Now that consensus seems to be emerging that intermarriage does not equal assimilation/demographic disaster, is the latest conventional wisdom that it causes one to turn against Israel?
I’m afraid that’s the conclusion some might draw from Allison Benedikt’s “Life After Zionist Summer Camp” essay on The Awl, which I wrote about last week. In it, she indicates that her husband John Cook, who, as a house guest in Israel, berated Benedikt’s sister and husband for their “morally bankrupt” decision to move there, opened Benedikt’s eyes to the myriad evils of Israel. I hope that after castigating the family, he at least sent a thank-you note upon his return or, better yet, a gift basket from Zingerman’s, the Ann Arbor, Mich., deli Benedikt mentions in her essay. Full disclosure: Like Benedikt, I, too, am a former Zingerman’s employee.)
Jeffrey Goldberg, the widely read Atlantic blogger, has gotten into something of a Twitter-for-tat with Benedikt and Cook who, as if trying to make himself seem even less appealing than his wife’s essay already rendered him, referred to Goldberg with an unpleasant nickname for Richard and then “ordered” his wife to re-tweet.
In an e-mail to Goldberg, Benedikt brings up the intermarriage thing again, defending Cook’s behavior in part by explaining that he “was not accepted by my parents or my sister for being a non-Jew long before they ever heard his opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian situation … He handled a lot of that with grace, not to mention being a wonderful and active partner now in raising our boys as Jews — mostly if not entirely because of how important he knows it is to me.”
I’m sorry to hear that Benedikt’s family was so unsupportive of their relationship purely on the basis of his not being Jewish. I just feel the need to remind folks that, while Israel tends to trigger different reactions/emotions for gentiles than for Jews (as I explored in this column a few years ago), and while Israel is hardly an idyllic utopia, let’s remember that not all non-Jewish spouses (or Jews who are intermarried) are virulently anti-Israel.