Religion & Beliefs

How To React To Inter-Dating

It has become so routine as to be absolutely predictable. I will be having coffee with a friend who I went to Solomon Schechter with, or sitting at a bar with a friend I met at Hillel in college. Sometimes … Read More

By / January 16, 2008

It has become so routine as to be absolutely predictable. I will be having coffee with a friend who I went to Solomon Schechter with, or sitting at a bar with a friend I met at Hillel in college. Sometimes it’s people who graduated from Orthodox high school with me, or friends from my high school Israel trip, or people from my shul, or the minyan I went to growing up. And after I gloss over my situation (Typically: “I like him, but he doesn’t speak Aramaic…” or “I haven’t quite managed to tell him that I lay tefillin yet…”) I hear about whoever my friends are dating. Guys and girls who seem to be great, and who are, almost inevitably, not Jewish.

Most of the time, when my friends tell me this, they say it in a cringing manner, waiting for me to burst into hysterics, to decry the sad fate of the Jewish people, to comdemn them and their deviant relationships. But generally, I just nod and open my mouth to ask questions. I have seen all kinds of reactions to inderdating, from violent outbursts to ignoring the situation completely. People seem to have pretty strong opinions on how one should respond, but I think it’s worth it to point out that it’s unlikely most responses will have any effect at all. People have a tendency to date whoever they want, regardless of how their parents, siblings and friends react. Think of your cousin Sally’s awful boyfriend Jake, who chews with his mouth open and is in his sixth year of an undergraduate degree in Native American storytelling at Touchy Feely University. Sally knows everyone hates Jake, but she doesn’t care. She likes him (who knows why) and everyone just has to suffer through Thanksgiving until she comes to her senses and dumps his ass for Clyde who works in finance and has excellent personal hygiene. Instead of expressing my disapproval, I have three questions I like to ask. 1) Do you think he/she would be willing to convert? 2) Do you know how you’d want to raise the kids? 3) How do both sets of parents feel about it? As far as I’m concerned, if the person in question has answers to these questions, then I’m not so worried. People who have thought about these things, and are consciously trying to come to some solution are generally not the people who we have to worry about. That is to say, my girlfriend who just told me her new boyfriend is half Italian half Phillipino, and then immediately said, “But I know I’m raising my kids Jewish, and soon I’m going to start talking to him about conversion,” is not someone I have to be hugely worried about. Do I wish she’d found a nice Jewish fella? Sure. But then, I have some experience with how challenging that search can be, and if her identity as a Jew is firmly in place I think she’s doing okay. Once she sets a wedding date and is picking out bridesmaid dresses then of course I’ll have a lot more questions, but I think over-reacting when we come across interdating is only going to push us deeper into the problem and drive people away. It’s important to get people to ask questions and think seriously about their own identity, and how they feel about having children who are Jewish. Those who ignore the problem out of dicomfort are doing just as much of a disservice as those who blow up and talk about how interdating is finishing the Nazis work. We DO need to talk about this stuff. But asking people to examine the real effects the decision will have without threatening them seems like the best way of dealing with the situation.