Jewish, Christian, Chewish, or Eschewish:
Interfaith Marriage Pathways for the New Millennium
by Reeve Robert Brenner

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© 2007 Reeve Robert Brenner All rights reserved

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CONCLUSION

                                                               1

      Surveys of the 21st Century American Jewish community disclose population estimates at – often announced as, “as high as” - 6.7 million. The Bureau of the Census, 1992 - over a decade ago – calculated that “according to the criterion of temple membership (sic.), there are approximately 6 million (a rather strikingly ironic number) Jewish Americans (sic.) in the United States.” Why the couple of “sicuts” in the previous sentence? The first calls attention to the questionable yardstick of temple membership even with an up-count for the non-synagogued. The second sicut is invoked to put the reader on notice that the usage “Jewish American” suggests one kind of belonging and priority of loyalties over against the usage, “American Jews,” implying quite another set of attachments and allegiances viewed from the perspective of Jewish past and posterity.

In a chapter entitled “Jewish Americans” (in Multicultural Clients: A Professional Handbook for Health Care Providers and Social Workers – the sort of must-reading-guidebook for several categories of personnel and specialists serving at multi-cultural, multi-ethnic hospitals and clinical centers such as the National Institutes of Health), Sybil M. Lassiter writes that:

“Jewish Americans are difficult to describe because of their diverse origins. Yet Jews have retained a high degree of religious and cultural identity. They have been a group on the move with thousands of years of history yet with no single country of origin…The majority of Jewish Americans appear to have congregated (sic.) on the East and West coasts of the United States, with the largest percentages residing in New York, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Florida (Bureau of the Census, 1992).’’[1]

The 2002 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) found that the American Jewish community has been gradually but inexorably decreasing since 1990. Another research study reports demographic constancy; others reveal limited, at best, moderate growth. But J. J. Goldberg, editor in chief of The Forward, in an especially notable New York Times op. ed. essay examining the several recent demographic studies  - and, in particular, the United Jewish Community’s – challenges the “false population decline interpretation of its NJPS statistical models and research.” His conclusion is that “American Jews are not disappearing.” Regardless of whether this or that analysis is statistically more reliable, Alan Dershowitz’s clearheaded and perceptive rallying proposals calling for a renewed sense of Jewish identity are of surpassing value and relevance.  

       Regarding the issues addressed in this book, it is important to point out that the criteria to qualify as Jewish according to the recent surveys, are virtually indistinguishable from the criteria presented in the foregoing chapters: self-identification, parentage or conversion, upbringing (that is, observing the life cycle events of the Mitzvah system), professing the Jewish religion (Judaism, Torah) while laying claim to no other faith. Individuals with Jewish parents and ancestry practicing another religion were not counted. These four foundational standards can be seen as fully in accord with the norms set down, as well as the lines drawn, in this presentation demarcating Jewishness. Throughout the pages of this book we have assigned these four requirements the burden of functioning as pillars upholding the Mansion of Jewish identity. We have also pointed out that non-Jews have also taken up residency in the Mansion, or put differently, the Jewish Community is composed of a considerable number of non-Jews. Often joined together at the hip of their beloved offspring, they enrich the collective, to be sure.

 Although, in the modern state of Israel, Reform and Conservative Judaism continue to make significant progress toward full recognition, ultra-orthodox rabbis still determine identity. Nevertheless, it is of more than passing interest to take note of the views expressed by Shimon Peres. Israel radio quoted the former Israeli Prime Minister as saying that the definition of a Jew should not depend on having a Jewish parent or grandparent at all, but on how parents raise their children. “A Jew is someone who raises children in Israel, sends them to the army and sometimes even loses them in battle…If (Orthodox) rabbis want to define who is a Jew, we will define who is a rabbi,” the report said. [2]

     The facts are that in America Jews marry later and have fewer children than the rest of the American population. There was a time when Jews married and had children in their early twenties, became grandparents in their forties, great grandparents in their sixties and lived to see great, great grandchildren in their eighties. In recent times Jewish couples start their families in their middle and late thirties, come to be grandparents in their sixties or seventies and great grandparents in their nineties for those that achieve such longevity. A full generational rung in the ladder of Jewish posterity does not now come into being.

