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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘intermarriage’

Intermarriage Rarely Has a Happy Ending

Thursday, April 4th, 2013
While I was reading Doublelife: One Family, Two Faiths and a Journey of Hope by Harold Berman and Gayle Redlingshafer Berman, I had to keep reminding myself that although I know quite a few couples with similar stories, the percentage of intermarried couples who fully embrace Torah Judaism is negligible.

Harold and Gayle Berman have put together a wonderful book about their relationship and certainly a surprise for them  discovery and adoption of a Torah observant Jewish life.  It’s written as a series of letter to each other, and I strongly appreciate the decision to give each of them a different font.  That makes it much easier to keep track of who has written what, even though their voices and stories are quite different.

It’s important to read their book as a book by intelligent, sincere people who due to a principled intellectual and spiritual curiosity found themselves both embracing Judaism.

It truly was love at first sight – even though Gayle was the Minister of Music in a Texas mega-church and Harold was a secular Jew from New York. Fate brought them together. But destiny had something else in mind. From the Bible Belt to northernmost Russia to the heart of the Jewish world, Doublelife is really about the journey within, to discover who we are and who we are meant to be. [Read More]

I think it’s dangerous for troubled, concerned parents and relatives of Jews marrying non-Jews to get too much comfort from the Berman’s story.  In the vast majority of cases, Judaism is lost to the children and grandchildren etc. of intermarried couples, even when the descendants are Jewish by Jewish Law.

I don’t see their bringing up the Purim story of Esther as historic justification for intermarriage.

The Book of Esther is a book of secrets. Esther is also a book of interfaith marriage, one of the secrets the story’s heroine keeps even from her husband. Esther, the Jew, marries the Gentile King Ahasuerus, putting her in the ideal position to save her people from the wicked Haman. Some have interpreted the story as a Biblical endorsement, offering ancient proof that two faiths within one marriage not only works, but can be a positive societal force. (preview)

I studied Megillat Esther at Matan with Atara Snowbell for an entire school year, and at no point did we come to that conclusion.  Queen Esther is revered by Bible scholars for her sacrifice, giving up a normal Jewish Life for the sake of the Jewish People living in the Persian Empire.  Her children did not live as Jews, and King Achashverosh certainly didn’t convert to Judaism.

This criticism doesn’t mean that I don’t find the book well-written and compelling.  I just find their reassurances that intermarriage may not be the end of Jewish life to be misleading. I certainly enjoyed reading Doublelife and do recommend it, but please don’t think that there is anything typical about the Bermans.  They are two extraordinary people who tell their story beautifully.  I wish there were more people like them.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

Cox Celebrates Black History Month with Jewish Intermarriage

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Cox, the cable communications giant, is celebrating Black History Month “by highlighting culturally relevant programming available On Demand and participating in various celebrations and events across the country.”

A PR thingie was sent out by Cox, listing, among many other entertainment options available on its Lifetime channel, the movie Twist of Faith (Feb. 10 – 28), “a love story about a Christian single mother and an NYC Orthodox Jewish man, whose mutual love of music and singing draws them together.”

You know I couldn’t resist that one, so I started searching the Internet (so you won’t have to, as my friend Jamil is fond of saying). You should know there are several movies out there with the same memorable title, or with slight twists (like Twist of Fate). But I finally got the full Lifetime synopsis, and, how could I not -– a clip.

The Lifetime Original Movie “Twist of Faith,” starring Toni Braxton, Mykelti Williamson and David Julian Hirsh:

“In Twist of Faith,” the fictional, cross-cultural, music infused love story, tells the tale of Jacob Fisher (Hirsh), an Orthodox Jewish Cantor and amateur songwriter from Brooklyn, New York, who witnesses the senseless murder of his wife and three children. Catatonic, Jacob walks out on his Jewish mourning ritual, leaving behind his Jewish garments, wallet and keys.

Seriously? The guy had a Jewish wallet and Jewish keys? Them Jews is mighty materialistic… Anyway, the text proceeds:

Abandoning his identity, he wanders aimlessly, hoping somehow to understand his tragedy. Fortuitously, he lands in Brent, Alabama (population 2,500), where he is embraced by Nina (Braxton), a single mother and the lead singer of a small gospel choir, her Uncle Moe (Williamson) and their gospel community who help him re-examine his life. While music brings Nina and Jacob together, they try to make sense of his past and their possible future.

And they make Gospel music together happily ever after – the end.

