The Effect of Intermarriage On Your Children

As a final consideration, we would ask you to recognize the effects which your intermarriage will have on your children.  First, and most obvious, you should be aware that your children are not likely to grow up as Jews.  This is a fact of contemporary life as reported by the foremost sociologist of American Jewry, Marshall Sklare: “Many intermarried parents declare….that upon maturity their child will have the right to choose his own identity. This generally means that his identity will be with the majority group.  Only if the child has formed a particularly strong identification with the parent who is Jewish will he be motivated to integrate into the minority community.  The majority of the children of intermarried Jews, then, will be
Gentiles. ...”(America’s Jews (New York: Random House, 1971), p. 202; emphasis ours)

Admittedly, the likelihood of your children not growing up as Jews may not particularly disturb you.  But there are two other negative effects of intermarriage upon children which should disturb you irrespective of your present feelings toward Judaism.


Since neither you nor your spouse strongly affirm your respective religions and yet neither of you wishes to convert to the other’s religion, your children cannot be raised in a religious way of life.  In order not to offend either spouse, neither Judaism nor Christianity will be practiced authentically; and it is wrong to assume that some innocuous hybrid of the two religions can be constructed so as to communicate the ethics of both. There are significant differences between Judaism and Christianity and the attempt to amalgamate the two will not lead to an amalgamated religion, but to no religion at all. In the words of George Santayana, “to attempt to be religious without practicing a specific religion is as possible as attempting to speak without a specific language.”

As for ethical instruction without religion, as we have noted on a number of occasions, telling one’s children to be ethical does not suffice to render them ethical; an ethical system is needed, it must be based upon religious values, and in any event no comparable secular system of ethical instruction exists.

If not from a religious system in the home, then where else will your children derive ethical values strong enough to withstand a lifetime of challenges? “What contemporary social institution can be counted on to give Western man a strong sense of moral direction? The university? The mass media? The corporation? The country club? The laboratory? The couch? Today only religious faith…..can provide the basis for a social ethic worthy of the name…..”(Eugene Borowitz, in Himmelfarb, ed., The Condition of Jewish Belief (New York: Macmillan, 1969), p.32)


There is yet another negative effect which intermarriages have on children. You will have effectively cut them off from identification with any community. Instead of affirming for yourself and passing onto your children what so many lost and lonely individuals in modern societies desperately seek, a sense of rooted-ness and kinship with others, you will have utterly cut yourself and your children off from belonging to anything beyond your immediate family. You are thereby bequeathing to your children the single greatest source of unhappiness in the modern world: alienation.

Consider this empirically based observation of C. G. Jung, one of the most important psychoanalysts of the twentieth century: 

I should like to call attention to the following facts.  During the past thirty years people from all civilized countries of the earth have consulted me.  I have treated many hundreds of patients, the largest number being Protestants, the smaller number Jews, and [about] five or six believing Catholics. Among all my patients in the second half of life - that is to say, over thirty-five - there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life.  It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given to their followers, and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook. (Cited in Modern Man in Search of a Soul, C.G. Jung (London: Kegan, Paul, 1933), p. 244; emphasis ours.)

When we consider the Jewish alternative to this self-imposed alienation, the tragedy of this cutting of Jewish roots is revealed with even greater clarity. Jewish life is communally based (so much so that we possess almost no prayers containing the pronoun I) and is structured so as to endow each Jew’s life with historical and communal meaning.  When the Jewish child is born, it is a major event not only for the immediate family but for the community. When the Jewish boy is circumcised at eight days of age, it is not an antiseptic surgical procedure, but a communal celebration of the entrance of another Jew into the covenant with God. When the Jewish girl reaches her twelfth birthday and the Jewish boy his thirteenth, they do not celebrate it alone or at a party, but with the community as it confirms them as responsible adult members. When two Jews marry, their wedding is sanctified “according to the laws of Moses and Israel, ” again a community event. Should Israel or Jews elsewhere become targets of hatred and bigotry, Jews will join one another to raise funds, mount political pressure, and do whatever else may be needed to aid fellow Jews - people whom they have never seen, whose country they have never visited, and whose native language they most probably cannot speak.  When the committed Jew travels anywhere in the world - from Morocco to Siberia to Alexandria, Louisiana (among the many places where we, the authors, can personally testify to having been beautifully received by fellow Jews) - he or she is not alone but finds brothers and sisters who take him in, feed him, and show him love.  Finally, when the Jew dies, the community takes part in this aspect of the life cycle as well. The community ensures a dignified burial, mourns for this Jew, visits and comforts the relatives who are sitting shiva (seven days of mourning), and lights annual candles of remembrance for him or her.

The human being is a social animal, and from the beginning of time and in all societies men and women have united to form communities. Whether or not a person finds meaning and happiness in life depends, in part, on having a sense of kinship with others. The community of Israel stands ready to share with all its members its joys and sorrows. They did if for your great-grandmother and great-grandfather in Poland (or Russia, Germany, Syria, etc) and for your parents in America. They will not do it for your son and daughter, because you have removed them from the Jewish community. 


This question is analogous to asking if Einstein believed in relativity. Judaism is the source of the ideal of universal brotherhood.  The Jewish Prophets are universally recognized as the earliest and most impassioned advocates of universal peace and brotherhood.

But how are we to achieve universal brotherhood? Is the assimilation of the minority of Jews into minority cultures the answer? Is abandoning Judaism the answer? What sort of universalism is it that demands that smaller groups give up their identities? That is totalitarianism, not brotherhood. The only way to achieve brotherhood is through all people sharing moral values, while retaining ethnic diversity.

It is precisely due to our commitment to universal brotherhood that we so fervently advocate Judaism which we believe offers the most viable method for the realisation of this ideal. When we ask a Jew to reconsider his or her decision to intermarry, this request has nothing whatsoever to do with negative feelings toward non Jews, or with automatically positive feelings toward those born as Jews. It is based solely on our commitment to the survival of Jewry and the Jewish way of perfecting the world.

MAIN PAGE: Intermarriage…Why Not?

by  Dennis Prager & Joseph Telushkin
Posted in: Jewish Beliefs & Philosophy;  Relationships & Family