July 18, 2019

Turning Our Backs on Interfaith Couples Hurts Judaism

“In a small town in southern Brazil, outside Porto Alegre, there is a small and very old synagogue, which has difficulty getting a minyan (prayer quorum of 10) together. “The older generation now understands that they were mistaken. They shouldn’t have excluded the intermarried couples who wanted to teach their children Jewish values. Because of them there are no longer any Jews here,” said the director of the synagogue, when I visited with a representative of the United Jewish Appeal.

Interesting, I thought. Assimilation and the disappearance of the local community took place just because of the insistence on the purity of the Jewish race. People whose only sin was to fall in love with a non-Jewish man/woman couldn’t come with their children to welcome the Shabbat, celebrate the Jewish holidays and learn to read the holy tongue or study the history of the Jewish people.

It’s interesting that it is actually the Reform community, which is maligned by Conservative Jews, that is preserving Judaism more than the ultra-Orthodox. It’s interesting that the State of Israel accepts immigrants with only a Jewish father (who, according to halakha, traditional Jewish law, are not considered Jews), and they can enlist in the Israel Defense Forces and pay taxes in the Jewish state – but if they want to get married, they will have to undergo a proper Orthodox conversion. In other words, do everything, just don’t multiply.

I recalled my visit to Brazil in 2011 when I saw the headline about the wedding of Israeli Arab broadcaster Lucy Aharish and her Jewish boyfriend, actor Tzachi Halevy. My heart went out to them when I read about her relatives crying out that she was harming the family honor – an excuse for murdering women (!) among certain populations. I recalled a former friend, who, only long after we broke up, revealed to me that his mother isn’t even Jewish and he can’t get married (in Israel). He was born in Eastern Europe, and his family left for Israel when they opened the doors for Jews – because of his father.”

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