     The National Jewish Population Survey reports that Jewish women younger than 35 have a reproductive rate of 1.04 children, compared to 1.56 offspring for non-Jewish women in the same age group. (A fertility rate of 2.1% is necessary to maintain a stable populace.) And whereas 10% of American adults overall have never married, 25% of the American Jewish adult population have never married and therefore are less likely to bear children. The headline of an article in The Washington Times taking note of the survey findings declared plainly that “…fertility rates cut U.S. Jewish population.”[3]

       The population of Jews in the United States may or may not be declining in real numbers but the studies, however contradictory, agree that American Jewry has diminished in size relative to the general population. By contrast, The Washington Times article goes on to say, Mormons, Catholics and Muslims have been increasing in numbers. Many observers of the Jewish community have expressed concern for future Jewish growth and even for Jewish continuity in the United States. For some rabbis, precisely because of the worrisome demographic ramifications reported in the National Jewish Population Survey, revisions in the Jewish community’s disposition of mind and philosophical outlook toward non-Jewish members of Jewish households are seen as very necessary, even vital.

        Furthermore, it is hardly surprising that surveys would disclose that in our free and open American society more than 40% of the marriages Jews enter upon are with non-Jewish partners. The NJPS reports that the intermarriage rate has “stabilized” at 47 percent and that two-thirds of children of mixed couple are not raised as Jews.  Accordingly, certain previously held attitudes of reluctance toward encouraging and esteeming converts and forthrightly welcoming the unconverted Settled Sojourners and their children into the Jewish community, are also being frankly and candidly reconsidered particularly in progressive Polydox Jewish circles.

      It has been pointed out that the Book of Genesis records that conversion (naturalization, joining) as well as lineage (nativity, birthing) establishes Jewish identity for those who care enough to be part of the people. And time and time again an appreciable number of responsible and amenable non-Jews have “converged” (without formal conversion), augmenting the ranks by becoming parents and grandparents of Jewish children. We have tried to make the case that they must be embraced with gratefully open arms regardless of surveys and statistics.

      Of particular relevance is that the latest population surveys also reveal that a full third of the three million American Jewish households are classified as intermarried family units. In the past ten years roughly half the children born into families that identify Jewishly have a set of non-Jewish grandparents. And 20% of the residents in Jewish households, many raising Jewish children, are themselves not Jewish. We infer that nearly all of the non-Jews living in Jewish homes are – to a greater or lesser extent - supportive of the religious choice the family has made. Reminiscent of the mixed multitude leaving Egypt in biblical days, they are trustworthy fellow travelers accompanying their loved ones along the way. As developed frame by frame and in unstinted detail in previous chapters, they are rightly and justifiably assigned the sacred designation of Settled Sojourners (gere toshav) who have coalesced with the people Israel.  It may be said that, in many ways, aside from self-declaration, they are “us.”

       Julie Cohen, whose column Teen Scene is carried by the National Jewish Post and Opinion, expressed her apprehension regarding the findings of the Jewish population statistics reported in major news outlets and her concern for the future of Jewishly committed youngsters such as herself. She writes (that she does not doubt that the low Jewish birthrate is impacting adversely on the future of the Jewish community, on her contemporaries and likely, one future day, on her children. “But I also think that it has a lot to do with practicing and carrying on Judaism. If you don’t practice Judaism, how can you pass it down to future generations? Furthermore, if you don’t learn the religion, how can you practice it? So maybe the young people in the community aren’t purposely not practicing Judaism; they just haven’t been taught the importance of recognizing their religion.”[4] 

       Torah (teaching/learning) must therefore be regarded as a potentially sturdy pillar of the Mansion of Jewish identity that requires incessant strengthening and reinforcement. Ever since the Temple gave way to texts and teachings, the dutiful pursuit of continuous Torah education has served as the sturdiest column assuring Jewish loyalty and continuity.

