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April 13, 1990 - Image 66

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-04-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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66

FRIDAY, APRIL 13, 1990

Exercise
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WERE FIGHTING FOR
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Eradicate With Eradico

Looking Again
At Intermarriage

American Heart t
Association

hat if every parent
and grandparent
said kaddish for
every child and grandchild
who married a non-Jew? And
what if each of them lit a can-
dle to mourn their loss? The
landscape of America would
be dotted with burning lights.
More and more over the
past 20 years, intermarriage
has become an ever-present
reality in contemporary
Jewish life. There now seems
to be a relative in every fami-
ly who has married a
non-Jew.
What else could be ex-
pected? Jews now move free-
ly in an open society; work-
ing, playing, living, going to
school with their gentile
neighbors. Jews have non-
Jewish friends; they par-
ticipate in almost every
aspect of American life with
non-Jews. The context of the
American landscape has
changed in such a way that
non-Jews more openly accept
Jews as marriage partners
and vice-versa. The stigma on
both sides is not what it was
a generation ago. In the con-
temporary melting pot, the
home has become a
microcosm for the cultural,
religious and ethnic pat-
chwork that makes up
America.
The hope that Jewish edu-
cation will provide some in-
noculation against intermar-
riage has proved to be a vain
one. Nearly all Jewish boys
and girls receive some Jewish
education. Indeed, more Jews
of the third and fourth
generation have some formal
Jewish education than did
previous generations. Of
course, this is not to say that
contemporary Jews know
more about Judaism or feel
more about Judaism. It only
reflects the fact that more of
them have formal Jewish
education. This does not
mean that Jews know more in
terms of
yiddishkeit,
knowledge of Jewish history
and rituals, a sense of belong-
ing or active participation or
understanding of tzedakah.
There is much evidence to the
contrary. Jews seem to know
less and feel less about being
Jewish with each generation.
No amount of Jewish educa-
tion can serve as some in-

Gary A. Tobin is director of
the Cohen Center for Modern
Jewish Studies at Brandeis
University.

sulating blanket against
meeting and falling in love
with a non-Jewish partner.
Intermarriage now seems in-
evitable to some degree or
another. The critical ques-
tion, of course, is to what
degree? The traditional ways
of dealing with intermarriage
do not work today. Convinc-
ing a child that they should
not marry a non-Jew is
almost hopeless in the face of
their meeting someone that
they love. The twin coercion
methods of guilt or disap-
pointment cannot prevent in-
termarriage. Such tactics
may succeed in alienating
children, or even more likely,
pushing away their non-
Jewish spouses from the
Jewish community. Coercion
is a destructive and un-
workable path.
At the same time the aban-
donment of concern or the
failure to set standards is also
a negative route. Suggesting

The hope that
Jewish education
will provide some
innoculation
against
intermarriage has
proved to be a vain
one.

that we must be open and ac-
cepting with no qualifications
gives the message that
nobody cares at all: intermar-
riage doesn't matter.
Somewhere between guilt
and disappointment on the
one hand and indifference
and resignation on the other
are a set of activities,,
strategies and hopes for deal-
ing with intermarriage.
The most obvious strategy
is making Judaism some-
thing that children, young
adults, and adults want to do
as opposed to something that
they think they ought to do.
Children especially will not
respond to their religion and
culture in a positive way on-
ly to please their parents.
Children cannot be expected
to adhere to some unknow-
able, unpalatable, or un-
fathomable set of traditions.
Judaism must instead pro-
vide a moral and ethical
framework for Jews that is
differentiated from Chris-
tianity, Buddhism, Scien-
tology, or aerobics. Teaching a
course in comparative
Continued on Page 68

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