Rav Sherlow on Addressing Intermarriage in USA

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Following his return from a brief visit to the United States, Rabbi Yuval Sherlow, Rosh Yeshivat Hesder Orot Shaul told his talmidim he is very concerned over the alarming rate of intermarriage among Jews in the United States. He feels the main reason for the alarming figures is the fact that too many people no longer feel a Jewish identity as they did in the past, explaining he is referring to the Zionist movement that permitted Jews to be a part of the Jewish People even if they did not observe Torah and Mitzvos.

The rav feels the main breakdown between Jews in the USA and Israel is due to the fact that the non-frum Jewish community does not wish to identify with Israel because of the “occupation, racism, controlling another nation by force, and other images as they perceive them.”

“The second reason is the fact they are unwanted here. We don’t accept their streams of Judaism, even the unaffiliated don’t wish to be affiliated with a country in which the religious maintain a monopoly; does not accept their conversions, their prayers (referring to the Women as the Kosel) and more.”

The rabbi warned of the many Jews who identify as Jews but are not halachically yidden, explaining some have not undergone any conversion, but nevertheless view themselves as Jews.

He feels “one step must be a separation between the halacha and policies of the State of Israel, true recognition (not halacha) for the different streams, and their conversions”. The rabbi explained he is quite aware of the argument of the other side, but he is playing the devil’s advocate in contemplating how this serious issue can and may be addressed.

“The distance between religion and politics is increasing, with our internal belief the truth will ultimately prevail”. He explains that this truth does not however require the authority of the state towards deciding the personal status of the people.

Rabbi Sherlow gives an example, using the ongoing struggle for Eretz Yisrael, stating “we accept all right-wing politicians, even if that person’s theories and approach are far from halacha,” questioning why this distinction does not apply in the struggle for Eretz Yisrael.

The rav highlights the significance of the American Jewish community, adding if not for them Israel would not enjoy its special relationship with the United States. He feels that if Israel cuts itself off from the American Jews, it will result in an existential threat to the future of the state.

The rav concludes. “I don’t know what the correct answer is at present. Perhaps we realize that we are conducting ourselves as we did last year, and the issue is simply not on our agenda. It appears to us the same responses that led American rabbis seventy years ago to decide as they did are still relevant today, without at least reexamination – placing ourselves in a hopeless situation in which we lose ourselves and endanger the very existence of the State of Israel, distancing ourselves from our role in the world ונברכו בך כל משפחות האדמה.”

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)


2 COMMENTS

  1. 1. If persons of Jewish descent identify as Jews, and become Shomer Shabbos, it is never a problem when the “Baal tsuva” discovers he/she needs to convert. It’s only a problem with someone who isn’t really interested even in basics such as Shabbos and kashrus.

    2. The split occured generations ago. Talking about preventing assimilation among American Jews is like talking about saving the Jews from the holocaust. Unless you are into time travel and alternative history, it’s too late. At this point, Orthodox and non-Orthodox are separate communities with a very narrow overlap. Most persons of Jewish descent are comfortably assimilated into the mainstream population.

    3. Unless you hold that non-Orthodox Jews lack the capability of entering into a Jewish marriage, there is a very high chance that a secular person of Jewish descent born today is a mamzer. Even more so if you hold, as some do, that if secular Jews “live together” that is a kiddushin be’biah and she needs a “get.” While it might be easier to hold non-frum Jews never have the intent or ability to get married al pi halacha, it’s also good say “safek goy, safek mamzer” the way we approached the Ethiopians (whose divorces were dubious at best).

    4. One could argue that the only time intermarriage is a threat to Jewish survival is when a Jew who is at least arguably Shomer kashrus or Shomer Shabbos married a goy and gives up yiddishkeit (when the assimilated “zombie” Jews intermarry, it make no difference since they are already no longer part of the Jewish people since they have long since given up on mitsvos). From this perspective, “intermarriage” is declining. A century ago, people from observant families would marry goyim – whereas today that is very rare. Today’s “off the derekh” and “intermarriage” is a drizzle, comparted to the hurricane of the late 19th and early 20th century.

  2. #1,1. The concern about about possible kiddushin — Poskim do not pasken like that.
    2. Even a mamzer is a Jew who must keep mitsvos.
    3. Even towards mumarim one is supposed to have some degree of Ahavas Yisroel. For example, you should wish they did teshuvah.