When the Faucet is Turned Off Too Soon

By, Charnie

Virtually everyone who visits this website has had to deal with the subject of intermarriage, be it among family or friends. In my family, intermarriage is rampant on my mother’s side. Within the next generation, nebich, there will be no Jews remaining within some families.

So why is one particular case affecting me so deeply? Why is it making me feel so sad, and why am I so preoccupied by this sadness that I’m posting this. Unlike my cousins with whom I have infrequent contact, this time it’s the daughter of my oldest and dearest friend. A woman I’ve known since we were 8 years old, a girl I’ve known for her entire life. The young lady, a charming and beautiful 23 year old graduate of an Ivy League college (let’s call her Jill) has hooked up with a man who is not Jewish. After my friend (we’ll call her Susan) somewhat sheepishly told me about this, my first reaction was “well, that’s the biggest argument for the importance of Jewish education”. This family isn’t totally irreligious, they’re probably what would be called Traditional – members and attendees of their local Conservative synagogue, kosher in their home, and of course, their two children had the obligatory Bar and Bat Mitzvah. As Susan and I discussed this issue, I mentioned to her that in the typical American Jewish lifestyle, a child’s Jewish education, the afterschool Talmud Torah, ends just when in the Day School, Yeshiva and/or Bais Yaakov world is first starting to get into the meat and potatoes. In other words, the faucet gets turned off just when it was intended to start flowing. Now that these children have learned to read Hebrew and can read a Haftorah, let’s just turn them loose and hope that those 3 or 4 years of education will carry them throughout their lives in a meaningful way.

Jill lives on her own, so her parents feel they can’t influence her in the same way they did when she was a teenager. When she was in college, Jill was often at a loss in trying to explain to her diverse group of friends why she only could date Jewish men. After not being able to answer the question in a convincing way, she’s apparently stopped asking it of herself as well. Her paternal grandparents were both Holocaust survivors, and sadly, Jill’s dad attended yeshiva but no longer is frum. In fact, he and I sort of passed each other in opposite directions, because there was a time when he was the only Orthodox person I knew, and then many years later, I became frum, and he left. All of this means that the parents are in the unfortunate position of having offered too little, too late. Susan kept stressing how kind and thoughtful this young man is. No doubt, but that’s not the issue. Apparently, his kindness goes so far as to eat kosher food, since Jill does want to retain a kosher home. Susan says the Jewish fellows she’s dated have mocked her for wanting to keep kosher. Aren’t there Jewish young men who fall somewhere in between Reform and Orthodox? However, because of the dad’s personal feelings about Orthodoxy there’s always sort of an “uncomfort” zone when we socialize with them.

Statistically speaking, it’s inevitable that this ailment will strike us all in some manner or other. But when it hits those who matter so much, there’s a terrible sadness that sets in. Over the years we’ve tried to reach out to this family because they are our close friends, inviting them for Purim Seudahs, Succos meals, whatever we could. Most of the time, we’ve been turned down, and the few times they’ve come, Jill has never joined them. The sadness I’m feeling in my heart just doesn’t abate. Because I’m frum, shouldn’t I be able to do something? Or should I just accept that is life and be grateful that my children are thankfully on a different path. Obviously, this is putting a long term friendship in jeopardy because I just can’t seem to contain myself. When I see Jill’s picture on a social networking website (she’s not my “friend”) together with this man, it makes me feel so awful.

74 comments on “When the Faucet is Turned Off Too Soon

  1. One year has passed, and this story gets worse. My relationship with the mother has gotten icier. And now the brother (who told us when he was a teenager that he wanted to eventually be Orthodox) is engaged to a non-Jew.

  2. This story is reaching the end of it’s first part with the approaching wedding coming this Sunday. I have written the bride and groom a letter explaining why I cannot attend. I have attempted to explain the difference between a halachic conversion and one that is done solely for the partner, and also why Torah guides my life.

  3. I was asking him if I could send the bride something that would clearly be for her only, and just to her, not to the two of them, but he seemed very against it.

    There is a cousin of the bride’s family who I’m in touch with, she’s also agonizing. Neither of us have the guts to ask who’s doing the guy’s conversion, because both of us are 95% sure it’s either reform or, at best, left-wing conservative.

  4. My family was quietly cracking over this stuff too (much less so now).

    Two BT cousins married BT guys years ago – and made short work of alienating and souring on gentiles in our family. Over the years things have gotten somewhat better.

    Believe me, it took some serious work to get the machmir cousins to ease down on some of the “fire of Torah,” that was blasting holes in age old family relationships.

    Thankfully they did it.

    And kudos to the gentiles who never said peep when this was going on. They waited, years, for the BTers to stop being judgmental. They were patient, they were loving, they even gave financial support to their BT step children.

