Friday, July 18, 2008

Outreach (kiruv) programs & intermarried couples II - InterfaithFamily comments

Ruth wrote regarding "Outreach (kiruv) programs & intermarried couples -...":

Hi, I'm the editor at www.InterfaithFamily.com who commissioned this article. This story came about because of a comment on our blog, which said in part:

"Today, there are literally tens of thousands of people who did not grow up Orthodox who have chosen to become traditional observant Jews as adults. And today, even many intermarried Jews have been swayed by these trends. Today, if you walk into virtually any Chabad house, Aish HaTorah, etc., you will find intermarried Jews or children of intermarried. Today, there are even people who are intermarried who have chosen to become Orthodox...."

I thought this was a great point. Since both Orthodox kiruv and interfaith marriage are having a big impact on the Jewish community now, what about the people who are affected by both? I asked this experienced and professional reporter to interview Orthodox kiruv rabbis in her area, and they responded honestly and with compassion.

I'm still interested in publishing more about the experiences of children of interfaith marriage who were raised Orthodox or who have become ba'alei tshuvah.

Our site is here to encourage people in interfaith families to make Jewish choices. We don't define what that is. A lot of the people on our site are Jewish by patrilineal descent (the Reform movement decision on this was 1983, by the way, and you can read it here--everything is on the web!) We are interested in all the approaches people take toward making sure that children of interfaith marriage can have access to their Jewish heritage.

3 comments :

  1. I am not trying to be obnoxious in saying this, but WHAT is so great about being Jewish and WHY on earth would ANYONE who is not insane CHOOSE to be Jewish???

    Growing up, we walked to shul on Shabbat through an area where some Anti Semites lived. We were attacked by dogs, pelted with rotten vegetables and sprayed with hoses on a weekly basis.

    One Pesach, my brother was very smart in his new white knickers outfit until he was jumped by a dog turned out on us. My poor baby brother was ruined from both the mud and the blood from his scratches and to this day is terrorized by the sight of a dog.

    Things have not changed much today. In the past several months, two synagogues in my neighborhood have been destroyed by arsonists and a third was caught in the act. No arrests have been made which sends a strong message from law enforcement that attacks against Jews are unofficially condoned.

    Last Shabbat a neighborhood Rabbi was attacked on the way to shul. I am hearing from my friends and relatives in other US cities that this is norm lately.

    Everywhere I go, I see swastikas. In the supermarket, we are rammed with shopping carts and there are bruises on my legs.

    We hear anti Semitic slurs while shopping.

    But Anti Semitism aside, why would ANYONE choose to be Jewish. It is 98 degrees out and I will go in long sleeves, long skirt, stockings and a head covering. In a wig, I roast but in a scarf, there is more than the usual harassment from Anti Semites who guess that I am a Muslim rather than Jewish.

    I bring a cooler of food on any trip I plan to be away from home for more than a couple of hours. I DO envy people just stop and get something to eat!!Why would anyone CHOOSE to observe kashrut?

    Who in their RIGHT MIND would WANT to be obligated to family laws??? How many times have I (and thousands of other Jewish women) cried bitterly because a Rav said we have to wait another week for a hug from our husbands?? WHO would choose THAT?? Not me and not any Observant woman I know.

    It is not easier to be a Jewish man either. Most Jewish men would LOVE to sleep an extra hour in the morning instead of getting up for minyan. Or how about coming home from work and just relaxing instead of running off to shul or to learn.

    We are Observant Jews, not because there is anything at all great about being a Jew. Being Jewish means that we are put on this earth to serve the nations among whom we dwell. Because we have been created inferior to Gentiles, we are obligated to observe 613 mitzvot in order to refine our souls to the degree that they will have a place in the world to come. Gentiles achieve this by observing 7 Noahide Laws.

    I do not understand why ANYONE sane would choose to be a Jew if they did not have to; its like choosing a root canal when the dentist has told you that a simple filling will suffice.

    Because I have not yet met an Observant Jew who would choose to observe the commandments if they were not obligated to by the yoke of Heaven, I cannot fathom that those who claim to choose to embrace Judaism when they do not have to are indeed becoming authentically Torah observant.

    My sister and I have a lifelong FANTASY that a Beit Din would tell us we are not Jewish. I would go straight to the Italian bakery/deli and then to the beach!! I would go out dancing with my husband and the next day put my kids in public school and move to a quiet suburban neighborhood with no crime.

    Aagghh!!! Maybe I am missing something and you can help me. Why would ANYONE WANT to be Jewish?

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  2. Thanks for commenting back so kindly and sincerely, Jersey Girl. I was a little afraid to check this when I turned my computer on after Shabbat.

    I'm really sorry to hear about all the violent anti-Semitism you have faced and continue to face. It's scary.

    I can't tell you about the motivations of everyone who has converted. (Though my name is Ruth, I am not a convert myself! As you might guess from my Hebrew transliteration and general orientation, I'm the ever-unpopular liberal non-Orthodox-yet-somewhat-observant Jewish type.) On our site, we have a lot of non-Jewish spouses and converts to Judaism who want to be supportive of their children's Jewish lives or who want to be Jewish themselves because they like Jewish theology, or because of the admirable example of Jews who perform mitzvot and gemilut hasadim. Or, they believe that they are descended from anusim/conversos. Or, and this is tragic, they are children of Jewish people who converted away from Judaism who decide to convert back.

    Anyway, I don't know if this is really the right place for me and my hashkafah, which is way too left for the orientation of this blog. I've been thinking about the question you ask and it's prompted me to think a lot about how I should be working to improve my human relationships, since I know that people know I'm Jewish and will judge Judaism by how I am in the world.

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  3. Recipients and PublicityJuly 21, 2008 at 7:55 AM

    Jersey girl said:

    "My sister and I have a lifelong FANTASY that a Beit Din would tell us we are not Jewish. I would go straight to the Italian bakery/deli and then to the beach!! I would go out dancing with my husband and the next day put my kids in public school and move to a quiet suburban neighborhood with no crime.

    Aagghh!!! Maybe I am missing something and you can help me. Why would ANYONE WANT to be Jewish?"

    You know, you should not say such things because you are projecting yourself onto everyone and it just shows how narrow and lacking in self-insight and objectivity you really are.

    Do you think that the world is made up of your clones?

    By last count the Earth has almost seven bILLION humans on it and each one is unique, so quit personalizing and distorting everything you come across.

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