       Judaism is hugely relevant to millions of Americans because of its “appropriate balance,” in the words of a Reform Rabbi Charles A. Kroloff, “of study, faith, personal observance and social justice.” Orthodox Rabbi Avi Shafran writes “the Jewish faith is an all-encompassing system of thought and, above all, a means of serving God – through prayer, acts of kindness, and the study and observance of the Torah. The historical mission of the Jewish people, no less today than ever, is to embrace the totality of that service of God. And that way, as it happens, lie Jewish survival and growth as well.”[5]

       Doug Bloomfield (reflecting on the National Jewish Population Survey in his Washington Watch Opinion column in the Washington Jewish Week, titled, “Commitment counts more than size”) argues that “there’s a big difference between counting Jews and Jews counting.” As has been pointed out in these chapters, and as Bloomfield puts it, Jews in America “have never been more secure or more influential. The Jewish community has never relied on raw numbers… Jews have long been involved in American political life, driven by a sense of civic duty and an urgent need to protect important community interests, whether the rights of religious minorities or the survival of Israel… The key has always been an educated, committed and sophisticated political base, not sheer numbers.”  Paul A. Flexner adds that, “turning from numbers to values and relationships will lead to a richer and stronger society”[6]

        Families determined to create a Jewish household in the new millennium would do well to understand the part they play as current custodians of Jewish culture and continuity. Relatively few in number, Jews are best explained as sustained and driven by quality not quantity.  The Jewish community and its committed core of devoted Jews must assuredly take all necessary steps to show the way of determined and creative tenacity and to shape the next generation, whatever its numerical strengths, as a solid link in the chain of an eternal people.        

Jonathan Sarna takes note of the fact that “there has been a frequent worry through time that we will be a disappearing community. That fear is healthy. It’s probably one of the reasons we’re still around. It will cause us to strengthen ourselves.”[7]

                                                               2

         The 350th anniversary of the arrival of Jews in America was observed in the year 2004. They settled in New Amsterdam, now New York, in 1654.  For decades the Jewish community in American society has played the critical role of the religious minority group par excellence – in degree more visible and of higher profile than other non-racial minorities. Upon the shoulders of the Jewish community fell the responsibility of serving as a constant reminder that the United States although predominantly Christian in population is nevertheless not a Christian nation but a pluralistic one. In fact, the constitution does not safeguard the prerogatives of Catholics, Protestants, Jews, blacks, whites or yellows. It guarantees the protection of the rights of individuals to be any one of these, to join the religious community of their choosing and to practice or follow any faith they prefer or none at all.

        George Washington affirmed, in a famous letter to the Jewish community, at about the same time that the Jews of Russia were being ghettoized in a pale of settlement, that more than toleration that suggests kindness but not rights explicitly and unmistakably accorded, the Jewish community, in no wise different from other religious communities, is to be fully and indisputably recognized as a legitimate element in the patchwork fabric of American civilization:

        “The government of the United States… gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requiring only that they who live under its protection should conduct themselves as good citizens."

         Early on, Judaism became one of the many components of the free market of religions in America. Jews were, and still are, among the most vocal and insistent advocates of the constitutional principle, so critical to the character of the American value system, known as the separation of church and state.

In 1776 America was founded by people who rejected the divine right of a king to rule them in favor of a republic free of any one particular spiritual expression. The first amendment to the constitution of the United States guarantees freedom of religion along with free speech and a free press. Freedom of religion, we often forget, is mentioned first. It is hardly an afterthought. Diversity not uniformity of belief systems was understood by the founding fathers as of unsurpassed importance for the freedom of its citizens. The establishment of a single religion for the American people was an idea soundly repudiated by them. They believed that a rich variety of religious persuasions would best serve the democracy and the independence of the newly born nation. The amendment assures that with regard to religious faith, Americans need not and will not be similar to one another.

