Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

Looking at Intermarriage

Posted on | August 23, 2007 | By Eliahu Levenson | 226 Comments

Devarim 7:7 – “Not because you were more numerous than any people did God find satisfaction in you and choose you, for you were the fewest of all the peoples.”

Throughout history we have ALWAYS been in the competition for “fewest of all the peoples.”

And yet…

“The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew: all other forces pass, but he remains. WHAT IS THE SECRET OF HIS IMMORTALITY?”

~ Mark Twain, “Concerning The Jews”

The secret Mark Twain is looking for is not such a big secret. The secret is Hashem. It is Hashem’s mechanism for preserving His people. The secret is hard to see only until the secret is revealed. From then on it’s easy to see.

The Jews COULD BE as populous in the world as the Christians or the Muslims… IF our ranks had not been continuously thinned out and held in check by the rest of the world. We Jews have been subject to non-stop hatred and persecution. We have been tortured, and we have been murdered, and it has been neverending though history. That is half of the explanation to why we are few, the physical attacks against ourselves. It doesn’t tell us why we Jews still exist however.

Spiritual attacks are the other half of why we are few. Those attacks come in a variety of forms; forbidding Torah study, davening, Rosh Chodesh, Yom Tov, bris milah, tefillin, and so forth. All this reinforces our paucity, but still doesn’t tell us how we survived as a people.

Spiritual attacks today are not coming in forbidding adherence to Jewish law so much as something else, something far more insideous and more difficult to understand; enticements toward intermarriage and assimilation. These are the “nice” attacks, the “sweet” attacks, the “sugared-coated poison” attacks.

To keep this piece from going too long I will focus the rest of this narrative on intermarriage.

God forbids intermarriage. Nechemya (Nehemiah) 10:30-31 – “…observe and fulfill all the commandments of God, our Lord, and His laws and His decrees, and that we would not give our daughters (in marriage) to the peoples of the land (non-Jews), nor take their daughters for our sons…”

The prohibition against intermarriage is clear, yet intermarriage is now rampant within our ranks. A look at some statistics will be most helpful. For discussion purposes, I will use the “National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) Of Year 2000.” You can view the charts here.

The intermarriage rates stand at around 50% for reform and non-affilliated, around 32% for conservative, and around 6% for orthodox Jewry. At this rate we are looking at the death throes of the Reform and Conservative Movements right now. A generation or two more and they will be gone…poof!

To forstall the inevitable, drastic measures have been taken and more are on the way in order to hang on for dear…(cough) life. For example, the Reform rewrote God in their own image when they decided that patrilineal descent can also keep the children Jewish.

God demonstrates this fallacy in Ezra, Chapter 10, Verses 2-3 – “…We (Jews) have trespassed against our God, and have taken “nashim nachrios” (non-Jewish women)…Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all such women and all that are born to them…and let it be done according to the Torah.”

Jewish men must leave their non-Jewish wives. No “gett” (Jewish divorce decree) is required because God does not recognize Jewish intermarriage. AND, because the women were not Jewish, meaning the children were also NOT JEWISH, the children are being left behind as well. If you think that is harsh, understand that God expects His Jewish Covenant to be adhered to in every respect. God says it is life and death…”CHOOSE LIFE!” (Devarim 30:19)

If it was Jewish WOMEN who were married to non-Jewish MEN, the children would not have been left behind, because, being from Jewish mothers, the children would also have been Jewish.

Likewise, one of the examples of the Conservatives rewriting God in their own image happened when they VOTED that driving on Shabbos was now allowed…so long as they only drove to shul.

God is very clear about being rewritten. Many of the Taryag Mitzvos are dedicated to these kinds of infractions. This subject should be studied in depth from Devarim, Chapter 13. It isn’t pretty.

What is now clearly happening is that the current, less than 200 year old emanation of the Reform and Conservative Movements, are unraveling and on the road to extinction. As in the past, observant Jewry will repopulate the nation, only to begin the self-perpetuating cycle of Jewish collapse and renewal once again. We wait for Moshiach to straighten everything out once and for all, and this time…forever.

Judaism is like a tree with lots of dead end branches. It is our job as Jews to stay on the trunk and not get pushed off onto one of the dead end branches, or a leaf that goes brown and blows away. We need to be on the tree’s trunk, and that is where we want our progeny to be as the final act in God’s play unfolds.

Meanwhile, what is the attraction of intermarriage? Why do so many of us fall to its allure? I am going to throw some additional numbers at you and then make some points.

Jews are 1/4 of 1% of the world’s population. That is, for every Jew there are 400 non-Jews. To better understand what this means, I am going to focus on America, which entertains the world’s largest Jewish population. Still and all, Jews are outnumbered in America by around 50 to 1.

For many of those “50,” CATCHING a Jew is an prize of extreme value. The Jew is sought after for his mystique. He is vaunted for his intellect. They think the Jew is wealthy, and sometimes he is. The Jew is treasured in THEIR minds because he is the one who was chosen by God. Acquiring a Jewish mate for many of the 50 is as good to them as it is to a child acquiring his first bicycle.

Most of these 50 don’t have a clue that for the Jew marriage to them is a sin before God, and that if they help the Jew commit this sin they have earned a share in this very major transgression. For many of them they see only the opposite. If they can bring a the Jew even an inch closer to THEIR OWN beliefs, they are doing that Jew the biggest favor of his life, and they will be blessed by the Lord. They don’t view themselves as villains creating the means for sin. In their eyes, they are heroes, even saints.

Let’s say that 20% of those 50 would actually make the attempt to snare the Jew if they had the opportunity. Of that 20%, let’s say half at some point find themselves in close enough proximity to a Jew to have a shot at enticing him (or her). For every single Jewish man or woman out there, that means there may be 5 or more non-Jewish men or women after YOUR potential mate.

Think about this 5-1. Who are these 5? Look at it from the point of view of the girls: What is a Jewish woman competing with? These 5 non-Jews are ready to give YOUR guy whatever wants, whatever he is looking for. If he wants SEX, two or more of them will be glad to give it to him. If he wants intellect, one of more of them will have an ample supply. If he wants sweetness and charm, one or more will be there to oblige. If he wants gorgeous, a runway model, one or more will be close enough. Whatever he wants…it’s there, and they are YOUR competition for YOUR potential guy.

What are you going to do about it ladies? Are you going to give him sex because it’s the only way you think you can compete with your nemesis? Is it any wonder that Jewish tznius (modesty) and self worth have plummeted in recent times?

Why do these non-Jews have any capability of competing with you? It should be no contest. They have NOTHING to offer. YOU have everything. The problem is, too many of us have forgotten that we are Jews. To many of us no longer know how Jews are supposed to live. Too many of us have lost the meaning of being Jewish and the importance of our heritage.

This is why reform is intermarrying at 50%, conservative at 32%, and orthodox at 6%. When we stay with what God tells us, we stay Jewish. When we don’t, we get swallowed up like Yonah. It is because we are chosen and because we are the smallest of the peoples, that the today’s world is so divided on what to do with us: Kill us, or love us to death.

Comments

226 Responses to “Looking at Intermarriage”

  1. robbins
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 6:50 am

    Although you point out what the goyim are doing to further intermarriage, you don’t mention what outreach organizations are doing to counter it. Or maybe you do, because my experience has been that they do almost nothing. And if you check out my blog, or the comments to http://www.aish.com/dating/wisdom/Season_of_Isolation.asp, I think you’ll see a lot of folks agree.

  2. Jaded Topaz
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 9:03 am

    Are you suggesting that the answer to competing against the competition for the future fabulous husband is material modesty ? Are pious outlooks and dim demure musings included in that idealistic concoction of esoteric solutions and faithbased ideologies.
    Quite the super subtle husband catcher technique.
    Did you want help marketing and branding this novel and brilliant “husband catcher” secret.

    You also seem to be forgetting about the overwhelming minority of individuals that are not getting younger. Limiting options is not always a good thing.
    And living alone should never be an option.

    So modesty is definitely not the answer to winning your future husband.
    And preaching “option limits” to soul mate seekers would probally be just as effective in promoting and facilitating good marriages as those costly bottled magic potions for attraction found often in alternative ènergy boutiques.

    So your saying marriage/happiness should not really be a priority. And as long as one is existing miserably within the confines of halacha everything else is all fine and dandy.

    What about those pious men going out to war that were allowed to marry whomever their pious hearts so desired.
    Seems like a fun contradiction in the brewing. Keep in mind it was the pious of the pious that went out to war catching maidens.

  3. Bob Miller
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 9:25 am

    With or without an encounter with formal outreach organizations, we have a basic obligation to use our heads, and are responsible when we don’t, even if we can offer some excuses.

    If we want to be considered as loyal Jews, we need to take the time to investigate what that means and then do our best to act the part—on HaShem’s terms and not our own. But desire has a way of overcoming logic. In today’s Western world, desire and its satisfaction are viewed as the be-all and end-all. Our Job One may be to separate as best we can, at least emotionally, from our host society, whether that is easy or fun to do or not.

    If you, Robbins, know what the outreach workers should be doing to succeed, please tell us.

  4. Ron Coleman
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 9:45 am

    You have not addressed the attractions of assimilation, which no matter how many capital letters you use are considerable. Besides this and religious indifference – a big besides – there are cultural and psychological reasons Jews intermarry. You can deduce them by observation of what sort of women Jewish men, in particular, marry, for starters. It may not be appropriate to publish these observations, but I would suggest that, as familiarity with Jewish American popular culture makes clear, exile has caused many serious distortions in our social fabric that enlightened and intelligent young people can hardly be expected to embrace.

    But can someone explain the supposed six percent Orthodox intermarriage figure? Naturally once someone marries out he or she is not orthodox.

  5. robbins
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 10:00 am

    Bob, while separating yourselves from the host society might be best for your individual spirituality, I fail to see how it will much help your fellow Jews. Before completely giving up on my local Aish branch, my friends and I suggested holiday themed ideas such as apple picking for Rosh haShanna, only to be told that out ideas were too “Chabad-like,” whatever that means. The Jewish calendar seems replete with outreach opportunities, from the Sukkah soirees that will soon become possible, to Purim costume parties. Heck, during a slow month you could even set up an “Ask the Rabbi” booth in areas frequented by Jews.

    I don’t know which of these things, if any, are halachically permissable, but my point is that that’s not my job. We have outreach rabbi’s who are supposed to come up with ideas and then implement them, but in my experience, I’d be one of a few people attending classes with no women in sight, and then the Rabbi’s would express shock that we were dating shiksas. Well, in an area where Jews are 2% of the population, without any help from outreach rabbi’s, and where three speeddating events are currently planned for the planet, cf http://www.speeddating.com/, if left to our own devices odds are 1 in 50 we’ll find a Jewish girl.

  6. I'mJewish
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 10:21 am

    They may not be Orthodox, but are they still Jewish? Does it matter if the person marrying out is male or female (in which case the female’s children are still Jewish by halacha)?

  7. Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 10:25 am

    This reads like a conspiracy theory… Jews are intermarrying because Non-Jews are desperate for Jewish spouses? Please.

    Ron Coleman:

    there is such a thing as ‘non-observant Orthodox’. it was much more common in the early-to-mid-20th-century in America before much of that population migrated to the Conservative movement. Orthodoxy is a matter of belief; just because someone believes in something, or associates with the community that believes in that thing, doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily going to uphold all of the rules and implications of that belief. people who are Orthodox violate halakha all the time.

  8. I'mJewish
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 10:26 am

    “Most of these 50 don’t have a clue that for the Jew marriage to them is a sin before God, and that if they help the Jew commit this sin they have earned a share in this very major transgression. For many of them they see only the opposite. If they can bring a the Jew even an inch closer to THEIR OWN beliefs, they are doing that Jew the biggest favor of his life, and they will be blessed by the Lord. They don’t view themselves as villains creating the means for sin. In their eyes, they are heroes, even saints.”

    I think you way, way, way overstate the desire for committed Christians to convert Jews by MARRYING them. The vast majority of committed Christians in this country would no sooner marry a Jew than the vast majority of committed Jews in this country would marry a Christian. The ones who are forming the intermarriages are people who are nominally Christian only, insofar as they put up a tree for Christmas and dye eggs and give candy at Easter, but don’t really have any religiosity beyond a vague belief in God. They’re not interested in converting the Jews they marry because they don’t believe in much themselves; they just fell in love with them, that’s all.

    I don’t doubt there are a lot of fundamental evangelical Christians who make it their life’s work to convert Jews. They aren’t trying to MARRY them, though.

  9. Ron Coleman
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 10:53 am

    Steg, I know there’s such a thing in theory. I guess in practice, too — since no person is without sin. But marrying out is a very effective way to cut yourself off from frum society. If you mean by “Orthodoxy is a matter of belief” that we “believe” someone when they describe themselves as Orthodox notwithstanding actions that are entirely inconsistent with that description, maybe I can follow you. In that case, however, the number of Reform and Conservative intermarriages may fall significantly — because many of those Jews “believe” their spouses are, due to non-orthodox conversions, Jews.

  10. Bob Miller
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 11:10 am

    Let’s resolve to use the proper meanings of words. Intermarried normally means not Orthodox whatsoever, regardless of the Jewish spouse’s mind games.

    The exception might be if the intermarriage occurred before the Jewish spouse truly decided to become Orthodox. In the transition period before the non-Jewish spouse either becomes a ger tzedek or is divorced, it might be possible to speak loosely of this Jewish spouse as Orthodox.

    The archaic concept of “Orthodox” as meaning a member or attendee of an Orthodox shul, regardless of that person’s characteristic beliefs or lifestyle, was false then and is false now. Likewise, dressing up as Orthodox doesn’t cut it if the thoughts and actions typically contradict the costume.

  11. JT
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 11:24 am

    This post is a joke, right?
    Anything that contains the phrase “snare the jew” must either come from Borat, or from the type of thing Borat would make easy fun of….

  12. Mark
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 11:31 am

    Where exactly are we getting the term Orthodox – not from the Torah. The Gemorra and commentaries talk about different levels of observance and there are halachic definitions of who is considered Shomer Shabbos, etc.

    No where does it say that to be considered Shomer Shabbos, a person never commits aveiros. In fact the Torah assumes just the opposite, that every Jew commits many aveiros over the year hence the need for Teshuva and Yom Kippur.

    Of course not all aveiros are equal in the eyes of the Torah, in fact there are four levels:
    1) Not doing a Positive Mitzva,
    2) Violating a Negative Commandment
    3) Violating a Commandment Punishable by Korais
    4) Chillul Hashem.

    The terms Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, etc are modern inventions and the usage of these terms confuses rather than clarifies.

    The point of this comment was not to say that intermarriage isn’t a horrible thing, but to try and move us away from the confusion caused by the term Orthodox as opposed to Shomer Shabbos and other Torah consistent terms.

  13. Bob Miller
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 11:32 am

    My last sentence above was my Elul surprise; I think I agree with JT on this point!

  14. Charnie
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 11:33 am

    IMO I’mJewish (#7) explains this situation most accurately. I work with many non-Jews, and of the 10 or so people here raised in the parochial school system, 9 are, l’havdil “off the derech”, only one regularly attends church and observes the various aspects of her faith. To the others, it’s gift exchanging for Xmas, ham on Easter. Which is to say that just as to many Jews, being Jewish means bagels, lox and gefilte fish and perhaps a Seder and/or a Bar-Bat Mitzvah with a lot of bar and a speck of Mitzvah, there are many, many more non-Jews who have the same level of non-observance. They are the ones intermarrying.

    My mother explained the situation to me in her own way, “the shiksas like marrying Jewish men because they don’t drink as much, cheat on their wives as often, and are less likely to beat their wives”.

  15. Charnie
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 11:36 am

    Firstly, in the comment above, I was referring to comment #8.

    The worst part about the term “Orthodox” is that it was bestowed upon us by the conservative movement as a way to differentiate themselves from us. Little did they know what a dividing term that would end up being – MO, Charedi, Chassidic, etc. Personally, I prefer Shomer Shabbos as a beginning point. But that’s getting off track.

  16. Bob Miller
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 11:39 am

    Better tell the OU that “Orthodox” has no meaning!

    This is a synonym for the more accurate “Torah-True” that followers of Rav SR Hirsch ZT”L, for example, have used.

    It doesn’t rule out Jews who sin (namely, everybody on some level or other); it rules out Jews who habitually and intentionally sin in one or more critical areas.

  17. Bob Miller
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 11:46 am

    By the way, my comment Bob Miller
    August 23rd, 2007 11:32 above uses JT to mean the famous Jaded Topaz, not the “JT” of August 23rd, 2007 11:24

    Ron Coleman can consider any trademark issues regarding the latter.

  18. Mark
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 11:49 am

    The OU was formed when the term Orthodox had more relevance and meant among other things that you were not Conservative or Reform, terms that also have little meaning today. I’m not sure the term serves them so well today in all their activities.

    I think we need to be more inclusive, where possible, if we want to help people return to their Torah roots. The term Orthodox, and our judging who merits that name, is counter productive in my opinion.

  19. Bob Miller
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 12:05 pm

    Mark, do you mean that “Orthodox” is too vague or not vague enough?

  20. Mark
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 12:28 pm

    Neither, it’s both undefined and multi-defined with a lot of negative baggage attached to it.

    This thread is not the first time where we’ve seen, “So and so is not Orthodox because of behavior… ” It rarely leads to a meaningful discussion or a positive result.

    Unfortunately in the past few years I have seen people say all too often, “I don’t consider myself Orthodox anymore” even if they were still Shomer Shabbos.

  21. MG
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 12:29 pm

    For an example of the mentality of an inter-married ‘orthodox’ Jew, read Noah Feldman’s recent editorial in the New York Times entitled ‘Orthodox Paradox’.

    I’m surprised (given this forum) that the numbers cited here don’t account for teshuva and conversion trends. Does anyone know how these trends affect the models?

  22. Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 12:56 pm

    Charnie:

    the term “orthodox” was invented by the early reform movement

  23. Ron Coleman
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 1:02 pm

    The side discussion on the meaning of orthodox is really a distraction from the issue. Notwithstanding the very rare cases of baalei teshuva with non-Jewish, pre-teshuvah marriages, orthodox Jews as we all understand the term do not marry non-Jews.

    I fail to see what makes Noah Feldman “orthodox.”

  24. Mark
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 1:28 pm

    Ron, People who you might not consider Orthodox, but are Shomer Shabbos and keep kosher go away to college and meet a non-Jew and eventually marry them. They still consider themself Orthodox, although you don’t, and therefore we have a (statistical) case of an Orthodox Jew marrying a non-Jew.

  25. Charnie
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 1:31 pm

    That the NY Slimes ordained him as such?

  26. Steve Brizel
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 2:45 pm

    How anyone can consider Noah Feldman as Orthodox or Torah observant by any reasonable definition, as opposed to one posited by those who indulge in stereotypes and urban mythology, boggles my mind. I don’t consider him any more representative of MO anymore than five Charedi teens who were busted for drug possession in the Catskills

    Like it or not, we live in a world where hashkafic distinctions matter-even and especially among Torah observant Jews-on many issues. I think that we are deluding ourselves in thinking that the term “Torah observant” can paper over such differences and especially the need for mutual appreciation of the positives within the MO and Charedi worlds.

  27. Bob Miller
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 3:12 pm

    Imagine you buy a can labeled “green beans” (a heimish brand with a good hashgacha, of course).

    Only when you open it, you see wax beans or pineapple.

    If the producer then told you they were really green beans, or that wax beans are really the same as green beans, or that pineapple, after all, has the beracha “hoadama” and can’t just be rejected, how would you respond?

    What if he told you that “green beans” had no Jewish definition anyway and were unknown to our ancestors in the old country until some time or other in the past?

  28. Mark
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 3:53 pm

    Bob, We’re talking from a Torah perspective here right? When you buy something there are halachic standards as to whether you got what you bought, so the name is relevant.

    When you label a person for no halachic reason you are more often than not doing damage to both yourself and the person.

