Monday, August 27, 2012

Intermarried Jew seeks advice on Jewish path

I received this letter yesterday and received permission to post it.

Dear Rabbi;
   I came across an older posting on intermarriage, and have yet to find a discussion that addresses my particular case (if indeed one believes there are distinctions).  I grew up in a loving Jewish home, but my parents were rapidly discarding observance as I was growing up.  I had a wonderful Orthodox grandfather z"l who is my inspiration to this day, who passed away when I was 13.  I was tutored by a good Orthodox man in Hebrew and Tanach. I was one of those that after my Bar Mitzvah in Conserv. shul was handed tallis and tefillin (without even a lesson in using them) and waved goodbye.  Along came the 60's and I left home at 17 to join in the Hippie movement.  Before leaving home, many of my cousins were marrying or in relationships with non-Jews, and no one in my family batted an eye (though looking back there was an "oy" and a sigh here and there).  Everyone was trying so hard to accept everything back then (at least where I grew up).  Strangely, no one in all my life (I am 57 now) told me that if I married a non-Jew, my children would not be Jewish, and that that might matter.  
 
  I met a very good woman who saved me from the excesses of the "free" lifestyle; we have been married for 35 years. We have 3 grown children and grandchildren. It is only 6 years since I made a return to Judaism.  It all began with picking up my Grandfather's old siddur and beginning to pray, and I have been wonderfully immersed in Torah ever since. What I never see addressed is that there must be others like me that never were able to make a conscious choice not to intermarry.  I have seen sites where people say you owe it to Judaism to divorce your wife immediately - I don't think so.  this is the woman that made me even begin to act moral enough to be able to approach Torah teachings; who nursed me through open heart surgery and much more. My children are eager to learn Noahide teachings, possibly to go further towards conversion - I can't see where divorce would help Ha-Shem's plan for all of us. And she is a great cook of Jewish foods! 
 
   We began in a Reform Temple together as the only place we could be accepted, but soon even my wife could see the compromises  with real Judaism.  She is a G-d-fearing woman, but isn't going to convert Orthodox just for me.  She loves Judaism, but also respects it enough to know how much is involved.  On the other hand, I haven't been able to expose her to enough Orthodox community so that she could be more inspired.  I consider myself Modern Orthodox in outlook, but Chabad is the only place I would consider beginning to take her, to avoid hurtful situations.  In fact, we are going to the Upshernish ceremony of a very good friend and Rabbi's son this week as a start.  
 
   One in my position cannot help but notice that all our great leaders in Tanach married Gentile women!  I realize this is before our great Sages, but it does make one wonder about some people's open hostility. So I wonder if you might address those of us that were ignorant before intermarrying, and any advice on my Jewish path would be greatly appreciated.
 
  Wishing you a productive and meaningful New Year

46 comments :

  1. This brought tears to my eyes as you can obviously feel the man's sincerity and how he might as well represent the lost of Israel yearning to come home. And the situation with his wife and kids is far from uncommon. I wish him much success/hatzlacha in his journey!

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    1. If she doesn't fully commit to eventually maintaining all 613 Torah obligations and all their nuances, there is no way for her to convert to Judaism. And the only resolution, then, is divorce.

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    2. Thanks for the definitive psak, Mr. Nobody.

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    3. It isn't a psak. It is basic Jewish Law.

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  2. I'm close with a local outreach rabbi whose work deals with young families at varying levels of Jewish observance and affiliation. From speaking with him and watching him work, it's clear that a not-so-small proportion of people he and his colleagues work with have stories similar to yours. (Background: I live in a non-coastal American city with a sizeable, though not huge, Orthodox Jewish population.)

    My advice would be to develop a personal relationship with a local rabbi who is genuinely interested in your welfare. You might want to initially try establishing relationships with several rabbis to discuss your situation because, as with all human relationships, whether or not one's relationship with a rabbi is spiritually fruitful is often as much a matter of 'personal fit' as it is a matter of shared values and ideology; chances are, once you find a rabbi that you 'click' with, you'll end up spending most of your time with that one. A personal relationship with a rabbi is a far better source of information on sensitive matters like these than any published book, let alone anonymous comment sections of (even very good) blogs.

    As a practical suggestion, you might want to Google for 'community kollels' in your city. A 'community kollel' is often an euphemism for 'Jewish outreach center,' and rabbis who learn and work there typically have extensive hands-on experience in dealing with people just like you, i.e., Jews interested in traditional practice who come from non-traditional backgrounds.

