Friday, October 15, 2004

Mr. Bronfman, go get some Jewish education

WJC President Edgar Bronfman is coming under fire this week from British Orthodox Rabbis, including Chief Rabbi Sacks, for telling the Jewish Chronicle last week that the time has come for the Jewish community to abandon its fight against intermarriage. He called the fight "racist," complaining that "the whole concept of Jewish peoplehood, and the lines being pure, begins to sound a little like Nazism, meaning racism." Bronfman reportedly derided the current communal attitude as "dated" and warned that "we can make an attempt to double the amount of Jews that there are, or we can irritate everybody who's intermarried, and lose them all."*
While I disagree with his last comments -- I don't think that accepting intermarriage means doubling the amount of Jews that there are -- this is a legitimate point of view. And we certainly need to reach out more to intermarried couples. But to call the fight against intermarriage 'racist' is to perpetuate one of the grossest and most dangerous misconceptions about. In my mind, this completely misguided fear of being labelled racist for wanting to date and marry other Jews is one of the primary reasons why relatively unaffiliated Jews date out (and as I have written in other forums, I think that it's also the reason why you see so few Jews dating and married to other Jews on tv programmes; the Jewish tv execs themselves see it as racist). There's no greater sin in this day and age than being perceived as a racist.
But the fight against intermarriage has nothing to do with race -- after all, people can convert to Judaism. There's nothing more offensive about someone wanting to marry someone of the same religion than there is about an art enthusiast wanting to marry someone who knows something about art, or a hiker wanting to marry someone who loves nature. And there's certainly nothing offensive about trying to stop your group from becoming extinct.
For Edgar Bronfman (who himself married out, more than once I believe) to label the need to preserve our religion 'a little like Nazism' is preposterous and completely unbefitting one of the most prominent leaders of the Jewish community.

*Quote taken from the Forward as the old article is no longer available from the JC.

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