As someone of you may know, I am married to a non-Jew. So every now and again, I get asked about the question/problem of intermarriage. Recently, a friend wrote to me that he is concerned about bringing home his non-Jewish girlfriend for the holidays.
So as part of a Thanksgiving special, here is the agnostic Rabbi’s advice:
I hear your concern. Being Jewish is important to you and you do not want to lose that. You want to raise a Jewish family. Fair enough. But I don’t think your apprehension is completely rational. I say this because people like you and I have at least ten Jews inside of them 🙂 If your partner is open to your tradition, then your household will also be Jewish. It may be more than just Jewish – but is will also be Jewish. The key is finding someone who understands and is open to the place of Judaism in your life.
That said, you might have to be open to her traditions as well. Embrace the diversity. With the right approach there is room for all.
But what about the children? I think the argument about children underestimates children’s intelligence. I know people who grew up in a multi-cultural home and they really benefited from the experience. Yes, at some stage in their mental development children see things in black and white, but there is no reason why a Christmas tree and a menorah cannot constitute one category for the child. you see what I am saying?
If the parents do not present the different traditions in an exclusive and confrontational manner than there really should be no major problem. While it is true that outside the home the child will brush-up against different interpretations of his/hers traditions, with a strong and positive multi-cultural foundation he/she will be equipped to handle that. After all, that happens even when you grew up within a singe tradition – a passover at my house is very different than a passover at your house.
In the end, I would say that if you are lucky enough to know love, and if your partner happens to have been raised in another tradition, do not let accident of birth divide you. It really does not get better than love. If you got it: cherish it, nourish it and protect it.
These are my two shekels. Of course I could be wrong. But given my present state of affairs, I sure hope I am right.