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Making a Jewish Home

I’m engaged to a non-Jew. We plan to build a Jewish family, even if it won’t look exactly like the one I grew up in.

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Vanessa Davis, page 1


Vanessa Davis, page 2

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marjorie says:

So funny, we said Beit Shimush in my Day School too! What was that about??

<3 <3 <3 Vanessa Davis makes me smile big, yeah! Great start of the day. We have a Jew-ish home, that's how my #1 buddy likes it too.

Panel #7, so true, lol.

curlytop says:

You’ve made something not very funny to those of us who fear for the survival of the Jewish people into something that even I had to chuckle at. The best thing you could do would be to encourage your fiance to convert before the wedding. Failing that, I encourage all the following, in declining order of importance, to have a Jewish home.

1. Have a Shabbat and Kashrut observant home, with weekly synagogue.
2. Send your kids to Jewish overnight camp (not a camp for Jews, but Jewish camp)
3. Send them to Jewish Youth group in HS
4. Send them to Israel with peers, go often as a family.
5. Send them to Jewish Day School where they too can learn Hebrew and make Beit Sheemush jokes.

    Reptilian2012 says:

    There is no need to fear for the survival of the Jewish people. There will always be Jews, regardless of whether the descendants of the author and her like-minded American Jews will not be among them.

curlytop says:

One more thing — please don’t have a “sham” Jewish wedding. If your fiance doesn’t convert, just have a civil wedding and save the Jewish trappings for your second ceremony, after he sees the beauty of Jewish life and converts!

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Pesele says:

There’s lots of help for intermarried folks. Lots and lots. Online sites include JOI, but best is joining a supportive synagogue. While I disagree with curlytop’s angst about intermarriage (what matters isn’t who you marry, it’s what you do. I know LOTS of Jews married to Jews whose children will not perpetuate Judaism because they weren’t raised to think doing Jewish mattered. I also know similar numbers of intermarried families whose children DO case because these families were very intentional in their Jewish practice), his/her suggestions are pretty good for the reproduction of Judaism.
What really matters isn’t who you marry (so long as that person–Jewish or not!–supports a Jewish home and Jewish children), but what you do: taking Shabbat seriously, modeling kashrut (regardless of personal views on this, Judaism is a mimetic religion, so the best way to teach this is to do it at home), observing holidays at home and in community, talking about Jewish values using Jewish/Hebrew terms (even when universal, we have our own values vocabulary.

In my own intermarriage, we kept a loose version of Shabbat and kashrut (but more than I grew up with–that is, my intermarried home was MORE Jewish than my parents’ inmarried home), were deeply engaged in Jewish community life and culture. And I always said “Marry whomever you want, but you had better have a Jewish home and raise Jewish children.” It worked. Maybe we were lucky (all parents are when it works), but they have said it helped that we were consistent and clear.

I realize that, for some, having a Jewish spouse is a necessary part of making a Jewish home. That’s just not viable in a pluralistic world and those who focus on the dangers of intermarriage distract from the real problems Judaism faces in the coming generations.

    cub scout mom says:

    “That’s just not viable in a pluralistic world “. So NOT TRUE! it is totally a variable. it’s simple. recognizing the fact that intermarraige ultimately is the destruction of the jewish people. when intermarraige is not seen as a forbidden, children will not make it a priority. that “everything will work out” philosphy doesn’t work. at some point while arguing, theunspoken “dirty jew” argument will become spoken. christmas trees will become more prevalant than chanukah menorahs. bread will be eaten during passover. and why go to synagogue at all. no – intermarraige is hte downfall of the jewish people. intermarraige should not be accepted if you trully are jewish and believe in judaism – because you will not have jewish grandchildren with that philosophy.

