Episode 17: Intermarriage - A Fact of 21st Century Judaism

Dan and Lex close out their three-episode series on Intermarriage: The New Normal in this episode. They explain why they don't think intermarriage is bad for American Judaism, explore questions of what it means to be a "Jewish leader," and discuss shifts away from binary, either-or ways of thinking.

Image Credit: FOX Broadcasting Company (New Girl)

Image Credit: FOX Broadcasting Company (New Girl)

(0:01 - 10:36): We begin the episode by articulating our belief that intermarriage is not a problem to be solved, but simply a fact of 21st Century Judaism. We then reflect on issues of intermarriage and gender that we discussed Keren McGinity and the intersection between intermarriage and race that we touched on with Paul Golin. [2] We also discuss the disconnect between American Jewish institutional leaders, many of whom still see intermarriage as a problem, and most American Jews, who take intermarriage is a given and nevertheless seek and believe that the can have meaningful Jewish lives. [3] [4]

(10:37 - 21:56): Next, we take a look at the idea of "Jewish leadership," suggesting that some institutional leaders imagine their constituencies to be broader (perhaps all Jews in their area) than they are in actuality (the subset of local Jews who are engaged in that organization). Returning to the subject of intermarriage, we think through why intermarriage isn't inherently bad for American Judaism. 

(21:57 - 35:33): We discuss the shift from binary, either-or ways of thinking to new ways of thinking that don't assume, for example, that a person or a family must either be Jewish or not Jewish; we seem to be looking at a present and a future in which Judaism will be on of a number of parts of people's lives. [5] Building on this thinking, we express concern that in not believing that Judaism can stand up against "competition," a self-fulfilling prophesy comes about in which it truly cannot. [6]

(35:34 - 44:47): We re-visit the question of "Jewish leadership," critiquing the tendency to conflate the idea of a "Jewish professional" with a "Jewish leader," and overstating the actual influence "leaders" seem to have with "regular Jews." We also argue that those who elevate the status of "leaders" send the message to the rest of us that it is not our place to invent or innovate new and exciting ways of being Jews, when such innovations by regular Jews might be quite successful if they were undertaken.

[1] This episode is coming out the day before Shavuot begins. If you'd like to participate in the Shavuot Unbound initiative that we mention at the beginning of this episode -- deep immersion in Judaism with a 21st Century twist -- click here!

Image Credit: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Image Credit: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

[2] To access the first two episodes in our Intermarriage: The New Normal series, click here (Episode 15, with Dr. Keren McGinity) and here (Episode 16, with Paul Golin)

[3] Dan tells the story of the twelve spies who saw themselves as "grasshoppers." For the full story, see Numbers 13:1-14:24.

[4] Lex mentions Big Tent Judaism's "Stained Glass Ceiling" report. To explore its findings, click here

[5] In this segment, Dan critiques the tendency to dismiss engagement by non-Jews (and Jews) with various "modular" ideas of Judaism instead of being into the whole system. Dan mentions the celebrities who have gotten involved with the Kabbalah Centre as potentially an example of legitimate "Jew-ish" engagement. To learn more about the Kabbalah Centre and decide for yourself, click here.

[6] Lex refers to an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, where Jon Stewart asserts that Easter is far preferable to Passover. To view that clip, click here.