    As one UO Jerusalem yeshiva rabbi said about “R,” one of the family’s gentiles who had for years supported the BT kids “when is R going to become Jewish?”

    R always had exemplary middos.

    It is not fair (or even really very sane) to become extremely emotional over a secular raised Jew intermarrying.

    More interesting would be to encourage the non Jewish spouse to learn and maybe convert at some point. Offer to show him the religion, why you believe it is valuable, why the children will benefit from it.

    If people say “Jews don’t proselytize,” maybe this bit of rabbinic tradition can be updated and re-examined a bit. Would not be the first time the Gedolim made a new ruling on something – that’s what they are there for.

    Besides, it is not the hard and fast rule everyone says it is. It is a rabbinic idea that is already showing cracks.

    Judaism has always adapted and considered the situation on the ground as it sought a path that contained emmes. Here is another time to try.

    All the yelling about intermarriage is rich living in a country built on freedom – the very same freedom that keeps orthodox Jews from doing that great mitzvoh of settling Eretz.

  5. Would your Rav permit you to send a Jewish oriented item, such as a Seder plate, or a book on Judaism, such as Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis’ The Committed Life or Herman Wouk’s This Is My G-d?

  6. The saga continues. Jill’s wedding is scheduled, we’ve received our “hold the date” fridge magnet. Then I got the invite for her bridal shower. However, my Rav has poskened that I should not attend, or even send her a gift that in any way can be construed to be a “wedding” gift. I’ll be seeing the mom tonite, but have yet to have the opportunity to speak to her about how I’d always looked forward to being a part of this girl’s wedding, and how unfortunate this all is. No matter how nice her fiancee is.

  7. Their religion seems to be Jedi related. That’s how they met. It’s very difficult to feel positive about this situation when all that holidays are to her are different culinary experiences. Anyone “friending” (do I have the lingo correct?) me would recognize this couple immediately as she is now my friend – she wasn’t at the time I originally posted this. And her boyfriend is always showing up under “people you might know” because I’m friends with all the people in that family, as is he. Should this be cross-posted to today’s article?

  8. Charnie, you don’t know that. Sometimes, you just need to put trust in Hashem and let things be. The answer may not be apparent now, or in 10 years or even 20 years. It’s just a blink in the entire scheme of things. I am speaking from the perspective of someone who was not born Jewish and has no trace of Jews anywhere in the family. However I know plenty of converts who have a Jewish grandparent or ancestor from even farther back in history and somehow, they find their way back. And who is to say that this non-Jewish man and Jill can’t grow together?

    I am sorry, but the original post sort of hit me as “this is how it is; there is no hope!”…even if that was not the intention. All of us (frum or not, Jewish or not) need to work continuously on growth and refinement. Just because a Jew falls in love with a non-Jew, that does not mean they still cannot grow! They need to see that their faith, Judaism, is beautiful and all encompassing. There is a way to work through these hairy situations. Much more so than if Jill were involved with a mamzer or if see were an agunah (chas v’shalom)!

  9. Who will, almost definitely, not be considering themselves Jewish. Already this couple has a “pattern”, ie Jewish holidays with her folks, Xmas and all other holidays (most recently Thanksgiving) with his. But religion is not a Chinese restaurant menu, one from column A, two from column B, and kids just end up totally confused.

    And that’s sad. The dad is pretending to be OK with it, but then why does he keep referring to the fact that a friend of his from yeshiva is now a grandfather, and he’s not. He knows what he gave up.

  10. Well the father who went off the derech is the one that should be feeling sad. Other than that, I don’t see the travesty; She’s Jewish and will have Jewish children(IY”H)

  11. I’m posting this anonymously, since it involves family.

    As Ron mentions, there could be reason to attend an intermarriage wedding for the sake of the Jewish descendants that may result from that marriage. And not just theoretically, but in practice.

    Although I was in Israel, and I could have quite easily ducked out of the whole thing, my Rav advised that I should make the trip to the US to attend the wedding of my Halachically non-Jewish nephew and a Jewish woman, which in essence was an intermarriage. This was for the sake of having a relationship with them and being able to positively influence them about Judaism, especially in this case where the children would be Jewish.

    Additionally, it’s important to note that many years ago my wife was advised by an important Rav to tell her brother that if he intermarried she would have to cut off all contact with him. She did so, and it caused a large amount of resentment.

    However, after we married I asked Rav Elyashiv (the posek in Jerusalem who is known today as the posek hador). He told us: a) We could visit the intermarried brother in his home, and, b) we may invite intermarried family members to spend time in our home. This was provided there is some hope of bringing the non-Jewish partner to the “derech Hashem.” Quite a different approach!