    When a Jew marries a non Jew it is bad thing for the person and for Klal Yisroel. Whether we label the intermarrying Jew as Orthodox or not does not really shed much light on the situation.

    What is interesting to note is that at some point in his life Noah Feldman was observant. Should we consider the possibility that we are to some small degree collectively responsible for his move to non-observance.

    Nah. It’s easier and more fun to attribute it to his taivas and get back to the our wonderful name calling, sterotyping, box defining games that we’re so good at. Ok, lets line up all the LWMO over there and all the RWMO over there and the LWUO and RWUO over there. And you, over there your not RWUO your LWUO because you read the Seven Habits. Whatever.

  29. Ron Coleman
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 3:57 pm

    Bob’s point is the point, Mark. They can “consider themselves” all they want. So can people who desecrate Shabbos or eat treif.

    This has nothing to do with “MO vs. Charedi.”

    I regret the entire diversion. I had a lot more to say in my comment that I think was of value to this discussion: In short, I believe many, many Jews who intermarriage are running away from being Jewish, and in particular, from Jews. I think our job as observant, and relatively well-informed Jews, is to reverse that inclination by making being Jewish a culturally positive thing.

    It’s a tall order, because part of the problem is what “Jewish people” are like to each other. I blame galus, but it is what it is. I love the Jewish people, and I love Jewish people — I mean it, I get a kick out of us — but I have no trouble seeing why someone might prefer something different from our transplanted version of Eastern European sensibilities in interpersonal relationships (how’s that for a euphemism?) in a spouse.

  30. Mark
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 4:09 pm

    Actually Ron, I think the labeling and it’s related judgmentalism is a big part of the problem. People want connection and as long as we box them by our incessant categorizing, we are inhibiting connection and giving them motivation to look elsewhere. MO vs Charedi is just another symptom of this bigger problem. Ask Aish or others involved with Kiruv, being judged is one of the top reasons people refrain from moving closer towards Torah observance.

  31. Steve Brizel
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 4:23 pm

    Mark-WADR, you are missing the issue re Noaf Feldman. I think that despite his education, he never fully successfully integrated Torah and secular studies. OTOH, there are many prominent Talmidie Chachamim today who went to schools that were coed, etc. That is an undeniable fact. Blaming his community of origin for his failure IMO makes as little sense as blaming another community of origin for the arrest of Torah observant teens on drug charges or for someone selling Treife meat as Glatt Kosher.Like it or not, we may belong to a community, but we all have to take responsibility for our actions and choices in life. Blaming the community is IMO a convenient excuse, but does not address the core issue of why someone would act in that manner.

  32. Ron Coleman
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 4:32 pm

    Mark, that may be. I think that’s mostly an excuse for avoiding commitment, but I could be wrong. Irrelevant to this thread, though.

  33. Mark
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 4:36 pm

    Steve, I agree that ultimately the individual assumes the brunt of the responsibility. But people we both know and respect have been saying that part of the problem is correcting the communal structures and I agree with them.

    Can’t we accept just a little little piece of the responsibility when people choose to leave our community. As a friend, if I could assume the piece of the responsibility your abdicating, I would, but I really believe that we all need to be a part of the solution.

  34. Mark
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 4:44 pm

    Ron, you’re wearing me down, but I’ll state one last time (or possibly next to last time) that I think our communal responsibility to create more accepting environments (within limits of course) is a part of this problem. Clearly your mileage varies, but declaring it irrelevant seems a little out of bounds.

  35. Steve Brizel
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 4:52 pm

    Mark-I think that the key is recogizing that family/parenting, education and community are the keys to dealing with the issue of why someone leaves-regardless of the circumstances.I agree that course changes need to be made, but not of the sort where one throws out the proverbial baby with the bathwater or uses such cases as points of contention in “proving” the hashkafic legitimacy of one hashkafa at the expense of another. Let me put in starkly realistic terms-Yes, those communities, educators, parents and students who view the Ivy League as some sort of meal ticket need to do some due diligence on whether that is an appropriate milieu for their son or daughter’s educations-even after a year or two in Israel. OTOH,many parents who view Kollel as some sort of success also should engage in the same sort of process and ask whether that derech is the proper one as well, IMO,due diligence requires a proper unity among family, educators and communities to allow a real process of due diligence to occurr, as opposed to a process where one does what one does to keep up with the Jones. My bottom line is very simple-It is grossly oversimplistic to assume that one educational model fits all. IOW, neither Lakewood, YU nor the Ivies or any point in between are proper fits for everyone.Some people develope their Avodas HaShem better in different locales and atmospheres. It would be presumputous at best and poor parenting, chinuch and communal thinking to conclude otherwise.

  36. Mark
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 5:05 pm

    Steve, we’re in agreement here that the changes to community needed are a broader acceptance of different Torah centered paths within and across communities. This implies not judging those who have taken one of those different Torah centered paths.

  37. Jaded Topaz
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 5:12 pm

    Mark, you’re sooo right about stuff.

    Steve and Ron, as communities deteriorate and disintegrate into a perpetual state of disconnect, there is less of an incentive to stay connected if at all. Especially when judgy Judaism is the most popular flavor of Judaism these days. And when one falls in love with someone from another faith its so easy to get married and never look back. Why on earth would there even be self second guessing involved. What exactly are they leaving behind ? Judgy schools , judgier communities ? That all gets filed in that circular file labeled “good riddance”.
    Everyone craves connection community and somewhere to belong. And if that happiness is found elsewhere there really is nothing to second guess that happiness.

  38. Steve Brizel
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 5:26 pm

    Mark-No dissagreement here. Remember the last Jewish Action issue with the articles by R Wein and R Shafran? I suggested in an email to R Shafran that one sign of tolerance in a person is the breadth of his or her library. I remain convinced that depth, profundity and real knowledge in Torah, especially on issues not connected with halacha, depends on exposing oneself to multiple POVs within our Mesorah.

  39. Ron Coleman
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 5:43 pm

    Jaded, looking from the inside of a cracked vase, I would imagine everything else looks cracked, too. “Falling in love” is simply a an emotional response to a situation that a person chooses to place himself in. I don’t know why you believe no one can “second guess” another person’s choices. They may be none of his business; the second guesses can be wrong; but people will judge (you do it constantly, quite ironically, as you judge the “judgy Judaism” that no longer fits your lifestyle) and express their opinions. In fact,far from “happiness” being the sole province of the person who claims to be experiencing it — and without even remotely acknowledging your premise that one’s duties in life are in any way discharged by the achievement of “happiness” — that person may very well be the most biased and least honest about his own state of happiness in the whole world (see, e.g., drug addiction). As to judging, Jaded, there will be judging within a “faith community” where the person in question has publicly departed from that community’s bright-line standards, and where that community must, for the sake of its own survival, reckon with the actions of those who cross those lines.

    Some axioms I believe we should be able to agree on, in no particular order:

    * The Torah requires us to judge actions.
    * The Torah _usually_ warns us against judging people, and certainly when doing so is for no reason.
    * The Torah _sometimes_ requires us to judge people by their actions for many legitimate reasons.
    * The vast majority of us (let’s say all of us) have no idea of what a given person’s World to Come may or may not look like.
    * Everyone has free will.
    * Some actions are forbidden by the Torah, period.
    * Intermarriage is forbidden by the Torah, period.
    * Everyone is a product of his time, place, upbringing and appetites.

    * Communicating absolute standards, based on the Torah, on absolute issues (such as intermarriage) is not an act of judging any individual’s personal merit.

    Now, some that are perhaps less amenable to universal agreement:
    * Declining to express absolute standards, based on the Torah, on absolute issues (such as intermarriage), is not a mitzvah.
    * Affirmatively communicating absolute standards, based on the Torah, on absolute issues (such as intermarriage), is a mitzvah.
    * Some situations where a Jew falls short of what the Torah demands require delicacy and indirect, rather than direct, guidance, encouragement or assistant.
    * Some situations require that a bright line be drawn about the unacceptability of behavior that is forbidden by the Torah.

    There. That settles everything, doesn’t it?

  40. Ron Coleman
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 5:52 pm

    Steve, your view would be that the Satmar Rav, for example, lacked “depth, profundity and real knowledge in Torah”? Because I can promise you, he was no intellectual dilettante.

    I agree with the thrust of what you are saying — I am not a Satmar chosid, and hardly deprive myself of secular influences! — but I think you have way overstated it.

  41. joshua sachs
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 5:54 pm

    I find this article to be particularly disturbing. I am a BT who intermarried long before I had any interest in Judaism or Torah. To actually propose that people who have been married for years should leave their spouses is preposterous- it’s impossible from an emotional standpoint, and it is an incredibly hurtful thing to have to tell someone that has been such a major part of your life that you can’t love them or be with them anymore because you found religion. Mr. Levenson- I suspect you have never been in this situation or have actually dealt with someone who has. If you have, I’d love to know how you dealt with it yourself or helped someone else to process this.

  42. Steve Brizel
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 6:14 pm

    Ron -not at all-Even if one disagreed with the “Satmar shita” on EY, one would simply be very mistaken in disregarding the views of the Satmar Rav ZTL in Halacha, etc. I would maintain that anyone who wants to consider himself or herself completelty educated on the issue should be familiar with the RZ and Satmar shitos on EY. In fact, when the RIETS Kollel was learning Hilcos Mikvaos a number of years ago, some of the Chavrei HaKollel visited the Satmar Rav ZTL ( the Satmar Rav ZTL who was recently niftar) to discuss the well known views of the Divei Yoel in Hilcos Mikvaos.

  43. I'mJewish
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 6:57 pm

    “To actually propose that people who have been married for years should leave their spouses is preposterous- it’s impossible from an emotional standpoint, and it is an incredibly hurtful thing to have to tell someone that has been such a major part of your life that you can’t love them or be with them anymore because you found religion.”

    More to the point, it’s just an incredibly stupid piece of advice. Do you really think someone’s going to say, “Ah yes, that’s a good idea” and divorce their non-Jewish spouse? If anything, saying something like that drives them further away from Judaism.

    Sometimes there’s just an incredible lack of common sense.

  44. Eliahu Levenson
    August 23rd, 2007 @ 7:33 pm

    Shalom Joshua,

    Please click on my name to come to my website. From there find my name on a post to bring up my profile and e-mail me through the profile.

    From there we can have a private conversation.

    Best regards, Eliahu

  45. Fern
    August 24th, 2007 @ 12:42 am

    For many of those “50,” CATCHING a Jew is an prize of extreme value. The Jew is sought after for his mystique. He is vaunted for his intellect. They think the Jew is wealthy, and sometimes he is. The Jew is treasured in THEIR minds because he is the one who was chosen by God. Acquiring a Jewish mate for many of the 50 is as good to them as it is to a child acquiring his first bicycle.

    I seriously doubt this is true, and I speak as the product of intermarriage. Have you spent much time around non-Jews? Because I have (considering that half my family is not Jewish and I was educated in public schools and non-Jewish universities) and I have never met any non-Jew who was interested in “snaring” a Jew for a spouse as if doing so was some sort of special treat.

    We have only ourselves to blame for the intermarriage problem. Abandonment of Torah and assimilation are the cause of intermarriage, not some far-fetched conspiracy theory.

  46. Ora
    August 24th, 2007 @ 1:17 am

    I’mJewish (#43)–

    The “incredibly stupid piece of advice” that you’re talking about comes from Tanach. Eliahu pointed out that Ezra told Jewish men to leave their non-Jewish wives and he (Eliahu, that is) is correct–that’s what Ezra said. In my understanding, Eliahu is not saying that we all need to start telling intermarried couples to break up. That’s not a very productive thing to do. And Eliahu did not say it’s a productive thing to do, so I don’t think your “lack of common sense” remark was called for.

    joshua (#41)–

    Again, Eliahu is accurately quoting Ezra, not giving you advice for your specific situation. I’ve known several intermarried couples where the Jewish partner became interested in keeping mitzvot. In some cases they divorced, and in some the non-Jew converted.

  47. Ora
    August 24th, 2007 @ 1:29 am

    I really don’t believe that “catching” a Jew is of supreme value for non-Jews. Maybe because I’m looking at this from a woman’s perspective, and IMO Jewish women tend to be less sought-after than non-Jewish women if anything. Also, in my experience it’s Jewish men who look to marry out, and not the non-Jewish women who look for a Jewish man. I’ve heard male Jewish aquiantances specifically say they want to marry an Asian woman, while none of my female Asian friends have expressed interest in marrying davka a Jewish man.

    OTOH, I’m on a brief vacation in America, and I was surprised to suddenly notice a constant message of intermarriage being acceptable in the media. Not any intermarriage (muslim-catholic, catholic-hindu, etc), but davka marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew. I’ve seen four movies here (too many, I know), an action movie, a cartoon, a kids movie, and a comedy. With the exception of the kids movie, all featured a Jewish/non-Jewish couple, even though the religion made absolutely no difference to any of the three plots. TV is also full of Jewish non-Jewish interdating and intermarriage, again even when religion is completely irrelavant to the plot (ex. friends, seinfeld, etc). Maybe the writers/directors are Jewish and assimilated and subconsciously want to send the intermarriage message? I have no idea. But it certainly seems WAY out of proportion to the % of Jews in the population, and to the % of intermarried couples (given that many if not most Jews still marry other Jews).

  48. Kinneret
    August 24th, 2007 @ 2:18 am

    It is because we are chosen and because we are the smallest of the peoples, that the today’s world is so divided on what to do with us: Kill us, or love us to death.

    I think this is an extremely ugly sentiment, and the assertion that Gentiles (women in particular) marry Jews in order to convert them is completely absurd. Gentile women are NOT the “nemesis” of Jewish women, and this sort of needlessly divisive hyperbole, IMO, contributes to a vicious cycle of prejudice and bigotry.

    It is possible, easy, in fact, to object to intermarriage without needlessly insulting Gentiles. Since intermarriage is such a complicated emotional issue, would it not be best to approach it with some modicum of diplomacy, sympathy and compassion?

  49. Bob Miller
    August 24th, 2007 @ 8:25 am

    A primary cause of interdating, inter-living-together and intermarriage is this:

    We have a vast system of coed colleges and universities where both the Jewish and non-Jewish students did not enter bringing in any particular commitment to their own religion. Since religion is a matter of indifference to them, they live the American dream in their own way. Parents mostly don’t object anymore, and many parents may even be intermarried themselves, so these students feel no societal pressure at all to socialize within their nominal religion.

    This is not some new thing; I could see it already in the mid-1960′s.

    Now, there is increasing antisemitism on many campuses because of leftists, radical Muslims, etc., among the student body and faculty. This could someday reach the point where Jewishly uncommitted students keep to themselves not on principle but because of ostracism. On the other hand, quite a few Jews on campus have cast their lot with the enemy. Go figure.

  50. I'mJewish
    August 24th, 2007 @ 8:31 am

    “For many of those “50,” CATCHING a Jew is an prize of extreme value. The Jew is sought after for his mystique. He is vaunted for his intellect. They think the Jew is wealthy, and sometimes he is. The Jew is treasured in THEIR minds because he is the one who was chosen by God. Acquiring a Jewish mate for many of the 50 is as good to them as it is to a child acquiring his first bicycle.”

    There’s no “mystique” in Jews to your average well-to-do and educated Gentile, who has encountered them since birth in education, the workplace and in social settings. And the ones who are intermarrying with them are just as well-to-do and just as intelligent as the Jews that they are marrying. Because they are meeting them in common grounds, such as excellent secular universities. It is supremely laughable to think that the ones who are intermarrying even think of Jews as being “specially chosen by God.” It’s non-observant Jews and non-observant Christians who merely have cultural ties to their respective faiths – bagels, lox, gefilte fish, and matzoh for a week in the spring on one hand; candy canes, Santa and ham on Easter on the other.
    On a board of BT’s, I would have expected a better grasp of the reality of intermarriage. As the poster above says, it’s easy to object to intermarriage without needlessly insulting Gentiles. And it’s easy to talk about intermarriage without completely misrepresenting the motives of those who do it.

  51. I'mJewish
    August 24th, 2007 @ 8:34 am

    “OTOH, I’m on a brief vacation in America, and I was surprised to suddenly notice a constant message of intermarriage being acceptable in the media. Not any intermarriage (muslim-catholic, catholic-hindu, etc), but davka marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew.”

    That’s because there are a heck of a lot of intermarriages in the US where, once the cultural aspects are worked out (Hannukah with your parents this year and Christmas with my parents next year), the intermarriage doesn’t really bother the parties all that much. It may bother us as Torah-observant Jews, but certainly we can see how secular society isn’t going to be particularly bothered by it as long as the people aren’t. Indeed, it would be odd if the media did suddenly portray it as a horrible thing.

  52. David Linn
    August 24th, 2007 @ 8:36 am

    While I tend to agree that the non-Jewish female population is not “setting it’s sights” on the Jewish male, I haven’t traveled in that world (single, young professionals) for some time. There are two things that I have heard/seen that lead me to believe that this type of targeting certainly exists, though. The first one is the good friend who was dating a non-Jew and found a book in her apartment titled something like “The Gentile Women’s Guide to Snagging a Jewish Husband”. The second was on the streets of Manhattan where I saw a 20 something Asian woman wearing a t-shirt that said Shiksa in a hebrew looking english font. Now these incidents are clearly anecdotal but if someone is going to the expense and effort to print books and t-shirts perhaps there is more of this going around then we might think. I don’t know but it’s possible.

    I once had a friend who was married to a non-Jew. Partially as a result of this relationship, he became estranged from the little Jewish connection he previously had. As we grew closer and he started showing real interest in yiddishkeit, I spoke with a Rov who spoke with a very well known Rosh Yeshiva (most of you would know the RY if I mentioned the name)who advised that if my friend had what appeared to be a decent marriage (he did) and especially since he had kids, we should make the effort to engage his wife and see if she would be willing to learn and hopefully come to love yiddishkeit and convert. This is also just an individual situation but it points out that there is another angle of approach.

  53. Albany Jew
    August 24th, 2007 @ 8:53 am

    Intermarriage is obviously the greatest threat to the survival of Judaism and Jews today (that could change if Iran get the bomb, Chas VeShalom) Having said that, this piece is not that helpful. We need to look inward and not outward to place blame.

    C’mon people, we are all (most?) BTs here! What was it that brought you back? For me it was mainly the JOY of Judiasm. Most yet to be observant Jews think of Judaism as a series of restrictions (See JT here) and bothers which they don’t want. Why bother marrying Jewish then? Christians have all of the joy of their holidays with no rules! We need to instill in our children the responsibility of being Jewish, but more important the JOY. That is what they take with them. (By the way, going to Hebrew school three times a week while my friend played ball was no joy). If preserving the Jewish life and perpetuating it is important enough we WILL marry Jewish. We need to spread the messsage to our brethren.

  54. Albany Jew
    August 24th, 2007 @ 9:05 am

    David,

    Are you sure that that book is not a (bad) joke? There was an episode of “Maude” once where (now I am dating myself) where Maude went over the advantages to a Jewish husband (her daughter married a Jew). I think that kind of thought as humor has existed for awhile. I’m not sure it is really an organized popular strategy though.

  55. I'mJewish
    August 24th, 2007 @ 9:11 am

    “The first one is the good friend who was dating a non-Jew and found a book in her apartment titled something like “The Gentile Women’s Guide to Snagging a Jewish Husband”. The second was on the streets of Manhattan where I saw a 20 something Asian women wearing a t-shirt that said Shiksa in a hebrew looking english font.”

    These books are meant to be ironic and funny jokes, not serious manuals for life. The Preppy Handbook that was so popular 20 years ago was not proof of people targeting WASPs for marriage. As for the T-shirt, that’s really not that unusual among hip urban New Yorkers. See Jewcy.com and Jewlicious.com for examples.