    Also, I'm curious: how old are your children? On a practical level, the dynamics of your experience in engaging the observant Jewish community will be greatly affected by whether or not you have younger children (i.e., under 18) who are still under your direct influence and still live at your home.

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  3. My advice would be to listen to this speaker: http://www.divineinformation.com/

    Rabbi Mizrachi will set you on the Jewish path.

    Remember that Hashem tested Avraham Avinu by requiring him to sacrifice his son and Avraham Avinu passed Hashem's test without even having to sacrifice his son.

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  4. I understand there are some kiruv (outreach) rabbis who will tell a person in your situation to immediately divorce. I think they're dead wrong. And so do many Orthodox rabbis. In fact, of all the 1000s of Chabad shluchim around the world, I'm fairly confident that not a single one would tell you to do so. In their philosophy, every mitzvah that a Jew is able to do is precious and important, and they don't believe in reprimanding people or telling them what to do.

    In addition, the very popular and effective shalom bayit (marital harmony) manual, Garden of Peace by R' Shalom Arush, counsels against divorce over religious matters. It doesn't mention intermarriage per se, but if you contact the translator R' Brody --and I strongly encourage you to do so; he's a wonderful advisor--he would probably give a Chabad-like answer.

    Yes, it is a sin to be intermarried. But there's no rule that says that a ba'al teshuvah should immediately begin practicing all 613 mitzvot -- in fact, people recommend against it because in practice it's a recipe for disaster. Increase your knowledge, improve your character traits, take on new observances one by one. Take your time with the marriage issue. If your wife loves Judaism as you say, then once she is exposed to it, she may well decide to convert.

    Even if it takes her a few years for her to convert, the fact that she converted at all (provided she does it correctly according to halacha and l'shem shamayim -- that is, not just for the marriage) will be proof that you did the right thing by waiting. The conversion process often takes a few years anyway, even for unmarried young adults, so I don't see any reason to be in a big rush. I would recommend spending 15 minutes in personal prayer (hitbodedut) every day, asking Hashem to guide you and your family on the true path -- this should be helpful.

    Your idea to take her to Chabad events or services is a good one. That is where I would start. If it's like other Chabad houses, she should feel comfortable and be treated well. Chabad doesn't conduct conversions themselves, but if she is ever interested in studying regularly with a Chabad rebbetzin with the intention to eventually convert, the rebbetzin would most likely warmly accept her as a student. However, if your wife already has some interest in converting, then it probably wouldn't hurt to talk to a local Modern Orthodox rabbi or attend services. Conversions (including post-marriage ones) seem to happen fairly regularly in Modern Orthodox and are not seen as a shameful thing.

    Actually, as you may know there was a yeshivish (ashkenazic non-chassidic charedi) organization endorsed by many major rabbis from a few years ago that actually encouraged conversions by people intermarried to Jews, but that organization seems to be defunct. The point is that there is some support in all sectors of Orthodox Judaism -- Modern, yeshivish, chassidic -- for post-intermarriage conversion.

    In case your children or wife are ever interested, I recently came across a book, Gerim in Chassidic Thought by Dov ben Avraham, which has a fair amount of material by or about converts with partial Jewish ancestry (which also includes the author of the book himself). It's a fascinating book likely to give much encouragement and inspiration to Orthodox converts.

    I wish you and your family true happiness and success on your path!

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    1. No Orthodox rabbi would advise him to stay married if she is not Jewish. And no Orthodox rabbi would recommend that she convert just so they can stay married.

      Call a spade a spade. Don't sugar-coat things. You are not helping him by doing this.

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    2. Betzalel: "No Orthodox rabbi would advise him to stay married if she is not Jewish."

      I know for a fact that you're wrong about this.

      "And no Orthodox rabbi would recommend that she convert just so they can stay married."

      You must not have read my post, because I didn't say this (as I noted, a correct conversion has to be l'shem shamayim -- that is, a lifelong commitment not dependent on the spouse). However, there are some (left wing modern orthodox) rabbis who believe in converting intermarried spouses who aren't going to completely accept the mitzvos (R' Marc Angel, etc.), based on the views of former Sephardic Chief rabbi Uziel. I don't think it's good to convert with them, though, most most Orthodox rabbis don't endorse that approach.