    Of course, all these decisions applied only to one person’s personal situation, and cannot be applied to anyone else, but at least we can learn that if the situation comes up it would be important to discuss it with your Rav before you make any decisions or say something irrevocable to your family.

  12. Ron,

    On the other hand, if the halacha does not support one’s action or inaction, and one proceeds disregarding this, an aveirah (severity depending on the situation) against HaShem is part of one’s “bori”.

    The rav acting as advisor has to know enough about both the halacha and the people involved—the people part is not easy, since he may be relying on one interested party’s take.

    Have a Good Shabbos!

  13. Bob, it would seem that you are positing a case of shema (maybe), which is usually subordinated to what I am suggesting is a bori (certainty). Just “klerring” (putting the idea out there for discussion).

    Good Shabbos, everybody!

  14. I’ve said this before but we tell some our friends and relatives long before they are in the situation that if they (or their kids) get married to gentiles we cannot attend their wedding. This is to avoid surprises and perhaps to make them think about it a little before it is too late.

  15. Ron asked “So what are we accomplishing by skipping these events…”

    None of us can know all the implications and after-effects of our actions. Some memory that someone else actually took a stand—that it was even possible to take a stand—could do some good down the road.

  16. I know that what Bob and AJ are saying to Joseph is probably what any Rov would say, but he raises a really important point. It’s not just a question of whether we must be prepared to perhaps cause pain even among those we love in order to do the right thing. It’s a question of whether we should do so senselessly.

    Today 90% of Jews who marry out have absolutely no sense, either emotionally or intellectually, that there is anything objectionable about doing so whatsoever. So what are we accomplishing by skipping these events besides virtually guaranteeing that there we will have no effect on any member of the family — including, in the case of the couple, perhaps a Jewish woman who will be having Jewish children — going forward, and that resentment and anger toward us, and Orthodox Judaism, and the Torah, and maybe even Hashem, will be the end result? This is not the case where they know better and we are reminding of them of their better selves! Our actions in these cases come across — or if they do not, they will surely be “spun” by angry family members — merely as callous, arrogant, self-righteous and insensitive.

    I don’t know whether rabbonim are revisiting this question, but I would be interested in knowing if they are.

  17. A situation can demand saying a Torah-principled “no” to basically good, decent people, including friends and even close relatives. Is this such a novel concept? Step 1 is finding out what principles actually apply, and not assuming conveniently that the easy way out is the right way. The ‘no” has to be conveyed with tact and respect, and to include the reason behind it. How people then respond is out of our control.

  18. Joseph,

    Sorry to be so blunt, but would you attend a Torah burning if your family felt it was important to them? We sometimes must make difficult decisions. It is not simply a choice, it is our essence.

  19. Joseph, I certainly hope, that G-d forbid, you are never placed in the position of having to attend such a wedding. As was reiterated in this post, we are forbidden from attending an intermarriage, since there is no simcha in it. Bottom line, IF this were to happen, please consult your Rav.

    I certainly agree with you that this is a most difficult situation. Certainly Jill’s choice is putting a strain on a very valuable friendship I’ve had most of my life. When it’s someone in their own family, it is all that much more painful.

    Absolutely show your complete respect to your parents and siblings. As frum Yidden, we must aspire to be the type of people others can admire.

  20. As a BT, I’m quite sure I’m in the minority here. I have a younger brother and would go to his wedding if he married a non-jewish girl or boy for that matter.

    Becoming observant was a choice I made. Because he doesn’t chose the same doesn’t make him any less of a person or bad person in my eyes. Nor do I view my parents as bad because they chose to not keep the commandments. I on the other hand am told to honor thy parents, and love thy neighbor AND stranger. There is no commandment to cause pain to a sibling for marrying out of tradition. While I would feel saddened that he made a wrong decision, I would love him either way. That is the Jewish thing to do in my very humble opinion…

  21. In summation, Jill went to meet her boyfriend’s parents and spend Xmas with them. In the meantime, I got together with the parents and another couple yesterday, and really wanted to avoid any discussion of this issue. But when someone mentioned (yet another) couple like this who’ve just set a wedding date, I sort of lost it.

    Perhaps my problem is that I view intermarriage in the same way as imagining Jews being sent to the gas chambers, only this is self-inflicted.

  22. It isn’t very likely that Susan and her husband (alias George) would come for Shabbos either, and since they live in the next community over from ours, it’s bound to mean that they’d drive over. We had the brother over during the last days Pesach, and he and his friend (who’s also our cousin), not only drove over, but they parked right infront of our door. You should have seen the neighbors gawking!