This thing sounds like train wreck of the month, if you ask me. I just hope none of you out there is planning to drink a shot of whiskey every time this movie makes a moronic faux pas about Yiddishkeit, because you’ll end up in a ditch, God forbid.

Study: Jewish Population Shrinking Outside Israel

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

The global Jewish population grew by more than 88,000 people over the past year, and now stands at 13.75 million, according to a new study published y Professor Sergio DellaPergola of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Though the huge number of simchas is a boon to the Jewish people, it pales in comparison to the growth rate of the rest of the world.  While the Jewish population grew by 0.65% in 2012, the global population grew by almost double that – 1.26%.

According to the study, one out of every 514 people in the world is Jewish – less than 0.2% of the world population.

The report noted that the largest Jewish population in the world resides in Israel – 5.97 million, accounting for 43% of the world’s Jews.  5.46 million – 39% – live in the United States.  The number of Jews living outside of Israel shrunk by over 10,000 people, due to intermarriage and aliyah.

Intermarriage is a significant factor in US Jewish population rates, due to the fact that over 50% of Jews who married in the last year married outside the faith.

Facebook Stock Drop: Divine Blessing for Marc Zuckerberg

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

If a man is given a financial windfall at the end of his life, what reason does he have to change? How much enjoyment will he get out of it anyway? For an 85 year old, how great is the finest of steaks to you when your body can’t even digest it? If you just received a billion dollars, it could mean that for every good you did in this world, G-d just paid you back in full. When your time comes and the Heavenly Court measures your good deeds against the wrong you did, you will have no merit to your name. All of it was accounted for before your passing.

The Book of Deuteronomy warns of G-d rewarding a man to his end. This is what that refers to.

But what if a man is young? What if he makes a terrible mistake? What if this is a mistake he doesn’t even consider a bad choice? Does this person deserve to be taught a lesson in how to fix himself?

Hashem has just told His children, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Take a look at the most famous member of the People of the Book for 2012: Mark Zuckerberg.

On May 18 his company, Facebook, became a stock on the Nasdaq Exchange. Minutes after trading began the price of FB sailed to $45 a share, valuing Zuckerberg’s 603 million shares at a little more than $27 billion. He became wealthier than George Soros and Michael Bloomberg. Not bad for a twenty something from White Plains, New York.

On May 19 he did something the very same Book of Deuteronomy says a Jew can never do. He married a non-Jewish woman. Why is a Jew not allowed to marry out? Simple. G-d says so. It has nothing do with racism, superiority, exclusiveness, or anything else. One of the 613 Commandments the Creator of Heaven and Earth directs every Jew on Earth to marry another Jew.

Every instance of a Jewish man having relations with a non-Jewish woman is a sin so bad, nobody in Heaven can defend us. When our spouse dies, they go to a different part of the Next World. We don’t even have the consolation that in the afterlife we will see them — ever.

G-d could have allowed Mr. Zuckerberg to roll in his billions. He could have rewarded Mark to his end by not doing anything to help.

Instead, He sent him a tribulation of unprecedented magnitude.

From the moment Mark married a non-Jew, his finances tumbled. Facebook went from an IPO high of $45 a share to $18.03. Mark’s worth went from $27 billion, all his because he was single, to $10.9 billion – half claimable by his wife. His guaranteed assets of $5.45 bil are a whopping $21.5 billion less than what he started with.

It could get worse.

Analysts project Facebook to earn $.63 a share for 2013. The average price to earnings ratio for the Nasdaq 100 is 11.9. Multiply $.63 by 11.9 and you have a 2013 price target of $7.50, bringing Zuckerberg’s fortune down to $4.5 bil – half of which belongs to his wife.

I’ve heard of costly weddings before . . . .

This wasn’t a private lesson given to someone outside the public eye. This is the most well-known Jew on earth. His life is an open book for all of us to study. This act of love to wake up Mr. Zuckerberg also serves as an act of love for all of us. Even with “merely” $2 billion in the bank, he will not go hungry. He will not be wanting.

G-d acted to wake him up without putting him to sleep.

We spend all of our lives pursuing wealth, only to see it all go up in smoke. George Soros will die and his money will be parted from him. Mark Zuckerberg, a young man with a bright future, can easily fix his mistakes and rise to even greater heights. Wasn’t there a time in the 1990s when the once mighty Apple traded for $3 a share? Look at where it came from, how far it fell. See what it has become today.

