

      • Shades of Gray says:

        They have their differences, but Agudah and Satmar view them as Orthodox enough to cooperate on the Metizah B’peh issue. Or as this statement from the BMG Rosh Yeshivah regarding the internet asifah:

        “It was noted at a meeting recently held about the upcoming Citifield Asifa that Chabad Lubavitch has traditionally not formally participated in such events. This was chas v’shalom not intended in any way to cast any negative light whatsoever on them or on any other chug in Klal Yisroel by anyone at the meeting. Any other inference or understanding of what was said is wholly mistaken.”

  10. Ben Isaacs says:

    Yasher Koach Rabbi Gordimer.

    There is a very significant difference between being mekarev a Jewish spouse that is already intermarried to do mitzvos, etc. and between having a conference with an organization that helps people intermarry!!!!

    There are out of town MO Shuls and small town Chabad Houses that do encourage participation by intermarried Jews in their services and programs. These people know, however, that where the mother is not Jewish their kids will not be Bar or Bat mitzvah’ed at these institutions, nor will their anniversaries be mentioned in the weekly bulletin. In these and in many other ways it is clear that these Rabbonim accept the intermarried and not intermarriages.

    Ask any small town Chabad Rabbi how many significant supporters they have lost, due to their refusal to show up at a wedding of a non Halachic convert, to the child of a supporter or to the supporter themselves.

    Certainly none of these small town rabbonim would ever collaborate with a non-Orthodox group on outreach to intermarried’s..

  11. Avrohom Gordimer says:

    Ari, David, and Ehrlichnotfrum:

    Yes, I do know the scene well and do not write from a bubble. I grew up in Central Florida, often going to Chabad shuls and our tiny Young Israel, dealing with intermarrieds all over the place. And I am still very involved with many such communities.

    The danger here is clear, and let people not think for a minute that the no-press-allowed, against-the-trend symposium was merely to promote the current approaches by out of town shuls and Chabad operations.

    • ehrlichnotfrum says:

      Asserting that the danger is clear without backing it up with evidence. Well argued.

  12. mb says:

    Shame on Crosscurrents for posting this.

  13. mb says:

    I’m thinking of suing Cross-currents, too. For posts like this! It’s really getting boring. Anybody want to join me in a class action suit?

  14. Chochom B'mah Nishtaneh says:

    There are always bright lines that cannot be crossed. For instance, pikuch nefesh is docheh everything except the three chamuros.

    Intermarriage, too, has been and continues to be such an item. There cannot be any message of acceptance of intermarriage. And there cannot be blurring of the bright line. This conference was not for the purpose of preventing intermarriage, or trying to reverse intermarriages. (R Shlomo Zalman’s psak was just that, top reverse the intermarriage).

    The conference was a form a show acceptance to intermarriage itself. I know we have commenters who say we have to keep connected to these individuals, fine, but that does not mean acceptance. It can be a clear message, a Jew is a Jew and we can accept you, but we cannot accept your intermarriage. And your children may very well not be Jews and your spouse is not a Jew.

    But These movements are constantly attempting to blur established, sensible and necessary bright lines about Judaism. This is no different than members of the same movement shouting Mazel Tov (R”L) about Gay Marriage and twisting a posuk.

    There is nothing new about dealing with an intermarried individual that experienced rabbonim are not dealing with, in accordance with halacha, for many years. Certainy those involved with kiruv. What is new is that people asserting themselves as orthodox are circumventing halacha and saying intermarriage is not a bright line issue. If that is their stance, how can they suggest that they will attempt to dissuade someone from intermarrying. Which needs to be done even when the individual professes profound love. Because it is a bright line that should be inviolate.

    • Ari Heitner says:

      So when I read, “Yet the pervasive question taken up by these rabbis was: How do I connect with people whose life choice I disagree with — and keep them engaged in the Jewish community?” I don’t hear anything that condones intermarriage or even particularly reduces its red-line status.

      Yeah, YCT loves to trumpet. “Look at us, we’re being so delightfully transgressive! We’re talking to a non-Orthodox organization!”

      In an Agudah shul, being intermarried definitely means not getting an aliyah. Out of town, without the intermarrieds there may not be a minyan. Is the out of town Rav blurring the lines? Or only if he attends a conference to hear all about what issues and fears may be influencing an intermarried couple’s decision to come to shul, or come to a class, or come to a Chanukah party?