         It was intended from the birth of the nation that Americans were to differ from one another religiously - not that religious differences were to be merely put up with and endured by the majority. Religious diversity was to be legally protected, encouraged, commended and endorsed for the good of all. Multiformity and not theological homogeneity was seen as an important social benefit and Americans were encouraged to esteem dissimilarities of creed and doctrines. Having a mix of religious points of view, of disparate cultures, of spiritual values is fundamental to America as a civilization.

      The United States is not a religious state. It is a secular state that remains ever neutral but supportive – in tax laws favoring organized religion, in employing clergy to serve in the Spiritual Ministry Department of the National Institutes of Health (so that Clinical Center patients’ religious/spiritual needs may be addressed) and in providing military chaplains of all denominations for American troops - and positively disposed to all religions and all manner of non-religious ethical beliefs as well. American history has already substantiated the merits that can be derived when people of diverse religious and philosophical persuasions come together to dialogue freely in multi-faith quests for enduring values and compellingly meaningful aspirations, seeking answers to the perplexing questions of human existence.

            Nevertheless, there is no denying that, as Karen Armstrong writing in the New York Times observes, there are many “American Christians perturbed by the United States Constitution which made all faiths equal before the law. To them, it seemed blasphemous to grant legitimacy to Jews, deists, atheists and ‘misguided’ Christian sects, giving the false impression that faith of any kind offered salvation.”[8] When the Reverend Richard A. Rhem, pastor of Christ Community Church said that he no longer holds that belief in Jesus is the only way to God, many parishioners felt he was betraying a “divine trust” by his opinion that Muslims, Buddhists and Jews can be admitted to heaven.

          Strident denominational fundamentalism as well as religious freedom respectful of the faith of other persuasions are to be found co-existing side by side in the 21st century. Karen Armstrong goes on to say that “in this century, the two tendencies have struggled against a backdrop of greater religious communication. Our new knowledge and new technology make the old isolation of the world’s religions seem parochial and outdated. Christians are discovering that despite their obvious differences, the great world religions are in profound agreement about essential spiritual issues.”

       As a consequence of freedom of choice in America, according to Jonathan D. Sarna, Professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, there arises, “the need to fashion a Judaism which is attractive. Another is the need to unite the Jewish community in organizations and institutions that transcend the multiplicity of synagogues.”

       It is important therefore for Jewish households of the 21st century to join and uphold the synagogue or temple which best reflects their religious dispositions and values. The time is past when synagogues were to be joined merely because they were in the neighborhood regardless of the stand they advocated on the status of women, gays and same gender unions, the intermarried and their children and how the neighborhood synagogues and rabbis define, decide, and determine who is and who is not a Jew. It is also important for Jewish households to support and strengthen various other essential extra-synagogue projects, foundations and associations that address the concerns, issues and subjects on the agenda of the Jewish community of this new millennium.

3

                  After the Temple’s destruction and Jewry’s dispersion, the newly landless people managed to survive through the centuries on the strength of the synagogue, the oral law as interpreted by their rabbis, their undiminished inner fortitude and the social standards and requirements of the mitzvah system. For hundreds of years, these fundamental elements and characteristics kept company with the people in all their journeys through myriad lands, regimes, cultures and civilizations, as they sought to defy political gravity by surviving without a government, without an army, and without a patch of land to call their own. Roman troops put an end to Jewish independence but the rabbis, revolutionary sages, created a Judaism without Judea.

                 Up to the time of the establishment of modern Israel, that is, up to the middle of the 20th century – and to this very day in classical Reform Jewish circles – serious Jewish thinkers understood the purpose of the Jewish people spread across the planet to be “a light unto the nations” (or la-goyim). This was taken to mean that the Jewish people, Israel, was to teach by example of morality and ethical behavior (centered in the home and expressed in society) that is, by conduct befitting a Torah people.