  56. Charnie
    August 24th, 2007 @ 9:42 am

    The main difference between the participants on this blog and all the intermarried Jews we’re discussing is a key one – to a person who is Torah Observant (and please, no further meanderings about MO etc), is that Judaism, aka Yiddishkeit, is a centrifugal force in our lives. We’re thinking about our lives through our “frum” eyes from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep. With davening, brachos, and all our various acts based upon avoiding loshon hora, acts of kindness, modesty, and so on, throughout the day.

    OTOH, for many of us, and certainly nebich, for the majority of our Jewish brethren, being Jewish is just something they were born as, with maybe a minimal amount of meaningless “customs” during the course of the year.

    Therefore, to counteract the industry that exists today of “rabbis who perform intermarriage”, whose links Google has placed even upon frum websites as paid advertisements, we must reach out, figuratively and literally. It is only when one gets close to Torah that they will put “finding a Jewish spouse” as a relevant factor in their lives.

    Does this mean we can chastise the young people who can’t see what’s wrong with intermarriage? Of course not, that won’t stop the tide. But if we try to show them what being Jewish really means, there may be hope.

    In my experience, what turns off a lot of Jewish people from frumkeit isn’t the divisions within, most people don’t even realize they exist till they’re already involved. What does is the perception, in some cases unfortunately, true, that “religious Jews are pulling schtick in their business practices”. Too many times the media has gloated about it when a religious (at least in appearance) Jew has done something illegal in their business dealings. Just recently a close, non-religious friend pointed out something her Orthodox boss did, that to be honest, wasn’t too proper. Do you really think actions such as this will encourage her to want her college aged son to “date in”?

  57. Zahava Pasternak
    August 24th, 2007 @ 9:50 am

    Great post here. However, I find it hard to believe that Orthodox Jews would be included in this survey. Afterall, Orthodox is religious and I have never heard of a religious Yid marrying a nonJew. How can this be?

  58. David Linn
    August 24th, 2007 @ 10:49 am

    I’m Jewish,

    You may be right about the book but from the way it was presented to me, this was an actual guide and not some tongue in cheek satire.

    As to the fact that the t-shirts are not that unusual, does that support the point or detract from it?

  59. I'mJewish
    August 24th, 2007 @ 11:30 am

    David, with all due respect, it’s a bit naive to think that any guides to marrying a Jewish husband are anything but humor, as Albany Jew states. There is no systematic campaign among Gentiles to marry Jews, just perhaps jokes about how Jewish husbands are less demanding, less prone to drinking, and spoil their wives. And their frame of reference is secular Jews anyway – the secular, “nice Jewish doctors and lawyers” for whom Yiddishkeit is indeed bagels, lox and maybe showing up in temple for those holidays in September that they vaguely remember their grandfathers talking about.

    I think many of the BT’s on here seem to have completely forgotten that to most Americans, “Jews” are secular Jews, who participate next to them in education, the workforce and social life. Not Orthodox Jews with their own unique customs and lifestyle.

  60. Bob Miller
    August 24th, 2007 @ 11:43 am

    About “less prone to drinking”:

    We’ve been so intolerant of Jews who drink themselves silly in “kiddush clubs”, on sacred occasions, and the like. Maybe they are only trying to make themselves unattractive to non-Jews.

  61. Ron Coleman
    August 24th, 2007 @ 11:53 am

    Charnie, thanks for being the only person here picking up on that issue: There are aspects of Jewish society that young Jews want nothing to do with. This transcends kiruv.

  62. Charnie
    August 24th, 2007 @ 11:57 am

    Bob – off topic, sorry. I’mJewish, we seem to be on the same wave length, reiterating each other.

  63. Mordechai Y. Scher
    August 24th, 2007 @ 11:58 am

    “joshua sachs
    August 23rd, 2007 17:54
    41

    I find this article to be particularly disturbing. I am a BT who intermarried long before I had any interest in Judaism or Torah. To actually propose that people who have been married for years should leave their spouses is preposterous- it’s impossible from an emotional standpoint, and it is an incredibly hurtful thing to have to tell someone that has been such a major part of your life that you can’t love them or be with them anymore because you found religion. Mr. Levenson- I suspect you have never been in this situation or have actually dealt with someone who has. If you have, I’d love to know how you dealt with it yourself or helped someone else to process this. ”

    So, am I the only one who sympathizes/is disturbed by Johsua’s dilemna? All the other discussion here is tangential compared to his situation. It is a dilemna shared by many others, and one that is truly part of the continuum of the American Jewish situation – a continuum that includes posts we’ve seen here from BT/convert children of a non-Jewish mothers, of BTs with a non-observant spouse, etc.

    Ein bayit asher ein sham meit. There is no family unaffected today.

    Personally, Joshua (if you’re still out there), I really feel for you. There is no simple or easy answer to your challenge. To simply point to the demand made by Ezra on the returnees from Babylon is simplistic and absurd. I was just last night looking at a response written by Rav Eliyahu Guttmacher (the Graditch Gaon) on a similar situation. He tortures himself looking at all the angles, and that was a simpler case where the non-Jewish spouse apparently was willing to convert. That, btw, was in the early of mid 1800s in eastern Europe! Things are much worse and rampant today; but there is nothing new under the sun.

    Even here in our little community we have a father with two grown children who had to convert; a HS boy who is becoming increasingly devoted to Torah but is not halachicly Jewish; a gentleman who doesn’t come to shul because he won’t drive on Shabbat, keeps a ‘kosher’ kitchen, davens three times a day – and is married to a non-Jew, and others.

    Hang in there Joshua. Pray for clarity and patience, be sure to show your wife every respect and consideration (after all, this dilemna isn’t her fault!; despite what some seemed to have ridiculously thought here…). Find yourself a good rav who is obviously kind and patient and who you can sit with face to face and visit together with your wife. This dilemna isn’t the sort that will be easily solved through internet correspondence; though I do hope you will find lots of encouragement and moral support here, and closer to home.

    Let us know how we can help.

    May Hashem bless us all with a longing for Him and His Torah this year…

    Shanah Tovah!

    mordechai
    Kol Beramah/Santa Fe Torah Learning Co-op

  64. Jaded Topaz
    August 24th, 2007 @ 12:02 pm

    Bob Miller #17 , quite the Elul suprise, so now its zinnia’s and religious costumes.”famous jaded topaz” lol, Elul life is full of suprises and suprise word combinations.
    In order to avoid of likelihood of confusion concerns though, you might have to avoid initialing, until I get my sense of self, confusion proof.

    JT (comment #11) – fine choice of initials there, and an even more thought out sense of resilient/rust free /resolute like cynical humor.So just as an aside, what sort of personality disorder do you think Borat is doing a poor job displaying. I would think its probally one of those literal autism spectrum disconnects.And a sprinkling of other social disorders.
    Why would you compare those harsh incomprehensible directives from esoteric sources to the type of banter Borat would have interpreted and entertained audiences with using his literal interpretation for humor.
    Wouldnt you say that Elihau, however overzealous/over the top/no words to describe really…… has a deep emotional understanding and connection to the message he’s trying to convey.Hes not depending on a too literal interpretation for entertaining purposes, so Borat is the wrong movie character simile to reference.

    Ron Coleman #39, judging judiciously through that lawyer looking glass, you’ve unfortunately mistaken that multifaceted/unrefined /jaggedly jaded topaz flower holder sparkling with iridescent existential experience , for a simple cracked glass vase.You need to brush up on those name that jaded rock skills.

    Past spiritual infractions now function as fully faceted refractions of existential experience and iridescent insights and are generally used to infer with and or refrain from having fractured-ism as a constant refrain and running theme.

    Let me attempt to lantern enlighten the way for the already brilliant yet seemingly judgily inclined lawyer that writes with an iridescent halo of pure and unadulterated erudition and only the faintest whiff of condescending, with the perfect slogan.
    This slogan is perfect for lawyers that place themselves in front of mere mortal judges very often and intentionally ! for a livelihood, and may not always remember this versatile weather resistant “respect for all catcher” good for all seasons :

    “Do not judge your friend until you’ve stood in his personal space”

    Being that emotional processing systems differ from end user to user the judging you speak so highly of would be especially difficult if not impossible.

    When I mentioned second guessing, I meant it in the sense of person in love with a lover from another faith not having any reason to second guess his/her personal marriage leap to another faith .

    And happiness is not exactly hopping around looking for clients. One has to search for that elusive emotion.
    Sometimes when one changes spaces or communities/faiths/pespectives their luck changes with them.

    Anway that simple stirring dont judge slogan can be strung and slung around the soul like a string of colored christmas lights and can be worn all year long,rechargeable batteries included.

  65. Eliahu Levenson
    August 24th, 2007 @ 12:06 pm

    Shalom David,

    You may be talking about, “The Shiksa’s Guide To Jewish Men.”

    It’s out of print now but still available here: http://www.gettextbooks.com/search/?isbn=B000SNMA9S

    Good Shabbos, Eliahu

  66. Eliahu Levenson
    August 24th, 2007 @ 12:11 pm

    Shalom Zahava,

    I have the same objection. In fact, I have a number of questions about that poll. However, I wanted to use a recognized poll, and not have this thread sidetracked by people accusing me of making up statistics.

    This one served my purpose since it is no secret that half the reformers are intermarrying, and the conservatives are creeping up ever closer to them.

    Good Shabbos, Eliahu

  67. Bob Miller
    August 24th, 2007 @ 12:12 pm

    Imagine the flak Ezra took in his time. The people he was addressing with his edict were not exactly nobodies; many were in the elite.

    Are we or our situation so fundamentally different as to require a more nuanced response, or do our leaders simply have too little clout to invoke strong measures effectively?

  68. I'mJewish
    August 24th, 2007 @ 12:14 pm

    It’s a JOKE, Eliahu. It’s along the lines of the Preppy Handbook or the JAP Handbook from 20 years ago.

    Have we BT’s lost our sense of humor so much that we can’t even recognize what’s intended as humor (whether or not we personally find it funny)?

  69. I'mJewish
    August 24th, 2007 @ 12:17 pm

    Bob, our leaders (as in leaders among the Orthodox) are meaningless to secular Jews. So their pronouncements are about as irrelevant as the pope’s pronouncements. There are no strong measures for them to invoke with secular, intermarrying Jews because those Jews aren’t yoked to Judaism in any way other than cultural ties.
    You have to get them to Yiddishkeit first and then they will realize the importance of marrying out. Telling them it’s a bad idea has no face validity when it’s not a bad idea to them, they suffer no apparent harm, and it’s acceptable / accepted in society today.

    If anything, the very fact that it’s not that big of a deal for a typical Gentile to welcome a Jew into their family via intermarriage indicates that most people out there aren’t anti-Semitic. True anti-Semitics of the David Duke variety would not be so sanguine.

  70. Bob Miller
    August 24th, 2007 @ 12:22 pm

    See my comment of August 24th, 2007 08:25
    (#49) above.

  71. I'mJewish
    August 24th, 2007 @ 12:35 pm

    I think it would be most appropriate to refer to Reform Jews as Reform Jews instead of reformers. They don’t describe themselves that way, and while we may have disagreements with their brand of Judaism, it is inappropriate to come up with new names for them.

  72. Eliahu Levenson
    August 24th, 2007 @ 12:35 pm

    I’m Jewish,

    “If anything, the very fact that it’s not that big of a deal for a typical Gentile to welcome a Jew into their family via intermarriage indicates that most people out there aren’t anti-Semitic…”

    It is the opposite. This IS anti-semitism. Read carefully Devarim (Deuteronomy) 13:8-11.

    There are mean anti-semites, and there are lovely and wonderful anti-semites. There are anti-semites who know they are anti-semites, and there are anti-semites who think they are benefitting the Jews, and don’t have a clue that it is the opposite.

    Jews are attacked physically by mean anti-semites, and Jews are attacked spiritually by both mean and wonderful anti-semites.

    There are also all kinds of Jewish anti-semites.

    Sometimes I think people have no idea what anti-semitism means? It’s all about God’s Jewish Covenant.

    Good Shabbos

  73. Eliahu Levenson
    August 24th, 2007 @ 12:38 pm

    “I think it would be most appropriate to refer to Reform Jews as Reform Jews instead of reformers.”

    Oh, I like reformers.

    Try to understand what it is you are doing, it might save your life someday.

    Eliahu

  74. David Linn
    August 24th, 2007 @ 12:41 pm

    I found this snippet from a review of the book:

    “It’s basically a humor book (we’ll get to that), but the core premise—we heart Jewish men, warts and all—is not winking or sarcastic; it’s entirely serious.”

    So maybe we’re all right!!

    Mordechai,

    You are so right. Joshua, how have you dealt with such a difficult situation?

  75. I'mJewish
    August 24th, 2007 @ 12:56 pm

    “There are mean anti-semites, and there are lovely and wonderful anti-semites. There are anti-semites who know they are anti-semites, and there are anti-semites who think they are benefitting the Jews, and don’t have a clue that it is the opposite.”

    So here’s nice Mrs. O’Brien, whose secular son married a secular Jewish woman, and who was well-meaning enough to welcome this woman into their family without disowning them the way it would have been done years ago, shows sensitivity about not giving presents wrapped in red and green, goes out of her way not to serve ham at family gatherings, attends her grandchildren’s Hanukah program at the temple preschool, is pleasant to her son’s in-laws and makes them feel welcomed, tries to learn a little about all those holidays with the funny names, and if an anti-Semitic slur was made in her presence, would tell the person off in no uncertain terms … I don’t think it’s productive or helpful to term her anti-Semitic just because she didn’t tear her hair out and rend her clothing when her son married a Jew. But, feel free to lump her in with David Duke, I suppose. Good Shabbos, everyone.

  76. Jaded Topaz
    August 24th, 2007 @ 1:05 pm

    Eliahu,
    So are you just goin to list a bunch of outrageous suggestions and directives without reasonable emotional understanding based backup ?
    And offend many in unison in the process ? You might want to shed some light on your piercing points before they start hurting end readers.
    I’m assuming you have some sort of deep emotional/intuitive understanding of the incomprehensible concepts/directives your suggesting.
    For starters, the fact that pious men were able to marry anyone their heart desired when out playing at war sort of messes with some of those harsh suggestions.
    And suggests those directives are not as crystal clear and direct as portrayed.
    Or is coated with contradiction a given within the torah context.
    Just compare gemarah segments of sotah to ethics of the fathers principles.
    Its really fun.

  77. Bob Miller
    August 24th, 2007 @ 1:06 pm

    We’re spending too much time on the non-Jew’s motivation. That’s irrelevant here. The practical problem would be the same whatever their motives were.

  78. Jack
    August 24th, 2007 @ 2:09 pm

    This is just ridiculous.

  79. Eliahu Levenson
    August 24th, 2007 @ 2:26 pm

    Shalom Jaded,

    “For starters, the fact that pious men were able to marry anyone their heart desired when out playing at war sort of messes with some of those harsh suggestions.”

    Hashem recognizes all situations and the reality of warfare is one of them. The Jew must “cool off.” The woman has her hair and nails cut, and mourns for her family for 30 days. Then…if she has the desire she converts. No conversion, no marriage. And there are many more details surrounding this very rare situation.

    Good Shabbos, Eliahu

  80. Bob Miller
    August 24th, 2007 @ 2:39 pm

    This recent article makes some good points about intermarriage today”

    http://www.jewishpress.com/print.do/23417/Reflections_On_The_Feldman_Affair.html

  81. Ora
    August 24th, 2007 @ 3:03 pm

    I’mJewish (#51)–
    There are only, what, 5 million Jews in the US out of over 300 million people? And of those Jews, how many have married out? Maybe around 50% in this generation, less in previous generations. So the number of Jewish/non-Jewish marriages is not nearly high enough to warrant the media attention it gets. Especially given that, as I said, other forms of intermarriage get very little coverage, no matter how prevalent they are.

  82. DK
    August 24th, 2007 @ 3:06 pm

    Eliahu Levenson, I don’t know who you are, but this is one of the most paranoid essays I have ever read.

    Why not move to the West Bank and become a far-right settler? Over time, you will have opportunity to beat and perhaps kill gentiles.

    You’ll be able to show them.

  83. anonagirl
    August 24th, 2007 @ 3:06 pm

    Jaded Topaz, you don’t pull your punches! And thank you :)

    Purely anecdotal here, but I know any number of what you would call secular Jews (but I would call unaffiliated, perhaps Conservative) who *will not* marry someone non-Jewish (and they are aware of the relevant halacha). The women especially are finding this very difficult, and as the biological clock ticks, they are often letting go of that ideal.

    So are Jewish women at that much of a disadvantage? It seems that most of those who “marry out” in my circles are the men. What is “wrong with” Jewish women that neither Jewish nor non-Jewish men will consider them?

  84. Leah Levenson
    August 24th, 2007 @ 3:10 pm

    Shalom all,

    I’ve had a great many friends who are not Jewish in my time, and I have yet to have ONE that didn’t harbour some level of anti-Semitic feeling, either out of ignorance or just plain unacknowledged anti-Semitism:

    1. One nice Italian friend of mine who married a Palestinian xian woman suggested to me one day that all Jews should move to the island of Malta.

    2. One good friend got so sick of hearing about the Holocaust, he said, “When are you Jews going to get off that old Holocaust Hobby Horse?”

    3. One internet acquaintance was intermarried to “Maury,” and had a terrible relationship with her in-laws. She posted a number of times how much she hated them and “Couldn’t wait for her father-in-law to die to get her hands on their Jew money.” She was a convert. She used to boast about her boob job and botox and her blonde hair, and how she loved all the attention she got from the Jew boys at the JCC because of her flashy shicksa looks. She couldn’t understand why her in-laws stopped talking to her when she insisted on an xmas tree.

    4. One very sweet landlady I had who gave me a break on the rent if I babysat for her when I was a naive 20 year old away from home for the first time. She explained in our “negotiations” that she was not trying to “Jew me down” on the rent.

    5. Virtually every xian I know who just LOVES Israel and G-d’s Chosen People, “The Apple of His Eye” are just salivating over the coming end times and the rapture — upon which, in their theology, we all become xian when the J* guy returns.

    6. My friend’s parents made sure they provided me with bagels and cream cheese when I visited her family home, and then told me all about their Jewish doctor. You think that made me feel all cozy and safe inside? They were trying to make me feel comfortable. They just succeeded in making me feel different from them.

    7. One former boyfriend told me Jews never did anything for themselves and always hired people to do the work for them because they didn’t know how. My father was the handiest man going. It was such an insult to his memory.

    8. All of my conservative friends hate how the Jews dominate the democrative party. All of my liberal friends can’t understand how conservative Jews side with the Christian right. Each group respectively hates Jews of the opposite political stripe.

    If you all think that even the sweetest nicest non-Jew out there doesn’t harbour some prejudice or preconceived idea of what Jews are, you are naive.

    I have a dear internet friend who comes from three generations of Shabbos Goyim, and you couldn’t find a more accepting, knowledgable and loving friend to Jews. BUT, talk to her about what liberal Jews think is kosher (abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage) and what observant Jews think is kosher (none of the aforementioned) and you will have a problem.

    As a lifelong secular Jew before I became BT, I’ve always had non-Jewish friends, but I never was at any time not made to feel Jewish. In retrospect, that is a *good* thing.

    Remember what Hashem tells us in Vayikra 20:26: “And you (the Jews) shall remain holy unto me, for I, G-d, am holy and I have separated you from the nations to be mine.”

    Intermarriage, without the wholehearted acceptance of the mitzvos and authentic halachic conversion by the non-Jewish partner, is against Jewish law. Think how hard it would be to make teshuvah with a non-Jewish partner and non-Jewish children.

    Who really wins in an intermarriage? Not G-d’s chosen, otherwise we wouldn’t be having discussions about why there is so much intermarriage and how so many people do not have even a basic understanding of Jewish observance.

    Intermarriage on a bigger level is spiritual killer for klal Ysroel.