      I have a challenge for Rabbi Gordimer: ask R’Lopatin whether they feel that YCT should have a strong position on intermarriage, whether it does have a strong position on intermarriage, what that position is, and whether they think doing a joint program with Big Tent affected either the content, strength or clarity of that position. Let’s let YCT speak for themselves, and if they condemn themselves I certainly won’t defend them.

  15. Rachel Wizenfeld says:

    I recall interviewing for an entry-level marketing position at JOI about 10 years ago. When it came to the obvious question – how could I support and promote an organization that supports intermarriage and I simply stated that intermarriage is wrong according to Jewish practice and tradition, the director responded, “well if we want to have more Jews in this century than we had in the previous century, we’re going to need to find more ways to be more inclusive.” Fascinating: their goal was simply to have more “Jews” in society – while disregarding the importance of even a basic standard of Jewish authenticity.

  16. Larry says:

    With all due respect, why would an Orthodox Jew, especially an Orthodox Rabbi, read the Jewish Week? I look at it as an obstacle course of lashon hara to be avoided. Certainly there are more productive ways for a Torah scholar to spend their time.

  17. Mike S. says:

    And what does Rabbi Gordimer recommend when an Orthodox marriage with kids breaks up because one of the adults falls in love with and marries a non-Jew? Throw the kids out of school so you don’t have to deal with the sinning parent? Or to “protect” the other kids from knowing about it? Somehow try to throw the sinning parent out of shul without alienating his or her children?

    At some point we need to find ways other than shunning people to make clear what behavior we find unacceptable. Otherwise we abandon our responsibility for far too large a fraction of the Jewish people.

    • Chochom bmah nishtaneh says:

      Wow. To follow your logic, you have no issue with “breaking up a marriage because one “falls” in love with a non Jew”.

      There are so many issues with this that it’s troubling and it speaks a lot to your understanding the sanctity of marriage as well.

      I don’t have to answer for R Gotdomer, however, nowhere in his post does he reccomend or even suggest harming or pushing away a child or other family members because of a parent abandoning them even to marry a non Jew.

      Does this mean that the school should welcome with open arms the parent who has abused their spouse so by abandoning them for a non Jew?

      Every Yeshiva across the Orthodox spectrum has students who have some type of parental issue including the scenario you painted above. And they teach the children regardless. An issue can arise when the parent actively fights the chinuch the schools trying to impart. But even you can understand that’s a different issue.

      But it seems you would expect the school to have such a parent of the PTA. And to be the parent who the school should speak to about chinuch, when the parent has just rejected the most fundamental of what the school is teaching.

      What an inane comment.

      • Mike S. says:

        How you could read what I said as indicating approval or even tolerance of either breaking up a marriage or intermarriage is beyond me. And if you think there aren’t Yeshivot that will expel kids whose parent intermarries, you aren’t living on the same planet I am.

        My point is that shunning has proven utterly ineffective either at encouraging t’shuvah for those who have intermarried or at deterring others. Those are the halachic reasons for excommunication. And shunning comes at a high cost to the innocent relatives of the shunned, especially his or her children.

        When I was a child intermarriage was a scandal even among the nonobservant, and the one who did so would be shunned; that did not stop the rise of intermarriage either among the nonobservant, where it is now ubiquitous, or among the orthodox, where it has become a miut hamatzui. We plainly need to think about other approaches both for preventing intermarriage and for limiting the damage when it does occur.

      • Robert Lebovits says:

        I would argue that “shunning” – really the refusal to accept intermarriage – did work to a considerable extent until the Reform movement adopted patrilineal descent. Before that point the consequences of intermarriage for men (who have always been more at risk for marrying out than women) – i.e., one’s children would not be recognized as Jews – was a considerable deterrent. Grandparents wanted Jewish grandchildren. Once that was no longer in play, the pressure exerted on Jewish men by their parents to marry in the faith dropped sharply.
        Obviously we can’t turn back the clock as far as non-Orthodox Jews are concerned. But for the Orthodox world the lack of firm consequences for a “red line” behavior does contribute to the increased prevalence of that behavior.

      • mycroft says:

        “Before that point the consequences of intermarriage for men (who have always been more at risk for marrying out than women) – i.e., one’s children would not be recognized as Jews – was a considerable deterrent. Grandparents wanted Jewish grandchildren. Once that was no longer in play, the pressure exerted on Jewish men by their parents to marry in the faith dropped sharply.”
        By the time a person would even consider intermarrying the constraint of having nonJewish grandchildren for their parents is essentially zero. Intermarriage is a very late step in estrangement from Yahadus.

