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The Intermarriage-Assimilation Myth

The Intermarriage-Assimilation Myth

Kudos to my friend Paul Golin of the Jewish Outreach Institute for his op-ed this week entitled “Intermarriage, Assimilation Are Not Interchangeable.”
To which I’d add my own mantras: “intermarriage is also not a disease or an epidemic” and “when preventing intermarriage becomes the primary focus of Jewish life, Judaism is reduced to little more than a glorified matchmaking service.”

One of my favorite parts of Paul’s column: “If intermarriage means the same thing as assimilation, there wouldn’t be intermarried members of synagogues, children of intermarriage on Birthright Israel trips or intermarried leaders of Jewish communal organizations.”

Indeed, I recently learned that almost half the rabbinical students at the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion grew up in interfaith households. And in a meeting yesterday at The Curriculum Initiative, a group that provides Jewish resources and cultural programming at prep schools around the country, the staff told me that children of intermarriage comprise a significant percentage of the student leaders/activists organizing events on campus.
Clearly, many people from interfaith families are eager to explore Judaism.

As Paul points out, “Even if intermarriage in America has been an assimilationist trend in the past, it doesn’t mean that it has to be in the future. That will depend on how our community welcomes in the intermarried.”

Let’s hope more groups follow the Reform movement and TCI’s lead so that, in the words of the Haggadah, we can “let all who are hungry [for spiritual/communal sustenance] come and eat.”

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