Chabad at Stanford
Wisdom Center
What is Wrong with Intermarriage? Bookmark and Share
What is Wrong with Intermarriage?
By: Rabbi Aron Moss

Question: Rabbi, I don't want a sermon-I get enough of them from my parents. I am asking for an explanation.

I am seriously dating a girl who is everything I ever dreamed of. She is smart, pretty, funny-definitely marriage material. There's only one problem: She isn't Jewish. My parents have refused even to meet her and have told me that if we get married they won't come to the wedding. My grandmother is beside herself.

My question is: My parents aren't religious. We never kept kosher or celebrated Jewish holidays. We didn't even belong to a synagogue. Why, all of a sudden, are they so Jewish when it comes to whom I marry? Isn't that totally hypocritical? When I say this, they answer: "This is different." But that makes no sense to me. Why is it different?

Answer: There is a profound truth that our parents learned subconsciously from their parents, and that is: Jewish is who you are, not what you do.

There is no such thing as one Jew who is more Jewish than another. Whether you practice Jewish customs or not, keep the festivals or not, live in Israel or not, eat sushi or not, a Jew is a Jew is a Jew. Jewishness is an irreversible status that is not defined by how you live your life.

You may be sitting in a church, dressed as Santa Claus, eating bacon on Yom Kippur, and still be 100% Jewish. Are you a good Jew? A faithful Jew? A proud Jew? G-d knows. But a Jew you remain. Because Jewishness isn't something you do, it's something you are. Nothing you do can affect who you are.

Nothing, that is, except marriage.

The person you marry becomes a part of who you are. Getting married is not a hobby or a career move; it is making someone else a part of your identity and becoming a part of theirs. Your spouse fills a void in your very being, and you fill the void in them. So marriage, like Jewishness, is not something you do, it is something you are.

There is nothing wrong with non-Jews. But they aren't Jewish. If you marry a non-Jew, you're still 100% Jewish, but a part of you-your other half-is not.

Love is an overwhelming emotion, but marriage is about more than just love. It is also about identity, and so, when choosing a spouse, it is important to be true to one's identity. For Jews, that means marrying someone who shares our heritage. Because Yiddishkeit, Jewishness, is not just our religion, it is fundamentally who we are.