Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Interfaith Marriages

Thankfully, our Sunday/Hebrew school/Camp Shoresh education has engrained in us Frednecks the desire to marry someone Jewish. Things happen, however, and people fall in love. This is precisely what happened to a longtime best friend of mine who is getting married next summer. The question is: does someone like myself, who is obviously upset with his decision to end his family's line of Judaism, attend the wedding? Or, do I need to show a personal protest by not attending? Of course, the easy thing to do is hope that it is out of town; which is what I was hoping for. However, even though they've lived the last 6 years of their lives together in Florida, they are coming back home for the wedding. Next, I was hoping for a Shabbos wedding. OK, I just realized that I was hoping for a Jewish guy to get married to a non-Jew on Shabbos - maybe that's not the best thing I've ever hoped for in my life. Regardless, it would help me out greatly. But, when I ask him what day of the week he's getting married on, he replies, "Sunday - I could never get married on Shabbos." Interesting - he doesn't realize the effects he is having on his Jewish yichus by marrying a non Jew, yet he's frum enough that he won't get married on Shabbos. My final hope: wedding in a church; then, I definitely would be able to get out of it. Nope - wedding in a regular wedding hall. OK, I guess it's good that he's not getting married in a church on Shabbos, but again, it would've helped me out tremendously. I can still hold out for a broken engagement, but let's assume they go through with it.

So - what to do? To go or not to go? That's the question...

I feel that, as a general rule, those in the frum community would not attend the wedding of a friend or relative that was marrying a non-Jew. I could be wrong in this belief, but for whatever reason, I get that feeling. I am not here to judge anyone, as I know each case is different and comes with it's own set of circumstances. Those circumstances, in thise case, led me to my conclusion: to go to the wedding, both ceremony and reception.

Regarding the decision to attend both the ceremony and reception, my thinking was the following. I stand to gain nothing, and lose alot. If I were to skip the ceremony, and go only to the reception, in my mind, I am still giving support to his decision to marry a non-Jew. By skipping the ceremony (which, as mentioned, is NOT in a church) I stand to offend my friend. He's a fairly sensitive guy to these types of things, and not going could get him upset with me - which, as I will explain in a second, is the entire reason for my attendance at the wedding.

So why go to the wedding if, after all, it is a show of support for his marriage to a non-Jew?

Regarding the decision to attend any part of the wedding at all, this was my thinking. For whatever reason, every religious person that this person has ever had contact with has lost touch with him (or he lost touch with them - whatever). A lot of this being out of touch has to do with the fact that he went to college in Florida, rarely coming home, and has lived there ever since. Whatever the reason is, I am the only religious (Jewish, that is) person this guy has left in his life. As mentioned before, by not going to the wedding, I will alienate myself from him, thus leaving him with a total of 0 religious people that he is in contact with. There have been numerous occassions where I have reminded about Tisha B'Av, Passover, Sukkot, etc., and he has actually observed the holiday in some fashion. Anything that keeps him in touch with Yiddishkeit after he marries into Shiksakeit will be through me. Additionally, with statistics like this, chances are, his marriage will end in divorce. I would never wish the strife that comes with divorce on anyone, but this is the reality. Perhaps, if things don't work out, he'll be much more likely to listen to what I have to say; after all - I was the person that was there through everything.

I do believe that in every Jew is a Pintele Yid - that spark that wants to come closer to Yiddishkeit. My continued contact with my friend is an aid to that spark; and I know that by not attending his wedding, I will be throwing water on that spark, as small as it may be.

37 Comments:

Blogger Lanie said...

Our cousin married a non-jew, in a church, on Shabbos. A priest and a very old reform Rabbi officiated the service. I believe that it took around 40 phone calls to find the reform rabbi that would officiate a service in a church on Shabbos.

I was told that the Rabbi spoke at the wedding and said that he knew that a lot of other Rabbis wouldn't officiate a wedding like that. He said that he was old and he no longer had a congregation or a pulpit, but he knew that if he didn't do the wedding then that last bit of Jewish wish identity in their lives would be lost. I thought it was an interesting point putting aside my feelings about the marriage on Shabbos in a church.

2:56 PM, August 22, 2006

 
Anonymous Elise said...

I'm having the same problem with someone else from Shoresh. It was a very hard decision. It's just so sad to me. I opted not to go, do I feel good about my decision? Not really? I feel like it was a lose - lose situation.

