Guest Post: Is Intermarriage Really Bad For Jews?
The following is a guest post from a person who identifies as an Orthodox Jew.
Glossary: "Gerim" means "converts." "Geirus" means "conversion."
As always, guest posts reflect the opinions of their author, not necessarily the opinions of the blog owner.
Is Intermarriage Really Such a Bad Thing for Jews?
DNA evidence has uncovered something perhaps shocking about our Ashkenazic Eastern European ancestors: they married shiksas AND nobody seemed to have a problem with it.
As David Goldstein put it:
[some] Jewish men . . . travel[ed] long distances to establish small Jewish communities [by themselves]. They would settle in new lands and, if unmarried,take local women for wives
Simply put, DNA studies on Ashkenazim have consistently shown that males show a strong genetic affinity (similar mutations on the Y chromosome) with other Jewish males, no matter where they live, whereas Ashkenazic females do not show any genetic affinity with other Jewish females.
Hillel Halkin, in his article in Commentary Magazine Jews and their DNA, comments on the puzzling disparity in the distribution patterns of Jewish Y-chromosome and mitochondrial (female)DNA:
There is no doubt that statistically (and only statistically: it is important to keep in mind that any randomly chosen Jewish individual may prove an exception to the rule), Jewish males with antecedents in such widely separated places as Yemen, Georgia, and Bukhara in Central Asia are far more likely to share similar Y-chromosome DNA with one another than with Yemenite, Georgian, or Bukharan non-Jews. Jewish females from the same backgrounds, on the other hand, yield opposite results: their mitochondrial DNA has markedly less resemblance to that of Jewish women from elsewhere than it does to that of non-Jewish women in the countries their families hailed from
Halkin therefore concludes:
Presumably, these adventurous bachelors setting out (perhaps on business ventures) for far lands could not persuade Jewish women to come with them, or else they traveled to their destinations with no intention of staying there. In the absence of rabbis to perform conversions, they married local women who, while consenting to live as Jews, were not halakhically Jewish. By halakhic standards, therefore, their descendants were not Jewish, either, even though their Jewishness was not challenged by the rabbinical authorities. Although such communities must, in their first generations, have known the truth about themselves, this does not appear to have bothered them or anyone else very much.
Jewish men courting and marrying non-Jewish women is nothing new. In addition to our ancestors having done that (at least in the first generation(s)Tanach is replete with accounts of kings and commoners taking non-Jewish spouses. Of Jacob's 12 sons, at least 8 married out of their clan. King Solomon was criticized for taking many wives, HOWEVER, this stinging criticism is followed by the explication that his wives were idol-worshippers who perverted his heart against Torah. The same goes for Isaac's exhortation to his son Jacob not to take a wife from among the Canaanites. It is pretty clear that the Patriarchs hated the Cannanites (and the other pagans) BECAUSE they engaged in horrible idol worship (child sacrifice etc.) NOT because they "weren't Jewish".
In addition, it is pretty clear that Jewish ancestry (as well as tribal status) was once determined by the father and not by the mother. The "maternal ancestry rule" was instituted by later Rabbinic authorities for political and religious reasons (the Jewish exilarch Bustenai, for example, had no qualms about taking a Persian wife. It is pretty clear that she did not "officially" convert. The resulting feud among the Rabbis whether the children of that union were Jewish or not is an indication, that even among the Rabbis of that time, the "maternal descent rule" was not a unanimous opinion).
Which brings me to my point:
Many non-Jewish women (and men) in the United States express strong interest in Judaism. This interest often stems from their quest to find the ancestral roots of their own faith. However, very often this interest remains only an interest BECAUSE they are intimidated by the current geirus process. Some might argue that this is a good thing but I disagree. The notion that we need to dissuade geirim from converting is an erroneous one (such was the opinion of many Rabbis, particularly Sephardic Rabbis like Rabbi Benzion Uziel and Rabbi Yisrael Hazan).
I also think (and this is only an opinion) that the ancient Jewish reluctance to accept geirim was more pronounced for male geirim rather than female geirim. One example of this are the ancient Moabites and Ammonites. The Torah clearly prohibits any marriage among them, however the Rabbis have relaxed this stricture and ruled that the prohibition only applied to marrying the males among them and not the females (how else to explain the story of Ruth the Moabite). We also see numerous instances in tanach of Jewish men marrrying non-Jewish women, however we see very few examples of Jewish women marrying non-Jewish men and when we do, it is usually referred to in a negative context.
A quick glance through tanach (particularly the story of Ruth) would indicate that the current geirus process is completey superflouous and even anti-Torah.
If a non-Jewish women is willing to give up her faith in Jesus and accept the law of Moses, SHE IS JEWISH. No Rabbis need be involved, except to guide and teach.
The benefits we would get from accepting non Jewish females into the Jewish people are manifold.
I want to make clear that I am an Orthodox Jew.
I am not proposing intermarriage at all.
What I am proposing, is making the geirus process for non-Jewish females a lot easier. This would eliminate the problem to begin with.