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Intermarriage and racism


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Av 22, 5774
How is the Jewish insistence that a Jew may not marry a gentile anything but racism? If for the sake of the person him/herself, isn’t it more important that they marry a kind spouse, assuming they probably are not very religious to begin with? And if for the children’s sake, in many cases the children will still be aware of their Jewish lineage and practice some Jewish traditions, and in others, aren’t they no different from purely secular Jews? Plus, any group forbidding marriage to Jews would be called antisemitic, so it seems very weird that Judaism can hold this rule in one direction.
We also believe that in 99.9% of the cases, intermarriage between nations is great! If the president of the U.S. had Russian grandchildren there would be a lot more peace in the world, and whites marrying blacks means and breeds that much more tolerance. On the other hand, even as the world unites into one big family, learns an international language and adopts an international culture, it needs to be decided what language and what culture it’s going to be! If the movies, music and fashions spreading from Hollywood to the entire world were to be that of values and idealistic priorities, mankind would be in good shape. On the other hand, the present western culture which is conquering the world is spreading violence and adultery and is causing more harm than good. The Islamic option may be more family oriented but is even more violent! God’s solution, as suggested in the Torah, is that just as every family needs a “responsible adult”, referred to in the Torah as the “firstborn” (b’chor), who’s job is to set the tone when the father is not “around”, so too our “invisible” Father appointed Israel as “My firstborn” (Shmot 4, 22) of the united family of humanity. Our role as “a light for the nations” (Isa. 42, 6), which brought monotheism and morality to the world, is to benefit all mankind, as Hashem directed Avraham, “through (your nation) all of the nations will be blessed” (Breishit 12, 3), both morally and financially (through peace and cooperation)! That unique national role brings a lot of responsibility (613 mitzvot as opposed to 7!), and entails suffering and endless anti-Semitism (to date, I imagine most nations wouldn’t want to have traded places with us!). True, it may be convenient for the individual Jew to shirk this historic and moral role, but part of this national and universal responsibility is not to assimilate, not to dilute the message. In human nature, the minority doesn't influence but is influenced, so the only way the world can benefit from the Torah and morals of the pure and original monotheism is to differentiate that small Chosen Nation. Differentiation is not separation (!) from the rest of mankind, but it enables that desired positive universal influence, rather than diluting the idea through assimilation. If an individual Jew is so assimilated that he doesn’t care about all this, that tragedy doesn’t change the fact that it would be a moral tragedy to mankind if there would be no Jewish people. Accordingly, we must support almost all intermarriage, but for the same moral reason, the entire world should oppose all Jewish intermarriage in the strongest terms.
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