Jewish Press Radio with Yishai Fleisher: In the Eyes of the Rebbe

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai is joined by popular guest Baruch Widen (commentator on Arab society and Arab Jewish relations) to discuss a book by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe) on settling the Land of Israel. Yishai and Widen dig into the phenomenon of young American Jews moving to the Land of Israel and how programs such as Birthright (Taglit) are actually decreasing the intermarriage rate among young Jews.

To download, right-click, and “Save Target As” HERE.

Reaction To Ads Expose Troubled U.S. Jewish Psyche

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

The recent kerfluffle over Israeli government video ads and billboard posters, designed to entice wayward yordim to return home, instead exposed the troubled psyche of American Jews.

 

One might say – if verbal treif is permitted – that a ham-handed attempt by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption to guilt-trip wandering Israelis into leaving their American promised land backfired. The ministry had good reason for concern lest American society continue to corrode the loyalty of Israelis to their homeland and culture. The benefits of assimilation, as American Jewish history (and the current intermarriage rate) reveals, exact high costs.

 

In the ministry videos a young Israeli woman solemnly contemplates Yom HaZikaron, the day of remembrance for fallen Israeli soldiers, while her American boyfriend is clueless. A sleeping Israeli father does not awaken while his youngster calls “daddy,” but not “abba.” The child of Israelis, Skyping with grandparents back home, is oblivious to the meaning of their Chanukah candles and imagines that it is Christmas.

 

For months these ads elicited no discernible response, either from wayward Israelis or American Jews. But once the video clips appeared on the Jewish Channel, prompting a tirade from Atlantic blogger Jeffrey Goldberg, gevalts resounded throughout the land.

 

Goldberg was appalled: “I don’t think I have ever seen a demonstration of Israeli contempt for American Jews as obvious as these ads.” Their message was clear: “it is impossible for Jews to remain Jewish in America.” He added, gratuitously, that Israel has its own problems: many rabbis “act like Iranian mullahs.” And intermarriage can be “understood as an opportunity” – although for what he did not specify.

 

The Board of Trustees of the Jewish Federations of North America was furious. Rejecting any notion that “American Jews do not understand Israel” (which hardly was the primary thrust of the ads), they warned that “this outrageous and insulting message could harm the Israel-Diaspora relationship.” Anti-Defamation League National Director Abe Foxman found the videos “demeaning.”

 

There may also have been a political subtext to the belated outrage. The New York Times noted gratuitously that the Israeli ministry responsible for the ad campaign is headed by a Russian immigrant named Sofa Landver. She belongs to “the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party [that]…takes a hard line on the peace process with the Palestinians and advocates exchanging parts of Israel heavily populated by Arab citizens for Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank.” Therefore, presumably, the ad campaign must be a bad idea.

 

With some 500,000 Israelis estimated to be living in the United States, it is no small problem that the Immigrant Absorption Ministry tried to address – if too bluntly for American Jewish insecurities. The Ministry, expressing its respect and appreciation to the American Jewish community, reiterated the obvious: the ad campaign targeted Israelis who had succumbed to the allure of American enticements, not American Jews.

 

But Prime Minister Netanyahu, responding to the squall of outrage from American Jewish precincts, quickly aborted the ad campaign. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, engaging in damage control, appeared on CNN for an interview with John King – on Shabbat, no less – to apologize for the failure of the Immigration Ministry to “take into account American Jewish sensibilities.”

 

As Jerusalem-based journalist David Hazony perceptively observed about the video ad fracas, “in the hysteria of the response, the insecurity of American Jewish life is laid bare.” That is the real story of the video ad contretemps, which the fury of American Jews inadvertently confirmed.

 

Israel has long been an integral part of that story. Two years after Israel’s founding, American Jewish Committee President Jacob Blaustein wrested his famous agreement from Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion that Israel would neither presume to speak for American Jews nor attempt to entice them to make aliyah.

 

More recently, whenever Israel has incurred the wrath of an American president for permitting another settlement in its biblical homeland American Jews have writhed with embarrassment and hastened to distance themselves from Israeli “zealots.”

 

Assimilated American Jews remain ever anxious lest they be held guilty by association with Israel’s perceived misdeeds. Their loyalty to the United States must never be impugned. Any implication that American Jews are without a sustainable Jewish identity is infuriating. They seemed shocked that exposure to Jewish life in their promised American homeland can corrode the Jewish identity of Israelis.

