The conversation in the Jewish community around intermarriage is extremely polarized and seriously lacking nuance.
One side wonders, “How are we still talking about this?” To them, the idea of telling someone to only marry Jewish is antiquated and even racist.
The other side thinks, “Those who are intermarried have rejected Judaism and are actively contributing to its destruction.”
Both are wrong.
For some Jews, Judaism is a central, if not the primary, piece of their identity. For them, wanting to marry someone who shares their values, traditions, worldview, etc. is certainly not racist. In fact, it’s actually a good idea. Data suggests that children of intermarriages are far less likely to raise their children Jewish. If building a Jewish home is extremely important to you, you should probably marry someone Jewish.
For other Jews, Judaism might not be as primary. For them, finding a loving partner is more important than concerns of Jewish continuity. This doesn’t mean they don’t care about Judaism or that they aren’t committed to building a Jewish home. It certainly doesn’t mean that they are rejecting their Judaism. It simply means that they prioritize romantic connection over religious affiliation, and it’s perfectly reasonable for these Jews not to limit themselves to a Jewish partner.
Will any particular interfaith couple successfully raise a Jewish family? That depends on many factors, including: Is the Jewish partner able to share Judaism with the non-Jewish partner? How does the non-Jewish partner relate to Judaism? Does the non-Jewish partner actively practice another faith? Does the couple actively talk about religious differences? Do they have a plan for how they will incorporate Judaism into their home?
These are important factors for those who are in (or looking to be in) a serious relationship to consider. There is no guaranteed formula for successfully building a Jewish home or raising a Jewish family, though depending on the answers to these questions, couples will have an easier or harder time navigating their differences. What’s important is acknowledging that intermarried couples are not a homogenous bunch. It doesn’t make sense to have a blanket view on intermarriage – you cannot draw conclusions about people’s connection to Judaism without knowing their backgrounds or the complexities of their particular relationships.
I’ve become much less interested in the question of whether one should date or marry Jewish. By focusing on the act of intermarriage, we ignore the far more significant questions: what role does Judaism play in your life, and what do you want your Judaism to look like in a romantic relationship? Though our answers may evolve over time, we don’t have to wait for a relationship to address these questions. They are arguably the most important Jewish questions we will ever ask ourselves.