               Early Reform Rabbis David Einhorn and Samuel Adler formulated a set of principles in 1869 in Philadelphia professing the universal mission of Judaism. Einhorn wrote: “Reform Judaism beholds in the cessation of the sacrificial services, the termination of a special nationality, and the scattering of the Jews among all nations, the fundamental conditions for the fulfillment of their mission among mankind.”  When Jews assign meaning to the concept of chosenness, that Jews are a – not the - chosen people, they inevitably refer to the assignment with which they were charged, by God and history, to spiritualize humanity. 

              The Torah lessons of peace (shalom), engaging in acts of loving kindness toward one another (maasim tovim), the prophetic instructions concerning the less fortunate members of society, were to be expressed in the mitzvah system. That system translates Jewish values into social action – clothing the naked, providing shelter for the homeless, supporting the needy and assuring a proper and dignified upbringing for the orphan. These have been central elements of communal life and of religious practices throughout Jewish history. In essence, the idea was to conduct one’s Jewish life as a model for, and in anticipation of, an idealized future messianic age.

              In the nineteenth century, Reform Judaism began to reinterpret the doctrine of the coming of the messiah by replacing the traditional belief in a personal messiah with the anticipation of a messianic age.  This means a world perfected by, in the words of the 1937 Conference of Reform Rabbis in Columbus, Ohio, “the establishment of the Kingdom of God, of universal brotherhood, justice, truth and peace on earth. This is the messianic goal.”  

           Civilization was to understand from the example of the Torah life-style of the people Israel that when a choice has to be made between power and peace, the former should give way to the latter. The “light unto the nations” was to shine out from the heart of every Jewish community of the Diaspora, motivating the nations to conduct their lives in accord with the highest standards of ethical behavior, justice and morality. The very powerlessness of Judaism, a religion without a home, would demonstrate the great good that could be achieved by humanity if only the exemplary teachings of Judaism were assimilated and followed.

           Writing on the fundamental principles that define Western democracy, Bertrand Horwitz points out that Judaism’s impact upon European and American civilizations has already been profound. “The central concept of the Enlightenment is the idea of the consent of the governed. …Its roots are traced to …the Old Testament literature that laid the foundations for the Declaration of Independence and the 1789 French Declaration of the Rights of Man.”[9] In October 2003, at a summit conference of Asian nations, one leading delegate, perversely in agreement with this appraisal, severely rebuked the Jewish people for “the Jewish conspiracy of controlling by proxy the entire western world by their imposing upon it the corrupt and self serving ideas of democracy, communism, socialism, and human rights,” that are destroying civilization.

           No one educated in Europe or the United States can fail to recognize that the languages, laws, arts and convictions as well as the teachings of many religions practiced by half the planet’s population, have their origins in Judaism. Western society’s indebtedness to Israel’s biblical prophets for its cultural values and moral principles without which we cannot exist as an ethical civilization – equality, justice, respect for the rights of minorities and strangers – could not be overlooked or deemed inconsequential by visionary men of letters and the creative giants of the imagination such as the incomparable poet John Milton. He wrote, in Paradise Regained, that Israel’s prophets were “Men divinely taught and better teaching /The solid rules of civil government, / In their majestic unaffected style, / Than all the oratory of Greece and Rome.”  

      Many non-Jewish authors, including most recently Thomas Cahill in The Gifts of The Jews,[10] have advanced the proposition that as in the past and to this day, Judaism articulates the worldview that undergirds all Western national cultures.

         Tragically and regrettably the light of the great European Jewish community was extinguished in the Holocaust, proving that a religious community needs a safe haven and a native soil, not homelessness and powerlessness. The destruction of European Jewry verified the proposition that Western society is not yet ready to hear the prophetic message of the worthiness of all creatures and all creation - and the oneness of the family of humankind. “Further,” in words expressed by Paul Golomb, “the very philosophical underpinnings of modernity had either proved too weak to withstand, or had actually contributed to, the intense savagery and human degradation unleashed by the Nazis and their fellow travelers in Paris, Vienna, and Rome, cities that had been the very definition of civilized society.”[11]

       The annihilation of European Jewry, therefore, taught that the Jewish people must protect and defend itself from those seeking its destruction and that it needs the normalcy of a secure homeland to survive. Nevertheless the ideals and the mission of being “a light unto the nations” still maintain currency and validity. That mission calls upon Jews to press on ever harder and more determinedly toward messianic goals of peace and brotherhood weighing in always on the side of decency and justice.