    If you would like to read a fascinating book, guaranteed to make you weep and despair, try this one: “Stars of David, Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish.” (Abigail Pogrebin, Broadway Books 2005). It contains dozens of interviews and first-person narratives from people like Woody Allen, William Shatner, Alan Dershowitz, Natalie Portman, Nora Ephron, Dr. Laura Shlessinger, etc., all talking about what it means to be Jewish (or formerly Jewish, Jewish and back again to formerly Jewish for Dr. Laura).

    Almost for each and every one of them, being Jewish means absolutely nothing at all.

    And it is a microcosmic snapshot of the real state of secular Jewry. We can blame intermarriage as one of the chief reasons why. You have to consider the generations down the road, each one’s connection to Torah becoming more diluted and distant until it is non-existent.

    Good Shabbos,

    LeahL

  85. I'mJewish
    August 24th, 2007 @ 3:28 pm

    Bottom line.
    Does being intolerant and nasty about intermarriage keep the intermarried Jews and their Jewish friends / relatives in the fold?
    You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, as the saying goes.

  86. Leah Levenson
    August 24th, 2007 @ 3:30 pm

    I’m Jewish,

    I respectfully disagree. If that were the case, we wouldn’t be losing so many to assimilation and intermarriage and the end of the road for many Jews in terms of their Jewishness.

    There comes a time when you have to get tough.

    LeahL

  87. DK
    August 24th, 2007 @ 3:37 pm

    Eliahu Levenson wrote,

    ““If anything, the very fact that it’s not that big of a deal for a typical Gentile to welcome a Jew into their family via intermarriage indicates that most people out there aren’t anti-Semitic…”

    It is the opposite. This IS anti-semitism. Read carefully Devarim (Deuteronomy) 13:8-11.”

    No. It says no such thing. This is a weirdo fundamentalist interpretation.

    Eliahu needs to apologize to the husbands and wives of intermarried Jews for ascribing vicious to all of them.

  88. DK
    August 24th, 2007 @ 3:38 pm

    ascribing vicious motives.

  89. Albany Jew
    August 24th, 2007 @ 3:41 pm

    Most of the intermarriage is taking place in the US, no? So you can get as tough as you want and it is not going to help. People are free to do what they want, even if it is the biggest avaira in the world. Once again I must stress the sharing of the beauty and joy of yiddishkeit to make people want to stay in the fold. If preserving the Jewish life and perpetuating it is important enough we WILL marry Jewish.

    Good Shabbos All!

  90. Bob Miller
    August 24th, 2007 @ 3:43 pm

    Actions we ahould take toward intermarried Jews fall into two categories:

    Type 1. for the sake of the Jewish community

    Type 2. for the sake of the intermarried Jew

    Conceivably, our strong condemnation of intermarriage and those who do it could serve a Type 1 purpose but not a Type 2 purpose.

    Possibly, nothing we do can sway today’s intermarried Jew, unless the latter has made the first move to reconnect with the Torah.

  91. Jaded Topaz
    August 24th, 2007 @ 3:44 pm

    Eliahu,
    According to rashi, pious saints at war were given permission to marry cuz they would have otherwise married under forbidden circumstances.
    This would imply that permission was given explicitely to marry and or have a sexual relationship with lovers of another faith.
    Discussions of conversions aside, the fact that permission was granted initially cuz otherwise there would have been a “forbidden marriage” is proof enough that your piercing points of view are debatable and pierce-able.
    And when we say “war” could it also mean “war” in the metaphorical sense?
    As in everyday complicated conflict kind of engaging ?

  92. Bob Miller
    August 24th, 2007 @ 3:57 pm

    Above, it should say “should take”

  93. Eliahu Levenson
    August 24th, 2007 @ 4:15 pm

    Jaded,

    Conversion was required.

    The rest are a bunch of details defined in great depth in the Talmud and elsewhere. There is only one thing you need to understand.

    Like it or not halachic conversion was required or there was no marriage.

    Intermarriage is not an option before God.

  94. Jaded Topaz
    August 24th, 2007 @ 4:23 pm

    Bob, I was under the impression it was a figuretive “take” as in a “will you marry me” kind of take.Other definitions of take would have negative connotations.And wasnt the verbiage something to the effect of “take for a wife” as in ask her to marry you…..
    Also “eishas ish” ideologies is a whole nother argument.In any case i’m assuming it was a mutually agreed upon marriage.With love on both sides.

  95. Jaded Topaz
    August 24th, 2007 @ 4:27 pm

    Eliahu,

    Your must convert arguments would mess with the rules for conversion up to and including converting for love or would it be lust in this context ?Is one allowed to convert for lust ? Then why are the conversion rules so complicated and heartrending these days.
    The stuff individuals go through trying to convert, only to be informed of questionable circumstances…..

  96. Steve Brizel
    August 24th, 2007 @ 4:49 pm

    Eliyahu and Leah-Negatively based and geared scare stories will never prevent an intermarriage. OTOH, if someone is shown that Torah Judaism has meaning, depth and profundity in this world, such a person will not only marry a Jew, but may in fact become a BT.

  97. Eliahu Levenson
    August 24th, 2007 @ 4:58 pm

    Steve,

    Do you stand by that word “never?”

    Do you really think yours is the only way in every and all circumstances and in every and all times?

    Sometimes it’s your way.

    Sometimes it’s not.

    The trick is to know when to do what…and we do our best.

    Esperience helps.

    Good Shabbos, Eliahu

  98. David Linn
    August 24th, 2007 @ 5:04 pm

    I’m presently in the midst of a legal battle with a non-Jew who is constantly saying things like “I know your client’s type of people, they will slit your throat for a dollar” or ” I know how the people from that neighborhood are, they will do anything to squeeze an extra nickel out of you.”. Do I think this guy is anti-semetic? You bet. But I hardly think that every non-Jew is anti-semetic. Such blanket statements are not only erroneous but, IMHO, are dangerous and hurtful. They also destroy the memories of the Raoul Wallenbergs of the world.

  99. Eliahu Levenson
    August 24th, 2007 @ 5:07 pm

    No Jaded,

    She doesn’t have to convert. She has to want to convert. If she doesn’t want to convert her conversion is not valid. If he decides not to merry her, her conversion is also not valid.

    I told you there are a lot of details. And there are many more details besides these.

    No conversion, to marriage.

    Also, no marriage, no conversion.

    Hashem’s rules, straight from the Torah.

    Bye, Eliahu

  100. Eliahu Levenson
    August 24th, 2007 @ 5:09 pm

    Shalom David,

    Lots of great non-Jews out there.

    Later, Eliahu

  101. Jaded Topaz
    August 24th, 2007 @ 5:35 pm

    Eliahu,

    “Permitted this kind of marriage” implies a leniency, as in generally not allowed. And the fact that this “permission” was given in order to avoid the frolicking in when “forbidden” further begs the question what did “permission” connotate with regards to frolicking in “forbidden marriage” ?

    One is not required to obtain “permission” to adhere to all those” endless halachic details and requirements for conversion reference” you keep swatting my points away with. And “forbidden” wouldnt even be a question then for halacha lovers .Whatever.

  102. I'mJewish
    August 24th, 2007 @ 5:47 pm

    Eliahu, were you Conservative, Reform or Reconstructionist before becoming a BT? I am curious as to what led you to Torah-true Judaism. No agenda, just curiosity.

  103. Eliahu Levenson
    August 25th, 2007 @ 10:21 pm

    Shavua Tov I’m Jewish,

    I spent years as a temple hopper with no affiation to anything.

    I did teach Israeli dancing after Friday night services at a very famous Conservative temple for a time. They didn’t care, and I didn’t know any better.

    That was over 25 years ago. I have been BT for 24.

  104. Eliahu Levenson
    August 25th, 2007 @ 10:36 pm

    Shavua Tov Jaded,

    The subject of the yefas to’ar, the woman captured in war, is a very item specific subject.

    You should not take things you don’t understand totally out of context and try to apply them to fit personal (and destructive) biases.

    I have been explaining to you that there are many details to the yefas to’ar. I’ve given you some, here are more:

    In Jewish law there are a number of types of warfare, defensive, milchemes mitzvah, milchemes rishus, and so forth. Each has it’s own set of requirements, and those requirements are very different from one another.

    The yefas to’ar only applies to one area of one category of warfare. Do you know where the yefas to’ar applies?

    It applies only to wars which Hashem has directly commanded to be fought.

    There hasn’t been a yefas to’ar qualifying milchemes mitzvah from Hashem in thousands of years. There may never be another and if one does occur it probably won’t happen prior to the advent of Moshiach.

    And there are very many more surprising details, but I really hope you will stop doing this now.

  105. chava
    August 26th, 2007 @ 1:32 am

    While I don’t think there is a huge plot out there for non-Jews to snag Jewish spouses, the phenomena definitely exists. We know a number of secular Jews who decided to stop frequenting jdate b/c they kept going out with people who turned out to be non-Jews looking for a Jewish spouse! I’d add these were not people who thought they were Jewish and turned out to be goyim on a “halachic technicality” either.

  106. Leah Levenson
    August 26th, 2007 @ 7:54 am

    Shavua Tov all,

    I’m going to repeat two key messages contained in my post #84 so they don’t get lost. Here’s the first message, and the second follows in a new post:

    Remember what Hashem tells us in Vayikra 20:26: “And you (the Jews) shall remain holy unto me, for I, G-d, am holy and I have separated you from the nations to be mine.”

    Intermarriage, without the wholehearted acceptance of the mitzvos and authentic halachic conversion by the non-Jewish partner, is against Jewish law. Think how hard it would be to make teshuvah with a non-Jewish partner and non-Jewish children.

    Intermarriage on a bigger level is spiritual killer for klal Ysroel.

    LeahL

  107. Leah Levenson
    August 26th, 2007 @ 7:55 am

    Second critical message from post #84:

    If you would like to read a fascinating book, guaranteed to make you weep and despair, try this one: “Stars of David, Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish.” (Abigail Pogrebin, Broadway Books 2005). It contains dozens of interviews and first-person narratives from people like Woody Allen, William Shatner, Alan Dershowitz, Natalie Portman, Nora Ephron, Dr. Laura Shlessinger, etc., all talking about what it means to be Jewish (or formerly Jewish, Jewish and back again to formerly Jewish for Dr. Laura).

    Almost for each and every one of them, being Jewish means absolutely nothing at all.

    And it is a microcosmic snapshot of the real state of secular Jewry. We can blame intermarriage as one of the chief reasons why. You have to consider the generations down the road, each one’s connection to Torah becoming more diluted and distant until it is non-existent.

  108. David Linn
    August 26th, 2007 @ 9:10 am

    This comment is not meant to advocate any particular position. It’s just a conversation that I had this shabbos that I thought fell into the sidepoint we’ve been discussing about anti-semetism.

    At Shabbos lunch, I was sitting next to a friend who mentioned that he had walked into a Godiva chocolate store. The lady behind the counter was African American. My friend asked how much a particular type of chocolate costs. She responded “Are you Jewish?” as if to point out that he was being cheap. My friend bit his tongue and answered “Yes, I’m Jewish.”. She kindly responded “I thought so. (he was wearing a yarmulke!) Then those particular chocolates are not for you. They aren’t certified as kosher. Only the boxed ones have kosher certification. “. My friend thanked her kindly. The point of his story was that sometimes we see anti-semitism when, in fact, not only is it not there, the person we suspect is trying to help us.

  109. I'mJewish
    August 26th, 2007 @ 9:58 am

    David, that’s a great story, though I wonder what the race of the woman behind the counter had to do with it.

    Eliahu, thank you for your responses.

    Leah, for the Jews in the book that you mentioned, is it that being Jewish means nothing to them, or that is it that being Jewish means something different to them than it does to you?

  110. robbins
    August 26th, 2007 @ 10:49 am

    Amazingly more than a hundred posts have gone up since Bob Miller asked me what outreach organizations can do to reverse intermarriage trends (#3), and I offered some ideas (#5) without any additional feedback! Sure some have blamed the evil, shiksas, others the Reform movement, but since I imagine few readers here fit neatly into either those or similar camps, may I suggest that we should look at what outreach organizations are (or are not) doing?

    At Aish.com this morning, they list exactly one upcoming speeddating event, and that over two thousand miles away from my former Aish branch. And what goes on at my former Aish branch? None of the guys there that I know of are dating Jewish women. And if you think about it, if guys who are committed enough to attend those kind of events are interdating, Houston, we have a problem.

  111. David Linn
    August 26th, 2007 @ 11:24 am

    I’m Jewish,

    The race of the saleslady was relevant bc it led my friend to assume that she wasn’t Jewish. Otherwise, he likely wouldn’t have jumped to the assumption as quickly. That wasn’t clear in the story?

  112. Leah Levenson
    August 26th, 2007 @ 11:29 am

    Shavua Tov I’mJewish,

    You have to read the book to understand how far away from Judaism many of them have gotten, where ordering deli from the craft table is as Jewish as it gets.

    As a BT, being Jewish most definitely means something different to me than it does to them. Being Jewish to me means recognizing that I have contract with Hashem, and a legal obligation to fulfill my part of that contract.

    I’m not sure what being Jewish to them is anymore. Maybe it’s like Adam Sandler says in his song “Here Comes Chanukah”:

    “Guess who eats together at the Karnickey Deli,
    Bowzer from Sha-na-na, and Arthur Fonzerelli.
    Paul Newmans half Jewish; Goldie Hawns half too,
    Put them together — what a fine lookin Jew!”

    The real harm being done to Jews today is the harm that’s being done from within, an eroding of our knowledge of what it really means to be Jewish.

    This erosion is part and parcel of the intermarriage experience.

    Judaism isn’t latkes and corned beef sandwiches. It isn’t Christmakah.

    It’s Torah. That’s it. That’s the whole ball of wax.

    LeahL

  113. David Linn
    August 26th, 2007 @ 11:31 am

    Robbins,

    Unfortunately, we often get sidetracked in the comments sections. Perhaps we will run a new post asking for ideas on stemming the intermarriage tide.

  114. Leah Levenson
    August 26th, 2007 @ 11:47 am

    All,

    There was one more section in my post #84 that may have gotten lost because it was the last paragraph and the anchor of the piece. And it’s this:

    - You have to consider the generations down the road, each one’s connection to Torah becoming more diluted and distant until it is non-existent. -

    What does happen with subsequent generations?

    Two of my mom’s brothers (from 10 siblings) married “out.” My mother is a bas kohein. I had occasion to attend a relative’s 50th anniversary part at my cousin’s house (never met him before), the son of one of my mom’s brothers.

    We drove up to the driveway and the first thing we saw was the huge Christmas wreath on their door. Inside, a lovely huge tree and decorations everywhere. My mom’s brother’s sons, my cousins, are of course not Jewish by birth because their mom isn’t Jewish, so the Jewish line ended with my uncle, whom I’d also never met previously. Same thing with my mother’s other brother who married out.

    Ironically, one of my cousins (I had never met him before) had done a prodigious family history tracing our Jewish heritage way back, and handed out printed booklets showing our history at the party. Imagine my shock and surprise to find out I have frum family living in Bnei Brak, and rabbonem in my family tree.

    All ending with my mother’s generation.

    Not any of the children produced from her and her siblings’ marriages are religious except for me. Not any of the grandchildren, descended from the 10 siblings.

    I’m aware of four of my mom’s nieces and nephews (my cousins) who are married to non-Jews — all very nice people, raising very nice children blissfully unaware of their Jewish heritage.

    LeahL

  115. Albany Jew
    August 26th, 2007 @ 12:06 pm

    Unfortunately, to the average American Jew, Torah means “the scroll kept in the cabinet in the synagogue” We can pontificate (a poor choice of words here) all we want but it doesn’t mean a darn thing. Invite a Jew over for Shabbos (tell them to come over for dinner, you or your wife are great cooks) Have then see your children singing Shabbos songs and joyfully talking about the parsha. This is the kind of thing that brings people closer and that we need a lot more of. It seemed to work for two of our completely secular friends who were dating gentiles. One became frum and married Jewish and the other is engaged to another BT on the same journey. My cousin too! It is the most satifying thing in the world! Show them the joy and the beauty!

  116. Leah Levenson
    August 26th, 2007 @ 12:30 pm

    Errp, I need to set the record straight:

    I found the lyrics to the Adam Sandler song on a website and copied verbatim. I think it’s more correct like this:

    “Guess who eats together at the CARNEGIE Deli,
    Bowzer from Sha-na-na, and Arthur Fonzarelli.
    Paul Newman’s half Jewish; Goldie Hawn’s half too,
    Put them together — what a fine lookin’ Jew!”

  117. Leah Levenson
    August 26th, 2007 @ 12:41 pm

    Robbins,

    To answer your question about how to avoid intermarriage, I think it starts in the home. Children have to be raised understanding their part in the bris. You do this by reinstating the practices of our grandparents and greatgrandparents, and even some of our parents…. candelighting, participating in shul more, davening as part of a minyan, adherence to kashruth.

    You make it part of their lives and teach them to appreciate the warmth and beauty of it, plus the knowledge that it is part of our avodas Hashem.

    You make it fun. You have them participate in succah building, as an example. You teach them how to play dreidels and the MEANING of the dreidels.

    You have to build the foundation through learning and imbuing it in the lives of the children.

    As for adults meeting, I don’t think “singles dances” and speed dating is the right answer. I think it is more productive activities that bring people together on regular basis, such as shiurim coupled with socials. The topics have to appeal to people who haven’t made the commitment to become observant yet have a curiousity that needs to be nurture and a willingness to find a Jewish partner.

    It is making the conscious choice for Jewish adults to eschew secular social activities and intermingling with non-Jews in a social way as a common practice, and actively choosing to be part of Jewish programs and social activities.

    LeahL

  118. Eliahu Levenson
    August 26th, 2007 @ 2:45 pm

    Shalom David,

    Fascinating:

    “…My friend asked how much a particular type of chocolate costs. She responded “Are you Jewish?” …My friend bit his tongue and answered “Yes, I’m Jewish.”. She kindly responded “I thought so. (he was wearing a yarmulke!) Then those particular chocolates are not for you. They aren’t certified as kosher. Only the boxed ones have kosher certification.“

    When we are demonstrably Jewish, then we always have to be on top guard with everything we do and say, because it is so easy to cause a chillul Hashem, even without realizing it.

    Kudos to that clerk. She probably earned a bunch of Olam Haba points.

    Very good, Eliahu

  119. Mordechai Y. Scher
    August 26th, 2007 @ 3:00 pm

    LeahL, your last couple of posts are the first evidence I’ve seen in this thread of d’racheiha darchai noam, that the path of/to Hashem’s Torah is pleasant. In Rabbi L’s original post, and in much of this thread, there has been a lack of recognition displayed of the complexities at the level of the individual home, and sympathy for their plight. I absolutely *do not* argue with the basic premise that intermarriage is not only forbidden, but possibly far more harmful to us than other forbidden phenomena.

    Nevertheless, over the years that I have spoken with rabbanim/poskim about these issues on a *practical* level, seeking paths to deal with real families in real communities, I have been tortured by the pain this issue creates for them. Moreover, all the rabbanim I worked with were pained by the difficulties facing these families in fixing the situation. I have seen grown men cry over this more than once. That pain is evident in writing as well; even in responsa from way back to Rav Eliyahu Guttmacher, or Rav Leifland (author of Gerim V’gerut, posek in Russia and later in the US). Whereas a ‘tough’ approach was appropriate in some communities in some times; this is not universally the case. Rav Leifland writes how he blames himself for an intermarriage continuing because he was tougher (in retrospect) about a conversion than maybe he needed to be.

    Like any halachic issue, ultimate judgement and application is on a case by case basis. I am not advocating a touchy feely, let’s all just get along view. I am suggesting that rabbanim who shoulder the responsibility for such dealings tend to invest a lot of effort in understanding a family’s difficulties, and in seeking (not always finding) solutions for them.