4:42 PM, August 22, 2006

 
Anonymous Erica said...

If this person is a good friend of yours then he obviously understands that you do not approve of him marrying a non-jew, don't you think he would understand that is the reason why you won't attend the wedding, not bc you hate him but bc you are standing up for your beliefs?

You are reminding me of a story I read recently about a reform rabbi who went to a small town where they had never seen a real "rabbi". One of the kids came to him on shabbos holding tefilin and asked what they were. The rabbi had a dillema in his head bc he knew tefilin are muktzeh but that the kid might never see another rabbi who could help him. The rabbi then, in his own words, "put people before laws" and helped the kid with the tefilin on shabbos. This story made me mad because that is the same excuse that hundreds of Jews give for not keeping halacha - they feel they know better than G-d when it comes to certain laws.

I'm sure you've discussed your issue with your LOR, they are the only ones who can decide when it is ok to "put people above laws." Additionally, is it a halacha not to go to an interfaith marriage or just a minhag?

7:20 PM, August 22, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

Erica - Unfortunately, not everyone thinks like you and I. To the best of my knowledge there is no halachic problem with going to an interfaith marriage. I wouldn't even go as far as to say there there is a "minhag" not to. That being said, if it's in a church, that's a no-no.

7:39 PM, August 22, 2006

 
Anonymous Erica said...

I know about the church stuff. If you do attend can you at least metion some sort of disaproval to him or something? I mean it's ok to voice your opinions even if it may hurt the person's feelings a little bit if they really are doing an aveirah. Just like if someone close to you drives on shabbos - you can voice disaproval of shabbos violation without telling the person "I hate you, you are horrible."

9:20 PM, August 22, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

Erica,

Think about that for a second. You want me to mention my feelings of disapproval to him on his FREAKING WEDDING DAY?! I'd be better off not going than doing that!

I have already voiced disapproval many times throughout his many year relationship.

9:22 PM, August 22, 2006

 
Anonymous aishel said...

How close are you with this guy? Are you able to say that as a friend, I would love to come, but religiously speaking, it would be against my faith to attend?

I would talk to a rabbi.

9:23 PM, August 22, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

Aishel, I have been best buddies with this guy since about, say, 8 years old.

He knows about Shabbos, Kashrus, frumkeit - I couldn't say "it's against my faith to attend", especially considering his mother is friendly with a couple frum ladies who are also supposedly coming.

I plan on talking to a Rabbi. This, however, will not change my decision.

9:26 PM, August 22, 2006

 
Blogger Jewboy said...

My cousin married a non Jew. My parents asked a shaila and were told not to go. Every case is different, you've got to make your own decision. It's not an easy call.

9:41 PM, August 22, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

IMHO, this is not a "shailaable" situation. There are just too many factors at play for an outsider to know.

10:18 PM, August 22, 2006

 
Anonymous Erica said...

Alan,

I was not suggesting that you ruin his wedding day. I thought that since this guy is a close friend you could call him up and discuss the situation with him beforehand. If you've already voiced your disaproval then whatever you say to him will be nothing new.

As I said before, I do not know if this is a halacha or hashkafa question, or both. It's very difficult and I'm sure your rabbi will be able to help you figure out what your responsibilities are. Good luck.

8:21 AM, August 23, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

I plan on speaking to a Rabbi, but not so he can explain to me what my responsibilities are. Maybe I should be more reliant on the rabbinate, but for whatever reason, I'm not.

9:04 AM, August 23, 2006

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laz,

First of all I agree with your decision (not that my vote counts, but for what its worth). Your friend will go through with it anyway and I believe that your not gonna be able to change him so you might as well still be his friend.

As for the posting anonymously, it just makes my life easier. I dont know if I have to sign up an account or what not but I dont wanna deal with it. So im not trying to be anonymous, its just by default. Kogz

9:57 AM, August 23, 2006

 
Anonymous aishel said...

If your mind is made up already, what's the point of talking to a rabbi then? Can't you still say something along the lines of, look, we're buddies and all, but this just crosses a line?

It's tough, because I know you said that you've told him that you disapprove of his relationship. I dunno.

10:04 AM, August 23, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

Reassurance.

10:11 AM, August 23, 2006

 
Anonymous Greg said...

