What Each of Us Can Do to Get Jews to Marry Jews by Rabbi Asher Lopatin

As a follow-up to some observations I made last week about the Mezvinsky-Clinton wedding, I want to offer so positive, real ways for all of us to help encourage Jews to marry Jews.  Across the board, from Reform to Orthodox to Ultra-Orthodox, I think we can all agree that Jews marrying Jews is what we want.  However, instead of a negative approach, which many people expressed, I think a positive, affirmative approach is much more productive.  However, the positive approach might take a lot more effort – but worthwhile things usually do take more effort.  Here are a few things you can do:

1) Encourage all the single men and women you know to join Saw You At Sinai or other online dating services.  My wife, Rachel, volunteers for Saw You At Sinai, and she puts in hours and hours each week trying to make shiduchin (matches).  But there is a dearth of men: many eligible man, who are looking to get married, are simply not signed up and therefore the choices for women, and the chance of getting that elusive match – made in heaven! – is greatly reduced.  Ask any single man, or woman, that you know: Are on Saw You At Sinai or Frumster or another Jewish dating service?  If not, why not?

2)If you are married, invite singles over to your home for Shabbat dinner or lunch.  Many homes are just not used to inviting people they don’t know, but this is an critical way for Jews to meet other Jews, and especially to meet their bashert, their intended.  We know of several people who have met at dinners we have had in our home, where we just had people over and they did the rest of the work themselves, and I just heard of another couple that met because someone else invited them.  Yes, it might be uncomfortable to invited strangers over; but if you really want to get Jews to marry Jews, it’s worth the effort.  I would encourage rabbis to encourage this.  If you are single, instead of waiting to get invited, make a simple Shabbat lunch or dinner on your own, and tell the rabbi or clergy in your shul that you are happy to have some people – or just invite some singles that you know casually who may be looking for a place for lunch.  It’s not the food, it’s Jews getting together with Jews.

3) At kiddush, take a moment to look for someone who is on their own, not talking to anyone, and introduce yourself to that person.  The conversation at a minimum will boost that person’s confidence that they are not invisible, but it may lead to a connection that will lead to a shidduch.  This stuff happens, but only when we make it happen.

4)Finally, and this is hard, but it’s the truth, the only way to really get a handle on Jews marrying Jews is by making aliya.  We need to encourage all our young people to get to Israel, for a summer, for a year, and preferably as a permanent decision.  True, there are issues of intermarriage in Israel as well, but at least you have a society where everyone is doing Chanuka, Pesach, Yom Kippur, even 85% observing Tisha B’av in some way.  In Israel the civic culture is Jewish, so it is totally different than American where the civic culture is Christmas, Halloween – Christian.  Long term, I am worried that Judaism cannot survive as a minority culture in a society where we are welcome to marry the Clintons and the Gores.  But in Israel, we have a majority culture of Judaism, and a vast majority of Jews – in the cities and towns where our children will live – so that the intermarriage problem is vastly diminished.  No, not everyone can move to Israel, but we are deluding ourselves if we think we can create a safe place for Jews to marry only Jews in America.  It’s too friendly and alluring a culture for us.

So please continue to be passionate about Jews marrying Jews, but please all of use should walk the walk, not just talk the talk.  There are concrete steps we can all take to make things better, and by helping Jews marry Jews we will make our community in general a more caring and nurturing place for all of us.

Asher Lopatin

3 Responses to What Each of Us Can Do to Get Jews to Marry Jews by Rabbi Asher Lopatin

  1. Mr. Cohen says:

    The lowest intermarriage rates are in the Jewish communities that do not accept converts.

    The highest intermarriage rates are in the Jewish communities where “conversion” to Judaism is the quickest and easiest.

    In the Jewish communities that do not accept converts, Jewish men have a logical reason to limit themselves to Jewish women only.

    In the Jewish communities where “conversion” to Judaism is the quickest and easiest, Jewish men have little or no incentive to seek Jewish women, because they know they can marry a Gentile woman and kosher up the mess through a quickie conversion.

    CONCLUSION: To reduce intermarriage, reduce or eliminate converts.

    Another way to reduce intermarriage: if a Jewish man engages a non-Jewish woman, then there should be hundreds of protestors in front of his house, chanting slogans against intermarriage, carrying large signs and distributing literature against intrmarriage. The protests should continue until the Jewish man dumps his non-Jewish girlfriend.

    • Andrew says:

      The post above makes what I believe is a mistake in treating the denominations/communities as the PRODUCERS of phenomena like intermarriage. In an America of voluntary associations and consumerism, Jews who want something (whether it is permission to eat non-Kosher food, easier conversions for their non-Jewish significant other, or permission to live in the suburbs and drive to shul on Shabbat) will get it or go elsewhere. To a great extent, Orthodoxy has stayed “halakhically pure” because those who want something more flexible left it for a more liberal movement. Many of the founders of the liberal movements were raised and educated traditionally, and there are many members of liberal congregations who were more recently raised and educated Orthodox. While what I have written above is certainly an oversimplification, I think it is a better idea to see Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, etc. Judaism as being natural products of what Jews came to want and came to believe in modern, open America. Had today’s more sophisticated Modern Orthodoxy existed when the original Jewish immigrants arrived in American, perhaps more of them would have remained faithful to traditional halakha, but I doubt it would have altered the landscape all that much.

  2. someone says:

    One thing you have left off is setting up jews with other jews. They have to meet other jews or the chances of marrying another jew are very very low.

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