      Admiral_Shackleford says:

      Really? The downfall of the Jewish people? Hyperbole and a half. I’m guessing the irony of all this is that if the author’s husband went through a (gasp!) reform or reconstructionist conversion, he still wouldn’t be Jewish enough for you. Because if you’re going to be this doom and gloom about it, you need to at least admit that a very large portion of the Jewish community treats converts like crap, and then goes on to wonder why there are so many intermarriages.

        curlytop says:

        The one thing only with which I agree here is that Jewish community often does not treat converts the way it should. Converts are a treasure, an amazing gift to the Jewish people and should be treated that way. Often, you will note that people who are more traditional and observant (who DO things Jewish) are much more welcoming than those for whom “Jewish” involves DOING nothing, it is just an ethnicity.

      Pesele says:

      I do. Two of them. And more to come. Despite Jews like you.

        curlytop says:

        Pesele, is it necessary to make a nasty attack on cub scout mom? The sages taught, derekh eretz kedma l’torah. Respect for fellow human beings comes before the Torah. You disagree with cub scout mom, OK, but why attack meanly? And good luck with your Jewish grandchildren. Fill them up with the beauty of Jewish life.

          Pesele says:

          curlytop,

          My intent was not to personally attack cub scout mom, but rather the argument that she–and many other Jews–use to discount intermarried Jews. I do apologize for being unclear–honestly, it was late and I was being too brief. More fully, my original point was that what mattered most was precisely what csm was concerned about: what one DOES (eating matzo, not chametz; lighting chanukkiot; etc.) is what matters most. I am hardly sanguine about ANY Jew (inmarried, intermarried, or single) assuming “everything will work out.” And frankly, that is part of the reason I was short with csm. She clearly had not read my post, but reacted reflexively to the word “intermarriage.”

          Which, by the way, was hurtful to me. Fact of the matter is that I married my non-Jewish husband over thirty years ago, with his full agreement that we would have a Jewish home and raise Jewish children (he was fine with the Jewish, a little shaky on the “having kids” part). During that time, he has been nothing but supportive of that Jewish home–more so, I might add, than my fully Jewish father is of my Jewish mother. Our children’s first community was synagogue; my daughters’ say that Shabbat is what kept them Jewish. So when csm says “intermarraige is hte downfall of the jewish people. intermarraige should not be accepted if you trully are jewish and believe in judaism” how is that not disrespectful of the hard work (as well as great joy) my husband and I put into actually making sure there were Jewish grandchildren?

          And that was the point of “Despite Jews like you.” More properly, I should have said, “Despite the attitudes of Jews like you.” Both my husband and son-in-law are treated as respected members of the synagogue community. They are not treated as Jews–that is, they wouldn’t lead services, teach, etc.–but everyone assumes that they play a role in both raising Jewish children and sustaining Jewish community. And the funny thing is that those assumptions lead to reality. Further, because Jewish partners and communities can’t assume Jewish knowledge, they teach it–and that benefits Jews who don’t know (and may not know what they don’t know) as well as non-Jews. On the other hand, why would I choose to belong to a community in which I’ll always be seen as not good enough (even when I’m doing more than the inmarried families)? Why do we assume all you need is Jewish blood?

          curlytop says:

          Thank you for the clarification, but your situation is highly unusual. Most intermarried folks are not 1/10th as devoted to “doing Jewish” as you are. The data shows that. You are to be commended for your dedication and even you must admit, having two Jewish partners makes it easier to transmit our treasures.

          Pesele says:

