Point, counterpoint on intermarriage

Point, counterpoint on intermarriage

I read David Seth Kirshner’s d’var Torah (“D’varim: Are we there yet?, July 12) twice because I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

It was short on Torah and it was long on baseball. It was shockingly blasphemous, as it claimed that “we have made it” because Chelsea Clinton had married a Jewish man and Joe Biden’s daughter is about to do the same thing.

When in the course of Jewish history intermarriage is equated with having made it, the Jewish people are in trouble. And to have that opinion propounded by a rabbi is deeply troubling.

Arthur Aaron

Fort Lee

I was horrified to read Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner’s d’var Torah earlier this week.

I spent nearly 30 years as an educator in Bergen County, most of them working with teenagers at the Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies, until my aliyah in 2003. My Judaism is most important to me, and I am proud to have been given the opportunity to transmit my love for our religion to so many students over the years.

That is why I am heartbroken that Bergen County has rabbis who think American Judaism has arrived because Jews are marrying out – and into America’s most elite families to boot.

The logical conclusion of Rabbi Kirshner’s joy at American Jewry’s newfound acceptance is that he will end up unemployed.

Eve Wimpfheimer

Beit Shemesh, Israel

Rabbi Kirshner responds:

When they read a d’var Torah I wrote for this paper, some readers misunderstood a sentiment I expressed. In retrospect, I could have been much clearer. I apologize to any I might have offended. Allow me to clarify:

As a card-carrying Conservative rabbi, I regularly address the reality of intermarriage in the Jewish world, and I welcome any such family into our community with warmth and sensitivity. Still, I do not officiate at intermarriage nor do I celebrate when it occurs.

The point I attempted to make in the article is that today, in the diaspora, marrying a Jew is something that makes many other groups proud. Not very long ago, it was a source of immense shame, sometimes forbidden, and even hidden from public view. I brought proofs from personal testimony and high-ranking members of the American public to elucidate my point. It was meant in no way to be anti-endogamy or to encourage such unions.

I would, however, add, on the heels of the commemoration of Tishah B’av, that in the place of scathing and nasty notes, readers should take the time to offer the benefit of the doubt, where possible. For someone to determine that I promote intermarriage is tantamount to someone calling me clean-shaven; an impossible claim for anyone who knows me, has seen me, or bothers to learn about me. Sadly, I have found similar venomous retorts on op-eds posted about Israel and other charged topics.

Have we not learned any lessons from the hatred of fellow citizens, which the Talmud claims was the source of the destruction of the Temple? Can we not disagree with respect and tolerance? Must we use snide remarks and unproven labeling to make our points more valid? If we do, then I am afraid my entire premise is wrong, and we have not arrived; rather, we have come full circle to a place of destruction in the place of love. If so, woe to us and our shared future!

Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner