One day while waiting in the lineup I struck up a conversation with a fellow player. He told me all about how he got to celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah, because his dad was Jewish and his mom was not. Immediately after hearing this, a wave of emotion washed over me. It was not jealousy about how he most certainly got double the presents, like most kids would have immediately experienced; rather it was the solemnest, most sincere feelings of both pity and anger I had experienced yet in my seven-year-long life. I was suddenly virulently infuriated with his father, a man I had never met, for intermarrying. I do not quite remember the exact words that raced through my head, but if I had to translate them to how I speak now, it would probably be something like, “HOW COULD THIS ASSHOLE FUCK UP SO BADLY? HOW DOES HE HAVE THE ADAUCITY TO SLAP GOD IN THE FACE AND THEN ON TOP OF THAT PRODUCE NON-JEWISH OFFSPRING? HE IS THE SCUM OF THE EARTH AND THE BANE OF JUDAISM’S EXISTENCE AND I HOPE HE GETS HIS JUST DESERTS.”
But despite my ire, there were also those raw feelings of pity. This foolish misled man is going to hell for eternity, I thought. Intermarrying–or any type of inappropriate sexual relations– is one of the “Big 3” sins that a Jew is supposed to die before committing (the other two being idol worship and murder) and holy shit was this poor bastard going to pay. Even though I certainly believed he deserved what was coming to him, I could not get over how awful I felt on his behalf.
Not long after this I met one of my distant relatives for the first time, and I learned that he was intermarried. He has two children, and it disturbed me immensely that they were not Jewish; I did not even consider his tainted gentile seed a part of my family. I was not angry at him like I was with Little League Dad, though I still had the unmitigated sense of sorrow on his behalf, but this time a new emotion entered the fold: Confusion. His wife is wonderful, but I was perplexed about why, if he was going to throw his eternal life away, did he not do it over some supermodel? I thought the only reason anyone would intermarry would be over some lustful rebelliousness. It was beyond my comprehension at the time to realize that someone could commit the ultimate transgression, not out of any sacrilege, but simply because they did not recognize the validity of Judaism.
Ironically, several years later, I am now dumbfounded and irritated about intermarriage but for another reason. I have been taught my entire life that anyone who intermarries should be mourned for with the gravest sadness, but as of now, I simply do not see a problem with it. Why should someone be chastised for who they fall in love with? How can a person be expected to construct the most important decision of their life over something as inconsequential and trivial as someone’s bloodline?
Not long ago I would have married a monkey before I married a gentile, but in my current state of belief, if the woman who I passionately craved to spend every second of my short existence with, whose mere presence brings me elation, who would light a fire in the deepest unexcavated recesses of my heart that I knew will never be extinguished, happened to not be Jewish, I really do not know if I could have the fortitude or sufficient rationale to cast her away.
When I first discounted Judaism, I still held my old opposition to intermarriage but for a completely non-religious reason. I am a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I had, and still kind of do have, a superiority complex regarding my Judaic heritage. Any way you slice it, the Jewish people are a bastion of success and perseverance. Almost every nation in the world has tried to exterminate us, but we have prevailed and prospered. We may have been unequivocally shafted in the athletic and height departments, but I am more then okay with that because we got the better end of the deal in the things that actually matter, like wealth, influence, and intelligence. We clearly got the better end of the bargain. Though the religious implications did not bother me at all, I did not want to dirty my bloodline. I still wanted to marry a Jew, simply because I thought my children would be better off because of it.
This arrogant line of thinking shifted when I began looking at Judaism from a sociological perspective. It became clear to me that I was not a part of any specially blessed race of people, but rather one shaped by political power plays, far-fetched lies, and social circumstances. The more I realized this the more I realized that though by the dictionary definition I may be a “Jew,” I am a person first, just like anyone else. It is absurd to shackle ourselves with labels that make us different from our fellow man, because no matter what god we do or do not fear, we are all the same.
I have searched far and wide for reasons not to intermarry. Many rabbis, family members and peers have been consulted but I have yet to find a satisfactory answer. The most common reply people have given me is always about “keeping the traditions going,” or something of that sort. I understand the appeal of this, but I do not find it valid. These traditions such as celebrating Passover are nice but they are indubitably based on falsehoods, and though my ancestors have been observing them for thousands of years, I think that fact that the foundations are faulty pollutes any beauty that they may provide.
My mother says that the tragedy of intermarriage is that anyone who produces non-Jewish offspring is breaking the chain. But would my children actually be any different if they were born of a non-Jewish mother? It’s not like they would be half dog.
Through all of this I don’t have one decent theological reason not to marry whoever I damn please, but I still have a pretty good practical one. Could I do it to my family? I know it would destroy my parents. Could I look them in the eye and tell them, “Thank you for being wonderful parents and bringing me into this world, but fuck you guys I’m marrying a shicksa?” I honestly do not know. At this point they have long given up hope that I will return to the fold but I think they would rather see me in an orange jumpsuit holding hands with a large jailbird named Bubba, than in a tuxedo putting a ring on a gentile girl. This attitude distresses me, because I really hope that they would accept whomever I wish to bring into the family as a part of it, not as some alien entity that sucked me in. I want to live my own life and marry whomever I fall in love with but I also do not want to emotionally destroy and cast away the people that have loved me since my birth.
But no matter how much I rationalize my Jewish heritage or contemplate intermarriage I have to admit that, strangely, I still feel Jewish. When Aly Riesman won the gold medal I felt like a proud Jewish mother and almost cried tears of joy. Whenever I see Israeli F16s fly over I get chills down my spine. Any athlete or celebrity that is Jewish immediately goes to the top of my favorite list. I do not keep Shabbat, I ate bacon cheese fries on Rosh Hashanah while drinking and watching football at a bar, and I do not even fast on Yom Kippur. This feeling of Jewish pride is the last vestige of my forsaken faith, and it may be the most essential one. I would love for my children to be able to identify as Jews simply so they could have something to be proud of, but what kind of sacrifices am I willing to make for that to happen?
You can contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org