    Already 20 years ago, I sat in a shiur from Rav Gedaliah Rabinowitz, who questioned if some of Rav Moshe Feinstein’s decisions on these issues would still apply. He noted that it was indeed relevant to consider circumstances, time, and place. He noted how rabbanim like Rav David Tzvi Hoffman (M’lamed L’hoil) took differently nuanced approaches to the same issues, probably influenced by the atmosphere and environment they were working in. One could certainly argue that rabbanim like Rav Uziel took different approaches also because they honestly saw things a bit differently.

    Maybe I am so disturbed because (well, maybe I’m just disturbed) I have worked up close with successes and failures in helping families already confronted with the dilemma. Yes, we must prevent intermarriage. Yes, intermarriage is really a symptom of a lack of Torah. But for those families discovering Torah already after the fact, we had better be loving and patient and looking for every *legitimate* way to encourage and help them make a change.

    That attitude was missing in much of this thread, and I am genuinely surprised at us. We, of all Jews, should know better. That’s why when Joshua Sachs posted here much earlier on, I was so disappointed that hardly anyone displayed any concern or sympathy over his plight. This isn’t just about being right in the argument or convincing someone; this is about caring enough about Jews with a most difficult plight to show them love and concern and encouragement.

    Okay, now I will shut up and go away.

    Shanah Tovah.

  120. Mark
    August 26th, 2007 @ 3:09 pm

    Eliahu in #104 said

    The yefas to’ar only applies to one area of one category of warfare. Do you know where the yefas to’ar applies?

    It applies only to wars which Hashem has directly commanded to be fought.

    There hasn’t been a yefas to’ar qualifying milchemes mitzvah from Hashem in thousands of years. There may never be another and if one does occur it probably won’t happen prior to the advent of Moshiach.

    The first Rashi on the parsha clearly states (based on a Sifrei 21:1) that yefas to’ar applies to milchemes reshus not a milchemes mitzvah. Do you have a different source saying that it applies to a milchemes mitzvah?

  121. Mordechai Y. Scher
    August 26th, 2007 @ 3:16 pm

    The Radbaz also understands the Rambam to be talking about milhemet reshut/a non-obligatory war in these halachot.

  122. Eliahu Levenson
    August 26th, 2007 @ 3:47 pm

    Shalom Mark,

    I was discussing it with a number of rabbaim over this Shabbos. That is what they were saying. However, it’s possible they confused the mitzvah with the rishus on this. I pretty much caught them off guard.

    However, let’s say the applicablitiy was with the milchems rishus. What does a milchemes rishus entail? The melech inquires of the Urim v’Tumim to see if their idea of going to war is correct.

    This too doesn’t happen in our day for a number of obvious reasons, and we therefore do not have a way to create a yefat to’ar situation in our times, or in the last few thousand years. Probably a good thing too.

    Now that you have created a doubt in my mind as to which way it is, I will broach the subject with another rabbi or two later. I’d like to be certain which type of warfare this is applicable to.

    I’ll get back to you on this.

    Thank you for the check.

    Eliahu

  123. Mark
    August 26th, 2007 @ 3:53 pm

    Eliahu

    When you talk to them, show them the Rashi, it can only help. Not everybody has a photographic memory, even if they express certitude in a situation.

    Be Well
    Mark

  124. Eliahu Levenson
    August 26th, 2007 @ 4:03 pm

    Okay,

    Will do. Bli Neder (Always good to remember to write that)

  125. Steve Brizel
    August 26th, 2007 @ 5:03 pm

    Eliyahu-Ask anyone in Kiruv or Chinuch whether scare tactics and negativity either prevent an intermarriage or inspire someone to become a BT. I would never use the incidents mentioned by your wife in discussing the issue.

  126. Kinneret
    August 26th, 2007 @ 5:48 pm

    I think it is important to remember that the secular or unobservant, regardless of whether or not they are Jewish, do not understand why intermarriage is so disliked by Orthodox Jews, and many, if not most, harbor a belief that our objection is based on bigotry and prejudice against Gentiles.

    Aside from the sheer hypocrisy of writing about anti-semitism while using derogatory epithets describing Gentile women as vermin, such practices do nothing except perpetuate the idea that our objections to intermarriage are based on bigotry. This is enormously problematic for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that it turns people, who might otherwise do teshuva, away from Torah.

    It is not hard to understand why someone, especially someone who is not observant, might feel those who talk of the prohibition on intermarriage being Hashem’s will, while at the same time directing insulting epithets at Gentiles, place more emphasis on the latter than the former.

    I’d like to thank Mordechai Scher for his thoughtful and intelligent comments, and I sincerely hope we take to heart what he has said about approaching this issue with patience, sympathy and compassion.

  127. Leah Levenson
    August 26th, 2007 @ 5:54 pm

    Shalom Kinnert,

    “Aside from the sheer hypocrisy of writing about anti-semitism while using derogatory epithets describing Gentile women as vermin, such practices do nothing except perpetuate the idea that our objections to intermarriage are based on bigotry … It is not hard to understand why someone, especially someone who is not observant, might feel those who talk of the prohibition on intermarriage being Hashem’s will, while at the same time directing insulting epithets at Gentiles …”

    Who did that?

    Thanks, LeahL

  128. Leah Levenson
    August 26th, 2007 @ 5:55 pm

    Steve,

    I guess I should have been more sensitive to the various friends I’ve had who had such a deep understanding of Jews and Judaism, particularly the one who thought we should all move to Malta.

    You packed yet?

    Thanks, LeahL

  129. Eliahu Levenson
    August 26th, 2007 @ 5:59 pm

    Steve,

    My wife can speak for herself on how she interacts. I can tell you she has moved a lot of people. I am a daily witness to this.

    Kiruv happens to be a case by case discipline. There is no such thing as one size fits all.

    For sure people lacking knowledge or experience have a more difficult time getting it right, but everybody has to start somewhere and try and do what they can do…using their seichal and knowing the limitations of their current status.

    When we are judged, we will be judged for 1) what we did, and 2) for we could have done, but didn’t.

    Every situation is different. Many success stories have passed through the doors we have opened. Did I, and/or my wife ever mess up? Probably. We’re human. Could I, and/or my wife, have done better? Assuredly. Could I, and/or my wife, have done worse? No doubt about that either.

    I have trepidations, but my loins are girded, I’ve faced many detractors, very often rock throwers who don’t know their right from their left or their up from their down. I have willingly accepted all of the bruises and done so for many years. Do you know why? It isn’t because I love the abuse. It is because I have a responsibility to all my Jewish brothers and sisters not to fail them in their times of need.

    I’m ready to face Hashem and make my case for my actions…as well as the many occasions where my seichal has told me that inaction would be the best form of action.

    I’m ready to be judged. Are all of you?

  130. Mordechai Y. Scher
    August 26th, 2007 @ 7:53 pm

    No, one thing I cannot say is that I am ready to be judged…

  131. Eliahu Levenson
    August 26th, 2007 @ 9:06 pm

    Shalom Mark,

    I looked up the Rashi with another rabbi, a friend of mine, and it appears that it is indeed the milchemes rishus. Yasher koach!

    Just a little more information to the readers on what this entails.

    The following applies only to milchemes rishus. The Kohein will say to the troops (Devarim 5-8):

    1) Who is the man who has built a new home and has not inaugurated it? Let him return home.

    2) Who is the man who has planted a vinyard and not redeemed it (in the fourth year)? Let him return home.

    3) Who is the man who is betrothed but not yet married? Let him return home.

    4) Who is the man who is afraid (because he has sinned and may not be granted Divine protection)? Let him return home.

    There may be very few soldiers left, and the ones that remain are likely the righteous men of Israel.

    Yet it is to these few remaining men who the requirements of yefas to’ar are directed. It is the righteous who would be the last to do such a thing, but who are human in the face of battle just like anyone else. It is the righteous whom we are told have a greater yetzer hara to overcome than the rest of the people, and it is for that reason that they ARE righteous.

    The last milchemes rishus was thousands of years ago, and the Urim v’Tumim were consulted. There may never be another, but if there is it will probably come through Moshiach who will be the next Jewish king.

  132. Jaded Topaz
    August 27th, 2007 @ 12:55 am

    Mark, thanks for the astute observation/correction.

    Eliahu,
    So basically we learnt the following from this argument,

    1) Never quote and coat answers from “a number of rabbaim” “caught off guard”, with a thinly veiled sense of self assured condescending haughtiness.
    Even if you dont like question.
    Sometimes “a number of rabbaim” “caught off guard” dont have the correct answers.

    2) Allowances were made for pious saints who went out to wars, specifically of the “milchemes reshus” persuasion for tempations of the heart. Keep in mind ,according to Sotah 44b, persons who had not listened to even rabbinic prohibitions, were told not to take part in this sort of battle.
    So it seems the persons in question were quite the purely pious saints.
    Abstinence and discipline with regards to the temptations involving beautiful lovers of another faith were classified as irresistable. And the torah made exceptions, so that these tempations were not classified as sin.Whether or not the war in question can be applied metaphorically in 2007 is probally debatable ,but doesnt override the fact that this would be an instance where torah granted permission to marry lovers of another faith.
    I believe the conversion and related rules are subsequent steps to this initial permission to marry.

    And rhetorically speaking, how this whole concept applies to 2007 is probally a discussion for another “number of rabbaim” “caught off guard” . Or maybe skeptic rabbis never caught off guard might be a better sort of group to ask.

  133. SephardiLady
    August 27th, 2007 @ 2:09 am

    Mordechai, thank you for offering us a window into the world of the poskim who shed tears over difficult situations and who recognize nuance. I’d be interesting in gaining a bigger glimpse into this window and am sure I’m not alone.

    As for the original post, the conspiracy theory seemed like a joke to me. Here is America today, people met, fall in love, and marry. I know a number of intermarried people and can’t think of any non-Jewish spouse who went out to “snatch” a Jew. People of all races can meet and marry, and any group wishing to perpetuate its continuance is going to have to have a case why to do so.

    I grew up with friends whose parents immigrated from India and who were raised as Americans. Their parents wanted them to marry other Indians, but it held little value to their children. They saw no reason to stick to their group alone. They were not religious Hindus, they were part of the American melting pot. Meanwhile, there were a handful of peers from strong Christian, Catholic, and Mormon faiths who would never have considered marrying someone who did not share such a commitment.

    I think most American Jews are like the former group. They identify as part of the greater society and need to be inspired as to why they should marry another Jew (which includes actively seeking that to the exclusion of all else). Individuals whose primary identity is like those of the latter will go out and seek a spouse who shares their primary identity.

  134. Eliahu Levenson
    August 27th, 2007 @ 6:46 am

    Shalom Jaded,

    What we should learn is that Jewish law is to be studied and followed as God has directed, incorporating what we learn into how we live as we go along.

    We should also learn when not to speak and when not to speak but rather to listen. For some people however, finding any conceivable way to attack God’s requirement of observant Judaism and his observant Jews seems to be their goal in life.

    I wouldn’t want to be them at judgment time.

  135. Leah Levenson
    August 27th, 2007 @ 8:23 am

    Shalom SephardiLady,

    “People of all races can meet and marry, and any group wishing to perpetuate its continuance is going to have to have a case why to do so.”

    - G-d says no. Is that compelling?

    “I grew up with friends whose parents immigrated from India and who were raised as Americans. Their parents wanted them to marry other Indians, but it held little value to their children.”

    - What does gentiles marrying gentiles have to do with marrying Jews?

    LeahL

  136. Bob Miller
    August 27th, 2007 @ 8:58 am

    Eliahu wrote
    “I’m ready to face Hashem and make my case for my actions…as well as the many occasions where my seichal has told me that inaction would be the best form of action.
    I’m ready to be judged. Are all of you?”

    It’s an accepted principle (carefully check your Machzor) that we really are undeserving, to a greater or lesser extent, of HaShem’s bounty.

    During this time of din (judgment), we invoke Zechus Avos (merits of the patriarchs), HaShem’s 13 Midos of rachamim (mercy), and otherwise request mercy in many ways—because the rock bottom truth is that we have all fallen short.

    We should not come into the Yamim Noraim with the attitude that strict justice would exonerate us.

  137. David Linn
    August 27th, 2007 @ 9:19 am

    I think there are two points here that seem to run throughout the comments:

    1. What works to dissuade already frum Jews or even interested Jews from intermarrying does not work for uniterested Jews. Telling someone who doesn’t believe in the veracity of Torah that he shouldn’t intermarry because G-d forbade it is, quite simply, not going to work. It is true and it is right but it won’t work. This appears obvious.

    As someone who grew up without the benefit of a solid torah education (whatever that means) and who had a lot of parental pressure not to interdate, coupled with a heaping of guilt from a well meaning holocaust survivor parent, it’s simply not meaningful. If there were a girl (and I’m talking junior high school here) who was attractive, nice and a good person, it was difficult to see why the fact that she wasn’t Jewish was even a consideration. That doesn’t exempt us from trying but starting from a position of “this is what G-d wants” seems to be the wrong place.

    2. Dissuading someone from intermarrying is very different from addressing someone who has already intermarried. Of course, there is an obligation to treat both of these individuals with respect and courtesy. However, once someone is already intermarried, we need to be sensitive to the complexities and emotional sensitivities involved and we need to be pained by their anguish and the difficult, life altering decisions such a person faces. This is multiplied many times over if the individual has children. I think we also need to recognize, and I have been told this by rabonnim, that we should not attack or vilify the non-Jewish spouse (and, of course, not the non-Jewish children of the marrriage) since it is rare that they have actively done something to hurt their spouse in this area. I would take this a step further and say that we need to be sympathetic and empatheic to the non-Jewish spouse as well. All of this holds true wether or not the Jewish spouse makes what we think is the right decision in his/her situation.

  138. Eliahu Levenson
    August 27th, 2007 @ 9:24 am

    Reposting from the “Intermarried To BT” thread.

    Shalom Leah,

    Not only is a spouse not to be pressured to convert, it is the opposite. There is a major discussion through the ages if a convert is even allowed to marry a Jew whom she cohabited with because one cannot escape the taint of suspicion that the conversion had ulterior motives.

    Contemporary Halakhic Problems, Vol. I, by Rabbi J. David Bleich, Page 271

    “However, in the demands upon which it makes upon the proselyte, Judaism is uncompromising; its adherents are bound by a rigorous and demanding code of law governing every aspect of life. Commitment must be total. To be accepted as a member of the community of Israel the convert must not only subscribe to the beliefs Judaism but must willingly agree to observe its precepts. Should the candidate refuse to accept any detail of this code, his conversion is ipso facto invalid.”

  139. Eliahu Levenson
    August 27th, 2007 @ 9:29 am

    Shalom Bob,

    “We should not come into the Yamim Noraim with the attitude that strict justice would exonerate us.”

    You are right but I was trying to make the opposite point. Yes we have to rely on rachamim when entering judgment, but that doesn’t mean we should exacerbate the judgment against us, thereby requiring ever greater amounts of rachamim to get us through.

    Thank you for the comment though. I’m glad you made it.

  140. Leah Levenson
    August 27th, 2007 @ 9:47 am

    Shalom David,

    Thanks for attempting to summarize a difficult and fast-paced thread. I have to point out though (again) that there has been NO name-calling of non-Jewish spouses.

    No one is advocating ripping into non-Jewish spouses or families. No one is advocating dealing with the issue of intermarriages with anything less than the utmost caring, compassion and sensitivity.

    What we are saying is build safeguards to prevent it from happening, and be tough about it!

    Intermarriage hurts the Jewish neshama and it hurts klal Ysroel. It is a violation of G-d’s law. It is not all right and we need to take steps to ensure it stops.

    Permissiveness, assimilation, and a massive de-emphasis and veering away from the path of Torah has ensured that intermarriage has become not only acceptable, but almost the norm.

    If the figures are correct and some 50 per cent of reform Jews are intermarrying, that is a devastating number given our demographic size! Desperate times requiring desparate measures.

    We all have an obligation to be clear and unequivocal about it. Soft-soaping the issue will not help prevent future such unions. It hasn’t yet.

    And to quote from Mark’s post in today’s new thread from Rav Scher:

    “I spoke to my Rav about this today and he said that the first course of action, when people are already married, is to try to get the spouse to convert. He did not say pressure.

    If not, then divorce is the proper course of action.”

    LeahL

  141. Albany Jew
    August 27th, 2007 @ 9:53 am

    Good summary David,

    I remember frum Jews who I was friends with in Queens College advising me not to date gentiles. Their words just did not ring true to me for whatever reason at the time. But I knew very little about Torah Judiasm at the time. I needed info more than I needed warnings.

  142. Eliahu Levenson
    August 27th, 2007 @ 10:05 am

    ““I spoke to my Rav about this today and he said that the first course of action, when people are already married, is to try to get the spouse to convert. He did not say pressure.
    If not, then divorce is the proper course of action.”

    Let’s think about this quote.

    The number of non-Jews married to “Torah observant” Jewish spouses is really close to nil, perhaps actually nil when we contemplate the meaning of Torah observant.

    Would the “non-Jew,” married to the “non-observant” Jew now convert to being fully observant?

    Think about this. The “convert” is now going to be a completely observant while the spouse is to remain non-observant? It makes no sense.

    A conversion of a spouse to be like her non-observant husband is a non-halichic conversion. There is NO conversion there.

    What needs to be done is for the Jewish spouse to become fully observant first. THEN, if the spouse sees that this is how he/she genuine wants to live out the rest of his/her life, without pressure of any kind being exerted, THEN, it seems to me, there is a slim possibility that it could work.

    Still we have poskim who say that such a conversion even to an orthodox lifestyle should not be allowed because there will always be the suspicion of an alterior motive involved it the decision to become Jewish.

    Other poskim will allow such a conversion if the spouse demonstrates a clear and proper commitment to ALL of Jewish law.

  143. Bob Miller
    August 27th, 2007 @ 10:07 am

    David Linn, you said,
    “Of course, there is an obligation to treat both of these individuals with respect and courtesy.”

    Previous generations took a very hard line, whether or not that would cause the Jewish spouse in question to reconsider. Was this policy only a strategy based on what “worked” then for Jewish society, or was it the very law itself irrespective of its utility or lack of utility in one time and place?

    In the eyes of our greatest Torah leaders today, what, if anything, has changed to warrant softening this policy? In relaying the greatest Torah leaders’ points of view, please quote quotes and name names.

    I don’t care if it sounds good or feels good. What’s the straight scoop?

  144. Mark
    August 27th, 2007 @ 10:20 am

    My Rav, who is a recognized Posek, was talking about when one spouse was observant.

  145. Bob Miller
    August 27th, 2007 @ 10:23 am

    Mark,
    With all due respect, I was asking about today’s greatest rabbonim; is your rav following their lead?

  146. David Linn
    August 27th, 2007 @ 10:25 am

    Bob,

    I’ve made my points from actual experience with respected rabonim and poskim. As my experiences were individual, I don’t know if I have permission to give specific names here. I believe Mordechai Sher may have specifically mentioned some names in this regard. IMHO, anyway, treating someone with respect does not preclude taking what you call “a very hard line”.

    I’m curious though when you say “Previous generations took a very hard line”, to whom are you specifically refering. Please quote quotes and name names.

  147. Bob Miller
    August 27th, 2007 @ 10:36 am

    Isn’t it common knowlege that intermarried Jews in the “old country” were ostracized from Orthodox communities? Maybe there are counterexamples, but I’m not familiar with any.

  148. David Linn
    August 27th, 2007 @ 11:07 am

    Bob, “common knowledge” is often misconstrued and,at times, wrong. To tell you the truth,Bob, it seems to run quite contrary to your admirable quality of eschewing assumptions and dealing with the facts on a “quoting quotes and naming names” basis.

  149. Bob Miller
    August 27th, 2007 @ 11:19 am

    Oh well. But was I wrong about this common knowledge?

  150. David Linn
    August 27th, 2007 @ 11:33 am

    I don’t know.

    However, having dealt with the issue with competent rabbanim who were in contact with competent poskim and roshei yeshiva, I assume that they had knowledge of this “common knowledge”. Nonetheless, I was given the advice I was given and an overall explanation of the approach and outlook. In my personal take, those facts on the ground provided me with a better grasp than an historical overview (or at the very least incorporated the historical overview).

