My girlfriend and I are both in our 40s. We are both divorced and have children, the youngest of which is in high school. I am Jewish (Conservative), and she is non-Jewish. We have known each other for several years, and recently our relationship took a more serious turn, and I have found it difficult to find any resources that speak to this situation. In short, every thing I have read about intermarriage goes very quickly to "the kids." We will not be having children together, so these other resources seem to get very irrelevant very quickly. In addition to any help finding appropriate resources, I would be interested in any type of experiences you have had and what issues came up etc. Thank you all very much.
As an Orthodox respondent, I'm not sure my insights will be so productive for you. I note that you seem to ask the question as a purely practical matter, and on that I have little experience. I suspect kids might be an issue even if they're out of the house-- meaning, what message are you sending to your children and, eventually, grandchildren about the meaning of religion in your life? How would you feel if one of them married a non-Jew when they were 20? What's the difference?
Aside from those questions, though, and leaving aside the technical religious issues of whether this does or does not constitute a sin, I wonder at your approach to religion, and your turning to a rabbinic panel for guidance. Religion, as I understand it, is a response to a call from God, a God Who sets certain standards of right and wrong, who makes demands of us while also granting us life, health, and sustenance. If you don't operate that way in other areas of your life, what role does this sudden concern play?
If all you're concerned about is whether it will or won't work out badly, my strong impression is that marriages do or don't work out based on the two individuals in the marriage. There are intermarriages where each spouse works hard to respect the needs and desires of the other, and the two are happy together forever; there are "intramarriage," where the spouses share a religion, but have no concern with the other, and the marriage founders.
The burning question, from an Orthodox perspective at least, should be why it is that religion has come to mean so little to you that the only standard by which you want to judge your marriage is whether it will work out, in the sense of your personal happiness. That does not, to me, seem like a religious perspective.
Congratulations on finding someone you love to share your life with. I wish you and your partner much happiness in your future life together.
Tthe best resources I recommend about intermarriage from a Jewish perspective are the Jewish Outreach Institute (www.joi.org) and www.interfaithfamily.com. These websites contain massive bibliographies of books that speak from a Jewish perspective to all kinds of unique situations. They also contain directories of local resources for wherever you may live.
I hope you are able to find resources that speak to your specific situation, knowing that more children are not in your future.
You are entering a new partnership, where your values and your traditions will be coming together. In any premarital counseling situation, I would ask the future partners to share hopes and fears with one another. Are you concerned about your role in the Jewish community if you are married to a non-Jew? Are you concerned about your future partner’s relationship to Judaism? How will you negotiate holiday observances? There are solutions for all questions, and I am sure you will find ways to address them together. Simply asking on this website demonstrates you are beginning to think these questions through..
Not so long ago, intermarriage was the number one fear in the Jewish community. Many of our leaders were sure that marriage out of the tradition would be the end of Judaism. To this day, Conservative rabbis will not officiate a wedding between a Jew and a non-Jew. Yet, most Conservative shuls will welcome your non-Jewish partner with open arms. My congregation certainly does. Judaism is not diluted by the presence on non-Jews experiencing our rituals and culture. I sincerely hope that your spouse chooses a path of understanding Judaism, if not embracing it herself.
The best resource for addressing your unique need is your local rabbi. No online forum can replace the connection that is helpful in this kind of situation. Even if this rabbi will not officiate the wedding, it is likely that this rabbi will desire to be there for you and your future partner as a Jewish resource, and as a loving representative of the Jewish community. If you happen to be in or near Saint Louis, I’d be happy to meet in person.
Again, I wish you and your partner many years of love together!
Few matters are as highly charged for individual Jews and for the larger American Jewish community than the challenge of mixed marriage. Indeed, there is an element of trepidation in my all too brief comments because of the emotional overlays in any conversation about this topic. But why should that stop an inadequate, if not foolhardy response.
To begin, the questioner is correct in that the substantive issues about mixed marriage tend to revolve around children. But that mistakes a focus for its substance. For the "rubber hits the road" around values, beliefs and convictions and how, if at all, differing and significant points of view may live with and love each other.
No doubt, that is why most mixed marriages take place between persons who have marginal connections to their religious nominatives. That said, I would urge the questioner (with his significant other) to consult his Rabbi (or find one) and for them to do similarly with his girlfriend's clergy. Those conversations should be helpful in clarifying what direction this relationship may follow.
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