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Subject: DEAR SEAN, A FATHER WRITES TO HIS SON ABOUT INTERMARRIAGE
Date Sent to Zipple: Tuesday, December 26, 2000
ITEM: A recent American Jewish Committee survey reports that 56% of the
respondents said they would not be pained if their child married a non-Jew.
A mere 12% "strongly disapproved" of mixed marriages. Fully half the
respondents consider it "racist" to oppose Jewish-Gentile marriages.
I know this might sound strange coming from a father who's far from a
religious Jew, but now that you're dating, there's something I need you to
The single most important decision you'll ever make in life will not be
about your education or career. It will be whom you marry.
Because who your wife will be will determine, more than anything else in
your adult life, the person you become, the family you'll raise, what you'll
leave on earth when it will be time to go. I know the end of life isn't
something you probably give much thought to. Not many of us do, at least
not until we became sick or old enough to see it hovering on the horizon.
But a final day does arrive, sooner or later, for each of us. And when it
comes, very few of the things we thought made such a big difference will
seem to matter at all. And other things we didn't bother to give much
thought will suddenly loom very large. We'll want to look back at our lives
and feel that, in those areas, we pretty much did the right thing.
Sean, the right thing for a Jewish person is to marry another Jew. Not only
because our religion requires it, which it does. But when Jews "marry out,"
they disrespect who they are, they are disloyal to the Jewish past and they
chip away at the Jewish future.
Whether or not our family kept strictly kosher or observed the Sabbath or
attended services often enough is all one thing. But the thought of
bringing about the end of a proud Jewish line stretching back in time for
centuries is another. It's more than a religious transgression. It's a
You never asked to be a Jew, that's true. You were born one. But that
identity is not a burden. It's a gift. It means you are part of something
bigger, much bigger than yourself.
Each of us Jews is the culmination of the hopes of hundreds of Jewish
ancestors. Don't forget, you're not just Sean, you're Shmuel. And even if
you only use your Jewish name when you get called to the Torah, it is still
who you really are, an inheritance from your grandfather, and to him from an
ancestor of his. You can't just ignore the meaning of something like that.
It's a deep responsibility. All of my ancestors and your mother's, all
those Jews who came before us, lived their lives - and sometimes willingly
gave them up - to preserve their Jewish identity and heritage.
Yes, I know, love is a powerful emotion. That's exactly why I'm writing
this as you begin to date. The young women you become close to will form
the pool from which you will choose a life-mate. Don't give yourself the
opportunity to fall in love with someone you cannot, as a Jew in good
conscience, marry. And never forget that what the world calls "love" is not
all there is to a successful and happy life. Every marriage that ended in
divorce or worse, after all, was born in a rush of love. For a marriage to
truly work, there must be not only attraction and mutual care but shared
ideals and goals. And part of a Jewish man or woman's goals should be an
embrace of their Jewish identity, and the instilling of that identity into
I don't care whether the girl you marry is white, black or yellow, or if she
speaks English, Hebrew, Yiddish or Swahili. I don't care if she was born a
Jew or became one, legally, properly, and out of sincere conviction. But if
she isn't Jewish, I know there will be tears, in your mother's eyes and
mine - and also in heaven.
They say these days that most Jewish parents in America don't care if their
children marry other Jews or not. I hope it's not true but even if it is,
remember what I always told you: Being a Jew means being ready to buck the
tide, to say no to others - even to many others - when something important
is at stake. Sean, you're my legacy to the future. May you always have the
courage and the strength to do the right thing.