       Jews and Settled Sojourners planning to establish a Jewish household in the 21st Century, by virtue of and as a consequence of that decision, are to be encouraged to see themselves as aligned and joined with others in that “holy work.” A secure homeland and the abandonment of powerlessness are today critical elements of Jewish existence even as the mission of Israel as “a light unto the nations” still retains its full force. Einhorn’s longing for the “termination of a special nationality” for the Jewish people can hardly be championed in our post-Holocaust era. Rather, Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel’s teaching, based on the words of the Psalms in homage of the here and now, conveys a more compelling and current urgency: that in our time “just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.”    

         Our day-and-age, therefore, presents two sacred missions side by side for Jews and their loved ones to undertake with the most profound devotion. One is carrying on the ideals and values characteristic of a “light unto the nations.” This entails joining with others in a global moral community that refuses to tolerate passivity in the face of suffering, that works to end wars, that protects minorities and rights injustices.

        The other mission of supreme importance is that of strengthening the people by virtually all means possible, including the solidarity achieved by incorporating Jewish acts into their daily lives, by supporting the diverse Jewish communities all over the world including Israel, the ancient and modern homeland, and by seeing themselves as solid resolute links in the chain of Jewish continuity. 

                                                             4

           Addressing the Reform Jewish community in an editor’s column directed to his Reform rabbinical colleagues (Central Conference of American Rabbis Newsletter, December 1996 – Kislev/Tevet 5757, vol. 44 number 4), Rabbi Richard N. Levy writes that “if you scratch us (as Reform Jews and Reform rabbis) deeper you will find that we are Reform not only by common associations, but by common beliefs.” By this he also means shared commitments to sacred traditional Jewish values:

        “Tikkun Olam is important to us; continuing revelation is important to us; a sense that mitsvot impose a chova (obligation) on us not only as members of the Jewish people but as individuals is important to us; or la-goyim (‘light unto the nations’) is important to us; striving for the messianic time is important to us.”[12]

        These momentous and powerfully imposing essentials of Jewish self-understanding remain as vital as ever. Couples contemplating establishing a Jewish household and raising Jewish children will wish to associate themselves with these shared commitments arising from, and articulated by, the Jewish heritage they affirm. But strengthening Jewish security and participating in assuring continuity take on even greater obligation in the wake of the destruction of the European Jewish community and the freedoms of the American experience that enthrall and enchant Jews and all minority peoples. Included among these freedoms is the freedom to turn away from any and all religious heritages and identities.

            It is an undisputed truth held in non-Orthodox communities, therefore, that today all Jews are Jews by choice. And among the four choices, none-of-the-above – which we have denoted Eschewish - may turn out to be the selection many if not most interfaith couples make. Without doubt it’s the least demanding expedition, the least burdensome trek to negotiate. Choosing Christianity (or another faith community) is another alternate path as is an amalgam of Jewish and Christian subscriptions we have characterized as Chewish. An alternative route less traveled but hardly less valid, valued or valuable is the Jewish journey of life. It is a route traversed by a meager minority to be sure and (therefore!) more challenging.     

       The concepts and ideas presented in these chapters presume that the readers or their loved ones are approaching a decision of vital importance to them. They will be choosing one of the four pathways advanced in the title of this book - and discussed and analyzed in the preceding chapters - that will determine their own road map for negotiating the landscape of their future.