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    3. yeshaya: That organization, Eternal Jewish Family, is not defunct. It is now called Tiferes Bais Yisrael.

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    4. "However, there are some (left wing modern orthodox) rabbis who believe in converting intermarried spouses who aren't going to completely accept the mitzvos (R' Marc Angel, etc.), based on the views of former Sephardic Chief rabbi Uziel."

      and the divrei chaim, hardly (what today would be called) a LWMO, who also advocated "liberality" in converting the non jewish wife in a case such as yours.

      besides chabad, there is also http://www.kiruv.com/contactpi.php and numerous other sources. find some org / person you feel comfortable with.

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  5. This is a tremendous challenge for you. You are clearly a caring, good man. I can't offer a halachic solution, but I can advise you to pray. G-d is kind and just. Pray for a solution. Pray for understanding. Pray for inspiration. Pray for strength. Pray for your wife's well-being. Pray for your own well-being. Pray for clarity.
    You may or may not like what's ahead, but you won't be alone.

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  6. I would keep an open mind and heart. I myself am married to a non-Jew and we are raising our daughter to be Jewish. I had some negative experiences when I was involved in the frum community for a number of years and drifted away from it. After I was married and gave birth to my daughter my feeling about my tradition changed. At this point, we are growing in our observance. I feel similarly about my husband as you do about your wife. So even though he probably won't convert I am ok with that. And even in the orthodox community there are couples with different approaches. No two people are the same. Wishing you much luck in your journey.
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  7. Thank you for this very thoughtful and sensitive post. Unfortunately, not all the reactions are as thoughtful and sensitive.

    Personally, I agree with you that you should honor previous promises (like marriage vows or whatever it was) and honor the wife who was your companion for so many years, even through disease and adversity. Discovering religion is not a reason to throw her into the dustbin, as some commentators seem to advise.

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  8. This is a touching letter about a genuine dilemma.

    What many of the comments are missing is the clear statement that the wife does not want to convert. She is clearly a good human being whose nurture of her husband has helped him in many ways. She accepts and even supports his discovery and attachment to his Judaism. But she does not want to convert.

    Obviously this may change at some point. But it may not. What I would say, is that she seems like someone with integrity. If she decides to convert, I suspect it will be a sincere committment. But it does no good to wish away this dilemma.

    I understand the halachic reasoning of those who say he should divorce her. But I am pained by the lack of compassion I hear in some of those comments. If it is said it should be said with much more respect and sensitivity for this obviously good woman and the very generous effect she has had on him.

    Similarly, I understand those who hope for success in persuading this woman to convert. But again I hear people pushing kiruv in the hope of securing a conversion. But again, I sense a psychological cluelessness.

    Sometimes the honest truth is that there are profound dilemmas that do not yield to easy solutions. This is one.

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    1. >What many of the comments are missing is the clear statement that the wife does not want to convert.

      I don't think so. Here's what the letter's author wrote:

      "She is a G-d-fearing woman, but isn't going to convert Orthodox just for me. She loves Judaism, but also respects it enough to know how much is involved."

      I don't think you can interpret the above as a "clear statement that the wife does not want to convert." It simply means that she's not the type of person who'd go through a pro-forma conversion that she doesn't really believe in.

      Otherwise, great comment.

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  9. Jewish Law is binding. And Jewish Law prohibits both marrying -- and remaining married -- to a non-Jew.

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    1. I believe that there's substantial rabbinic discussion, albeit little studied today, of the legality of having a Gentile concubine. What's more, I think the Yaavetz rules leniently. I am not qualified to delve further, but this is obviously an avenue you've failed to consider.

      Since you're so quick to offer advice, here some suited to the month of Ellul: When you find yourself replying to thoughtful questions with truisms ("Jewish law is binding"), best reconsider; more than likely your reply ill befits the thoughtfulness of the question, perhaps misses some essentials, and regardless may halakhically implicate you in a failure of kavod habriyos.