 

Israeli yordim are the proverbial canary in the mineshaft, warning of imminent danger ahead. Yet the ads were intended as a warning to Israelis, not to the American Jews who quickly jumped to the conclusion that it is “about us” – a clear indication, as Hazony wrote, that Israelis “stepped on a live wire in the American Jewish psyche.”

 

For American Jews of a certain persuasion, Israel once again was the big bad Jewish bully whose reckless actions jeopardized their deep yearning for recognition as good Jews and acceptance as loyal Americans. But when an Israeli and an American Jew are paired, the ads suggested, the Jewish deficiencies of American Jewish life become glaringly apparent. That stung – precisely because there is truth to it.

Intermarriage Circa 1918

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Intermarriage is without doubt destroying the American Jewish community.

There are approximately 5.6 million American Jews, some 2 million of whom live in households identified as non-Jewish. Better than half the Jewish children under the age of 18 are being raised as non-Jews or with no religion. Whereas before 1965 only 10 percent of American Jews who married did so outside the faith, that percentage has jumped over the past two-and-a-half decades to at least 52 percent.

These statistics are depressing, alarming, and frightening. But this is not an entirely new phenomenon in American Jewish life. Page 6 of the January 20, 1918 edition of the New York Tribune carried an article headlined “American Melting Pot Already Diluting Jewish Religion and Race.” The article, written by D. M. Hermalin, described the marriage, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, of “Esther Lifshitz, the nineteen-year-old daughter of Samuel Lifshitz, an Orthodox Jew, to John D. Sylvester, a full-fledged American Gentile.”

Hermalin reported that “the marriage ceremony was performed in the bride’s home. Father, mother, uncles and aunts and numerous other relatives were present. An Orthodox rabbi performed the ceremony and made the bridegroom repeat in pure Hebrew ‘Hare ath m’kudesheth li b’tabaath zu k’dath Mosheh v’Israel.’

“It was no secret. Everybody present knew that the young bridegroom was a Christian, and he refused to embrace Judaism at the solicitation of Esther and her relatives. He agreed, however, to a Jewish marriage ceremony.”

According to the article, “The entire affair went off without a ripple in the life of Jewish orthodoxy on the East Side. The reason is that such things occur on the East Side, in Brownsville, Williamsburg, Harlem, and The Bronx, or wherever Jews in New York have settled in large communities.”

Hermalin wrote that intermarriages are “almost a daily occurrence now,” but that just a few years before, intermarriage “would have called forth surprise, astonishment and resentment on the part of the religious.” He attributed this to the precipitous drop in immigration from Eastern Europe that began in 1915.

Hermalin pointed out that without a steady influx of Jews from the Old World who were raised in an environment of commitment to religious practice, there are few people “to criticize the actions of the younger generation in America and to remind the old of its religious duties.”

Hermalin claimed that if Esther Lifshitz had wanted to marry her suitor in 1915, “and he had refused to become a member of the synagogue, she would have had to leave the house of her parents and probably been disowned by them.”

Jewish immigrants who came to America began to lose their commitment to Jewry, wrote Hermalin, and Jewry in America survived only because new immigrants from the Old World arrived to reinforce Judaism here.

It was the influx of Jews from Germany in the early part of the 19th century that was responsible for keeping Judaism viable in the United States. “But,” Hermalin noted, “with all due respect to their religious ardor, it was comparatively short-lived. During the time of forty years, German Jews in America lost even that enthusiasm which they had originally brought with them. They produced rabbis who knew very little of the Hebrew language and literature, and their sermons were smattered with politics, philosophy and everything but Judaism.”

Thus, during the middle of the 19th century the German Jews who were here were well on their way to assimilation. But a new influx of Jews from Europe that began after the Civil War and gained momentum after 1881 bolstered Judaism in America.

“The influence of the new arrivals,” Hermalin continued, “was immense. They actually made prominent American Jews feel ashamed of intermarriage and practice a purer Judaism than they had ever done before. All was well so long as the influx of immigration did not come to a stop. Then the World War broke out and the transformation came. It came suddenly and with gigantic strides. It does not manifest itself exactly in conversions to Christianity, but the laxity of religious adherence on the one hand and frequent intermarriage on the other hand all tend to undermine the integrity of Judaism in America.”

Once immigration to America slowed to a trickle after 1923, Judaism again entered a period of decline. There were, however, other factors that came into play during the first part of the 20th century, namely the founding of yeshivas, which tended to stem this decline or at least slow it.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/intermarriage-circa-1918/2010/10/20/

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