Real, Not Ideal


I wish life was perfect.

I think we can all agree on that! For example, I wish I were size 2, a lottery winner and that all the world’s Celtics lottery tickettroubles were solved. But life is not perfect.

In the November 28 edition of the Jewish Advocate, Rebbetzin Korff, the wife of the the Rebbe of Zvhil-Mezhbizh and a descendent of the Baal Shem Tov, the 18th century founder of the Hasidic movement, responded to a question in her column ,“Why is Judaism concerned when a Jewish woman marries a non-Jewish man?”

Rebbetzin Korff does a wonderful job of explaining how complicated it can be to raise a Jewishly observant child when one parent is not Jewish. (A sentiment many of our readers can agree with.) Remarkably, in the end, Rebbetzin Korff does concede that is possible to raise a well-educated, Jewishly-oriented and responsible observant child when one parent is not Jewish. She then stresses it is not a Torah ideal.

One could hardly read Rebbetzin Korff’s column as a ringing endorsement of interfaith marriage, nor even a lukewarm one, but I hope she does agree with’s mission of encouraging families to make Jewish choices. Like Rebbetzin Korff, I agree that interfaith marriages are not always perfect. For that matter, nor are many marriages between Jews. Life is not ideal. After all, I am still not a size 2 or a lottery winner. Based on my morning check on Google News, there is still a lot of trouble in the world.

Every day interfaith families are engaging in Jewish life and we are all enriched by the richness interfaith families bring to the Jewish community. After work today, I am going to the gym and will be buying a lottery ticket.

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3 thoughts on “Real, Not Ideal”

  • People tend to assume that families with a non-Jewish parent must be less Jewishly observant than families with two Jewish parents. It bothers me that not everyone is careful enough to say “most” or “usually” instead of “all” when talking about intermarried families. I am heartened that an Orthodox rebbetzin would even admit that it is possible to raise a Jewishly observant child when one parent is not Jewish. As a non-Jewish parent myself, I would even agree with her that my family’s situation is not a “Torah ideal”, but we have made the best of it and have not done too badly either, I think.

    Even though I am not Jewish, I have always wanted my children to be Jewish, and I have worked hard to do my part in creating a Jewish family life with my husband. My family is not “Torah-observant” by Orthodox standards since we drive on Shabbat to attend services at our primary minyan (although we also walk to a more local minyan about once a month), and we turn lights on/off and answer the phone on Shabbat. However, we are observant by normative Conservative standards which makes us more observant than a majority of Conservative households, and much more so than all the Reform households that we know. We observe Shabbat and all the Jewish holidays (for which my kids miss several days of school each semester) and keep a strictly kosher home (although admittedly we only started keeping completely separate dishes and cookware recently). When my children attended the Hebrew school of a Conservative synagogue, they were surprised by how little their classmates knew about Jewish ritual. I have worked particularly hard to raise Jewishly knowledgeable children because we chose to send our children to public school rather than Jewish day school like 95% of the children of either of the two minyanim that we attend. These days since instead of Hebrew school we have two private tutors for my 11 year old son (one for Hebrew and Judaic studies, one for trope and tefillah), I spend several hours a week sitting in on the tutoring as well as going over material with my son on other days. Although my husband helps my son practice prayers that I do not know well, I do a majority of the work with him. After attending shul for 24 years and spending a summer attending an Ulpan in Israel in a class of new Olim, I do know enough to help him. This means that I have even learned Torah trope, although I cannot use it until I complete the conversion process which I am finally working on with a Conservative rabbi.

    Bringing up Jewishly observant children requires commitment on the part of parents. And parents may have that commitment, or not, regardless of whether or not they are Jewish.

    Incidentally, before I had kids, and then again for about a year after I had health problems requiring two surgeries, I was a size 2! In fact, being that thin is an annoyance because it is so difficult to find clothes that size.

  • I think it works much better when both parties agree about how to raise the children. My father was not Jewish but my parents made the decision to raise us Jewish. Since religion is almost by definition a matter of accepting certain absolutes (although Judaism does invite questioning), I don’t know how children could truly be raised with more than one religion.

  • Robin-

    you’re right. it’s not ideal, but it is possible to grow up Jewish when one of your parents isn’t. i have some friends who come from families where only one of their parents is Jewish. they may not be living Torah-observant lives (just as i’m not, and both my parents are Jewish), but they identify as Jewish and have attachments to Jewish life and culture. they have been B’nai Mitzvah’ed, attended Hebrew school, celebrate holidays, and some have even been to Israel. some are more observant than others, but obviously everyone is different.

    the plain and simple fact is this is reality and no marriage is perfect, regardless of whether or not both individuals share the same faith. we can’t expect people to be perfect at everything they do. that includes getting married and raising kids.

    with all that said, i’m also going to buy a lotto ticket after work.

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