I really hoped I could avoid writing about this topic. This is not just because of the inflamed passions and the ugly, often reprehensible mudslinging on both sides of this debate. It is because I have a number of good friends from a former workplace who are currently in just such a non-halachic union, either by being non-Orthodox converts or by not changing their (non-Jewish) religion at all. Every single one of them is a wonderful human being, some of whom I admire and all of whose company I enjoyed. All are committed to raising their children in some kind of Jewish framework, admittedly easier in Jewish-majority Israel. I made a point of never getting involved in the occasional debates on the issue of conversion or mixed marriage at work, because I knew that it would only antagonize and achieve nothing.
I can remain silent no longer. It really feels like the only voices being heard on the subject are the extremes on the right who condemn it without qualification, and on the left, who accept it wholesale and condemn those who don’t. This is true no less for the Orthodox camp than elsewhere. I feel that there are few people out there that give voice to the moderates, torn between their commitment to democracy and liberalism on the one hand, yet equally committed to Torah and Mitzvot, halacha included, on the other.
The breaking point for me was a discussion over at Rabbi Harry Maryles’ blog on the painful subject of whether relatives should attend such marriages. The case was of a baal teshuva whose sibling was getting married in a church. On the psak of a Rabbi, he decided not to go, causing serious friction and crises within his family. The righteous anger at this person for daring to violate a fundamental tenet of pluralistic thought in the name of his principles was not far behind. At one point, after this man was defended for standing on his principles, one commenter said that suicide bombers also ‘stand on their principles’ (WTF!?).
To make a long story short, saner voices need to start making themselves heard. I hope this article encourages them to start coming out of the woodwork, and end this endless debate between two lunatics in an asylum, which as we all know does not lead to a triumph of reason.
The expression quoted in the title is the best exemplar of the dilemma of the moderate Orthodox Jew, or the ‘bourgeois Jew’ in Israel. Meir ben Meir, a frequent commentator on the Judaism section of ynet put it best: A militant Charedi Jew sees a car driving on Shabbat, and he screams, yells and tries to throw rocks. A secular Jew (or a post-denominational frum Jew) has no problem with it; he might even embrace it as a sign of a pluralistic society. The moderate Jew will say Shabbat Shalom and let him come to shul, but in his heart he feels pain that a Jew violates Shabbat; he wishes it were otherwise and hopes that one day it will be. If he can do anything non-threatening and non-coercive to get the wayward Jew to change his ways, he will.
The same can be said for intermarriage, and I will now explain in depth how.
Next: The Right