      • Robert Lebovits says:

        Your posts support my observation. This change is right on track with the timeline for the adoption of patrilineal descent. It was introduced in the early 70s but took a good decade for it to become accepted and prevalent. Since that time there has been no constraint from family elders.
        I disagree that “Intermarriage is a very late step in estrangement from Yahadus”. Consider Noah Feldman, the law professor from Harvard who expressed outrage that his non-Jewish wife was excluded from the alumni picture put out by his day school, Maimonides of Boston. That is hardly the reaction of one who is estranged. Quite the opposite. We are in a time when narcissism rules such that marrying a non-Jew and demanding recognition and affirmation of one’s Jewish heritage has become commonplace. I believe that is precisely because attempts to accommodate have eliminated any cognitive dissonance or guilt.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Mycroft-I disagree with your statement that intermarriage “s a very late step in estrangement from Yahadus.” RYBS said in the name of RMS based upon verses in Ezra and Nechemiah that a man who intermarried lost any possibilty of Kaparah on YK. Intermarriage was present in a large scale in pre war Europe. Intermarriage in the US is the product of assimilation without any sense of guilt or having any connection to Klal Yisrael.There are unfortunately far too many American Jews , both older and younger than me who have such an attitude,

      • Steve Brizel says:

        You would be surprised how many people who were raised with solely an ethnic Jewish identity in the Jewish neighborhoods of NYC have married out, eat chazir on YK and chametz on Pesach.

      • mycroft says:

        ‘When I was a child intermarriage was a scandal even among the nonobservant, and the one who did so would be shunned; that did not stop the rise of intermarriage either among the nonobservant, where it is now ubiquitous, or among the orthodox, where it has become a miut hamatzui. ”

        In the past 30 years the intermarriage rate amongthose who spent 12 years in an Orthodox Day School has gone from almost nil to a percentage larger than the general Jewish community 95 years ago.
        I first became aware of the change about a decade or so ago I was working in an office where there was a slightly younger than I Jewish person who was married to a non-Jew. Once he came over to my desk and started speaking fluent Hebrew-I was surprised. He tells me someday I’ll tell you how I know Hebrew. A few weeks later he tells me he graduated the same Yeshiva HS that I did a few years after me and starts quoting Gemarrah from decades before. I told this story to an Orthodox Jewish communal professional who was involved with the Jewish community censuses. He was shocked by the story because his recollection was that Orthodox Jewish day school grads don’t intermarry. He then rechecked the data and was surprised at the rate of increase during the previous 2 decades.

  18. David Ohsie says:

    @Rabbi Gordimer: Thank you for accepting dissenting views in the comments, as you always do.

    The point remains that we don’t always “Just say No” as you seem to agree. If so, then perhaps some subgroup of the Orthodox should get involved. Maybe it is best specifically that it only be a specific group on the left edge of Orthodoxy to indicate that it is problematic, even though there is engagement. That doesn’t make OO non-Orthodox.

    @Rachel Wizenfeld

    “Fascinating: their goal was simply to have more “Jews” in society – while disregarding the importance of even a basic standard of Jewish authenticity.”

    Maybe both are important? Can you teach authentic Judaism to someone who has been lost completely to Judaism? This is beside the continued dependence of Israel on US support which in turn depends on committed Jews, mostly non-Orthodox, to support Israel with their votes and their dollars to political campaigns.

    If all of the non-Orthodox Jews in America simply assimilated away, this would be quite a tragedy, IMO.

  19. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Orthodox rabbis meeting with “Big Tent Judaism (formerly know as Jewish Outreach Institute)”? It’s not new. 20 years ago, JOI advertised a conference one of the speakers at which was to be Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald. When questioned about it, he said he had the haskama of Rabbi Dovid Cohen (who confirmed the fact). The conference was cancelled, but JOI put out a publication with an article by Rabbi Buchwald.

  20. mycroft says:

    “Imagine sending a message that Orthodox Judaism does not allow intermarriage, yet if one intermarries, he is still welcome and can still even be “frum”. Imagine setting precedent for people to be intermarried yet “Orthodox”, effectively dropping the ago-old zero tolerance policy.

    Check old RCA Records-I was recently reading a lot of old ones and how to deal with the Jewish spouse of intermarried was debated. Most were opposed to allowing a Jewish spouse to be a member , some were in favor. None appeared to be in favor of allowing non Jewish members of mixed families to belong to a synagogue.

