Letter to an Intermarrying Jew

By: Rachel Lelonek  |  May 10, 2018
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Dear friend,

It has certainly been a while! How have you been? I hope school and work are treating you well. I miss seeing you as often as I used to, but I have been extremely busy with work, school and life in general. I hope that we can catch up soon.

I know writing you a letter may seem out of the blue. But there has been something on my mind for the longest time and I need to share my thoughts and feelings with you lest I keep them all inside.

I am writing to you today because I found out that you will be getting engaged soon (or perhaps you are engaged already and I did not yet find out). While I wish that I could offer you and your partner my congratulations and warmest wishes, I am conflicted and not sure if I can. You see, you are marrying someone who isn’t Jewish, a person who is out of our faith. This is someone whom I know you love, but not someone I can necessarily approve of.

This letter is difficult for me to write. The words I wish to use escape me, and I do not want to seem judgemental. I am terrified that my thoughts will come off as condescending and harsh, but I want to let you know that I only want the best for you.

For thousands of years, the Jewish people have been a small yet sturdy nation. Through the blood libels and the Inquisition, the pogroms and the Holocaust, we have been an unbroken people, facing our challenges head-on. But despite the many dangers we’ve faced, the Jewish people are no stranger to resilience. Amidst a world of ever-changing norms, of persecution and discrimination, we are constantly able to adapt and face our troubles with  our families and greater communities to look to for support in the difficult times we have faced. In the twenty-first century, we continue to face our demons, and this one might be one of our greatest systematic threats: intermarriage and severing the ties between generations of halachic Jewry.

You and I were no different, my friend. We grew up surrounded by a Jewish community: from youth group to synagogue to Hebrew school and everything in between. Judaism was a constant for us, no matter how involved we chose to be. But over the past few years, I know that I have become more involved than I once was, while you seem to have moved farther away. Religion no longer plays as integral a role in your life, and when you began dating your significant other, your family was deeply concerned.

Will they marry out? Will their children be Jewish? These are some of the many questions they wondered. Will they practice Judaism or another religion in the home? Will they remember the three thousand  plus years of history and heritage they’ve come from? Should we disown them?

While I must admit that I have similar questions myself, more importantly, I wonder what will happen to you and your future children. Will you be able to feel a sense of fulfillment from another place? Will you be able to find a community that completely accepts your mixed marriage? Will you be able to live with the consequences of potentially not being able to reconcile with your family? I don’t mean to scare you with these questions, but they are all real and scary thoughts you must consider before marrying someone outside of your religion.

Where have the years gone? From childhood, to school, to the adult world, we have been there for one another. This is why it pains me so much to write this letter. For years, we dreamed about the people we each would marry: a childhood fantasy. But now, this fantasy is becoming a reality and while you may love this person,this has become a nightmare to others around you who worry about your mental and spiritual well-being.

My dear friend, I respect you, but how could I accept a decision that is responsible for dismantling our heritage? Even if your spouse is okay with celebrating some Jewish traditions and customs, you run the risk of your children or grandchildren not being halachically Jewish–something that would devastate your family and hurt them in a most profound way.

I want to make it clear that I am not telling you how to live your life. Despite the decisions you decide to make, I will continue to love you. I will always recall our memories with a dearest fondness and I will think of you as a kindred soul. But alas, according to Jewish law, this union is prohibited and I cannot partake the celebration of those nuptials in any form.

Though I hope that you both will have a happy life together, I am afraid that it is not one I can be a part of.

Sincerely,

Your friend.

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