    The funny thing about my relationship with Susan, I’m realizing more and more, is despite the fact of how close we are and how much we love one another, if we’d met over the past, say 10 years, as opposed to when we were 8, I’m not so sure we would have become friends, or certainly not as close. Our lives seem to be moving further and further in different directions. She’s the last great defender of the Conservative movement, and a true liberal politically. A great believer in “diversity”, which no doubt has gotten her into this bind. Those are some of the factors that would have impeeded upon forming a friendship, but there are many factors that still make us very close.

  23. Charnie, would you be comfortable consulting with Susan about inviting Jill? Or, perhaps, you could invite Susan first, and then she could report to Jill that she had a great time and then encourage Jill to visit afterwards.

  24. Many Orthodox Rabbis will not marry non Orthodox people according to halacha, because of the fear that they will get divorced and not receive a Kosher get.

    If they are married without a valid halachic Kiddushin, there are more potential heterim to prevent mamzerus if they get divorced and remarried without a get.

  25. Yoni,

    When my sister got married 20 years ago, her “chupah” and legal documents were performed by her closest friend; a female Reconstructionist. Immediately prior to that she and her husband met with a Rav and 2 Shomer Shabbos Eidim who signed a kesuba based on (I believe) the accepted template of Rav Moshe Feinstein.

    I’m not sure who’s idea this was and I remember she was somewhat cynical about it but went through it anyway; maybe to please one of the sets of parents.

    B”H my sister and husband appear to have a happy and stable marriage.

    Just wondering how many other couples went through similar procedures and subsequently didn’t turn out positive and therefore raising the risk of a sepration outside Halacha.

  26. First of all, there’s no reason to think she’d come. After all, we’ve never invited just her before – so now that she knows I know her situation, wouldn’t she anticipate that she’s going to get the business from us? Not that she would – we’re not like that – but Jill wouldn’t realize that. However, as I mentioned before, if someone else could make contact with her (perhaps there’s someone here who’s also an NYU alumni, or become friends on Facebook or Myspace with her), then you just never know! Don’t misunderstand me, it isn’t that I wouldn’t want her to feel welcome at our home – I would love that, but it’s just bound to fall on deaf ears in the best of situations.

    Second of all, Ron, siting your example of body snatching – that’s a distinct possibility.

    Anecdote to the Admin: Mark, you met Jill’s brother at my son’s BM – he’s the guy who did the video of the Rav, and you helped him with the laptop. Jill was there too.

  27. The reason I can’t invite her for Shabbos (not that I think she’d come anyway), is because of my relationship with the parents. After all, I’d be mortified if my BFF (Susan) invited my kids over and tried to make them Conservative.

    Accepting this dubious comparison, Charnie, why on earth can’t she come for Shabbos just to have Shabbos with you? Is this relationship so poisoned that if the daughter is exposed to an “old fashioned” Shabbos at your house that will be construed as an attempt at body-snatching?

  28. AJ, I believe, since she’s between jobs, that Susan is trying to get her to go on a Birthright trip. The reason I can’t invite her for Shabbos (not that I think she’d come anyway), is because of my relationship with the parents. After all, I’d be mortified if my BFF (Susan) invited my kids over and tried to make them Conservative.

  29. Charnie,

    Has Jill ever been to Israel? Maybe a long trip or an extended stay might inspire her. Depending on where she lives, there might be some beginner kiruv classes that appeal to her. In short, I’m thinking more exposure to Yiddishkeit, being that she is already somewhat predisposed. Can you invite her to come by herself for a Shabbos or would that be inappropriate?

  30. Perhaps, therefore, there should be a link here to this previous post: http://www.beyondbt.com/?p=851 about how to overcome barriers that keep people from accepting Torah. Because Jill is still out there.

    On a different, albeit related note, Jill has also had some less than positive encounters with one of her 1st cousins who was kicked out of his MO HS for using. While he’s clean now (I don’t know whether he’s frum again or not), his basic character has been less then appealing to her. So now we’re at the point, one that Susan seems stuck on, of not equating Torah Judaism with some who may have had their own personal issues,aka “a few bad apples in the bunch”.

  31. Just tryin’ to do the right thing (sometimes it’s not as obvious as it seems) I don’t think anyone is saying it doesn’t matter, in fact it’s the exact opposite, it matters SO MUCH that we should be very careful.

  32. I’m with you, SephardiLady! As I mentioned before, and as many on this website know personally, couples have been known to become frum together, after marriage!

    Not wanting to set someone up because they might separate seems weird to me. I’ve had frum friends who were subjected to extortion in order to obtain a Get, so let’s not be so self righteous. Because basically, by not helping people, regardless of their present level of observance, connect means we’re hoping to do the reverse of kiruv – we’re almost encouraging them to intermarry.

    It would be appalling to me if I ever reached the point, as a frum woman, of feeling, “oh what the heck, they don’t matter because they’re secular Jews”. That’s the impression some of the comments here are almost giving off. All Jews matter. Which was the whole point of this post in the first place.

