About Me · Family · Religious life

Telling Off a Rabbi

I’ve done this once.

And it wasn’t even a rabbi that I knew well.

Why? Because from the pulpit, he gave a great long speech about the dangers of intermarriage and how that was going to decrease the numbers of Jews.

Really annoyed at hearing this rant against intermarriage as the source of the problem again I decided to say something about it. (One of the reasons why people looked at me with amazement when in college was because they were all brain-washed to believe that all kids of intermarriage were permanantly lost to the tribe!)

Now, this rabbi’s custom was to shake hands with everyone as they left shul after a long and arduous fast. So when it came my turn, I told him, “Thank you for including me in your shul. By the way, I just wanted to let you know that I am from an intermarried couple.”

I think that sufficized to make my point. My hosts were the family of a friend from college and they knew me and they were members of the shul. Obviously, I was not some lost and confused soul who happened upon the shul.

I don’t know if that made a difference in the way the rabbi thought about children of intermarriage.

By the way, this article eloquently articulates a point that I have been making for years: That intermarriage itself is not the source of evil, but rather, that it is the symptom of indifference towards Judaism. I thank the author for writing this and publishing it in a journal. One point I would add though, is that it is good to know that in fact, perhaps because of their backgrounds, children of intermarried couples often engage with Judaism with a lot more fervour than the average two-Jewish-parented Jew when they decide to. And you know what, it’s not so uncommon.

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3 thoughts on “Telling Off a Rabbi

  1. Amen sister.
    Love and kisses.
    Lils, (half-breed-Jew).

    P.S.
    I once told a Rabbi off, but I was not quite so nice as you. I guess it’s the fiery Latina blood that pulses through my veins.
    (ha ha ha)

  2. Hi, I was directed to your blog by a friend’s blog and I want to thank you for this post and for linking to that article.

    I am a full-breed Jew who is intermarrying in two months to a wonderful Catholic man. For me, I actually became more connected to my jewishness after I began dating my soon-to-be husband, probably around the same time I realized I wanted to marry him. Before that I took for granted my jewishness, especially because almost everyone I associated with was Jewish (I’m from the NYC metro area, grew up with mostly Jewish friends, went to a SUNY school upstate with mostly Jews, etc.). Once I realized that cared about who I was and wanted to know everything about me, I began to re-connect with what I had rejected and thought unneccessay all my life.

    I think it’s important for an interfaith couple to be able to inform their children about ALL the components of their background, and be able to answer questions about religion and history. It would be easy for a fully Jewish couple to slack in that area, becoming complacent about what it means to be Jewish and transferring that to their children.

    I am trying hard to learn more about myself and my jewishness, and convey that to my fiancee. Luckily for me, he is amenable to that, and even encouraging. I hope I can convey a sense of Jewish pride to my future children, and answer their inevitable questions about tradition, faith, and culture.

    It’s helpful to know that you, as a child of an interfaith couple, feels so strongly about Judaism and about your role in it…enough to tell off a rabbi! Thanks for the read.

  3. Hi Alli,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I need to make a few clarifications: One is that I don’t come from an interfaith family. It might be useful if you read these posts on clarifying that: https://jewpanese.wordpress.com/2007/03/06/a-jew-by-choice/
    https://jewpanese.wordpress.com/2007/03/06/just-how-jewish-are-you-the-common-questions/
    https://jewpanese.wordpress.com/2007/06/19/didn%E2%80%99t-your-non-jewish-parent-have-problems-with-your-being-raised-jewish/

    I come from a bi-cultural (Japanese and American-Jewish) and bi-national (Japanese and American) family, but that is a whole other thing than being an American interfaith (usually Jewish and Christian) family. I wrote an extensive research paper on Jewish and non-Jewish interfaith couples when I was in high school and one of the best books in thinking through the question was Rachel and Paul Cowan’s “Mixed Blessings.” I think it’s still in print although it might be a little out-dated by now. The conclusion that I drew from having written that paper was that you can’t really have a successful interfaith family even if you make that your top priority. It takes incredible amounts of energy and more often than not the kids end up getting watered-down versions of both sides. Whatever each of you decide to do individually, it’s better to raise kids with one religious affiliation–religion today is not like language, and getting to know one religion is hard enough.

    Another point is that I was reacting to the “intermarriage” comment made by the rabbi, which is only refering to Jews marrying non-Jews. I think that in the US many people wrongly assume that “intermarriage” means the same thing as “interfaith marriage.” It’s not.

    I am happy that you are finding a way to reconnect with your Judaism. I hope that your journey continues and yields something productive for you. If you haven’t taken a pre-marriage class for interfaith couples yet, you might want to look into that.

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