How Can Jewish Parents Discourage Interfaith Dating?

According to an article in a recent issue of the Jewish Daily Forward, Jews are America’s most intermarrying people and Mormons its least. According to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey 27% of Jews were married to someone of a different faith, compared with 12% of Mormons.

It’s probably safe to assume that interfaith marriage starts with interfaith dating. So, one way to discourage interfaith marriage is to prevent interfaith dating. But that is not so easy in Jewish America these days. America, which has always been a melting pot, has morphed into a multi-cultural stew and seems to be growing more so by the day. At schools, at the shopping mall, everywhere Jewish young people congregate they will encounter other young people of other faiths. And then hormones take over.

What can we as Jewish parents concerned with Jewish continuity do? Most Jewish parents today are unlikely to enforce strict rules to prohibit non-Jewish dating. You can try but the young people will find a way around it. In these matters, hormones rule.

As one in the process of raising two daughters, here are a few tips I’ve picked up.

  • Limit opportunities to mingle with non-Jewish young people.
  • Keep them engaged to the point of over-scheduling them for activities that foster mingling with Jewish young people. (As a parent I am always willing to pay for participation in Jewish activities. Non-Jewish activities they pay for on their own.)
  • Most importantly, make Jewish activities in the home attractive and engaging. (Our Shabbat dinners are filled with their favorite foods, favorite desserts, and invited friends.)
  • Invest in attending Jewish summer camp, both day camp and overnight camp, where they can develop a set of close Jewish friends. And encourage those friendships even outside of camp.
  • Sign them up for Passport to Israel and similar programs where young people will travel to Israel with their Jewish peers.

My parents were convinced that I would marry a non-Jew (I didn’t). With that in mind, I wrote this story, Sleeping with Strangers. Of course, we all want our children to marry good people who are great for them. But it would be nice if they also were Jewish.

Let me know what you think. Also, please watch this blog for news about and more excerpts from my upcoming novel for Jewish young adults, The Uncertain Art of Hooking Up, as well as more stories like Sleeping with Strangers from JewishFamilyStories.com. Also, feel welcome to check out my paperback book for Jewish children: Miracles–stories for Jewish children and their families. (All the stories are available for online at http://www.jewishfamilystories.com/.)

You also can follow this blog, American Jew, on Twitter, @storyauthor1225.

Visiting Israel Makes for the Best Jewish Continuity

The blog On Jewish Matters asks an important question: What attracts young Jewish people to Israel and why it is important? The discussion also appeared on the LinkedIn interest group Jewish and Israel Topics. Be nice to see more discussion in this group, but that will come in time.

Making aliyah—relocating to Israel—can be seen as the ultimate step in ensuring Jewish continuity. It is the right step for some young people and even some older families, but it raises some questions too. For instance, do we want to encourage our most energetic Israel supporters to leave the U.S. permanently and relocate in Israel? We need those people, especially the young people, advocating for Israel here in high school, college, in the workplace, in our synagogues, and throughout American society.

But you don’t have to make aliyah to share in the Israel experience. A trip to Israel can do much to cultivate strong feelings for Israel. Once you get past the loud and brash exterior many Israelis at first present, Israelis are a warm and loving people and Israel is as welcoming a place as a country can be, especially given the adverse geo-political environment it finds itself in.

There are many ways for young people to visit Israel. Birthright Israel is a primary one. When I was in college decades ago I worked on a kibbutz in Israel and have returned several times since, taking my family with me. If you are Jewish, it doesn’t take long on any trip to Israel to feel that you have come home and are among family.

Living as a Jew in the U.S. is not simple. We certainly don’t encounter pogroms and outright violence although anti-Zionism has become the latest cover for what amounts to raw anti-Semitism. Trying to maintain even a modest level of Jewish observance, however, puts you outside the cultural mainstream.  If your child attends public school, Friday night and Saturday raise constant conflicts that must be navigated, especially if he or she plays sports.

This story, Shabbat Ghosts, tells a mystical tale of what happened to one family when Halloween coincided with Shabbat and upset the routines of the family and the children. I wrote this story when my children faced the Halloween-Shabbat conflict but it could just as easily been about Christmas, Easter, or July 4.

On Jewish Matters answers the question of the attraction of Israel to young Jews by suggesting that it resolves the constant compromises you have to make living as a Jew in America. To begin, it will be easier to find a Jewish mate in Israel. And that’s always a good start in the right direction.

Please watch this blog for news about and more excerpts from my upcoming novel for Jewish young adults, The Uncertain Art of Hooking Up, as well as more stories like Shabbat Ghosts from JewishFamilyStories.com. Also, feel welcome to check out my paperback book for Jewish children: Miracles–stories for Jewish children and their families. (All the stories are available for free online at http://www.jewishfamilystories.com/.)

You also can follow this blog, American Jew, on Twitter, @storyauthor1225.

Giving the Law to a People Who Remember

Next week is Shavuot, the day that marks the giving of the law to the Israelites gathered at the base of Mt. Sinai. This law has marked the Jewish people as distinct for 4500 years, both as the Chosen People and as a target for whatever hatred, anger, and grudge someone might hold.

Even in the most ancient of times, Jewish law set the Israelites apart from other ancient peoples.  In more modern times, Jewish law as embodied in the 5 Books of Moses also formed the basis for the Christian Bible and for the Koran, which incorporated sections in their entirety.

The challenge for Jewish continuity today is to help young Jews understand the radical importance to the Western world of what happened at Mt. Sinai. It laid the foundation for the kind of just, humanistic society based on law that most people seek.

To try to give young people a sense of the monumental importance of what happened there, I wrote a children’s story, The One God. You can read it here. It is included among the children’s stories at JewishFamilyStories.com.

Since Mt. Sinai the Jewish people have held as constants two things: the primacy of the Law, the Torah, as given at Mt. Sinai; and the concept of remembrance.  It is said that every Jew—living, dead, and not yet born—personally received the gift of the Torah that long-ago day. The mission of each is to remember, learn from it, and make it real for the next generation. That is what Jewish continuity is about.

Please watch this blog for news about and more excerpts from my upcoming novel for Jewish young adults, The Uncertain Art of Hooking Up, as well as more stories from JewishFamilyStories.com. Also, feel welcome to check out my paperback book for Jewish children: Miracles–stories for Jewish children and their families.

You also can follow this blog, American Jew, on Twitter, @storyauthor1225.