  33. For those who will not consider setting up two Jews, please speak to your posek and (hopefully) reconsider. Should they not meet another Jew, they are bound to marry a non-Jew or suffer a lifetime of being single.

    For example, I have a family friend from growing up who is in his mid-40’s who has yet to marry. He is not observant, but is from a very Jewish home and has NEVER considered dating a non-Jew.

    Unfortunately, he didn’t make a match when he was in his 20’s. By the time he was in his 30’s, he was going out on less dates. Now he is in his 40’s, and when I talked to him last (with an idea in mind), I sensed he has just given up.

    He is a real gentleman and would make a fine husband. It is a MIRACLE that he has stayed committed to only marrying Jewish. I’m sure there is a reward in the next world, but in this world he remains lonely.

    To think that someone would hesitate to set someone up who is Jewish with another Jew is somewhat shocking.

  34. bob, if they were not frum I would decidedly NOT convince them to go in to a proper marriage with kiddushin, because if they seperate they may well not get a proper divorce, g-d forbid.

    and no, you haven’t waisted your time. They’re two less jews who will marry non-jews are they not? They will have jewish children will they not? and those children might become from, or they may decide to give their children a jewish education, which has made many a non-observant parent frum.

    Nah, you’ve given them about the best gift you could give them. Chas v’shalom you should actualy perform kiddushin in this case. For all that its better than pligshus, since they’re non-observant, the costs of something going wrong with proper kiddushin are so rediculously astronomical that I wouldn’t take part in it. (especialy if there is any doubt what soever about whether the boy might get angry and refuse to give a get should the need arise.)

  35. my point is that the child being a mamzer is not a problem here.

    other problems can be found out, but should be done so in a curiosity setting, as in when you meet the new person when you are already asking about their background and family in a friendly way. Most of these kids wont realize we dont accept conservative (usualy, but it sharply depends. I have heard of cases of valid conservative gerus, it depends sharply on the rabbi and bais din involved and the decade in which it was done. actualy this is probably the most thorny of the issues because from a halachic standpoint, at least from certain decades there is serious suffaik here. properly done gerus is properly done gerus nomatter who actualy did it.) or reform gerim. Generaly when I have met college kids or teenagers and inquired about such things the information was given freely, because it was in the context of general asking about family. (having someone who is an actual ger, or child thereof, or a BT from an intermarried family may well help ease nagging fears of judgement.)

    and then just keep a file of who is actualy jewish and who isn’t. If you’re keeping a minyan you need to know this information anyway.

  36. Yoni,

    Your point got me to thinking:

    If I as a would-be shadchan introduced two bona-fide Jews to each other and they ended up “marrying” under non-Orthodox auspices, I have not achieved my goal and have actually helped to set the woman up as a pilegesh. If that’s what I’ve accomplished, have I not wasted my time even though she “married” a Jew and not a gentile?

    How far should we go in such a case, where the two Jews are not Orthodox, to try to convince them to do kiddushin in the proper way regardless of their religious leanings?

  37. Yoni,

    Here is the problem, when we are talking about a match between two non-observant Jews, we are not speaking of marriage necessarily. As I mentioned before, the “dating” process is much different among the secular. So there is not necessarily going to be a lot of family background checks initially. I can think of two times from personal experience where this was a problem. The adoption case I mentioned above, and another time where the maternal grandmother had a conservative conversion. The second time a marriage was planned before this was known! It is a minefield out there.

  38. I will point out that in all likelihood, mamzerus in the non-orthodox populations is virtualy non-existant.

    The reason for this is that the kiddushin (ie giving her the ring) needs two shomer shabbos jews, who are also otherwise kosher for eidus, and I could not imagine that two such jews would participate in that sense in the wedding unless they were certain that they would not seperate without a get.

    Hence, at least from a halachic standpoint, there isn’t a concern about mamzerus because there was no marriage in the first place, and you should note that there is no such thing as “civil marriage” in jewish law.

    So instead she’s a pligesh, which doesn’t carry the same kinds of problems, and cannot result in a true mamzer unless she’s with her brother or some such thing. (although children born of whom we do not know paternity, is a big problem.)

    so please, there isn’t really much reason for scruples, no more so than with frum kids.

    Now the issue of if the mother is jewish, this is easily answered and solved.

    but unless the couple was once orthodox, I would suggest that the chances of a problem are miniscule, and its a double soffaik at worst.

  39. Ron is correct, and the problems may be even worse “out-of-town”.

    It should be obvious that introducing two Jews for shidduch purposes is supposed to mean exactly that, introducing a man and a woman who are both genuinely Jewish according to halacha. If we have reason to doubt that one is Jewish, this puts the matter into a whole other category requiring further investigation. Mamzerus problems and divorcee/Cohen problems likewise.