    Most of the focus here has been on non-frum individuals who have intermarried and now are becoming frum. I would assume that goes into the determination of how to address the issue.

  151. Eliahu Levenson
    August 27th, 2007 @ 11:42 am

    Reposting from the “Showing Sensitivity To Intermarried BTs” thread:

    On The Coming Ingathering Of The Jews

    Yermiyahu (Jeremiah) 3:14 – “I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Tzion.”

    When the ingathering occurs: Even if there is only one halachic Jew in a city, he will be found and brought: Even if there are only two halachic Jews in a family (meaning a Jewish mother and child), those two will be found and brought.

  152. robbins
    August 27th, 2007 @ 11:49 am

    David,
    In comment #137 you wrote, “What works to dissuade already frum Jews or even interested Jews from intermarrying does not work for uniterested Jews.” I, as well as a bunch of others whom I have met at an Aish branch, are both interested and interdating. The reason is simple, as I see it at least: no outreach effort to bring in appropriate Jewish girls, coupled with a desire to marry and have a family.

  153. I'mJewish
    August 27th, 2007 @ 11:52 am

    “As for the original post, the conspiracy theory seemed like a joke to me. Here is America today, people met, fall in love, and marry. I know a number of intermarried people and can’t think of any non-Jewish spouse who went out to “snatch” a Jew. People of all races can meet and marry, and any group wishing to perpetuate its continuance is going to have to have a case why to do so.”

    It would be quite concerning if an individual who really subscribed to such a conspiracy theory were to do kiruv among unaffiliated or secular Jews. I can’t imagine why an unaffiliated, secular Jew would take such an individual seriously.

  154. I'mJewish
    August 27th, 2007 @ 11:57 am

    “If the figures are correct and some 50 per cent of reform Jews are intermarrying, that is a devastating number given our demographic size! Desperate times requiring desparate measures.

    We all have an obligation to be clear and unequivocal about it. Soft-soaping the issue will not help prevent future such unions. It hasn’t yet.”

    Telling a Reform or secular Jew for whom the Torah is an interesting collection of old stories and for whom Judaism means bagels, lox and memories of grandma’s borscht and grandpa’s once-a-year showing at temple, that “it is Hashem’s law” that they not intermarry is meaningless TO THEM, Leah. I’m not sure why you don’t see that, or why you think that repeating it numerous times to them and taking a hard line is going to make an impact. The impact will be in bringing THEM back to Torah-observant Judaism, at which point they themselves would not want to (or recognize that they couldn’t practically live with) a non-Jewish spouse.

  155. Leah Levenson
    August 27th, 2007 @ 12:04 pm

    Shalom I’m Jewish,

    Soft-pedalling is NOT bringing people back. In fact, it’s enabling them to go farther and farther away. The situation is getting WORSE, not BETTER!

    Why can’ t you see that?

    LeahL

  156. Leah Levenson
    August 27th, 2007 @ 12:07 pm

    All,

    For the purposes of this particular thread, the issue is not so much drawing people closer to Torah, it’s bringing them back to JUDAISM!

    My point in referencing the book “Stars of David” was to show that people are being lost to Judaism — a whole generation of people who don’t even know they are Jewish.

    We can’t even talk about “coming back to Torah” if people don’t recognize they are Jewish!

    LeahL

  157. I'mJewish
    August 27th, 2007 @ 12:38 pm

    >>Soft-pedalling is NOT bringing people back. In fact, it’s enabling them to go farther and farther away. The situation is getting WORSE, not BETTER!

    Why can’ t you see that?>>

    Because I disagree with you. In the olden days when a Jew did intermarry and the family sat shiva and didn’t have anything to do with them after that, did that hard-line do anything to bring the intermarried person back, or were they and their descendants forever gone to Judaism?
    If you cut off the intermarried person at the pass, they and their descendants are forever lost. If you are kind to the intermarried person, then there’s at least some chance of bringing them back into the fold. I would rather take the approach that provides at least some chance. Wouldn’t you?

  158. Leah Levenson
    August 27th, 2007 @ 12:38 pm

    All,

    I have an internet friend, Jewish, a dear, smart man, who claims to be “hedonist.” He has a particular predilection for dating Asian women. He likes their manner and body type.

    He also claims to come from a long line of Hungarian rabbonem.

    I met him on line 2 years ago. I invited him to come and read at our forum, and we left him largely alone to just absorb things.

    He didn’t like what our generic lessons were on halachah and the weekly Parsha learnings. They made him uncomfortable.

    In the meantime, on open public political forums, he was posting messages like, “I could never be Orthodox. I don’t want to have sex through holes in sheets.”

    This is what he is telling the world.

    He lasted at most two days in our forum. He didn’t want to know. He didn’t want to change.

    All the time, he posts about this fantasy girl and that fantasy girl and this gorgeous client he wants to “do” and how lovely Asian women are.

    Never once does he talk about Jewish women.

    And he publicly jokes about “going to hell.”

    So does my other internet friend, who loves to talk about ham hocks in her soup and posts lobster bisque recipes and living off a side of pork for a year, all the while joking about “going to hell.”

    I love these two people and I leave them alone. Some people might say I don’t love them enough because I haven’t been strong enough to try and help them.

    I’m sure that one day I will have to answer to that.

    LeahL

  159. Leah Levenson
    August 27th, 2007 @ 12:39 pm

    I’m Jewish,

    It seems you and I are always clashing on this issue.

    It seems also that neither way is working.

    What to do, what to do?

    LeahL

  160. Leah Levenson
    August 27th, 2007 @ 12:43 pm

    I’m Jewish,

    Again, we are not unkind. We are not insensitive. We don’t bash people over the heads, as you and other seem to keep wanting to imply.

    Frankly, stop it.

    We threw a party for a friend of ours, a former Catholic priest-in-training, when he converted Orthodox two years ago.

    We held a sheva brochos and celebrated his chuppah when he married a woman who was a gioress of 10 years, but was raising her children not to be frum and was totally disinterested in observance.

    They got married a year ago.

    They are now divorced.

    He is on the path. She is off the path. They might as well have been intermarried.

    We are not the enemies here as you make us out to be.

    LeahL

  161. David Linn
    August 27th, 2007 @ 1:39 pm

    Robbins, that’s very interesting. Send me an e-mail at beyondbt at gmail.com , I would love to know where you are living.

  162. SephardiLady
    August 27th, 2007 @ 1:56 pm

    Leah L-Please read what I write before responding. It is clear to me that either you are dismissive of the entire conversation or you just didn’t read what I wrote.

    I was drawing a parallel and demonstrating how shallow young Jews view their parents demands of in-marriage because being Jewish to them is not of profound meaning. Gentiles whose parents demand in-marriage, yet were raised outside of their culture and do not attach significant meaning to it experience similiar sentiments as most young Jews.

    Years ago I taught Hebrew School in a Reform synagogue. I was asked by a 20 something teacher to talk to her class about Jewish marriage since it was a subject she didn’t know about and she figured I knew something (incidently, the college students that taught there were also not dating other Jews). Before getting started, I asked the class (about 25 student), who would like to marry another Jew someday? Not a hand went up. Finally a hand went up in the corner and a young boy said, well, my parents want me to marry Jewish.

    This is what we are up against! Telling young Jews “Hashem said so” isn’t going to move them much. So, to answer your question. No it isn’t a complelling argument for those who are basically unattached to their heritage. They have no idea of their beautiful inheritance. We have to get spark their interest if we want to even begin having that conversation.

  163. Ron Coleman
    August 27th, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

    In the olden days when a Jew did intermarry and the family sat shiva and didn’t have anything to do with them after that, did that hard-line do anything to bring the intermarried person back, or were they and their descendants forever gone to Judaism?

    No, but the Jews of the olden days were not quite as stupid as you suggest. Their purpose was not to impress the ones who left. It was to impress the ones who had not.

  164. Leah Levenson
    August 27th, 2007 @ 3:21 pm

    SephardiLady,

    Before you swat me, please keep reading. We *do* get there.

    LeahL

  165. Kinneret
    August 27th, 2007 @ 6:21 pm

    Leah-

    I am referring to the use of the word “shiksa,” although I don’t think anyone here was using the term with particular malice; I think it’s disturbing how often we see a word that means “vermin” used to describe other human beings simply because those people are not Jews, regardless of how innocuous we think it may be.

    I am also referring to the practice of claiming that all Gentiles are anti-semites, which is also name-calling. Granted, I tend to take the latter issue quite personally because, were it not for a Gentile couple in Poland who risked their lives and the lives of their children to hide my husband’s grandfather and great-grandparents from the Nazis, his family would have been murdered and he, our children and family would not exist.

    It is, in my opinion, obscene to label these good, brave people anti-semitic or to cast aspersions on the many, many people just like them, and it’s made no less so by attempting to mitigate the epithet with qualifiers like “mean” anti-semites and “wondeful” anti-semites.

    More important than my own personal feelings is the reality that making claims that are or appear bigoted as a way of discouraging intermarriage will push people away from Judaism and from Torah and will create division and enmity where it needn’t exist. One of the strong cultural messages in the modern American secular world is that we are all alike, that our differences are purely superficial, and we live, primarily as individuals. For example, people who decry interracial marriage are considered bigots, and most statements of “we don’t want to marry them,” are, rightly or wrongly, viewed through the same lens.

    It is, as several people have pointed out, difficult enough to impress upon people who have been raised secular of Reform the importance of halacha, and using language that appears or is bigoted will make it doubly difficult.

    Additionally, I cannot see any good arising from telling Jews who have intermarried that they were snared by their anti-semitic spouses as a part of a vast Gentile conspiracy, and they should abandon those spouses and children forthwith without a fuller acknowledgment of the pain and damage such situations can create for all concerned. Put yourself in the place of a child being told his father must leave him because “G-d says so.”

  166. Bob Miller
    August 27th, 2007 @ 7:02 pm

    Kinneret,

    You noted that “One of the strong cultural messages in the modern American secular world is that we are all alike, that our differences are purely superficial, and we live, primarily as individuals.”

    1. Do you accept that major aspects of this cultural message are untrue?

    2. If so, what do you see as a constructive, as opposed to apologetic or evasive, approach we Jews should take to offer our counter-message?

  167. Steve Brize;
    August 27th, 2007 @ 10:17 pm

    Eliyahu and Leah L-IMO,I think that one can clearly disagree with your tactics and POV on this subject. I remain lost as to why you equated my observations with those known to you who suggested a trip to Malta. I remain convinced that in this age, where post modern age where everyone views their lifestory as having equal degrees of truth, meaning and validity that neither negativity nor horror stories that deny the Tzelem Elokim of all of God’s creatures with the ugliest of stereotypes will prevent an intermarriage nor draw someone close to Torah observance.

  168. Kinneret
    August 27th, 2007 @ 10:40 pm

    Bob-

    Re: #1- I have to qualify my answer slightly in that I think physical differences, skin color, for instance, are purely superficial, but no, I don’t think all our differences are purely superficial or that we all live as individuals. I think, however, one must be mindful of societal views when discussing such differences. If we live in a society which tends to view objections to intermarriage as bigotry althought our objections to intermarriage are not based on bigotry, I think we should be at pains to point out the difference.

    For example, I have a Gentile friend with whom I’ve been close since we were 6 years old. She has a daughter is about the same age as my son, and she once said something along the lines of “Wouldn’t it be nice if our children got married,” and of course, as much as I love and esteem this woman and her family, it would not be nice at all. When she realized I did not share her enthusiasm, she was truly hurt because she felt my objection must come from the belief that I and my children were superior to her and hers because they aren’t Jews.

    Fortunately, we were able to discuss the issue, and she was able to understand the objection to intermarriage has nothing to do with the issues of inherent superiority/inferiority, but I think her initial response to my opinion on intermarriage was typical and understandable and probably in line with how most people would respond in similar circumstances.

    Re: #2- I think there are a number of constructive ways to offer a counter-message. First and foremost, by emphasizing all the many joys and good things which arise from maintaining a Jewish home and observance and, as Leah mentions in one of her comments, by encouraging and initiating groups and organizations to create social opportunities that aren’t necessarily “singles” events. As others have noted here, young people, raised in a secular environment wherein intermarriage is not seen as problematic, are going to have more opportunities to meet Gentiles than to meet Jews, and attempting to mitigate this circumstance is important.

    With regard to people who are already intermarried, while I agree with what Ron Coleman says about why Jewish communities historically just cut off people who intermarried, it’s important to remember those communities were in societies wherein prohibitions on intermarriage and assimilation came from from without as much as from within, and as a result, there were very low intermarriage/assimilation rates. In the U.S., at least, wherein assimilation is strongly encouraged and attractive for a number of reasons, following the traditional model seems utterly self-defeating, and additionally, cultural sensibilities toward suggestions people should abandon their children are going to further diminish the appeal of Judaism and a Torah life. Outreach and encouraging (not coercing or pressuring or sugar-coating) conversion is a more constructive path to take, and I don’t think this kind of outreach constitutes either evasion or apologetics.

  169. Eliahu Levenson
    August 27th, 2007 @ 11:48 pm

    Steve,

    Tell it to the assimilated family of 4 who I had for dinner every Shabbos in New Mexico for years, and who now live a hareidi life as a family of 7 in Israel.

    Tell it to the assimilated meteorologist who is now a Lubavitch family man in Baltimore, but not before spending the time needed with me in my home.

    Tell it to the assimilated man in Dallas who broke off with his Christian girlfriend after putting up with my demeaner in my Jewish forum and now lives an observant Jewish life

    No two situations are the same. What works for one will not work for another, and one needs to contemplate deeply on how to proceed in every instance.

    I can go on with all kinds of examples. I have many stories.

    Who are you to talk about me or my wife about whom you know nothing?

    Best wishes, Eliahu

  170. Rachel Adler
    August 28th, 2007 @ 12:01 am

    I’ve been following this thread for quite some time, and I figured that I should weigh in with my own two cents.

    Kinneret and Sephardi Lady have brought up some good points. So has David Linn. And Mark. And Steve Brizel. It’s surprising how many people I’m agreeing with tonight!

    I’ll try to make this comment unique and not repeat what has been said over and over again.

    Leah, in comment 112 when you said “Judaism isn’t latkes and corned beef sandwiches. It isn’t Christmakah.

    It’s Torah. That’s it. That’s the whole ball of wax.” I have to disagree with you (except on Christmakah.)

    Judaism isn’t *just* the Torah. Yes, it is a religion, but it is also a nation and a culture. And culture here can have many different meanings.

    We have millenia worth of traditions. Not all of those traditions are based in halacha. But that doesn’t make them not Jewish. Even as an observant Jew, I still look forward to making latkes at my grandmother’s house every year.And yes, passover is about God taking the Jewish people out of Egypt in order that we may serve Him, but it’s also a time of being with your family, and eating really good food. (I’ve been blessed with invitations to spend the sedarim each year with wonderful families with wonderful cooks.)

    Come to think of it, a lot of Jewish culture has to do with food!

    And then there’s music. Zmirot on Shabbat. Nuisach. Trop. More trop. But there is also Israeli music and Klezmer music (I’m not such a fan of the latter, but my dad plays clarinet for a Klezmer band, and I would not deny that Klezmer music is Jewish.)

    We have languages- Hebrew, Aramaic, Yiddish, and Ladino. We have literature. We have a history. Some people might not connect to halacha, but feel a strong connection to Jewish history and the idea of Jews as a people.

    And there’s lots of archaeology. (I’m an archaeologist, so this one is important to me.) And the physical land of Israel. It is the land that God has given us, but it is also just a magnificent country. And there’s a real feeling of peoplehood there. People go out of their way to help one another, and are welcoming. I love Israel. (And yes, I know that it’s not just a happy Disney Land and that there are harsh economic realities and the government is having lots of problems, etc. But this is more of how I feel when I’m in Israel.)

    And especially in liberal Judaism there is a strong idea that Judaism and social justice go hand in hand.

    So to say that Judaism is “the Torah, and that’s it” is an oversimplification at best. Don’t discount over 3000 years of culture.

    (I think I’ll make a separate comment with my less tangential points. This turned into a rant if you couldn’t tell.)

  171. Rachel Adler
    August 28th, 2007 @ 12:30 am

    Ok. Now to actually talk about intermarriage, since that’s the topic at hand.

    I agree with the people who make the point that telling assimilated Jews that intermarriage is forbidden in the Torah and then expecting them to no longer want to intermarry is not the best approach.

    Like SephardiLady said, “People of all races can meet and marry, and any group wishing to perpetuate its continuance is going to have to have a case why to do so.” Speaking as an anthropologist now, people can raise their children in a certain community, but if they want their children to stay in the community, then they must teach the children the values of the community, and make it so that when the children grow up, they feel attached to the community, and want to stay in it.

    The more attached you are to Judaism, the harder it is to intermarry. Besides the obvious “it’s assur,” if your Judaism is a fundamental part of you, you’re going to want to be with someone who shares that, and can appreciate you for who you are, including the part of you that is your Jewish identity. If your Jewish identity *is* your identity, then that pretty much leaves no room for intermarriage.

    For many unaffiliated Jews, this isn’t the case. Their Judaism is just a small part of their identity. Thus, it isn’t such a big deal for them to marry someone who isn’t Jewish. In order for them to want to marry in, they need some attachment to Judaism.

    Which I guess would bring me back to the rant in my last commnet. If you can bring people back to Judaism through Jewish culture, maybe it will lead to them wanting to keep halacha as well. Or at least it will lead to them wanting to marry someone who also believes that their Judaism [whatever that might mean to them] is an important part of who they are.
    ~~~~~~~~

    My other big point is availability. It’s much easier to date someone Jewish when there are other Jews around to date! If we want to stop the tide of intermarriage, we have to bring Jews together. And not just through shidduchim. There needs to be a way to bring less observant Jews together as well.

    This is why Michael Steindhart gave millions of dollars to birthright- the idea behind the trip being that it will a. get young Jewish adults to go to Israel and develop a love of the country and b. get young Jewish adults to interact with each other and perhaps form relationships. Actually, when I was on my Hillel Pluralism Leadership trip freshman year of college, Steindhart said that if any couple who met on this trip got married by the end of 2005 (it was December 2003/January 2004 then) he would pay for the honeymoon. I’m not sure if anyone actually took him up on his offer. But this is just an example of a non-observant Jew who is invested in the future of the Jewish people.

    I think that Reform and Conservative high school temple youth groups and summer camps have similar goals of bringing Jews together.

    For the college and post-college demographic: Shiurim are great, but not everyone is interested in learning. There should be a range of programs to get Jewish singles to meet. Social events, lectures on Israeli politics, song sessions… I bet others would be better at thinking of ideas than I am. You may or may not want to add kiruv to the equation. We’ve debated kiruv in a lot of other posts already…

    My point is not that there’s one right way to bring Jews together, but that we should at least be trying something. Jews need to meet other Jews in order to marry Jewish and raise Jewish kids.

    (And I’m sorry if this ended up being not so well organized or if my grammar is off. This is me writing off the top of my head, and at 12:30 in the morning.)

  172. Eliahu Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 12:38 am

    Shalom Steve,

    I apologize for my tough sounding demeanor. I’m not angry. I want your attention and the attention of all posters.

    We Jews are not setting the kinds of examples we need to exemplify how Jews should speak to one another, and ergo to learn from one another.

    We live in a world that has little and no respect for pain caused to others by our choices of words. We are desensitized to how those around us are affected. I include myself as well, all of us at our own particular level of desensitization.

    In my own fora for a number of years I have posted Chafetz Chaim lessons on proper speech (with permission) and did so daily (except Shabbos and Yom Tov). I did repeated a several diffences sequences of several hundred posts two and three times each.

    I made it a point to read carefully and try to assimilate every lesson before I posted it. This is a subject I feel I must never stop refreshing myself.

