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The Real Reason Intermarriage is Bad for Jews

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Originally published by Haaretz.com

By Rabbi Seth Farber

With staggering rates of intermarriage in Jewish communities overseas and a gradual increase in intermarriage in Israel, it is critical to articulate clearly why intermarriage is bad for the Jews.

Three basic arguments can be made against those who seek to “marry out.” The first is the identity argument. It suggests that intermarriage is unnatural and essentially a betrayal of one’s real self. While this argument has both social dimensions (“the Jewish character is different”) and religious ones (“the soul of the Jews is different”), I find this argument presumptuous, as it makes numerous assumptions about the definition of identity that are unpalatable in the post-modern era.

A second argument is the religious one. The Bible (and later Jewish sources, all the way up through Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye) makes it clear that intermarriage is a betrayal not of oneself, but rather of one’s God. You are prohibited from intermarrying not because your children might not be Jewish (after all, in the Orthodox community, this would preclude only men marrying out, not women), but rather because it will take you down a path that is deemed idolatrous by the Torah.

As a religious person dedicated to halakha (Jewish law), I find this far more compelling than the identity argument. But in the modern era, it too falls short, as many committed Jews are not obligated to the religious dimensions of the Jewish enterprise.


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