    Encountering people nowadays who are non-Jews with Jewish surnames is very common. The amateur shadchan or facilitator should not be too bashful to ask the necessary questions tactfully. One stumbling block is the increasing number of people who don’t know enough to properly answer such questions about themselves.

  40. Belle, if you’re positing a marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew, I’m not in favor. I’m only talking about ones between two halachically-acknowledged Jews.

    Mamzerus questions are scary, I’ll agree. Thank God they’re still not an every-day occurrence. Unfortunately the other example (the last-name bait-and-switch) is.

  41. What a sad and moving post. I think what jumps out most of all is that Jill’s non-Jewish boyfriend is by far more willing than any other previous suitors to make a kosher house, and yet he can’t do so by definition because as nice as he is, he just isn’t Jewish.

  42. Although my first impulse was to agree with Ron (what possibly could be wrong in introducing two Jews??!!) I thought of two not-so-unlikely scenarios:

    –Rob Bernstein meets Mandy Smith. Are they children of two Jews? What if parents are two “Jews” but mom converted Reform? Or are they both children of intermarrieds? Guess who’s Jewish? One? both? none? How can you tell?

    (My guess: Mandy is Jewish, Rob is not)

    –Steve Ashkenazi meets Jennifer Baum. Great match. Jennifer’s descended from European Holocaust survivors. Steve later casually mentions that his mother was previously married before she had him.

    (Not such a great match.)

    How can we do an inquisition to people who are innocent and friendly and would resent the probing of their and their parent’s personal status?? As the years go on, if there ever was a concept that the majority of young people calling themselves Jewish really were halachically Jewish, now I fear it is not the case. I would imagine that rabbonim have given aitzah at AJOP type conferences how to handle the above.

  43. “the Jewish fellows she’s dated have mocked her for wanting to keep kosher.” “Doesn’t this say reams?”

    Absolutely. My sister dated a Jew who treated her very badly, and then a Catholic who helped her see that, and helped her get out of the first relationship, and who is a real gentleman. She married the Catholic. Her daughter is being raised Catholic with a touch of Judaism here and there, because our family and religion said don’t marry him and his said, how wonderful, welcome to the family. So this won’t be the first intermarriage in the family, sigh. (We didn’t go to that one either, and her husband wanted to therefore cut all ties with us, seeing our behavior as a betrayal of family. Took some hard convincing on my sister’s part, not that she wasn’t also upset, but we’re currently on pretty good terms.)

    And I know my BIL won’t be convinced by anything I say. I don’t think he believes in G-d, unfortunately.

    The only thing we can see to do, in both situations, is

    a) not attend the actual wedding, whether a religious or secular ceremony, nor the reception

    b) continue to welcome them to our home when they care to visit

    c) strive to be a Kiddush Hashem as much as possible.

    I hold out hope that someday my little niece (she’s 2) will be offered an opportunity to experience real Judaism (say, in college) and she won’t immediately be scared off and say no, because of years of positive interactions with the Orthodox relatives. (ie us.)

    Charnie, I think that’s all you can really do. Don’t go to the wedding, but continue to be a positive example of Torah True Judaism in every other way.

  44. “the Jewish fellows she’s dated have mocked her for wanting to keep kosher.”

    Doesn’t this say reams? Sometimes it’s better to hit bottom and then rescramble to the top than hang out with people half way down. R’ Y. Slanter left E. Europe for Germany because, he said, “when the horse is rushing down the mountain, step aside; but when it’s on the bottom you can lead it back up.”

  45. It’s a wonderful ideal, Charnie. But like with all ideals, there are limitations. “Seeing and feeling” truth just doesn’t always do it. Consider Post-Har Sinai Yidden. There’s something much, much deeper at work in the process of establishing a Jewish Neshama in the world of Torah. Today, of course, our Gdoilim have made it clear that we must presume most Jews will be ignited by the truth if you package it properly.

    But it’s not an absolute truth. Certainly not when you’re speaking of the “truth” of a Jewish marriage with in a decidedly non-Jewish framework.

  46. While this is definitely NOT a halachic opinion, I’d be quite startled to learn that it would be better if we didn’t try to encourage (and take that to mean whatever you wish) non-frum Jews to marry other Jews, including if we’re the ones doing the introducing. Who says people can only learn about Torah when they’re still single. There are more then a few people on this website who first became frum as married couples.

    Perhaps some readers have picked up that I’m an eternal optimist who really believes that if someone had the opportunity to see and feel true Yiddishkeit they’d want to become a part of it.

