Back in October, the Jerusalem Post published an op-ed I wrote, What Israelis need to know about intermarriage in North America. As I blogged then, “it is critical for Israelis to know that intermarriage does not necessarily lead to loss of Jewish identity and affiliation; that many interfaith couples and families are engaging in Jewish life; and that intermarriage has the potential to increase support for Israel in America.”
Apparently, the Prime Minister of Israel, Benyamin Netanyahu, either didn’t read my op-ed, or if he did, the message didn’t register. In February, Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke at the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Board of Governors meeting. Our friends at eJewish Philanthropy quoted him as saying that one main palpable challenge to the Jewish future is “the loss of identity – the loss of identity through assimilation or through intermarriage or through both is the greatest toll-taker of Jewish numbers in the last half-century.”
The suggestion that intermarriage also represents absorption beyond recognition into the larger culture is an affront to the literally hundreds of thousands of households where one parent happens to be Jewish that are currently raising Jewish children. If intermarriage means the same thing as assimilation, there wouldn’t be intermarried members of synagogues, children of intermarriage on Birthright Israel trips or intermarried leaders of Jewish communal organizations.
Continuing to group “intermarriage and assimilation” into a synonymous phrase pushes away the intermarried families already among us.
This post originally appeared on www.interfaithfamily.com and is reprinted with permission.