    If someone says something you don’t like or you don’t agree with, there are ways to discuss the matter so that all parties can benefit and grow.

    When I or others are attacked, then we have to decide whether to accept the attack tacitly, or to defend ourselves, or sometimes, perhaps, take even stronger stances. All to often this leads to viciousness and downward spirals. The benefits of our interactions crumbling before our eyes.

    It doesn’t have to be that way. We may be stiff necked in our ideas, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be stiff necked and nice at the same time.

    I hope this means something to you as I am writing in the spirit of the quickly approaching Yomim Noraim, I extend my heartfelt apology to everyone here of whom I may have hurt with my words or of whom I could have been more tactful in sparing someone’s feelings.

    Realizing I’ll probably never figure out how to please everyone, I will concentrate on self improvement (bli neder – it is always good to add that sentiment).

    Thank you Steve. It is because of you that I have come to this inner realization of my own shortcomings at this time and the need for me to act upon them.

  173. Ora
    August 28th, 2007 @ 1:37 am

    robbins–

    I grew up and became Torah observant in a town with a small Jewish population, and an even smaller observant population (which for a while consisted of: me). Fortunately I, like the other couple of BTs from my area, eventually met a wonderful and observant Jewish spouse–in Israel. Sometimes it is just too difficult to date Jewish while in a particular location, and at that point, we have to start looking in a new location.

    Physically moving is often difficult to impossible, but what about online dating? Are you/ your friends from Aish trying that? There are many Jewish dating sites, geared to all different levels of observance (although as someone pointed out, make sure that those you meet online are actually Jewish). I know happy couples who’ve met that way.

    As for the Aish coordinators in your city, did you talk to them about creating some singles events (sorry if you already answered this)? Keep in mind that they are restricted by issues of budget and community interest–they might not know enough singles to make an event feasible.

    Also, have you tried matchmakers? It sounds old-fashioned, but is actually a great way to meet people. I know there are often Jewish matchmakers in relatively small communities (North Carolina and Arizona come to mind), maybe there’s one near you. There may also be non-Jewish matchmakers or dating services that will happily match you only with other Jews.

  174. Elisheva
    August 28th, 2007 @ 1:38 am

    Is this what Yahadut is about? This entire thread, with a few exceptions, has been one long battle over who is good and who is evil. The Yamim Nora’im are coming up and, as far as I can tell, we all firmly believe that judgment will happen then. And here you all are trying to beat Hashem to it.
    You all seem to be forgetting the difference between people and words. Each and every one of these posts is backed by one of G-d’s creations. All of these people you converse with so easily are flesh and blood human beings. Kavod HaBriyot is an important mitzvah too.
    With all due respect, please act like the men and women G-d knows you can be, with respect and understanding towards your fellow creatures. You are all so quick to demand it when dealing with intermarried Jews. What about each other?

  175. Ora
    August 28th, 2007 @ 1:58 am

    Sephardi Lady, I’mJewish, Eliahu, and others–

    It’s good to keep in mind that not all people who do the same thing have the same motives. While some non-Jews deliberately seek out Jews, and vice versa, most intermarried couples end up together because they happened to meet and simply didn’t care about their religious differences (if there were any).

    However, just because any one of us only knows intermarried couples of the more standard variety doesn’t mean there aren’t many out there who are actively hoping to intermarry/ marry a Jew. There are non-Jews on JDate. The “Shiksa’s guide to dating Jewish men” is not “just a joke,” and the author herself (who has dated many Jewish men) insists that her book, while “lighthearted,” gives serious advice. There are Jewish men who actively seek out non-Jewish women, and while some of you might not know any such men personally, they most definitely exist. So while Eliahu’s original post, IMO, exaggerated the extent of this phenomena, his claims that non-Jews seek out Jews are not merely paranoia. Most non-Jews do not, but some do.

    On a happier note, many “intermarriages” included in the statistics are actually marriages between gentiles and gentiles. While most of the older intermarried couples I know are actually Jewish and non-Jewish, in most of the younger couples I know, the “Jewish” partner was adopted from a non-Jewish mother without a proper conversion, or is the son/daughter of a mother who “converted” in a non-halachic ceremony, or is “half Jewish” with the “half” coming from the father. I actually know a Christian couple who are raising their son as Jewish–the mother’s father was Jewish, and they decided they prefer the local synagogue to the local church. When their son marries a non-Jewish woman, that too will probably be listed as an intermarriage. I’m not saying there’s no cause for concern, just that a not insignificant percent of the alarmingly high number of intermarriages out there is actually due to previous assimilation correcting itself, as opposed to new assimilation.

  176. Fern
    August 28th, 2007 @ 2:49 am

    “If you all think that even the sweetest nicest non-Jew out there doesn’t harbour some prejudice or preconceived idea of what Jews are, you are naive.”

    Sorry, I don’t buy that mentality. Not at all. I know many Christians on a very close level because my dad is Christian as is his side of the family.

    I can say, without a shadow of doubt, that not all Christians harbor some level of anti-Semetism. My dad was just as supportive of my Jewish education and upbringing as my mother, if not more so. At one point he was the president of my Conservative Jewish day school. Which that is a sad commentary on Conservative Judaism, but it speaks volumes about my father and his support of Judaism and Jewish education. My father has been to my mother’s Temple literally thousands of times over the past 28 years. He knows the entire (Reform) prayer service by heart and can say all the prayers in Hebrew and understands the gist of what he is saying. My point is, when my dad reaches out to Hashem, he prays in Hebrew using Jewish prayers. I dare you, after hearing all of that, to look me in the eye and say that my dad has even an a fraction of an ounce of anti-Semitism inside of him.

  177. I'mJewish
    August 28th, 2007 @ 5:35 am

    “If you all think that even the sweetest nicest non-Jew out there doesn’t harbour some prejudice or preconceived idea of what Jews are, you are naive.”

    I am horrified and ashamed that the ugliness in this statement came from a Torah-observant Jew. It is truly this type of statement that ushers BT’s off the derech and prevents other potential BT’s from exploring observance.

  178. Leah Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 6:43 am

    Fern/I’m Jewish,

    Thank you for the tochacha. I’m an ugly Jew. Thank you.

    LeahL

  179. Leah Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 7:11 am

    Rachel, good posts and thank you for broadening my perspective. You raised excellent points I didn’t consider in my “Torah is all” comment.

    Kinneret, thank you so much for your further elucidation and an additional reminder to me to ask for clarification when I don’t fully understand.

    Be well,

    LeahL

  180. Leah Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 7:18 am

    Ora,

    I appreciate your post. It validates aspects of my perspective and shows I am not entirely out in left field, which is how I’m feeling right now, today, having read some of the more recent comments about my posts.

    LeahL

  181. robbins
    August 28th, 2007 @ 7:32 am

    Hi Ora!
    Thank you for your ideas. Without going into unnecessary detail, I would just say that many of the single guys at my Aish branch gave very generously to Aish with the express purpose that they would expend best effort to help us marry Jewish. Without speaking for them, I think it is fair to say some might be gun shy about investing further in this process, as our experience at Aish may not have been consistent with the “best efforts” they led us to believe they would use to help.

    To everyone else, let’s lay off the Levenson’s for a while. While I was somewhat offended by their tone as well, they seem to be remorseful, and further, they have what to add to the discussion if they can disabuse themselves of their paranoia. Specifically, no one who cares so much for her religion and her people should be described, especially by herself, as an “ugly Jew.”

  182. Leah Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 7:55 am

    Something interesting seems to keep happening at this forum, and I don’t quite understand it.

    I’ve seen blatant anti-Torah anti-observant Judaism posts, as couched in lovely descriptives as they are, go by with very little comment. I’ve only seen one or two people step up to counter them.

    But posts that take a very strong Torah stance on some issues, like this one, citing scripture and providing the words of sages to support a viewpoint, seem to engender a great deal of hostility and anger. Why? Because the world doesn’t want to hear Torah and our secular friends are not interested?

    That may be so. But it is wrong to attack us for it.

    Robbins, the remorse derives from the abject hostility we attract and for the chilul hashem that some of these conversations cause.

    I’m not remorseful about my views based on actual experiences, although I have learned some things, and I’m sure my husband would say the same.

    LeahL

  183. Mark
    August 28th, 2007 @ 9:52 am

    Since you asked, I think there are (at least) three reasons people are reacting strongly to your posts and comments:

    1) Many people are not comfortable with the fire and brimstone type approaches that you espouse and the lack of sensitivity that it entails (at least how you express it here).

    2) You defend yourselves in an extremely aggressive (and often offensive) manner.

    3) You often seem so sure that you are right and that yours is the Torah true approach, implying that others are not. I found one recent comment about your readiness to be judged by Hashem as off the charts in terms of Gaivah.

    These are some of the reasons why people are reacting strongly to both of you.

  184. David Linn
    August 28th, 2007 @ 9:30 am

    Leah,

    I haven’t seen a single comment here that disagrees with the obvious truth that intermarriage is prohibited by the Torah, period. All of the comments that have disagreed with your points or your husband’s points have been regarding approach, view of non-Jews and a perceived lack of sensitivity toward those who are in the difficult position of having intermarried and started families prior to becoming more interested in yiddishkeit. Case in point, Fern, who has previously written about the difficulties entailed by being married to a non-religious spouse, wrote passionately about her non-Jewish father and how she found your characterization of non-Jews (which includes her father) to be offensive. Instead of empathizing, without giving one inch of credibility to intermarriage, you sarcasically responded “I’m an ugly Jew”. Would your own rabbonim approve of such a response? Does such a response provide anything productive? Does it move anyone closer to Torah?

    Rav Yisrael Salanter said that someone can trample a whole world running to do a mitzvah. I am not saying that that is what you are doing. What I am saying is that an approach which comes from a point of view that “I am right” so who cares about what others say or feel not only disregards the possibility that you might be wrong (it happened to me once!) but also shuts people off to what you are saying even if you are right.

    There is such a thing as an agreeable disagreement.

  185. Eliahu Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 9:36 am

    Shalom Robbins,

    Thank you for your sentiments but I don’t need people laying off us. I desire people learn how to communicate as Jews to everyone.

    As to remorse, I am keenly aware that as a human being I will not always succeed in what I do to the greatest degree that was possible. Where I realize I could have done then I sincerely wish I had done better. I think that is the definition of remorse.

    As to paranoia, I and my wife have none that I am aware of. We have knowledge based on much learning and experience of the harm people are doing to themselves and to others, and that knowledge is being misdiagnosed by some as paranoia.

    You won’t understand us until you can be us, see what we see, pictures both big and small, and know what we know, lessons gleaned through learning, discourse, and the hard knocks some people adore giving to us. We learn much from those too.

    Regards, Eliahu

  186. Eliahu Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 9:38 am

    Shalom David,

    There are people here more deserving of your tachacha. Tell us why to choose Leah, and ignore the others. If you wants names I will e-mail them to you.

    Can you explain yourself. I have been discussing this dichotomy with my wife for months.

    Thank you.

  187. Bob Miller
    August 28th, 2007 @ 9:49 am

    Once in a while, the apparently tolerant attitude of a non-Jew towards Jews is put to the test. Some pass and some fail. History shows that it’s hard to draw any conclusions from someone’s everyday friendliness.

    Here’s an example of a non-Jew who did the right thing under very adverse circumstances:
    http://www1.yadvashem.org/about_yad/press_room/press_releases/Dohnanyi.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_von_Dohnanyi

  188. Eliahu Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 10:21 am

    Shalom Mark,

    “Since you asked, I think there are (at least) three reasons people are reacting strongly to your posts and comments:”

    Good. Let’s hear.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    1) Many people are not comfortable with the fire and brimstone type approaches that you espouse and the lack of sensitivity that it entails (at least how you express it here).

    Those generalities require that you bring for examples that we can talk about. Such is essential. I know I don’t understand what this means.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    2) You defend yourselves in an extremely aggressive (and often offensive) manner.

    Generalities. I’m sure my wife will not understand what this means. I know I don’t. I hope others won’t simply accept it because that is what you chose to say.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    3) You often seem so sure that you are right and that yours is the Torah true approach, implying that others are not. I found one recent comment about your readiness to be judged by Hashem as off the charts in terms of Gaivah.”

    What do you mean by this? I know the words sound impressive. What do they mean?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The following is from the “start page” of my Jewish forum:

    “One helpful hint to all posters on how to write a post in our Chevra (community). Many of us speak in generalities, without offering much in the way of detail in support of our generalities. I, myself, have a habit of pointing this out to people as it occurs. We wish lucidity of thought and clarity of posted message to be hallmarks of our forum.”

  189. David Linn
    August 28th, 2007 @ 10:40 am

    Reb Eliahu,

    The only reason that I put up that comment, and addressed it to your dear wife, is because she asked for a clarification. I always try to steer the comments back on point when I can. However, it is clear from this rather lengthy comment thread that there is a fairly overwhelming disagreement with the approach. Now, just because many people believe something doesn’t mean it’s true. However, Leah expressed her disbelief as to the level of contrariness and basically invited a reply.

    Please don’t presume that as an administrator of the blog I am not giving personal “tochacha”, privately to others. As a matter of fact, that is pretty much always my first line of approach. In this instance, however, since Leah asked in the open thread, I responded here.

    As a Jew and as a blog administrator, I try to keep my focus on being an ohev shalom and a rodeph shalom. If anything I said was hurtful to you or Leah, I apologize.

  190. Mark
    August 28th, 2007 @ 10:48 am

    Eliahu, I’m not going to point out specifics because I don’t think it will help you understand the points any better.

    You asked why the two of you are often attacked and I gave three reasons, your approach, your tone, and your certitude that you are (almost) always right.

  191. Bob Miller
    August 28th, 2007 @ 10:55 am

    It’s a fine line between righteous and self-righteous, and we all step over the line now and then.

    I agree with some points Eliahu and Leah have made. We should be mature enough to make allowances for personal style so we can objectively draw the useful parts out of people’s comments.

    Regarding Mark’s Point 3 above (today, 09:52)and Eliahu’s response (today, 10:21), see my earlier comment #136 of August 27th, 2007 08:58 in this discussion.

  192. Eliahu Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 11:01 am

    Shalom David,

    You said nothing hurtful to me, but in my opinion, you are supporting some less than stellar behavior by certain posters, by 1) remaining tacit, and 2) “appearing” to join in.

    A parent can’t expect his child to be better than he is, and although your intentions are good, you have been openly critical of “us,” while sending out private e-mails to others. People don’t see those private e-mails but they see the “us” part.

    There are a number of posters here, and yasher koach to them, who do a very good job speaking out against inappriate and errant guidance and behavior. Thank goodness you have such people here helping to keep this a fine blog.

    I feel quite sure there are other people who would like to contribute to a meaningful exchange but hold back because they don’t want to be jumped on for honest dialogue.

    To them a great disservice is being done…again this is only my opinion.

    Kol tuv, Eliahu

    Thank you for answering.

  193. David Linn
    August 28th, 2007 @ 11:29 am

    First things first, I’m glad that I did not say something hurtful.

    Second, I beg you to reread my comment wherein I explicitly stated that there was a reason that I responded to Leah openly here:

    “Please don’t presume that as an administrator of the blog I am not giving personal “tochacha”, privately to others. As a matter of fact, that is pretty much always my first line of approach.***>>In this instance, however, since Leah asked in the open thread, I responded here.<<***

    Third, the very reason that I don’t need to get involved as often when people are giving “inappropriate or errant advice” is because there are others who will do it. Moreover, I think that it is usually pretty obvious that these commenters are just plain wrong. These commentors are also often just sticking their nose in for absolutely no constructive purpose.

    In the present situation, however, where you and your wife are making valid Torah points and are trying to be constructive, and I feel that the post is being hijacked by recriminations over approach, I have to step in.

    Fourth, I happen to personally disagree with your approach. That is not a blog thing, it is a me thing. I could be wrong, you could be right or, more likely, something in between. That doesn’t make it an attack.

    Fifth, although I can’t know this for sure, I don’t think there are many blogs around that are as commentor friendly as ours. We often receive kudos for the high level of discussion and gratitude for not allowing discussions to devolve into flame wars. We have yet to receive an e-mail voicing an opinion that they would like to comment but are afraid of being jumped on.

    Finally, I think part of our (and I mean mine and yours, not others here) disconnect is
    that it appears that you think I don’t want to have what you call “honest dialogue”. I, on the other hand, relish honest dialogue but would like to see it coupled with a higher level of derech eretz.

  194. I'mJewish
    August 28th, 2007 @ 11:45 am

    Shalom LeahL,

    No one called you an ugly Jew. I have no doubt that you are a wonderful and caring person.

    But certainly you can see how many of us, particularly those who have Gentile branches in our family tree, are offended by the presumption that even the “nicest” non-Jew out there is either prejudiced against Jews or has some ulterior motive for wanting to marry / convert them. I reserve the right to think that that is an ugly thought, and not in keeping with how I believe Hashem wants us to relate to all the world’s nations.

    And for every “I know a Gentile who used the phrase Jew-me-down,” I can find Gentiles who would truly be appalled at the idea of such a sentiment. The good out there really does outweigh the bad, Leah.

    I am sorry if I offended you.

  195. Eliahu Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 12:31 pm

    Shalom David,

    It isn’t the first time, just the first time I have mentioned it.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    For example, here is one that I still remember by you, from my Mashgiach thread #76 –

    “Eliyahu, …If you incorporate the constructive comments here, you will become even more effective in your avodah. Hatzlachah Rabbah.”

    That is what I call pulling the rug right out from under me David. I know you had only good intentions, but I also know how certain people looking for ways to attack read such words from “the boss.” Open season, on me, has been approved by BT management.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Because blatantly inappropriate posting by a number of specific persons has be allowed repeatedly, my wife and I have almost left this blog a number of times. It isn’t good enough that you have “reasons” for letting them post. This is a moderated forum meaning that what gets through could have been stopped or edited, but management decided not to be involved.

    It was only that my wife and I agree there are others who could still glean important considerations from us that I told my wife it was not yet time to take our leave of this fine place.

    Regards, Eliahu

  196. Eliahu Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 12:40 pm

    Shalom I’m Jewish,

    My wife does not think that every non-Jew is anti-semitic. She has found that very lovely people with the best of intentions say and/or do things which are not entirely conducive to a Jew being a Jew.

    I haven’t asked her, but I know her…and she definitely does not think that all non-Jews are anti-semitic.

    She was talking about a few leaves on the anti-semitic tree, and this has been construed to mean that all non-Jews are anti-semites.

    Tf that were the case my wife and I would have had deep clarifying discussions on what it means to be antisemitic. Such discussions were not necessary. She has been misunderstood.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    And now a few words on being misunderstood. It happens. I try to be so careful about this, but it is unavoidable for anyone.

    The idea is to remain nice to one another and discuss what is going on under all parties are on the same page.

    Hurling epithets tell us a lot about the epithet throwers, and nothing about the people they are referring to.

    The greatest Rabbi I have ever been acquainted with told me he always gives three talks. 1) The talk he thought he gave, 2) the talk the people heard, 3) and the talk people later came and told him he gave.

    Regards, Eliahu

  197. Bob Miller
    August 28th, 2007 @ 12:43 pm

    You have to verbally duke it out now and then, even with moderators, but pick your spots.

  198. Eliahu Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 12:53 pm

    Shalom Bob,

    Know when to hold em, know when to fold em. And that’s a skill. I’ll never know if I’m any good at that skill until I leave this world.

  199. I'mJewish
    August 28th, 2007 @ 1:00 pm

    Shalom Eliahu,

    I agree we should be nice to one another. I also think that we should be nice to the non-Jewish nations out there, both as a general principle and because so many very nice and good Gentiles are dear to those on this board. And your wife made a very clear statement, that even the “nice” non-Jews out there are prejudiced and that those of us who disagree are naive. If you want honest dialogue, then let’s debate her statement.

  200. David Linn
    August 28th, 2007 @ 1:04 pm

    Eliahu,

    Again, I apologize if I hurt your feelings. I wear three hats here, and with such a big head that’s not so hard. I am an administrator and I am a fellow commenter. I also write here.

