A couple of weeks ago, while recounting that morning’s drive-through shenanigans, I told one of my students that I needed to find out whether barista-I-am-crushing-on is Jewish before asking him out. She laughed, shaking her head. “Why does it matter?” Something about my face must’ve been very serious because, as if on cue, the entire room fell silent. “I want a Jewish home, ” I said quietly, “so I hope to date and later marry another Jew.” A couple of students nodded; we have previously spoken about the pressure they face to find a mate of their same culture even though they are now in the US. Yet not everybody was convinced, and a dejected voice asked, “So you only date Jews?” Followed by my favorite smart-ass smirking at me and adding, “Isn’t that kind of racist?”
Suddenly very uncomfortable, I
blurted out the truth made a joke out about it. “Well, I don’t date anyone, really. I’m single like a Pringle.”
Laughter filled the room, but I could tell that my smart-ass was not satisfied by the joke. Later in class, while having a grade conference with me, he leaned in. “But seriously? Only Jews?”
“That’s the plan,” I murmured, and turned the conversation back to his grade.
I had mostly pushed this out of my mind until I stumbled upon an article from Jewcy tonight. In it, Leah Bieler asks a question that I have asked myself, albeit in the present tense: “Did my commitment to dating only Jews make me a racist?”
While I am not as observant as Leah, I am one of the most observant in my circle of friends, most of whom are Reform Jews (as am I). And I, too, work to keep a Jewish home even now when it’s just me and the cat, so I can imagine the endeavor being much harder when I have a larger space (and more people) to manage. There is also the fact that I chose to be Jewish, out of a deep and abiding love for Judaism and the Jewish people–so it is important to me that my partner feels the same way.
Admitting this to myself didn’t make me feel any better, however–so I went back to Leah’s article and started scrolling through the comments. And then, user mikewinddale made my life with this part of his reply:
A certain rabbi whose name I will not mention used to say that if you refuse to intermarry for any reason except a purely religious one, then you’re a racist. There is absolutely nothing wrong with gentiles, he said, and there’s no reason a Jew could not fall in love with a gentile and have a wonderful marriage. The reason a Jew should not marry a gentile is absolutely not because they cannot be in love and happily married. It is because and only because God said they are not allowed to. Recall the statement in Sifra: “A person should not say, ‘I hate pork’, but rather, ‘I love pork, but what can I do?, for my Father in Heaven has forbidden it.'” So too with intermarriage.
As someone who gave up pork (and meat with dairy) a little over a year ago because I wanted to please (and feel closer to) HaShem, this works perfectly for me. Because, sure, I can come up with other reasons to want to marry a Jew. And having grown up a Gentile, I have no issues with any of them, nor any desire to avoid them. I simply am a Jewish woman in search of a Jewish man to build a home with.