          Well, no, my situation is not highly unusual anymore, although I hear that a lot. And the data (which I know pretty well–I’m a sociologist of American Judaism–so I’m unusual in that way, I suppose) is no longer clear–see Jewish Data Bank information on Boston. Intermarriage rates in synagogues vary, with Reform synagogues up to 50% intermarried. I don’t have time to discuss the complications, but one result is that non-Jews get involved in community life and convert. Another is that some don’t convert (for whatever reason–for example, my husband is simply not religious although he can now recite kiddush with the best of them), but are supportive (some synagogues are calling these people “tzaddikim gerim.”)
          My son-in-law observes that intermarried couples who join synagogues are likely more committed than inmarried couples because they have to have made a conscious choice to do so. My gut feeling is that he’s right–but I haven’t done the research, although it’s on the list.
          And no, I don’t admit that having two Jewish partners makes it easier–see my previous reference to my father (whom I deeply respect and love, just to be clear) who was far less supportive of Judaism than my non-Jewish husband. Let me tell you, when your pre-teen is mouthing off and dissing Judaism and your non-Jewish husband tells her to shut up until she can respect her religion, it makes a deep impression.
          In my observation, the key to raising Jewish children is being intentional: doing Jewish (Hebrew, practice, culture, the whole bit), talking about WHY it matters to do Jewish, and why it matters to continue Judaism into the future. That is my point about pluralism: in a world where our Jewish children have choices (and they ALL do), if we aren’t clear and intentional about our actions, why would they think Judaism matters?

          surfer_dad says:

          I have that EXACT same experience with my brother and I … we were raised very jew-ish but not very Jewish. My parents believed that their Brooklyn based bourgeois “shtetl” background was a replacement for doing real Jewish things (shabbat, kashrut, learning to read Hebrew, etc.) – because they FELT Jewish, it was enough. And maybe it was for them. But growing up in 10% Jewish place like SoFla didn’t impart that same depth to my brother and I and the hypocrisy of being driven to Hebrew school for 3 years to scratch by a bar mitzvah plus Passover, Chanukah and High Holidays didn’t sit Judaism within us.
          The result? I married a Jewish girl on ‘accident’ and my brother is on his second marriage to a non-Jew.

          The epiphany we had though once we had kids was that you don’t get the benefits of being Jewish without actually DOING Jewish. I’ve had the same experience with DOING Shabbat, keeping SOME kashrut standards, teaching my kids to speak Hebrew! – SHOWING them that Judaism can be a strength and a well to drink from to make you a better person.
          My brother sends his kids to Jewish day school, his wife lights candles with their daughter and they frankly have a more MEANINGFUL Jewish home than we did growing up with 2 Jewish parents.

          curlytop says:

          The situation to which I was referring as unusual is not your intermarriage but your intermarriage plus unstinting dedication to Jewish education.

          Haha, your treasures.

          curlytop says:

          The “treasures” of the Jewish people and Jewish life.

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PlatoSocrates says:

Oh dear … where is tolerance? The beauty of Judaism cannot be eclipsed by an interfaith marriage, can it?

    curlytop says:

    The Jewish people is being destroyed by interfaith marriage. The basic issue is whether personal autonomy should trump community values and tradition. I say “no,” which is why we have done everything to show our children the beauty of Jewish life and practice and emphasized the critical importance of marrying another Jew, born or converted, with whom they can share responsibility and joy of a Jewish home. One in which the beauty of Jewish life shines through everything.

This is hilarious but of course very sad.

Benny says:

I do not accept the (sometimes common) wisdom that a marriage to a non-Jew = the decimation of the faith.

I’m a Jew who chose to marry a Jew, we have two kids, so the numbers even out. But my brother chose to marry a non-Jew. She is a remarkable woman who has not converted but decided to raise my niece as a Jew. She is perhaps more dedicated to the faith than is my brother, thus my niece became a Bat Mitzvah, and there are now two Jews in that home whereas some would have cast away my brother for marrying outside the tribe and lost them all.

I think every marriage is different because every relationship is different. Maintaining a Jewish home is important to me, but I wouldn’t automatically disparage someone for intermarrying. It is all about what they are seeking in their home and with their children.

What kind of Jewish home will you have? Well think about it. If you really wanted a Jewish home, wouldn’t you be marrying a Jewish man?

What kind of vegetarian will I be if I eat a steak tonight? What kind of dog lover would I be if I went to dog fights? What kind of women’s rights advocate would I be if, I beat women, or forced them to dress in a certain way, or prevented them from getting an education? Get my point?

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Making a Jewish Home

I’m engaged to a non-Jew. We plan to build a Jewish family, even if it won’t look exactly like the one I grew up in.