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    2. not sure what you are talking about. Never heard of a Jew allowed having a Gentile concubine. I have posted number of items regarding pilgesh - which is a Jewish concubine.
      http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2012/07/rav-sternbuchpilegesh-civil-marriage.html

      http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2012/07/pilegesh-sharuch-eh-261-summary-of-views.html

      http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2012/07/pilegesh-intalmudic-texts-kesubah.html

      http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2012/07/r-moshe-feinstein-pilegesh-no-kiddushin.html

      http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2012/07/pligesh-permitted-by-rav-if-wife-is.html

      http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2012/07/letter-from-steipler-to-rav-eliashiv.html

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    3. DT,

      Sorry, I just saw this response now. All I know about the subject is the existence of this one teshuva, but I presume(d) that there must be more?
      Shaiyilos u'Teshuvos HaYaavetz II: #15.

      Looking fwd, as ever, to learning more from your researches. Thanks

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    4. As I said a pilegesh must be a Jewish woman

      The translation of above teshuva is found here

      http://pilegesh.blogspot.co.il/2006/10/rabbi-yaakov-emdens-answer-regarding.html

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    5. OK, sorry, &thx. I see I could have gotten my answer from H' Issurei Biah 13:14-16.

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  10. I am in a similar situation… My wife and I (both Jewish from Birth, each with 4-holocaus surviving grandparents) adopted 2 non-Jewish boys shortly after becoming Frum. The conversion process for our children took seven long years. Even after the conversion, the “behind the back” whispers and lashon hora about our children, coupled with the Non-acceptance of them (Treating them as non-Jewish) at our day school, caused my wife to turn her back on the community, and view them in contempt. After 10 years of being Shomer Shabbos/Mitzvot, my wife returned to her “conservative” roots. Our community made orthodox Judaism seem vile (to her) which is why my wife gave up being frum. For me, it’s impossible to live a fully orthodox life when your wife doesn’t keep Kosher/Shabbos. I am not going to divorce my wife of 25 years. She has been with me through good times and bad. She was with me through my cancer (Which is what left us unable to have natural children and thus adopt) and through health. Our sincere desire was to raise our children in the orthodox life we returned to 10 years ago, but our community doesn’t really care about sincerity and would much rather have a family they can gossip about and treat as outsiders. I’ve stopped going to Shul because of the Shalom Bais problems it created. I have stopped keeping Kosher because, well how can you really keep kosher when your wife doesn’t. I look at the calendar on my desk and realize I will probably not be going to Shul during the Chagim. Of course we have pulled our kids from Day School, and have enrolled them in public school. Unfortunately due to the market conditions and us buying a house “high” before the crash of ’08, we aren’t moving any time soon.

    I am not divorcing my wife, I totally understand her point of view. Unfortunately that pulls me OTD. Maybe we can return later in life. Maybe one day we can move and start over in a non-judgmental community. We’ll see what 5773 brings.

    My advice for the poster would be to find a community that is accepting!!! Move close to an out-reach chabad house rather than a frum neighborhood where folks are judgmental and non-accepting. Do not automatically equate accepting with Chabad. Where the Schluchim most probably are, the community might not necessarily be.

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    1. Thank you for commenting. I'm very sorry to hear about this situation, and I pray that you are able to move to an accepting community and get back on the derech happily as a family. Have you considered renting the house you own and then renting a house for yourselves in a different city?

      Again, hatzlacha to both you and the letter writer.

      "Prayer helps for everything. Even if a person is unable to study Torah he will be able to do so if he prays for it. Everything good can be attained through prayer: Torah, devotion, holiness... everything good in all the worlds. Amen." (Likutei Eitzot, Prayer.)

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  11. AbeAugust 28, 2012 9:11 PM

    Jewish Law advises exactly that.
    -------------------------------------------

    Can you tell us your name, you credential and mar'e mekomot before you spew one sentence psaks ?.

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  12. This raises issues from several years ago which lead to my involvement with the EJF scandal. Part of EJF's program involved encouraging intermarried couples to convert - despite their claim that they were trying to raise the quality of conversions. If you go back in my archives you will find a letter from Rav Sternbuch & the Bedatz rejecting kiruv for intermarried families. There is a teshuva of Rav Eliashiv who was asked what to do if an intermarried family startes attending Torah classes. His response was if they are innocent and didn't realize that intermarriage was wrong they are allowed to participate - but if they were aware that intermarriage was wrong then they are discouraged from attending. There is also a recording of Rav Reuven Feinstein - the halachic director of EJF - saying the same thing - even though EJF in reality followed an aggressive approach of kiruv for intermarried couples.

