Avram Mlotek’s Opinion piece, “Time To Rethink Our Resistance To Intermarriage” (June 16), has sparked many readers to contemplate how Jewish communities treat those who intermarry. The vast majority of the halachic Jewish community not only discourages intermarriage, but scorns and shuns those who do, citing the existential threat intermarriage poses to the Jewish people.
While this accusation may be true of the intermarriage phenomenon in general, it is hyperbolic to levy at any one individual. Within the Jewish community this can cause great tension in families, with damaging long-term consequences. This attitude also leads the very Jews we are trying to retain to perceive the halachic Jewish community as being xenophobic and contemptuous.
Shunning and shaming does not prevent intermarriage, but it does leave the collateral damage of pushing Jews and their partners away from Jewish life. If these intermarriages are happening anyway, shouldn’t we be creating environments for the Jewish partner to remain connected? Shouldn’t we engage with the non-Jewish partner and children in a way that they experience the Jewish community as one of warmth and beauty?
Rather than living in fear of intermarriage, we should focus on bolstering all that Judaism has to offer in a positive way to inspire future continuity. I am not trying to make any claims about halacha, but rather about how we should treat individuals and the message we should send to the world. Regardless of the halachic boundaries, extending love and support to our Jewish community members and their families is in our interest and also happens to be the right thing to do.