NOTE: The following is a post about an iPhone application that provides suggestions for what parents should say to their children to prevent them from intermarrying. It is not a product review of the application, but rather a news story. Neither the blogger nor The New York Jewish Week endorses this iPhone application. We realize the controversial nature of this application and hope you will leave your opinion in the comments section. Intermarriage is a touchy subject and the fact that it’s found its way into an iPhone application is newsworthy for the subject of this blog — Judaism and technology.
Intermarriage, specifically interfaith weddings between Christians and Jews, has been in the news quite a bit lately. With the high profile, celebrity wedding of former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky last night, many bloggers have weighed in on the controversial topic of interfaith weddings. Some saw the wedding of Chelsea, raised as a Protestant by her political parents Bill and Hillary, to a Conservative Jew as shameful, while others wished the couple the congratulatory "mazel tov" wish. The wedding was co-officiated by Rabbi James Ponet and Reverend William Shillady.
Recognizing the complications involved in interfaith dating and ultimately in interfaith marriages, Rabbi Eli Garfinkel, a Conservative rabbi who has been producing a number of applications for the iPhone lately, has created "When They Say: Intermarriage."
He explains that this app is a "resource for Jewish parents who want their children to understand how important it is to marry another Jew. In our free, democratic society, many people find the Jewish ban on intermarriage to be silly, alien, or even racist. This app gives parents a collection of talking points in response to many of the arguments that people bring in defense of intermarriage."
If you find it odd to hear of an iPhone app that simply contains talking points to aid in a discussion or debate, think again. A recent New York Times article ("You Say God Is Dead? There’s an App for That") reports that "an explosion of smart-phone software has placed an arsenal of trivia at the fingertips of every corner-bar debater, with talking points on sports, politics and how to kill a zombie. Now it is taking on the least trivial topic of all: God." If there are iPhone apps to help atheists defend their position, then Garfinkel reasoned, why not create an app to help Jewish parents make their anti-interfaith marriage message to their children more coherent and convincing?
Some may find this app offensive or antagonistic, but Garfinkel believes that "the Jewish people has to reach out to intermarried couples and give them as much love and acceptance as possible. Having said that, Jews have a responsibility to prevent intermarriage when possible. The ideal Jewish marriage is between two Jews. Because there are so many intermarrieds in our community, a lot of Jewish leaders and parents are afraid to talk about the beauty of marrying another Jew. The purpose of this app is to help parents talk about intermarriage and thereby give the next generation of Jews a chance to thrive."
I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until some crafty college kids release an iPhone app that helps Jewish young adults explain why it’s okay they’re dating outside the faith. After all, there’s an app for everything these days!