For as far back as I can tell, my family has been Jewish. I donâ€™t necessarily mean that every relative kept the Sabbath or kept every commandment, but they, at least nominally, adhered to the Jewish religion. Sure, I do have relatives that converted to Judaism, but my direct ancestors, as far I as can tell, were all of the Jewish faith, born into it, and raised their children that way.
Personally, Iâ€™ve always been proud of the fact that my familyâ€™s Jewish, but I donâ€™t think it would have bothered me too much had part of it not been so. The Jewish heritage can be preserved in many ways, not just via genetics. The fact is, many people still see an invisible smear, a sort of â€œtaint,â€ on non-Jews entering a Jewish family. The outsider, as that person would be seen, would be bringing in some foreign blood. To me, thatâ€™s nonsense.
Part of what has made Judaism great is its preserved tradition, I will agree. The sense of inclusion can be passed on, though, not just through heritage, but through its sense of community and reverence of the divine. I don’t doubt that some of its preservation, to be sure, has been caused by Jews marrying other Jews and keeping the tradition alive, that of Torah and religion, study and faith, to their children. But what many old-school Jews fail to realize is that that very insularity is what threatens to bring down everything they so value. There is a great danger in keeping things completely â€œJewishâ€ in more ways than appear to the naked eye.
One of the most cited problems is Tay-Sachs disease among Jews of Ashkenazi heritage. The National Institute of Health website describes it as a condition affecting fetuses and children, most of whom with the disease â€œdie by age 4.â€ That shocking statistic shakes me up a bit. Now, Iâ€™m not advocating that one should necessarily just marry a non-Jew just because of this, but it is a factor to keep in mind. I canâ€™t even imagine the agony of losing a child and seeing oneâ€™s beloved baby be hurt by a genetic disorder. Other problems can result from inbreeding. Like most peoples in Europe, Jewish families intermarried. The problem with marrying your cousin is that, yes, genetic defects can occur. The more concentrated the genes, the more chances you have of such a problem. Similarly, any people in one concentrated social, ethnic, or religious group face the possibility of problems with children after intermarrying; in no way is this specific to Ashkenazis.
Often, a “stigma” of dating or marrying a non-Jew is one that carries even into today. As a young woman, Iâ€™ve found that Iâ€™ve been inclined to date boys of my own faith. Looking at this, I find that itâ€™s not because I wouldnâ€™t date someone of another religion or ethnicity, but because the entire family that surrounded me when I was growing up was one of one religion. Jews always married Jews, so I must have figured that I should date people of my own religion.
So, what should a young person of Jewish faith do? Ultimately, itâ€™s your decision. Dating and marriage and children are all very different spheres. As long as you and your loved ones are healthy and happy, maybe even with a dash of Judaism here and there, something tells me that youâ€™ll be fine.