    The case that started this was a kiruv organization asked me to have some Jews for Shabbos. In the middle of the meal - I asked my guests how they came to this program. One of them - the one who was most enthusiastic about eveything Jewish stated that he had a strong Jewish identity - even though his mother was not Jewish - through his father. After Shabbos I called up the organization and asked him why they had sent me a goy for Shabbos. They basically indicated that it was standard operating procedure not to turn away anyone who had a Jewish identity even if they weren't halachically Jewish.

    There are a number of approaches at present to intermarried couples 1) To reject them and tell them they have to decide. If they are intermarried they can't participate in Jewish activities. If they want to convert they need to separate first since a person can't be violating the halacha at the same time they insist they want to accept the halacha. 2) At the other extreme are those who say that we convert anyone who is willing to say "I do" even if there is a very high likelihood they are not sincere or have no real commitment (Rav Uziel) 3) Some argue that there is a justification to seek out intermarried couples and try to convert them. If the wife is not Jewish this will save the husband for Judaism as well as their kids. The claim is that their children actually have a semi-Jewish status - the seed of Avraham. If the husband is not Jewish the conversion is viewed as good for the wife and children. 4) Others argue that the best thing is not to be judgmental and that hopefully they will work it out and that whatever mitzvos they can be encouraged to do is for the good. This approach is strongly rejected by the meainstream because it says that even if they sin - they will still be accepted so there is no motivation not to sin.

    My advice is simply find a recognized rav and ask him what to do. He might say get divorced - which you refuse or he might say participate in the community for a time to see if your wife has any interest - and if she doesn't tell you he is no longer available. Chabad seems to be an intermediary group - they were the one's who handled Guma Aguiar's wife conversion. On the other hand some Chabadnik's tell me that they are very strict in this area and do not do kiruv on intermarried couples. It is isn't hard to find Modern Orthodox or even some chareidi rabbis who will be extremely lenient if there is a possibility of your wife agreeing to convert - even if she is not totally convinced she wants to.

    Wishing you hatzlacha in making the right choice

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    1. Number 1 is right-wing Israeli charedi position -- I've never heard of it outside of that context. To give you (the letter writer) an idea, the same rabbis also rule it is forbidden to vote in Israeli elections.

      Number 2 is the position of many left-wing modern orthodox rabbis, who are increasingly being hired as shul rabbis in modern orthodox congregations across America.

      Number 3 was the view of EJF -- not sure how widespread it is outside of them.

      Number 4 may be rejected by what the blog author considers mainstream -- that is, the rabbis in number 1 -- but I think this non-judgmental approach is probably the most common position in out of town (outside NYC area) modern orthodox shuls (which tend to be more lenient), and nearly universal among American chabad shluchim.

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    2. yesha wrote:

      Number 1 is right-wing Israeli charedi position -- I've never heard of it outside of that context. To give you (the letter writer) an idea, the same rabbis also rule it is forbidden to vote in Israeli elections.

      ================
      I was citing Rav Eliashiv who in fact held you should vote in Israeli elections. In addition I cited Rav Reuven Feinstein who is not viewed as an extremist - was in fact the halachic advisor for EJF and is American. Furthermore he hasn't come out against voting in Israeli elections. He asserted that this is the main stream Orthodox view.

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    3. Rav Reuven Feinstein shlita is STILL the halachic advisor for EJF, which today has a new name - Tiferes Bais Yisrael.

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    4. Rav Eidensohn, but for number 1 you said intermarried couples can't participate in kiruv activities. The only rabbonim you have cited as saying that are R' Sternbuch and the Bedatz, who prohibit voting in Israeli elections. The view of R' Elyashiv and R' Feinstein is miles away from the R' Sternbuch/Bedatz view, because because nearly all intermarried couples will tell you they didn't realize it was wrong at the time.

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    5. http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2008/12/harav-eliashiv-shilta-kiruv-of.html

      The objection of Rav Eliashiv as well as the Bedatz was the issue of kiruv for intermarried couples and thus proselytizing the non-Jewish spouse. Rav Eliashiv statement is that traditionally intermarried couples are shunned. He made an exception when dealing with couples/community in which the intermarried couple mistakenly had a Jewish identity.

      There is a major gap between proslytizing intermarried couples who knew that it was wrong according to halacha and tolerating couples who mistakenly think they are Jewish.

      The Bedatz was talking about the former while Rav Eliashiv was addressing the latter.