                                                         5

              Decisions, decisions, decisions! This has been a book – a guidebook - about decisions. Some readers will make the decision that this guidebook to the road of life ahead for an interfaith family is no guide at all: In fact, some will say, it will lead you astray. But most interfaith couples will in fact choose the direction they will traverse from among the Christian, Jewish, Chewish and Eschewish pathways. A relatively large number of interfaith couples, some even after reading this text, will deliberately make no decision whatsoever. As has been pointed out in these chapters, making no decision is itself a huge decision. Others may say to themselves, “we fit none of the above categories” for this reason or that: “we’re different, we’re not any of these. The landscape unfolding before us has neither been surveyed nor traveled by others because we are not comparable to any other couple. Until we ourselves arrive there our spiritual destination remains a land of no report. We are unique – departures from the norm. We intend to follow some totally distinct non-referenced formula for bringing up our children and we will identify ourselves accordingly.”

            Virtually without exception, these couples would do well to step back, reassess the landscape they confront and perhaps read this book again from the top. They would also do well to seek out a professional experienced in these matters. No couple is an isolate. Their children will interact with other children. In short, there are important consequences to all decisions and non-decisions as every minister, counselor and social worker/psychologist I know will confirm. Besides, love itself is essentially a decision.

           Clearheaded, mature and thoughtful readers of these chapters will take into account the long view prospects of their informed decision, the roadblocks they may come upon as a consequence of their decision, as well as the necessary trades-off inherent in each of the several interfaith pathways of the new millennium, Jewish, Christian, Chewish and Eschewish. They will appreciate the status and responsibilities of the Settled Sojourner in the 21st century. They will consider the various age appropriate dialogues and discussions they will one day have with their children so that the family may openly review the why and wherefore of the decisions they have made and the approaches to identity they have undertaken.

        They will have recognized the syndrome of “backing into it” – the “reluctant” decision to take a particular path – the remaining path - when all the other choices and options on the road map are by comparison untenable and untakeable. And they may have seen the wisdom of turning-it-around to get the most out of life by maximizing the positives and the benefits of their reluctant decision. The four columns, 1- Self-declaration, 2- Lineage/Conversion/Convergence, 3- Torah/Judaism and 4- the Mitzvah system will have been recognized as the indispensable essentials upholding and buttressing the Mansion of Jewish Identity.

       Soon enough, they will also recognize that the Mansion is not sealed off from the main drag; that the Mansion is accessible, if not to all or most or to many, but to some.         

       Reading through part two slowly and carefully the reader will likely better understand many of the more important issues attending convergence, conversion, comparative faiths in the western world and the meaning God may hold in their thinking and in edifying their lives.

      It is must be kept in mind that this approach to issues concerning interfaith marriage and interfaith families is but one rabbi’s rather idiosyncratic presentation. To be sure, other rabbis and teachers of Judaism will roundly reject the offerings and analysis these chapters advance on the issues discussed - particularly in the way Jewish identity is rendered. That simple disclosure is what candor compels.

      It is also to be admitted that the discussions in these chapters are undoubtedly far from the final word. What might be said is that they constitute a work in progress on the decision-making process which may prove to be beneficial in serving as a guideline for certain individuals, couples, and parents-to-be, who are considering pathway alternatives – and religious identity options - for their newly established households at the birth of a new millennium. Conceived as a primer on the subject, this presentation is far from perfect and without doubt not for everyone. History makes certain that circumstances change. Consequently the challenges informing the decades of the new millennium ahead are unforeseeable and unpredictable. Who knows what the tomorrows will bring? Who knows what decades from now will be seen as irrelevant? Who knows what decades from now will be judged compelling?

      But, for the present time, we would also maintain that advocates of the many other ways of addressing the subjects and issues raised in these pages are likely to be seen as even less persuasive – certainly not more demonstrably convincing - to the 21st century couples planning weddings and marriages I have come to know. Nevertheless, readers of this work would do well to familiarize themselves with other approaches to the themes, topics, and issues discussed in these pages. Their decisions will be better informed.

      Begging the reader’s indulgence, we might conclude with two cliché-ridden well-worn statements of the obvious: 1) Few pathways taken on any journey of consequence to any mansion of identity and self-understanding are without potholes, ruts, cracks and crevices. 2) As with all forks in the road, the travelers must consider the contending alternatives arrayed before them, make their own judgments, and decide for themselves the best way forward.

END

 

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