More Attitude About Intermarriage


I’m pleased to tell you that Shalom TV has made available an edited video of my GA session, Can We Encourage In-marriage and Welcome Interfaith Families? It’s even on the front page of the Shalom TV site! The video is 44 minutes long, and it may take a while to download. (If your cable provider carries Shalom TV, you can watch the program on On Demand, until January 2.)

I’ve previously blogged about how I felt about the session, and now I would be very interested in hearing from anyone who watches the video. Did I successfully convey in my presentation that every Jewish community could extend explicit welcoming messages to interfaith families, and offer relatively low cost programs and services that will attract and engage interfaith families in Jewish life and community? Do you agree with my observation that it seemed that Steven M. Cohen expressed his default position that intermarriage is “bad bad bad?” Did my message come across that Jews and Jewish leaders should stop talking about intermarriage as bad; we should promote Jewish experiences not as preventing intermarriage but as building identity and desire to have Jewish families; and we should encourage young adults to choose partners who will support their Jewish engagement – whether or not the partner is a Jew.

Coincidentally, Julie Wiener had a great article this week in a special section on singles in the New York Jewish Week: A Secret Love No More. She interviewed a number of people – including’s own Board member from Atlanta, Rebecca Hoelting – and recounts her own experiences, about whether or not there is growing acceptance of interdating. It’s definitely worth reading. Most interesting to me was Julie’s conclusion, which seems consistent with my main point at the GA session:

Whereas ending up with a Jewish partner, regardless of his or her level of observance or commitment, used to be non-negotiable for those who wanted to live a Jewish life, the new priority increasingly seems to be finding someone, Jewish or not, who is supportive of one’s Jewish pursuits.

If you do watch the GA video, please let us know what you think.

About Ed Case

Ed Case is Founder of InterfaithFamily and works at IFF Headquarters in Newton, MA.

One thought on “More Attitude About Intermarriage”

  • Hi Ed – I think you did successfully convey the message. The first woman in the audience who spoke expressed how I feel about this topic, which is — why are we still talking about this? The very premise of the conversation is offensive (though of course I’m glad that you were a part of the conversation to advocate for inclusivity). I don’t know if most Jewish leaders understand how it feels to be on the other side of a conversation like this, as an audience member or watching the video online, and to hear your personal choices discussed in statistical terms, to hear Steve Cohen use a term as hideous as “market share” to describe the number of Jewish adults in Reform congregations. That type of language is dehumanizing, and unfortunately, it makes these conversations appear circus-like. As someone who has had intensive Jewish education from birth through college, I can state boldly that I loved my Jewish education and I can’t stand Jewish insularity. So I’m an active, engaged, and educated Jew, and I’m also in an interfaith relationship. And the aspects of being in an interfaith relationship that have been most challenging were not internal conflicts in the relationship, but feeling bullied and deeply turned off by the Jewish community’s messages of exclusivity (I was also interviewed in Julie’s article cited above). I think the Jewish leadership does need reminding that people like myself exist — that after years and years of Jewish education I feel deeply connected with and committed to Judaism, but I don’t believe that intermarriage is wrong or dangerous or bad. What is dangerous is that people like me feel judged by the Jewish community and turned off — even after years of engagement. It takes enormous personal commitment to stay Jewish when so many Jewish leaders patronize your choices.

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