Why Interfaith Relationships Are Fine By Me

Posted on: May 7, 2013

Interfaith relationships.  It’s a topic that never fails to come up in young-Jewish-adult discussion groups.  But this year, it’s become more than the hypothetical for me.


Reform Judaism is a big part of my identity.  I rarely miss a Friday night service or a Hillel Shabbat dinner.  I really do love Jewish holiday traditions, especially when I’m away from home and not required to celebrate them — which says a lot.  I happy volunteer to read and write Divrei Torah.  And I just went on my first date with a very smart and accomplished classmate who I’ve known since freshman year.  He is not Jewish.
It’s funny how this is such a contentious issue in discussions, but when it actually becomes reality, the difference doesn’t matter.  Coming from different traditions doesn’t feel any more significant than majoring in different subjects, or being born in different states.  It’s just a biographical fact.  And us getting together isn’t about rebelling against my family, or Judaism, or society — it’s just something that happened.
Disclaimer: I’m not going to talk about marriage here.  I’m not ready.  This is the point in my life where a typical date is meeting up in the dining hall, studying à deux at a library desk for two, and maybe venturing out into the city on a free campus shuttle.  (On that note, isn’t it possible to do these things with anyone?)  I can’t say I’m 100%
I’m still trying to figure out whether all things happen for a reason, or we just apply reason to random events.  But I do know that I’m an incredibly spiritual person, and I believe people cross paths and enter each other’s lives when they are meant to.  And so many moments when I’ve needed to talk to someone, he and I have just sort of run into each other by coincidence.  It’s like something is drawing us together for a reason.  Our mutual friends could see us getting together even before it happened.
I think what bothers me most is that interfaith dating is even an issue to begin with.  I’m speaking as someone who’s been excluded from social cliques before, and I know how that hurts.  This is a reason why I love Judaism: we view our people as one big family.  We create community, and we welcome the strangers in our midst, because we were once strangers too.  Maybe that’s why I always gravitate towards the friends who are a little bit different, off-center in the best of ways, with an interesting family story and cultural background, because that’s really who I am.  People attract my interest because they are different from the status quo.  Maybe that comes from being a granddaughter of immigrants, maybe it’s just my curiosity, maybe both.
But at what point does a community-centered religion become exclusive to the many people who are not like us?  Shouldn’t interfaith relationships be less of a taboo, if we are to be welcoming to all people?  Maybe I am in the minority here, but I believe so.
I’ve considered entering the Jewish professional world, but I am uncomfortable with the rabbinical school policy that their students cannot be in an interfaith relationship, because our rabbis influence our individual Jewish journeys the most.  They, more than anyone, should understand and promote acceptance towards all.  This is the problem: I love Judaism, but I can’t stomach the idea that it could become a divisive force between two people enjoying a pure, innocent love that’s so hard to find.  I think the communal aspects of religion should, among other duties, help people build bridges.  And bridges are about connecting different pockets of people, not more people of the same background.
I do not know what the future holds for any of us; I just want to know that whatever is meant to be, it can happen without causing any rifts or conflicts between anyone.  I understand the practicalities of Jews marrying within our religion for the sake of continuing our civilization, but selling your daughter for ten goats and a dowry was once practical too.  Times are changing.  Society is constantly changing and globalizing.  And maybe this means we need to rethink whether the taboos around love and relationships are really even necessary.

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