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September 11, 1992 - Image 38

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-09-11

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

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Mixed Marriage Problems
Can Never Be Ignored

PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

Editor Emeritus

A

lways under con-
sideration, now more
seriously than ever,
mixed marriage has become
a most serious consideration
in Jewish life. Discourage-
ment of submission has not
been as adamant as facts
demand. Prior consideration
is evidenced in a factual pre-
sentation of numbers by the
American Jewish Com-
mittee, noting that since
1985 more than 50 percent of
American Jews who married
have chosen partners who
were gentile; as of now only
5 percent have converted to
Judaism. Because this is a
serious challenge to all
Jews, the problematic pro-
posals by AJC become more
than mere news. Therefore,
there is the importance of
inviting this consideration
as reported by the Jewish
Telegraphic Agency:

In response to these
dramatic statistics,
AJCommittee has put out a
pamphlet, titled "Ques-
tions Jewish Parents Ask
About Intermarriage," to
address the questions that
often surround the subject.
In their booklet, the
authors encourage in-
marriage and conversion
but also stress continued
outreach to intermarried
individuals for whom con-
version is not possible.
The rabbis also direct
their question-and-answer
pamphlet toward the
parents of children who
intermarry.
"Without clear and con-
vincing answers to these
questions and concerns,
parents will have a difficult
time building a case
against intermarriage."

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There is no disputing the
issues involved. The AJC
proposal indicates, for ex-
ample, the numerous ap-
proaches in the evolving
problems. The ideas outlined
remain disputable. There
may be much that is agoniz-
ing in the AJC survey and,
therefore, the following por-
tion of its challenges must be
considered:

Among the questions
Meir and Winer attempt to
answer are: "Why should
Jews marry Jews?", "Is
there anything parents can
do to discourage inter-
dating?" and "How should

38

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 1992

we approach the subject of
conversion of the non-
Jewish spouse?"
In their conclusion, the
authors stated that "inter-
marriage is not inevitable"
and that "there is much
that caring and concerned
parents can do to move the
odds in their favor.
"We should encourage in-
marriage, conversion, and
sensitive outreach" and en-
courage gentile spouses
"to participate in Jewish
family and communal ac-
tivities."
And finally, Jewish
parents should strengthen
their own commitment to
Judaism and the
Jewishness of their family
life while their children are
young.
"By being models of
positive Jewishness," the
authors wrote, "Jewish
parents can create a
climate in which their
children will naturally
want to be Jews, to marry
Jews, and to have Jewish
children of their own."

From all sides there is the
embittering as well as the
shocking. We can go back as
far as Shakespeare to read a
reference in The Merchant of
Venice: "In converting Jews
. . . we raise the price of
pork."
The factors outlined in the
AJC proposals should de-
mand a knowledge and
awareness of the regulations
which challenge us.
Most important in such
learning is a definition pro-
vided in Jewish Concepts by
Rabbi Philip Birnbaum:

According to a rabbinic
statement, the man who
adopts Judaism to marry a
Jewess, or because of love
or fear of Jews, is not a ge-
uine proselyte. A true
proselyte is like a born Jew
. . . like a new-born infant.
In a letter to a proselyte,
Maimonides writes: "All
who adopt Judaism are
Abraham's disciples. ...
There is absolutely no dif-
ference between you and
us."
There is also a partial
proselyte, referred to as
Ger Toshav (sojourning
proselyte) who has not
adopted Judaism in its en-
tirety, but has agreed to
observe the seven precepts
imposed upon the descen-
dants of Noah: abstinence
from idolatry, murder,
theft, blasphemy, incest,
eating the flesh of a living

animal, and the duty of
promoting justice. He is
regarded as an honest
seeker after truth and,
apart from ritual restric-
tions, he enjoys equal
rights before the courts.
If one sincerely wishes to
adopt Judaism, welcome
and befriend him; do not
repel him" (Yevamoth 47b;
109b; Mekhilta 18:6). "If one
comes to ask for admission
to Israel, he is not received
at once, but is asked: Do
you not know that this na-
tion is downtrodden and
afflicted, subjected to
many ills, liable to varied
penalties for disobedience
to the precepts of the
Torah? ... If he persists, he
takes a ritual bath and sub-
mits to circumcision . ."
(Yevamoth 47a).

An entire library could be
assembled relating to the
question of conversions and
about proselytes. The record
of numbers who have turned
to Judaism from other faiths
contains fascinating ac-
counts.
Students of the subject and
all who are attracted to the
studies of religion can never
avoid acquiring the knowl-_
edge necessary about pro-
selytizing. The recurring
problems stemming from
mixed marriages and the
concerns about proselytes
certainly make the evolving
studies compulsory.
The increasingly develop-
ing concerns about inter-
marriage, those submitting
to it and the resultant
lessons learned from them
place a mark of priority on
the urgency for knowledge
and undertanding of
challenges involved. ❑

C

••■■11 NEWS 1"'"'••1 ■1

Wagner Town
Has New Group

°
Bonn (JTA) — An associ-
ation for Christian-Jewish
cooperation has been estab- c-' -
lished in Bayreuth, the
Bavarian town known for its
yearly festivals dedicated to
the music of Richard
Wagner.
In opening ceremonies for
the new organization, no
mention was made of
Wagner or his music.
The 19th-century com-
poser was known for his ex-
treme anti- Semitic views,
and his works were used by
the Nazis to underscore their
hatred toward Jews.

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