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