Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Intermarriage Doesn't Matter

First of all, hi, I'm back from my (first ever!) vacation. Mmm I can still feel the sunburn.

At any rate, I have, for work and for personal reasons, being trawling through a great deal of Jewish-produced research about Jews. A lot. If I were to base a judgement on the Jewish people by reading their research alone, this is what I would think that we care about:

-Jewish Camping
-Disaffiliation/unaffiliation of our Youth
-Youth Movements
-"Outreach" (aka, how to get intermarried people to be involved)

All I have to say is: aaaaaaaaaaarg.

Important things happen in the Jewish community. We deal with big issues, like Agunot, Qassam rockets falling on Sderot, and what that means for travel to Israel, how Israel and its politics affect our love for/connection to the Holy Land, poverty, both Jewish, and non, the rightward shift of Orthodoxy, I could go on and on.

There are a lot of things that bother me, on a day to day basis. A number of things that I worry about. For instance: is there anything practical that I could do to help pressure the UN or other governments into sending troops to Darfur? What would that mean for Sudan? How can I reconcile my love for Israel, and my incredible feelings of sadness for those Palestinians who feel the same love and connection, yet do not have the political ability or capital to create and enforce a workable compromise?

The "agenda" of the "Organized Jewish Community" is driven by those with money. Such is the way of the world. Big donors, Federations, and philanthropies are able to use their money to commission surveys and to run programs. But here's where I think there is room for change: someone has to do the surveys, and run the programs. At some point an individual must say "yes, I'll do that." Now I understand that when it is your job to do what your boss says to do, you must do it, but there are a number of freelancers out there, big names who run/study big things, and I think that it is time for them to shift the agenda. ROI 120 is a good start, but we need to do more. Several studies have said that many young Jews connect to Judaism through social justice work. Ok, so let's start focusing on doing social justice work, not just to draw people in, but because we're a small community with a large amount of money, and a duty to be a "light unto the nations." We're not doing enough. And I think that we need to start focusing on the things that are objectively important.

Jews are marrying out because they don't see Judaism as inherently valuable, as something worth passing on to their children. Lets make it valuable, use our Jewish ethics to do real Tikkun Olam, not just on an individual basis, but as a community, and I think that we'll see that our other community issues either become less important, or seem so.

Update: Esther Kustanowitz whose awesomeness is all-encompassing, makes a similar point, except about procreation instead of intermarriage.


JT said...

I agree Annie. Jews talking so much about intermarriage is kinda like when a couple starts talking too much about their relationship. Neither can be a particularly good sign.

Annie said...

Great analogy. We seem to have reached a point where a certain sector of the Jewish community sees no value in Judaism except is perpetuation. And that is sad, especially for those of us who think that Judaism has so much to offer (and not just religiously).

Anonymous said...

Except too often social action is advocated on its own with little connection to Judaism. If that is someones only connection to Judaism then why should they feel compelled to marry a Jew. After all the protestants care about social action also.

Social action is an important part of being Jewish, but it is still only a part. On its own it is no better than lox and bagels or Shabbat services(which at least are unmistakably Jewish).

Annie said...

Anon- I absolutely agree. I think that there needs to be social action within a Jewish context, and I would even argue for learning components to go with it. But that is just my style of Judaism. I am sure that there are ways of blending religion, culture, social action, and other important Jewish contributions together to create something worth passing on.