  21. Yossi says:

    Ari Heitner, I’m not sure if you’re the same Ari Heitner that I once new in the JK in Israel, but regardless I find it so puzzling that you so often seem to be defending some of the more over the line things that YCT does. While one can certainly make the argument that we don’t need another article every time YCT does something over the line, and in fact that may give more attention to the issue than it deserves, it seems to me that it is usually pretty clear that they are operating in a different space then the rest of Orthodoxy of any stream. So to say “But Chabad, but kiruv, but this one…”- the proof is in the pudding. No other movement in Orthodoxy has so consistently pushed the line or crossed boundaries, and I don’t think at this point we need to say “but maybe, perhaps, it could be that they were saying something else totally innocent”. Unlikely.

    • Rafael Pizzaburger says:

      Exactly, Yossi. I have yet to see one “Red Line” set up by the YCT/OO leadership. All they do is keeping pushing forward, embracing every liberal position, not saying “Assur” or “not good”. When are we going to see OO’s boundaries. Right now, it doesn’t look like they have any, save for throwaway phrases like “while being an Orthodox Rabbi…”. I believe it is legitimate criticism to say – “what are your limits?” Because I haven’t seen them.

      • dr.bill says:

        let’s see if i can help. kashrut, shabbat, taharat hamispacha, tzedakah, limmud torah, etc. do you need more examples???

  22. Bob Miller says:

    If there’s potential wealth and fame in saying or doing something, these allegedly Orthodox Jewish leaders will try it, creating wonderful pretexts and arguments along the way. No one who is objective and schooled in Judaism would fall for this, so, if this ever gains traction, G-d forbid, it’s a reflection on our condition.

  23. slc says:

    JOI is way more complicated in reality. The same thing is true of inmarriage, conversion, and intermarriage.

    One of my closest friends is very observant (she declines the use of the word orthodox for a variety of complicated reasons, and that is her business). She’s also not frum, even if her observance is that of a stickler, because her cultural background doesn’t really work with frum.

    her mother is an orthodox convert, the daughter of cantonese speaking chinese immigrants who fled communism. her father is conservadox-israeli-jersulamite family made mostly of tranditionalist-atheists-academics. Both are extremely educated (her mother is ABD for a phd, her father is an MD) They are active in their orthodox community and the broader Jewish community they are part of.

    My friend’s mother’s family is very interesting – all of her mother’s siblings converted to different religions, and the parents were very gracious in supporting all of their children on their individual faith journeys from their tenement. As a result, my friend has a family relationship with her fully cantonese evangelical christian cousins (who I beleive even once made a fully kosher christmas meal for them so that the entire family could be together) and her grandparents kept a vegan set of dishes for my friend’s mother and her family as it grew.

    Recently, the grandfather died, and per the original family custom, it was a buddhist funeral. Because it was a slow decline, my friend’s mother was able to ask the obvious questions (sitting shiva, kaddish, ect, and the answers were yes). Probably had the death been sudden, or had the extended sibling family not been close (so a lot of the dealing with sibling issues had been asked already), organizations like JOI step in to help because there are not that many resources otherwise – especially with the emotional fallout.

    I would also hedge that my friend at some point, despite her being observant, will interact with JOI or groups they interact with. She looks noticably asian sometimes – and this definitely can create problems in some orthodox spaces. My friend has every right to connect with other jewish people across denominational lines to talk about what it means to be Asian AND Jewish.

    It is also very clear her mother was introduced to jewish life by her father. Anyone who knows her/her family really well also knows her mother is also the much more serious about jewish life one – and that happened before the conversion. Because she does know some people who are also of jewish and asian background (not orthodox), including maybe one person where the mother did not convert, I get the vibe from her that her mother’s attitude is normal. The only odd part was her mother’s choice to have a very serious orthodox conversion. As a result, when people talk about conversion and intermarriage in front of her, it is often very awkward, because the implication can be that her avodah as jewish person does not matter, that her mother’s conversion was inauthentic, and that there is something wrong because her mother is very involved and asian.

    JOI will occasionally talk in private to orthodox rabbis – because in fact this is a form of racism among us.

    Food for thought – it may not be so bad what they did.

  24. genoism says:

    OO is the new form of self hating and ignorant jews who are nothing more than cowards. What a rude awakening they will eventually all have.

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