    As a fellow commenter and a friend, I made that point in the mashgiach thread because I recognized the good that you have done and continue to do and I felt that you have the best intentions and could do even more if you were to incorporate the CONSTRUCTIVE criticism of others. Don’t forget my earlier comment on that same post wherein I said:

    “Just as a clarification here and to get things back on track, I don’t think anyone is questioning the sincerety and good intentions of R. Eliyahu. What some are questioning is whether he can achieve his proper goal in a better way.

    As you were… ”

    Or, perhaps more on point, the intro to the very comment you quoted above which stated:

    “I will reiterate that, IMHO, you (and Leah)are well intentioned and that you do an amazing job of bringing others closer to Torah, both online and in the real world.”

    It’s really beyond me how this could have been construed as anything other than constructive. Perhaps this is the lesson here. I should be more careful with my words in that even when I am well intentioned (and even when you admitted that I had good intentions), I may be offending someone. Perhaps that will help you see that even when you are well intentioned, you may be offending someone.

    I ask your forgiveness here and in the past for offending you. It was not my intention but if I did so, I apologize.

  201. David Linn
    August 28th, 2007 @ 1:06 pm

    Bob, even with MODERATORS!!

    Ok, now I officially have the 200th comment.

  202. Eliahu Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 1:12 pm

    Shalom David,

    I KNOW it is constructive and well intentioned. I’m not talking about any of this for me…it’s for the next person.

    People see things the way they want to see them, and it is quite obvious what certain people are looking for.

    We are not to give it to them if we can help it. Know your readers.

    When I write, I make it a point not to write to the person I am replying to. I try always to write to the invisible reader behind the scenes.

    Secondarily I write to the person I am speaking with.

    In my next post, in a few minutes, I’m going to tell you a little bit about my history, and I think that will help you understand me better and where I come from.

  203. Bob Miller
    August 28th, 2007 @ 1:13 pm

    As Barry Goldwater pointed out in 1964, “And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

  204. Rachel Adler
    August 28th, 2007 @ 1:18 pm

    I’ve been blogging for almost 4 years now, and have seen my share of flame wars, or not flame wars but still heated debates in my time. (Though this thread makes my shidduchim and nose piercing posts look like big group hug sessions!)

    I think the main reason things get so heated is because we tend to forget that there’s another person on the other side of the monitor somewhere. When you’re talking to someone in person and you see that your words are starting to upset them visibly, usually you stop, and try to make amends and discuss things more civilly (unless you’re in an actual fight…)

    Online, you can’t see how other people are reacting. You can’t know how much you might be hurting someone else. Sure, you can guess, but your perceptions are clouded by the impersonality of the computer screen.

    And also, people have a feeling of “this isn’t real.” But we are all real people (or at least I think we are.)

    That, and you can’t hear a person’s tone in blog comments, so it’s harder to judge the writer’s meaning. Especially when a post could be taken to be sarcastic or literal, and you don’t know which it is. You’re judging by your own intellect, and not by observation.
    ~~~~~~~~~~
    Also, in terms of why we all think other people are making generalizations, I think people are not being careful enough in their wording.

    Before I go on, I’d like to point out that I am not blaming anyone here on either side, but am merely trying to trace back to the source of contention.

    One major one was the first of Leah’s comments, (I think. Maybe this wasn’t the first one):

    “I’ve had a great many friends who are not Jewish in my time, and I have yet to have ONE that didn’t harbour some level of anti-Semitic feeling, either out of ignorance or just plain unacknowledged anti-Semitism”

    Okay. True, this is not saying that all non-Jews are anti-Semites, but it is saying that you have never befriended a non-anti-Semitic gentile. All the gentiles that you currently know have anti-Semitic feelings on some level. Ergo all the gentiles you know are anti-Semitic. Ergo all gentiles are anti-Semitic. That’s the logic behind the leaps of generalization.

    And as for Eliyahu, the post that sparked the most heated reaction was probably this one:
    ““If anything, the very fact that it’s not that big of a deal for a typical Gentile to welcome a Jew into their family via intermarriage indicates that most people out there aren’t anti-Semitic…”

    It is the opposite. This IS anti-semitism. Read carefully Devarim (Deuteronomy) 13:8-11.

    There are mean anti-semites, and there are lovely and wonderful anti-semites. There are anti-semites who know they are anti-semites, and there are anti-semites who think they are benefitting the Jews, and don’t have a clue that it is the opposite.

    Jews are attacked physically by mean anti-semites, and Jews are attacked spiritually by both mean and wonderful anti-semites.

    There are also all kinds of Jewish anti-semites.

    Sometimes I think people have no idea what anti-semitism means? It’s all about God’s Jewish Covenant.”

    Basically this conveys the impression that anyone who does not oppose intermarriage and welcomes a Jew into their family is hurting klal yisrael. And anything that hurts klal yisrael is anti-semetism. Ergo all the nice gentiles who are okay with intermarriage are anti-semites, and all the gentiles who don’t like Jews were already labeled as anti-Semites.

    Thus we’ve come to the, albeit incorrect, conclusion that you both believe that all Jews are anti-semites. And it just grew from there.

    So we should all try to be as careful as possible in our wording of phrases, so as to correctly convey what we were thinking. The more clear you are in your writing, the less likely it is for someone to misinterpret your words. (I could also be speaking as someone who was told to clarify her writing a lot while she was writing her thesis. It’s sort-of ingrained into my head now.)

    Though I should stop posting and finish packing for my move to Cambridge. If anyone has anything to say to me, I might not be reading this thread again until late tonight. But I will come back and read it.

  205. Eliahu Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 1:25 pm

    A few words about myself…

    Many years ago I discovered computers. I bought one, but I couldn’t get it start. I asked a tenant of mine, Mr. Rodkin, who understood circuitry things, if he knew the magic formula to make my new computer do something besides flash a cursor at me from a black screen.

    He typed three letters, D O S, and my computer opened her petals and sprung to colorful life. I used my computer for record keeping purposes. After a number of months Mr. Rodkin asked me if I use the internet?

    What’s the internet? I responded.

    He showed me, and my colorful caterpillar, on that day, turned into a monarch butterfly. I could read the news on my internet homepage every day.

    After a few months I was asked for my e-mail address.

    What’s e-mail? I queried.

    And another world opened up to me. I didn’t know anybody to e-mail, but at least I could look forward to receiving junk mail on a daily basis.

    After a few months someone asked me what I do when I surf? I thought they must know I’m from Santa Monica, California, but I never surfed.

    And another new world opened up to me.

    After a few months someone taught me about search engines.

    I typed in the word, “Jewish,” and another new world opened up to me.

    In case you haven’t noticed, I am TOTALLY self taught on computer. The only instruction I ever had was how to type the letters D O S.

    Of typing I was proficient from a very young age. I was a fairly expert typist before the electric typewriter was invented.

    Back to my search engine, I typed in the word, Jewish…and I found…Jewish forums. It was Heaven, amazing beyond belief…

    I’ll continue in a few minutes…

  206. Bob Miller
    August 28th, 2007 @ 1:25 pm

    This article discusses some issues raised in this discussion:

    http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2006/09/05/is-antisemitism-universal/

  207. David Linn
    August 28th, 2007 @ 1:30 pm

    Bob, are you bringing up Goldwater here due to his being the son of an intermarried couple? :)

    There’s the famous line: “I knew that if a Jew were ever to become President, he would be an Episcopalian” (Goldwater’s father “converted” to the Episcopal Church and married a non-Jew, dispelling the notion that Goldwater was Jewish)

  208. Eliahu Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 1:37 pm

    Continuing…

    I was so excited. I discovered the Dr. Laura forum. Her forum had posters from all walks of life and religions and I could talk to everybody. I kind of became the dominant character on her forums and spent much time there for a few years until she closed it down.

    I tried “Jewish” in my search engine again, and was transported to a new dimension: Orthodox Jewish Forums, where people could talk to me and teach me, and on more than a few occasions even learn from me.

    Only there was a problem. The Jews on the forums weren’t nice to each other. I couldn’t believe it, and it was literally making me sick.

    Everybody was always nice on the Dr. Laura forum, even the homosexuals and the atheists. They mey not like what we had to say, but they were always nice…because NO post ever got through the Dr. Laura without going through strict moderation first.

    Now I was at a Jewish forum that had the power to gag and edit, but they didn’t use those powers. People could pretty much say what they wanted with only the most extreme cases attended to.

    I spent most of my time on these Jewish forums arguing with people, not over a plethora of Jewish topics, only one topic. We shouldn’t be talking to each other like this. It’s chillul Hashem. It’s terrible. Please stop doing this.

    One day I went to my Jewish forums and I was gagged. I couldn’t post any more. There was a note for me… CLICK HERE!

    I clicked and was transported to a brand new forum, called, “Chevra Eliahu.” There was one post in Chevra Eliahu, I clicked on it and the post said, “You don’t like the way we do things, do it your own way.”

    I never intended to have a forum of my own. I didn’t know how to run a forum. I just wanted a cordial Jewish atmosphere for learning. I certainly didn’t understand that someone could create a forum in MY name, using MY moniker, making ME the owner and decisor of everything in there…without my knowing about it or giving my consent.

    I’ll continue in a few minutes…

  209. Bob Miller
    August 28th, 2007 @ 1:38 pm

    Here’s a Goldwater-related story:

    My father told me an interesting WW2 story about his time in training as part of the 701st Tank Battalion at the top secret Camp Bouse in the Arizona desert.

    Soldiers in the special tank units were only let out on leave in pairs as a security precaution. My father and a buddy heard about an upcoming Jewish dance in Phoenix where GI’s were welcome, so they went there expecting to have to sleep on park benches after the dance. However, a lady at the event, Sen. Barry Goldwater’s mother, invited them over to the Goldwater mansion, so they were driven there to sleep over. Afterwards, one of the Goldwater employees took them on a tour of Phoenix and nearby. At the Camelback Inn, they were in the swimming pool, when my father’s buddy spotted his own pre-war civilian boss from NYC in the pool!

  210. Eliahu Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 1:45 pm

    Continuing…

    My immediate thought, which I carry with me to this very day, is that this was no accident. God wanted a Jewish forum where people were careful how they spoke, and I had been assigned to make it happen.

    I put my heart into it, and made understanding the significance of loshon hora, motzei shem ra, rechilus, sinas chinam, and the lack of ahavas Yisrael, the center point of my forum before you could get past the front door (start page).

    I catered to both Jews and Noachides, but later decided to separate the groups into a specifically Jewish and a specifically Noachide forum and I divided Chevra Eliahu essentially in half, catering specifically to each targeted audience.

    A few notes. The people who began Chevra Eliahu, did so as a joke. They didn’t expect it to be taken seriously, but it was. More stories there, but not for here or now.

    Also, shortly before I was kicked out of the Jewish forums I was discoursing with a lady who credits me with her leaving the unaffiliated and becoming orthodox. She’s not the only one whose lives I helped changed in those venues, but she was the only one there that I married.

    Now I trust you know me a tiny bit better.

  211. Eliahu Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 1:49 pm

    That last post of mine ended up as #210. After 210 years God took the Jews out of Mitzrayim “with a mighty hand (strength) and an outstretched arm (kiruv).”

    Very appropriate that ended on #210. Coincidence?

  212. SephardiLady
    August 28th, 2007 @ 2:09 pm

    Rachel,
    Venues for Jewish people to meet other people are key to helping alleivate the intermarriage problem, especially for those who would prefer to marry another Jew. However, the game of chance of meeting and marrying is not enough to help promote in-marriage. There needs to be a vision and marriage culture which is sadly not present. The marriage culture needs to come from parents, community members, and leaders. The idea “I’ll get married when I’m 30″ doesn’t help in furthering “Come to Hillel House to Meet your Spouse” (a slogan from the past).

    Like I mentioned, I had a number of friends from other tight religious groups growing up. They married in because there was an active culture of promoting marriage. I believe something like 50% of Brigham Young University students marry *before* they leave BYU. I was friends with two sisters in high school who were part of some small Christian sect. They attended a certain college in Texas and were expected to find a spouse there.

    I don’t know what we can do as Orthodox Jews to help our non-Orthodox friends meet and marry Jewish spouses. If there was a greater and more active marriage culture, I bet it would be easier. But, I’m open to hearing any ideas.

  213. Steve Brizel
    August 28th, 2007 @ 2:24 pm

    Eliyahu-WADR,one of the main issues that BTs have with the kiruv world and many of its professionals is that they tend to view sucess stories to be worn as notches on some sort of belt and to be trotted out in discussions of this nature. Your response in this regard unfortunately proves my point.While I don’t doubt your sucesses, the Mesorah of kiruv that worked with yours truly ( NCSY, YU and RIETS) emphasized showing the average American Jewish teen the profundity and depths of Torah observance and learning as well as the capacity of Torah to exist in any culture. I remain convinced that the overwhelming majority of American Jews,especially those under 30, will react to horor stories and negative based views about all of God’s creations-Jewish or non-Jewish.

  214. Eliahu Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 2:29 pm

    Shalom Steve,

    Thank you for yet another personal attack on myself. I need those attacks right now to help open the eyes of people as to how we relate to one another.

    Hopefully your post is a mitzvah which will accrue much benefit to you.

    Regards, Eliahu

  215. Ora
    August 28th, 2007 @ 2:29 pm

    Leah–

    I usually let anti-Torah posts go by because what’s the point of fighting? However, with you I get the impression that what I say will be taken seriously. In a weird way, the criticism is a compliment, as you are being told “I think you might have the humility to change your view and even publicly admit past mistakes.”

    I can understand those who have “attacked” your comments on non-Jews and anti-Semitism. Reading your comments, I felt as if I were under attack (as the unappointed representative of many non-Jewish family members). I know that wasn’t your intention, but I think there were probably many who reacted as I did. Just as you feel under attack when posters criticize an “ugly” statement you made, so I feel under attack when you say that all non-Jews have some anti-Semitism or at least preconceived notions about Jews. Maybe you meant to include positive preconceived notions, like “Jews are cool,” but if so that wasn’t clear in your post.

    Anyway, Rachel Adler already said all of this much more coherently, so I’m going to stop now.

  216. Ora
    August 28th, 2007 @ 2:35 pm

    Thanks DK (#82). What Torah discussion would be complete without a good old-fashioned blood libel?

  217. Bob Miller
    August 28th, 2007 @ 2:36 pm

    I’m not a moderator but…

    …Let’s all agree to disagree and move on to some other topic. Pesuasion has been left behind and all we have now is a lot of finger-pointing.

  218. Bob Miller
    August 28th, 2007 @ 2:36 pm

    So much for my proofreading.

  219. Eliahu Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 2:51 pm

    Shalom Ora,

    Leah will get back to you when she can.

    Meanwhile I’d like to think that both of change or at least modify our views constantly.

    Admitting errors shouldn’t be a problem. I admitted one earlier in this thread. It didn’t change the point I was making but I took the time to point it out and make the appropriate adjustments.

    Leah would do the same, although I know people have misinterpreted her statements about antisemitism as equating to everyone being an antisemite.

    That’s not the case. In this matter, Leah doesn’t need to change her view, but perhaps revisit the thought to make it less amenable to misinterpretation.

    We are all of us at constant risk of being misunderstood. It’s something that happens, and nobody can escape it.

    I remember a remark made by a Rabbi a few years ago that caused beaucoup trouble for him and for observancy itself in some cases.

    He said that the reform and conservative movements are not Jewish. I happen to agree with this 100%.

    However, here is what the leadership and membership of the reform and conservative movements heard: “Reform and Conservative Jews are NOT JEWS.”

    The Rabbi never said the memberships weren’t Jews. Most of them (not all) are Jews, he knows it, we all know it.

    Many times I came to the forefront to explain what the Rabbi’s words meant. People DID NOT WANT to believe it or accept it. They didn’t case about the truth.

    Even my own extended family members did not WANT the truth. To them I foisted the truth on them, and eventually they relented. You can do that with family sometimes, but you have to be VERY careful if it’s your mother or father. Special halachos apply.

    So you see, we’re all up against it.

    We need to sit back, relax, talk, listen, and try to understand what a speaker is really saying. It’s a hard job sometimes.

    Regards, Eliahu

  220. Eliahu Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 2:53 pm

    Shalom Bob,

    Right now I want every finger pointer out there to point their fingers at me and at my wife, so that I can highlight them.

    A rare opportunity has opened up here for people to really listen to how we are speaking to one another.

    Let’s not lose this opening. Let’s use it.

    Thank you Bob, Eliahu

  221. Leah Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 3:03 pm

    I’m Jewish,

    “Let’s debate her statement.”

    My statement was (I’m upper casing one part that seems to keep being overlooked): “If you all think that even the sweetest nicest non-Jew out there doesn’t harbour some prejudice OR PRECONCEIVED IDEA OF WHAT JEWS ARE LIKE, you are naive.”

    In your zeal to attack my “ugly” remarks, you keep forgetting that I said prejudice OR “PRECONCEIVED IDEAS” about Jews.

    LeahL

  222. Steve Brizel
    August 28th, 2007 @ 3:10 pm

    Eliyahu-I wasn’t attacking you personally.I was merely questionning the effectiveness and propriety, or lack thereof, of your approach-which I previously did on this blog when you mentioned your approach while serving as a mashgiach.

  223. Bob Miller
    August 28th, 2007 @ 3:11 pm

    “Let’s not lose this opening. Let’s use it.”

    ???

  224. Eliahu Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 3:16 pm

    Shalom Steve,

    Thank you again.

    You wrote, “I wasn’t attacking you personally…”

    We now need to see just what you think is not a personal attack.

    “Eliyahu-WADR,one of the main issues that BTs have with the kiruv world and many of its professionals is that they tend to view sucess stories to be worn as notches on some sort of belt and to be trotted out in discussions of this nature. YOUR RESPONSE IN THIS REGARD UNFORTUNATELY PROVES MY POINT.”

    First you declare what YOU think is a negative, then you aim it directly at me, and then you say how UNFORTUNATE that I had to be the one to prove your point.

    I hope all the readers are taking notes, and will apply what they learn to how they speak with one another for the rest of their lives.

    Continued Thanks, Eliahu

  225. Leah Levenson
    August 28th, 2007 @ 3:19 pm

    Mark,

    My question in post #182 was stated in generalities and you went straight at me personally. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that it is because you misunderstand me.

    “1) Many people are not comfortable with the fire and brimstone type approaches that you espouse and the lack of sensitivity that it entails (at least how you express it here).”

    Fair enough. I speak from my personal experiences and I did fail to take into account other posters’ filial relationships. I take my cue from my Rav. He is a gadol who is a very strong Shomer Torah “fire and brimstone” type. A Rav in your community is his son. I was thinking today that my Rav wouldn’t disagree with my views. He might question the venues I choose to express them in.

    “2) You defend yourselves in an extremely aggressive (and often offensive) manner.”

    I won’t deny it. I get aggressive when I feel attacked. My views were called ugly today, yet they were my personal opinions and not directed at anyone in particular. I have been attacked repeatedly, as has my husband, when there is a disagreement with our stated approach to kiruv and our personal style. I think many of us here need to do a bit of introspection on our personal styles.

    “3) You often seem so sure that you are right and that yours is the Torah true approach, implying that others are not. I found one recent comment about your readiness to be judged by Hashem as off the charts in terms of Gaivah.”

    The “readiness to be judged” comment was my husband’s. I don’t know of such things. I am a babe in the woods. I don’t believe my approach is the only correct approach and I never stated such. I unequivocally do state that our obligation is to fulfill the requirements in the Torah. Can you possibly dispute this statement?

    “These are some of the reasons why people are reacting strongly to both of you.”

    Thank you. It feels terrible to be in my shoes today. I meant no offense to anyone. Chas v’sholom.

    LeahL

  226. Administrator
    August 28th, 2007 @ 3:21 pm

    This thread has gotten past the point of being productive and is being closed.

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