      It is not clear what would be the position if the couple claimed they didn't realize it was wrong. If you search the archives there is a letter from a Reform Jew who claims that it is well known that intermarriage is a halachic problem.

      I am not aware of any difference between the view of Rav Eliashiv, the Bedatz, Rav Sternbuch and Rav Reuven Feinstein - i.e, mainstream charedi view. I don't think this differs from the right wing Modern Orthodox view.

      Do a search in archives for intermarriage







      r

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    6. Thanks for the explanation, but how can you say that R' Sternbuch's view is the same as R' Feinstein's view, when the latter supports EJF and now its current incarnation? They don't believe in shunning people at all, and believe conversion should be encouraged in the case of intermarriage (provided they didn't get married knowing it was wrong and intending to convert later).

      The Reform know that some people have a problem with intermarriage, but most of them have no problem with it themselves. Nor do unaffiliated Jews, who think it is racist to insist on marrying a Jew. The fact is, even if Jews are raised with some knowledge of Judaism in a non-Orthodox context, they are not taught, nor do they believe that halacha is actually required. So if they grow up not believing anything is really required, then intermarry like their parents and all their friends, then why shun them? They are like child captives, immersed in non-Torah ideologies.

      We are not really talking about the letter writer and his wife entering some kind of Aish-type kiruv program that systematically tries to convince people to be frum. He's just talking about starting to attend Chabad events or services. It's still called "kiruv" but Chabad knows not the prostelytize -- if she asks they'll tell her she doesn't have to convert; just can just be a good Noahide. But would they say she's not welcome? Or refuse to teach her if she decides she wants to convert? No way. Nor should they. I think it would be the same in many, perhaps most Modern Orthodox shuls.

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    7. Thanks for the explanation, but how can you say that R' Sternbuch's view is the same as R' Feinstein's view, when the latter supports EJF and now its current incarnation? They don't believe in shunning people at all, and believe conversion should be encouraged in the case of intermarriage (provided they didn't get married knowing it was wrong and intending to convert later).

      ================
      Actually in my archives there are two different views. search under "Reuven Feinstein". There is an official written position paper and the transcript I made from his recorded comments. In both cases he is claiming agreement with Rav Eliashiv and asserting that his position is main stream - but the views seem to be significantly different. I am equating Rav Sternbuch and Rav Feinstein based on the transcript.

      The transcript is clearly at variance with what EJF was doing

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    8. See RaP's comments. Also search the archives for his additional postings on the "end of kiruv".

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  13. Actually, as you may know there was a yeshivish (ashkenazic non-chassidic charedi) organization endorsed by many major rabbis from a few years ago that actually encouraged conversions by people intermarried to Jews


    That organization ended up having its head rav Leib Tropper shlit's arranging sexual encounters between conversion candidates and various people in his community including his own wife.

    This blog played major role in exposing (forgive the pun) the rav

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    1. Josh, yes, I know -- I didn't mention it because it wasn't really germane to the point I was making.

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    2. DT,
      Can you please suppress this tasteless post?

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    3. To clarify: by "post" I meant Josh T's reply, not the blogpost it replies to.

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  14. the following is a transcript I made of a recording of Rav Reuven Feinstein talking about dealing with intermarried couples. He agrees with Rav Eliashiv and holds that this is the mainstream. I have not heard anything from Rav Sternbuch that he disagress with the approach. All agree that one does not pursue and intermarried couple.


    http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2012/01/rav-reuven-feinstein-prohibits.html

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    1. this is a clearer copy of the transcript

      http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2009/10/rav-reuven-feinsteinkiruv-mixed-couples.html

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  15. See also this article from Jewish Action Magazine

    http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2008/04/unintentioal-intermarriage-jewish.html

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  16. Recipients and PublicityAugust 30, 2012 at 6:54 AM

    Jews married to gentiles, gentiles married to Jews, Jews joining the gentiles, gentiles wanting to be Jews...the subtext of it all: The end of the classical era of kiruv, that lasted about 50 years, from the 1950s to the 1990s, when those who were be being reached were in all probability Halachic Jews. But since the 1990s it all changed and kiruv programs now do not know who the people are that come to them.

    Just in this scenario, there is an intermarried older couple (the wife is not Jewish), with children who are not Halachically Jewish (but may think they are, because their father is Jewish i.e. based on Reform's patrilineal descent schism), and presumably even grandkids from the next generation.

