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On Jewish Marriage


There have been a number of moves within the USCJ, and an article or two from Modern Orthodox rabbis lately encouraging traditional or observant Jews to be more receptive to intermarriage.

With a lot of intermarried friends, I’m loathe to go on too much of a tear about this. However, coming from a family that emerged from the Pale with so many siblings, and yet so few Jews today, I can’t help but to believe that the problem isn’t ever what happens today, but what happens tomorrow.

I have friends that maintain that in spite of intermarriage, their kids know more about yiddishkeit and Judaism than products of two Jewish partners.

Knowing isn’t the same as doing, and if those kids don’t or won’t participate in a Jewish community, I would argue that the knowledge metric is insufficient. If you aren’t making a minyan, paying synagogue dues, doing Jewish things with other Jewish people; if your contribution to yiddishkeit is absent, you are irrelevant to Judaism. Sorry. It’s a tough reality, but it’s reality.

This may even be a preview of my little shpiel at Amelia’s upcoming bat mitzvah. What Jewish marriage is accomplishing, or should be accomplishing, is raising Jewish children that will contribute to Jewry’s gross domestic product–our continuity. If we raise kids “aware” that they are Jewish, I can live with falling down on their ability to lane Torah if they feel compelled to show up for services.

I know so many non-Jewish partners committed to their children’s Jewish growth. It’s a beautiful thing. But the same old argument applies. There’s always going to be a barrier between full participation and inclusion absent a conversion. And we shouldn’t be in the business of either watering down conversions or compelling them.

I don’t know what the answers are. All I know is that today marks 11 years since Leah and I stood under the chuppah together. Our commitment to our Jewish community is one of our marriage’s foundational strengths. We participate in community together. We value Torah and Judaism together. We even do it differently, which is important, too, or place emphasis on disparate aspects of it. Our children see that I love Talmud study, but they see that Leah loves teaching these things to our children.  But they see two partners equally devoted to putting Judaism first.

Jewish marriage is more than just about the here and now. It’s more than just about navigating kids towards b’nai mitzvah. As a future-proofing policy, it’s an empty suit. History has taught us this time and again, and yet we keep going to the same well erroneously in pursuit of continuity, especially in Diaspora.

I know my opinion often is unpopular with many friends on this, but I don’t particularly care. I’m nearly 100% certain I’ll have Jewish grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will go to synagogue and live Jewishly. Can you say the same thing?

Brian

Writer, soldier, programmer, father, musician, Heeb, living in the woods of Down East Maine with three ladies and a dog.

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About Brian

Brian Kresge

Brian Kresge

Writer, soldier, programmer, father, musician, Heeb, living in the woods of Down East Maine with three ladies and a dog.

About Leah

Leah Kresge

Leah Kresge

Director of Education for Congregation Beth Israel in Bangor, Maine, special educator and former school board member, mother to Amelia and Nezzie.

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