  47. whoa. Hold on there folks. Jumping into a marriage with a non-observant counterpart is not so simple. As much as it IS a Mitzvah, like many other Mitzvahs there are problems in doing it wrong or even just a little off. If you recall my recent posting (An Innocent Mistake?), there are clearcut halachic restraints, for instance, re. a Bas Talmid Chacham marrying an Am Haaretz. And recently I saw a ref. to a Gemora about R’ Akiva being so excited to do the Mitzvah of burying an abandoned corpse and so he shlepped it into town… and then got it over the head, for one is supposed to bury such a corpse where it’s found!

    Then there’s the profound emotional complications if one of the partners might start getting more observant…

    So while those jokes about what you’re allowed to might be good icebreakers, they shouldn’t be belittled.

  48. Couple of follow-up points:

    1) Remember that a “shidduch” between two non-observant Jews is a different concept. You introduce them and them they most likely “date” much differently than the frum world.

    2) Who knows who is really Jewish in some circles these days?, you have to be very careful. E.g., a friend of mine who I did not know was adopted, was a bio-child of non-Jews and because he was adopted from day-one refused to go thru a conversion, he just insisted he was Jewish.

    3) My earlier comment, lets say they get married in a reform shul, you introduced them but now maybe you can’t attend the wedding.

    Food for thought!

  49. Yeah, I’m sorry Jacob, as Bob suggests, we are now in scary territory if this is considered something you “have to ask.” I am reminded of a BT friend, who eventually got semicha and was and is very committed to kiruv, who used to go around Aish HaTorah and just go up to guys and say, “You allowed to do that?” just to have some fun with them and loosen them up.

    Getting married, Jacob! A Yiddishe chasuna! Please.

  50. “You absolutely make a shidduch between non-observant Jews if there is any way to do so at all.”

    Ron, it seems to make sense but as you said and prior to actually doing so it’s best to survey the entire responsa and consult a learned authority who knows how to apply it halachically.

  51. You absolutely make a shidduch between non-observant Jews if there is any way to do so at all. There is a story from R’ Yaakov Kaminetsky that, if true, makes this point very emphatically. I am willing to stick my neck out on this one even though I have not surveyed the entire responsa literature. If there is no Jewish continuity there is no hope.

  52. Thanks Charnie,

    I’m addressing this to people out there that are more knowledgable than me (yes David, that about covers everyone) what is the frum perspective of making a shiddach for two non-observant Jews? any issues there? can we do stuff like that to stop intermarriages, first and foremost, and then worry about them becoming obsevant later?

    And if we do encourage that, it would be very difficult to later refuse to go to a wedding in a reform or conservative shul. Just thinking out loud here.

  53. AJ’s response was very perceptive. It’s not as if Jill is totally indifferent about being Jewish, which is the usual case.

    Years ago, before I met my husband, a Rebbetzin I’d never met before called to invite me for Shabbos. She had a very convoluted story about how she knew who I was, and how she got my phone number. We became extremely close, and in many ways she became “my frum mother”. It was only after we knew each other that I learned that she actually got my number from a fellow who wanted to go out with me, and put her up to contacting me.

    So, is there anyone out there who can be equally “creative”, and maybe reach out to this young lady before it’s too late?

  54. Given that the problem of intermarriage is caused by ignorance of the true principles of Judaism, how can we blame the perpetrators who weren’t taught to appreciate the beauty of Judaism? We have to look at the problem without attributing fault, unless we are dealing with a real apostate.
    Whereas, we can’t be part of a sacreligious wedding, we can let our friends know that we still accept them as friends, even when they act against what we hold sacred. While Charnie should tell her friend Susan that she disagrees with the path her friend has taken to not educate her child and possibly bring calamity upon her, Charnie should not give up her friendship with Susan or with Jill. Perhaps, that remaining friendship is all that is left to hold them to Yiddishkeit. Maybe, Charnie’s heartfelt feelings will help her friends find the truth in the difficulties that await them.
    We must remember, that if we G-d fearing Jews, acted in accordance with our capabilities, Hashem would bring the light of Torah to all Jews. If we were what we should be, Moshiach Tzedkanu would come and teach everyone how he or she should be.

  55. TO Miriam P,.

    As someone who married a non-Jewish woman before I came back to Judaism, at that point in my life if anyone had told me otherwise I would probably have had the same reaction as your brother-n-law, no one did becuase i came from a very assimilated family.

    Looking back if I can change I would, but I cannot, but what I do know as someone who was in that place it is impossible to make someone understand who does not believe the Torah is from Hashem to see why marrying not Jewish is wrong and why you will not attend the wedding.