    This is the end of kiruv, and the dawn of a new era. It's all about geirus (CONVERSION) issues NOT conventional Kiruv anymore as the term was used to bring secular Jews back to Yiddishkeit.

    Tropper grasped all this, he was ahead of the curve in terms of where the filed is moving, and that is why he went on to the "next level" of how to deal with the intermarried who are the secular Jewish majority in America, but he self-destructed, no wonder. And in Israel with about 300,000 Russsian gentile non-Halachic "Jews" it's minority of the general Israeli Jewish population and their families and descendants.

    Rav Elyashiv stated a long time ago that it is time to open sifrei yuchsin (reliable records of Jewish births), but the American Aguda balked.

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  17. Thanks, DT and RaP.

    No one responded to the letter writer's claim that great men of Tanakh intermarried, so I thought I'd respond briefly. Avraham, Yitzhak, Yaacov and Moshe married converts, not gentiles. As we see with the examples of Pinchas and especially Ezra, intermarriage without conversion is certainly disapproved of in Tanakh. As for Esther, the Talmud explains that she was forced to be with the non-Jewish king, and was in fact married to Mordechai.

    This article addresses a slightly different situation that with the letter writer, but I think it's representative of Chabad's approach (to be welcoming and stress that every mitzvah a Jew can do is very valuable and should be encouraged regardless of someone's life situation.)

    http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/913069/jewish/Can-I-Keep-Judaism-If-My-Wife-is-Not-Jewish.htm

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  18. Welcome home our brother!

    Your grandfather in heaven is getting great nachas from every mitzvah you do down here on earth. Without your wife you may have never returned to Judaism in this lifetime. Thank G-d that she was there for you 35 years. There are many like you.

    It is important thing to remember:
    1)Every mitzvah counts. The whole world was created for Adam and Chava and they had only one mitzvah. Every Mitzvah is a whole world.

    2)You have to be honest with yourself where you are up to NOW. The torah of truth says if you grasp too much you have grasped nothing. we have to be realistic of what we are ready to do.

    3)The evil inclination says I am never going to divorce her so maybe all my efforts to do mitzvos are for naught.
    The talmud tells us both in a positive manner and negative manner every deed has meaning evil king menasheh is held acountable for minor rabbinic transgressions...how much more so the power of good!
    the few steps of evil kings in honor of G-d are given great reward how much more so our deeds....

    3)Rabbis and those who are asked to give their opinion on Jewish law cannot sanctify compromise by saying it is ok she is a great woman. Just as they cannot say it is ok that you made kiddush friday night, had challah and non Kosher chicken it is not ok...but It was good you made kiddush and had the challah...the chicken you will work on when your wife is on board with the kosher.

    There are many things in life that are not ok. We have to recognise that we cannot change everything at once and we have to do know what mitzvos positive and negative we are capable of doing and without backsliding and giving up.

    A dear friend of mine is a Cohen married to a woman of another faith and they have two daughters. He has since begun a reurn to Judaism. His wife is committed to another religion. Even if she was not and wanted to convert he would not be able to stay married to her as a cohen cannot marry a convert. (there may be some ways to deal with that but a. she does not want to convert and b. he is not ready to leave her )
    He has made a choice to intergrate into his life more and more mitzvos. Today he prays 3 times a day, puts on teffilin daily and studies Torah daily, Halacha, Talmud, chassidic thought. Shabbos and kosher are moving forward bit by bit...
    At this point of his life he has put on hold the issues of his marriage and is working on 612 other commandments...

    According to our tradition all the women who married our great leaders converted to Judaism

    One final thought that some here may take issue with. Whereever we are is where we are meant to be. Free choice is a door once we walk through becomes divine providence. Now that we find ourselves in a place where wrong choices were made we have to ask ourselves what positive choices can I make at this moment in this imperfect world.

    As you progress in keeping torah and mitzvos you may come to a time when you know you have to move somewhere where you can observe more. Your family dynamic may change, her interest may change. All that is ahead of you. May this year be a year where you and your family are as full of mitzvos as a pomogranate!

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  19. DT,
    Can't figure how halakhic concubinism fails to get any mention here. Seeing as, from hilkhos gittin, we assume these marriages to be halakhically insubstantial, we can't the Gentile wife in question have the din of a concubine?
    Any material you have on hand that might enlighten would be appreciated. I'm sure this must've been brought up before....

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