Monday, April 16, 2007

Good Thing I Didn't Have Anything To Say

Because I've lost my voice. Unclear how. My throat feels remarkably scratchy and unpleasant, which kept me up last night, and gave me a chance to think.

You see, yesterday was Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. It rained all day, which always makes me feel (a little bit melodramatically) as if the world is crying. I am one of those people who rarely cries in real life, but always at movies/books/country music songs. I find it difficult to read Holocaust literature for a number of reasons, the primary one being that I'll weep so intensely that it will be impossible to make out the words. For this reason, I often steer clear of Holocaust memorabilia. When I visited the new Yad v'Shem (Holocaust Memorial Museum) in Israel this summer I basically wept my way through. And then stood on the back veranda, looking out over the beautiful land that is Israel, and was struck with a deep, intense, and immediate desire to live there. That desire was only strengthened by my visit to the Herzl museum (hilarious, but not intentionally so), however, after my trip I returned to the US, to my then boyfriend, and a to life that would not easily make the inter-continental transition.

The love that I have for Israel, an intense, physical love, is only matched by my love for the Jewish people. I am one of those lame people who feels as if I (or a member of my family) has succeeded when a Jewish person does something noteworthy. I feel a connection to other Jews, all of those things that people of my parents generation felt, and those of mine supposedly don't.

And I wonder why. Why is it that people who come from homes where two Jews inmarried don't feel that inmarrying is important? I know that there have been studies done on how young Jews feel that being Jewish is only one identity among many, but that doesn't really answer my question. Why was it important enough to their parents? My Dad mentions that even though he interdated in high school he always knew that he had to marry Jewish. My Mom told me not to interdate, because it was unfair to the other person if I wasn't willing to intermarry.

As a result, post-high school I have dated only Jews. My elder brother has dated a mix, but thanks to my intervention is seeing (rather seriously) a Jewish girl (whom I like a lot independently of the match), but my younger brother hates Judaism. Guess which one of us went to a Jewish day school. If you guessed the Baby Brother, you are correct.

I guess what I am trying to say is, I wonder what was different in my parents' generation, what impetus did they feel that my generation by and large do not? I understand why my peers choose to interdate and intermarry, but not why my parents (who were not particularly observant or committed to Judaism in college) didn't. Chance? Or was there something else?


Ezzie said...

People are drawn together in times of need. Perhaps the last generation felt much more bound together, felt a greater closeness to Judaism, because of the Holocaust, the State of Israel's beginnings and wars, and all the incredible times where it was so clear that the world was united against us - because we were Jews.

In the United States of 2007, I don't think most of us feel that. We're not being persecuted, the wars in Israel are written off as being part of the "Palestinian problem", having nothing to do with Judaism, etc. Perhaps the reason you feel that greater connection is because you spent that time at Yad V'Shem.

There's a reason so many feel a completely different connection after trips like Birthright and the like. They get a much greater appreciation of what being Jewish is, and that's it is NOT just one identity among many. Ironically, sadly, even Hitler seemed to realize this - killing those who had any Jewish blood.

I guess for me, growing up observant, it seems clearer why people don't intermarry than do. But I also understand why those who think Judaism is just one identity among many don't see a difference(, and it often doesn't make sense to me that there are still those who won't intermarry of that group).

I just wish everyone would see that difference.

Jack's Shack said...

Good questions, but I am not sure that there is any one answer.

Sarah said...

Many of my friends who actively interdate (as in, wouldn't really consider dating a Jew) grew up in families in affluent Jewish suburbs with vaguely racist parents. They knew that their parents were wrong in their ethnocentrism and racism (from the media, schooling, and just being more connected), and now believe that wanting to date only Jews is an extension of that racism.

My grandparents (and many people's), as a counter example, also grew up in similar enclaves, but never saw any other life.

When we get out in the world more (as individuals and as a people), we may start becoming attracted to people with whom we have a lot in common, but not religion.

And if we don't see having two religions (or one plus a secular person, or any other combination) in a household as being a problem, if there are not going to be practical problems because of kashrut and observance, then what's the problem going to be? Inmarriage is, to me, as important as any other compatibility issue--not more, not less. For others, this isn't the case, and that's fine by me.

I know I say this as a product of intermarraige, but it's always been my non-Jewish parent
who pushed for me to be more observant, go to Jewish school, etc. Both my parents were committed to raising Jewish children. We may be the exception, but I think my parents did a decent job, especially when many of my friends with more religious upbringings have opted out and I'm kashering the house....

triLcat said...

My mom had a friend who intermarried. All was fine until their first fight, when his wife called him a "dirty Jew."

EV said...

I don't think there is much difference between your generation and your parents' generation. Both generations -- to speak in general terms -- do not use Judaism as a litmus test in choosing spousal partners. That your parents chose to marry Jewish was not a generational trend. When they married -- I assume in the 70s or early 80s -- intermarriage was already commonplace in America.

The question is what differentiates you and your parents' generation from their parents' generation, when inmarriage was clearly the norm.

I think the reasons are the decreasing tribal nature of both Jews and Americans in the second half of the 20th century. When there was high anti-Semitism, Jews were less likely to have strong contacts with non-Jews. Likewise, the immigrant generation, bottled in Jewish neighborhoods, naturally kept close ties to its own, even after Judaism as a religion had lost its allure for so many. When anti-Semitism fell, Jews could enter the mainstream, and ties to Judaism as an all-defining culture dwindled. Intermarriage was a natural result. After all, you can still have very strong interests in Jewish life without marrying Jewish, particularly if you don't believe in Judaism in its divine (Sinai etc.) manifestations.