The Source of Jewish Sensitivity toward Intermarriage
Historically the Jewish people have experienced a great amount of persecution. And today the number of Jews in the world is small. There are about 13 million Jews worldwide (primarily living in Israel and the United States), which is less than one quarter of one percent of the world's population. Consequently, Jews are sensitive to the influence of outside religions, especially when that influence threatens Jewish survival. With approximately 50 percent of American Jews today marrying non-Jews, and only 33 percent of these dual-faith couples raising their children as Jews, intermarriage poses a serious threat to Jewish survival.
Intermarriage in the Torah
According to the Torah, Jews should not intermarry because their children will turn to other religions. "You shall not intermarry with them: do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. For you will turn your children away from Me to worship other gods..." (Deuteronomy 7:1-3).
Intermarriage in Judaism Today
There is an ongoing debate about interfaith marriage in the Jewish community today.
Orthodox Judaism's View of Intermarriage
All branches of Orthodox Judaism, both Haredi and non-Haredi, view intermarriage as wrong and refer to intermarriage as a "Second Silent Holocaust."
Conservative Judaism's View of Intermarriage
While the Conservative Judaism discourages intermarriage, its understanding and approach to intermarriage is more open than that of Orthodox Judaism. According to the Conservative Movements Joint Commission on Response to Intermarriage: "In the past, intermarriage...was viewed as an act of rebellion, a rejection of Judaism. Jews who intermarried were essentially excommunicated. But now, intermarriage is often the result of living in an open society....If our children end up marrying non-Jews, we should not reject them. We should continue to give our love and by that retain a measure of influence in their lives, Jewishly and otherwise. Life consists of constant growth and our adult children may yet reach a stage when Judaism has new meaning for them. However, the marriage between a Jew and non-Jew is not a celebration for the Jewish community. We therefore reach out to the couple with the hope that the non-Jewish partner will move closer to Judaism and ultimately choose to convert. Since we know that over 70 percent of children of intermarried couples are not being raised as Jews...we want to encourage the Jewish partner to maintain his/her Jewish identity, and raise their children as Jews."
Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism's View of Intermarriage
Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism do not have firm rules against intermarriage. In contrast to Conservative and Orthodox Judaism, Reform rabbis are not under any kind of discipline for their choices in interpreting Jewish tradition. Requirements for life-cycle rituals are generally determined by individual Reform rabbis, not by the movement. Some Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis view intermarriage as a threat to Jewish survival, and thus discourage it. Other Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis will officiate at a marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew under agreed upon conditions. These conditions usually are that the couple will raise their children as Jewish and provide them with some sort of formal Jewish education.
Further to the left on the Jewish intermarriage debate are modernists who view interfaith marriages as a contribution to a multicultural society that enriches lives. Philip Weiss, in his New York Observer column, says that opposition to intermarriage is racist.