Is Intermarriage Good or Bad for the Jews?
As is usually the case, when posing a question to Jewish people, opinions can be plentiful, diverse and pointedly contrary. For example, a 2007 poll in Israel equated Jewish-Arab intermarriage as equal to “national treason.”2 Nearly half of all Israelis considered such interethnic unions as a threat to the identity of Israel as a Jewish state.
Last month a controversial advertising campaign in Israel brought opposing opinions to a boiling point. A joint task force of civil and Israeli government agencies produced an ad campaign aimed at Diaspora Jewry. It featured black and white images and sad music, and dealt with the theme “Lost.”
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The ads addressed Diaspora Jewry’s increasing trend toward intermarriage. Jews who had apparently married Gentiles were depicted on missing person posters. A voiceover description said that Diaspora Jewry was “in danger” of disappearing due to intermarriage.
One image was particularly inflammatory in the view of American Jews. It showed one of the posters against the background of railroad tracks. It equated Nazi deportation of Jews to death camps during the Holocaust with intermarriage. J. J. Goldberg, of The Forward, called the implication of the ad campaign “spectacularly knuckle-headed.”3
Meanwhile, in the United States, surveys have shown that the taboo against intermarriage has collapsed. That fact was reported in the 2003 American Jewish Committee poll of Jewish attitudes on critical subjects. A majority of respondents said that it would not be a tragedy if their Jewish children or grandchildren intermarried. Nevertheless, in Israel and in the rest of the Diaspora, any trend toward intermarriage elicits alarms about Jewish survival.
However, we have to ask if intermarriage between Jews and Gentiles is the real issue? Going back to the PARADE magazine poll, while 82 percent would intermarry, 72 percent of Americans said they would not “convert to another faith.” Here we need to make a distinction between issues of ethnicity and religion.
In the Bible, God warned that intermarriage was bad for the Jews if it would likely lead them away from faith in Him. Hence we find His prohibition against Israelite intermarriage with Canaanites. And we read multiple denunciations of Solomon for the spiritually disastrous consequences of his politically motivated marriages to the daughters of foreign rulers.
The problem was not specifically within inter-ethnic unions, but it was the potential for spiritual corruption of Israelites and their subsequent abandonment of God. After all, He is a “jealous God” who set apart Israel to be His covenant people. Therefore, it is spiritually detrimental any time Jewry abandons Him. Religious betrayal poses the most serious consequence for the continuation of Jewish life and testimony.
So, intermarriage is not the primary threat to Jewish survival. The greatest danger comes from a loss of spiritual faith in the God of the Jews. Failure to trust God for the preservation of Israel is the primary and the real peril.
Intermarriage, then, is a symptom of a spiritual trend, not the cause of it. The national Jewish Population Survey in 1990 already indicated that 63 percent of American Jewry was disaffiliated from any and all Jewish organizations. While traditional Jewish agencies have focused on reversing the trend of Jewish intermarriage, such good intentions may be a misplaced. Survival of Jewish people, whether they are in-married to other Jews or intermarried to Gentiles, is aided when both partners share a fundamental relationship with God.
We contend that both Jews and Gentiles need a genuine heart connection with God. All people need a personal conversion—a heart that is turned back from self-justification and self-reliance to embrace all that the Lord has for us. Only He has the power to forgive our sin and reconcile us to Himself in the atoning work of His Messianic Savior Y’shua (Jesus).
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