Letter from Father to Son on Intermarriage


    Dear Sean,

I know this might sound strange coming       from a father who’s far from a religious Jew, but now that you’re dating,       there’s something I need you to understand.

The single most important decision you’ll       ever make in life will not be about your education or career. It will       be whom you marry.

Because who your wife will be will determine,       more than anything else in your adult life, the person you become, the       family you’ll raise, what you’ll leave on earth when it will be time to       go. I know the end of life isn’t something you probably give much thought       to. Not many of us do, at least not until we became sick or old enough       to see it hovering on the horizon. But a final day does arrive, sooner       or later, for each of us. And when it comes, very few of the things we       thought made such a big difference will seem to matter at all. And other       things we didn’t bother to give much thought will suddenly loom very large.       We’ll want to look back at our lives and feel that, in those areas, we       pretty much did the right thing.

Sean, the right thing for a Jewish person       is to marry another Jew. Not only because our religion requires it, which       it does. But when Jews "marry out," they disrespect who they       are, they are disloyal to the Jewish past and they chip away at the Jewish       future.

Whether or not our family kept strictly       kosher or observed the Sabbath or attended services often enough is all       one thing. But the thought of bringing about the end of a proud Jewish       line stretching back in time for centuries is another. It’s more than       a religious transgression. It’s a betrayal.

You never asked to be a Jew, that’s true.       You were born one. But that identity is not a burden. It’s a gift. It       means you are part of something bigger, much bigger than yourself.

Each of us Jews is the culmination of       the hopes of hundreds of Jewish ancestors. Don’t forget, you’re not just       Sean, you’re Shmuel. And even if you only use your Jewish name when you       get called to the Torah, it is still who you really are, an inheritance       from your grandfather, and to him from an ancestor of his. You can’t just       ignore the meaning of something like that. It’s a deep responsibility.       All of my ancestors and your mother’s, all those Jews who came before       us, lived their lives - and sometimes willingly gave them up - to preserve       their Jewish identity and heritage.

Yes, I know, love is a powerful emotion.       That’s exactly why I’m writing this as you begin to date. The young women       you become close to will form the pool from which you will choose a life-mate.       Don’t give yourself the opportunity to fall in love with someone you cannot,       as a Jew in good conscience, marry. And never forget that what the world       calls "love" is not all there is to a successful and happy life.       Every marriage that ended in divorce or worse, after all, was born in       a rush of love. For a marriage to truly work, there must be not only attraction       and mutual care but shared ideals and goals. And part of a Jewish man       or woman’s goals should be an embrace of their Jewish identity, and the       instilling of that identity into their children.

I don’t care whether the girl you marry       is white, black or yellow, or if she speaks English, Hebrew, Yiddish or       Swahili. I don’t care if she was born a Jew or became one, legally, properly,       and out of sincere conviction. But if she isn’t Jewish, I know there will       be tears, in your mother’s eyes and mine - and also in heaven.

They say these days that most Jewish parents       in America don’t care if their children marry other Jews or not. I hope       it’s not true but even if it is, remember what I always told you: Being       a Jew means being ready to buck the tide, to say no to others - even to       many others - when something important is at stake. Sean, you’re my legacy       to the future. May you always have the courage and the strength to do       the right thing.


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