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Why Can't Parents Be Consistent!

Dear Cyber-Rav,

I appreciate what you wrote about interfaith dating. However, you failed to address something I think many children face: hypocrisy. In many families, one child has a non-Jewish spouse. In many of those same families, the parents embrace that spouse in a loving and welcoming way. At the same time, they tell their other children it's not OK to marry someone non-Jewish. This sends a very confusing and unclear message to the other children in the family and can create resentment.

Not Fair

The Cyber Rav Answers:

Dear Not Fair,

You raise an interesting question. I have no doubt that the apparent double standard can send a mixed message and that resentment may be one byproduct of that ambiguity. But let me put a spin on what the parents have done that you may or may not have considered.

There was a time when the message to Jewish children was consistent and clear. If you married a non-Jew, the family literally sat shivah for you, as if you were dead. But the practice, consistent though it may have been, was also cruel. Jews who marry non-Jews are not dead. The relationships between siblings, parents and children, etc., do not automatically dissolve with an interfaith marriage. So if parents resist sitting shivah, must they simply accept interfaith marriage as a fact of modern Jewish life? I don't think so.

Every son and daughter in a family is an individual and must make his or her own decision. If parents can influence that decision in the direction of Jewishness, they should. Moreover, when parents make peace with their non-Jewish son or daughter-in-law, it more or less confirms my original contention. It is precisely because we can fall in love with non-Jews and can learn to accept them into our families, that we should try our best to not get involved in the first place. Such a practice will ultimately result in total assimilation and the Jewish presence in America will erode into nothingness.

Each of us has an obligation to maintain our Jewish identity, create Jewish families, and bear Jewish children. I can't see any other way of maintaining a strong Jewish presence in America in the years to come. I love my neighbors, both the Jewish ones and the Christian ones. But when it comes to family, families must be solidly and unambiguously Jewish. Where there is an intermarriage, there is no sin in promoting Judaism to our non-Jewish family members. It's a great tradition, a moral tradition, a sacred tradition, an ancient tradition, and a tradition well-suited for people in search of a tradition and a special relationship with God.

The CyberRav

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