  56. This same thing is happening in my family. My grandparents have 10 grandchildren. I calculated the other day that my children are the only ones who are guaranteed to be Jewish. Uncle #1 has a totally secular atheist son who refuses to date Jewish women. Uncle #2 married a non-Jew, so all four of his children aren’t Jewish. Aunt intermarried and so it’s not surprising that her son, who is an atheist, is seriously dating a non-Jewish girl (for 2 years now). Aunt’s other daughter is adopted, but she attends an Orthodox day school, so maybe she will convert when the time comes. And then there is my Mom, who intermarried. I am her only daughter and thus the only person who is guaranteed to have Jewish children. My youngest brother is on the path to becoming religious, and I have talked to him about the importance of marrying a Jewish woman, so there is a possibility that he will have Jewish children as well. My other brother is living with a non-Jewish girl. Maybe some of my male cousins will turn around, but the prospects for that don’t look good. So that means 70% to 90% of the marriages in my generation of my family will be intermarriages.

    The only way I can see to stem the tide is to do more outreach that isn’t necessarily geared towards turning every Jew into a frum yid, but rather encouraging them to be Jewish “enough” that they want to marry a fellow Jew so that they can have a Jewish home and Jewish children. Maybe if we can stop the bleeding in my generation (I’m 26), we have a shot at turning things around with the next generation.

  57. says he hates “our” (ie not his) religion, because “family should come first,” not G-d.

    powerful claim. Could you respectfully challenge him to back up that “should”? Honestly let him know you’re curious about he knows this. Then gently suggest, when he concludes it’s a matter of gut, that if he’d think about it, if G-d is G-d, there cannot be an inherent contradiction. He knows the value of family – and how.

  58. I think another tragic part of the story here is that Jill obviously has some feeling for Yiddishkeit as she wants to keep kosher but the Jewish guys she dated mocked her for it. That is real great motivation right there. The gentile is the “only one” who respected that wish. As a people, we can really be own own worst enemy.

  59. They mean well, as a rule. They often view traditional Jewish concepts of the family in a very negative light, for whatever reason.

  60. During our conversation, I made it very clear to Susan that, if CVS this does develop into an engagement, my husband and I will in no way be any part of it. Sure, Susan might feel bad about knowing her BFF won’t be there, and it will likely mean her husband’s brother and their family also won’t. But what does Jill care about that!? She’s in love with such a nice guy.

    My whole point is that there’s too little – too late, being offered to the majority of young Jewish people. Those of us who are BT’s and the extremely lucky and rare ones.

    You could say this is a tie in to the recent post http://www.beyondbt.com/?p=872.

    It almost seems as if I’m more upset about this then Susan is. And believe me, Susan’s father would have never allowed her to date anyone who wasn’t Jewish, I remember him well.

  61. General society, including the many Jews who identify with it, will always have some perceptive members who are open to the truth. Our public defense of the truth in the face of scorn and disbelief is partly for their sake.

    Many of those who say “family comes first” do everything in their power to undermine the traditional concept and role of a family.

  62. We can’t go to intermarriage weddings; it’s not debatable. Yet we should be sensitive to the fact that the psychological and emotional dynamics are very different from what they were in the 1950’s (my parents’ marrying decade) and the 1980’s (mine). I think we can say that today’s intermarrying Jews, virtually without exception, have no meaningful moral sense that intermarrying is “wrong.”

    Ultimately we do not attend, not to punish the “wrongdoers,” but to refrain from sending a message of approval to the rest — like Miriam’s brother-in-law’s younger brother.

    But we do need to remember that to people like her brother in law, there is no rational reason not to marry out (and perhaps very good-seeming ones to actually do so, as I have suggested before), and that we do indeed seem like fundamentalists and bigots every bit as much to them as they seem to us as crushing disappointments, to say the least.

  63. I just broke it to my BIL that we won’t be attending his wedding to a non-Jewish woman. He was mumbling something about my girls being flower girls for him… and I had to stop that right there. I tried to be polite. I said, “I don’t think we get to go.” He immediately asked if that’s what the Rabbi said, and then told me to find another Rabbi. Now he’s pretty mad at us, and says he hates “our” (ie not his) religion, because “family should come first,” not G-d. He’s that at-risk generation: children of BTs, and watching him and his siblings, I see exactly how the kids can go both ways, and hopefully make different choices than his parents did, to keep all my kids frum!

    Now his younger brother recently got engaged to a lovely woman who *is* Jewish… and the whole family is very excited. That’s got to hurt, but what can I do?

  64. I have no answers for this particular tragic occurance, but my wife and I have taken to telling close (non-frum) friends and relatives in as soft of a way possible that we cannot attend any future intermarriages in their family. We tell them now, even though they have kids way to young to even be considering marriage now. I hope it accomplishes two things:

    1) It will not make our announcement a shock if it happens (chas veshalom) but odds say it will.
    2) It will get people to start thinking about this possibilty now, before it is too late.

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