I had an interesting question once regaridng an intermarriage: the wedding was the week of 9 Av, when we typically don't make weddings; I wasn't sure if this would make the case for not going stronger or weaker. ;)

10:14 AM, August 23, 2006

 
Blogger Danny the Manny said...

"My contuining contact with my friend is an aid to that spark."

Yah, your friend. Right. Sounds to me like "your friend" is really you. Way to project your intentions onto others in an attempt to try to justify your own actions. By next summer, I hope that you can get your own issues with Judaism straightened out and you don't go through with this marriage. As your friend, I don't think I would be able to attend this wedding if it's out of town, on Shabbos or in a church. I hope you understand.

12:55 PM, August 23, 2006

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan, this is your mother. I signed in as anonymous after I read someone else's response who had done the same. I lost my password and this is easier.
I say that you should go to the wedding. This is a life-long friend and it would cause too much pain for you not to go.
Don't forget that my father was Catholic. He died when I was ten, but he was still Catholic. And look what came about from that inter-marriage. You and Lanie are now religious.
I know this couple will have some Jewish in their home and G-d willing the children will go to the mikvah and maybe one day the wife will turn towards Judaism. You never know what will come about from such a union.
I attended the wedding on Shabbos in a church. Lanie, you forgot to mention that there was a chuppah on the pulpit (bimah ?). And I might add one of the most beautiful chuppahs I've seen.
Alan, I'm glad you're showing tolerance. You won't be sorry for doing so.

3:13 PM, August 23, 2006

 
Anonymous Elise said...

I did the same thing, I checked my calender, hoping it was Shabbos or a Jewish holiday.

3:27 PM, August 23, 2006

 
Blogger REALIST said...

I think you should go and I agree with your spark theory .Check out the following Dvar Torah .

http://www.torah.org/learning/dvartorah/5764/shoftim.html

4:01 PM, August 23, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

REALIST - very nice and timely. He's a lefty. I'm gonna try and teach this to him - we'll see what happens.

4:37 PM, August 23, 2006

 
Anonymous yehupitz said...

Oy!

This is so painful. But to me there is no choice involved. Attending a wedding, ceremony and/or meal, is a statement of support and validation of the marriage. It's not merely a show of support for your friendship. It's a show of support for your friend's decision.

I had a similar situation with a cousin. I was in Israel at the time of the wedding, so there was no concern about attending. But I was able to convey, by mail, the Jewish view of things in a way that left her grateful to me for caring, with no resentment to me at all. She even showed my parents the letter.

BTW, Yehupitz has zillions of intermarried couples. And I get along and am friends with many of them. (I know that sounds like "Some of my best friends are...") But they understand that an Orthodox Jew just has no option to attend such a wedding.

If it was me, I'd have a heart to heart with him, tell him how much I value our friendship, even if he does marry her, but that I just can't support the move by attending.

But it's painful...

7:17 PM, August 23, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

Yehupitz,

If that would work, I would consider. Like I said, however, each case has its own set of circumstances, and he simply wouldn't understand - especially because other frum Jews will be attending (friends of his mothers).

I think you are ignoring the fact that by going I would be ending all contacts he has with religious Judaism. This point cannot be emphasized enough.

7:30 PM, August 23, 2006

 
Anonymous yehupitz said...

Honest non-rhetorical question: Are you so sure that if you explain and don't go he will end your friendship? If the answer is truly yes, then I understand your last point. Not that I justify it, but I understand your point.

But consider the possibility that he will be upset, even ticked off for a bit, but your over 15-year close friendship will endure.

I find it mind-boggling that he grasps Kashrus, Shabbos, Tisha B'Av, but not that an Orthodox Jew wouldn't attend an intermarriage. But I believe it...

10:47 PM, August 23, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

I think there's enough of a possibility that it isn't worth the risk.

To put up with the flak he has received from those telling him his whole life to marry Jewish, he has undoubtedly been forced to believe in his decision all the more so.

10:55 PM, August 23, 2006

 
Anonymous BOTS member said...

When it comes to situations such as this I believe the decision whether to go is more important for the person who is making the decision rather than the person getting married. I don't think whether or not you go will affect your friend. He's going to get married whether or not you are there. There are many more arguments to be made for not going than there are for it.

True, keeping a connection may help him at least retain some connection to Judaism and do some mitzvos. It may help him come back years down the road. It also may help validate his marriage and prevent him from regretting it. It also may support the decision of others in the future who see there aren't so many bad repercussions from intermarrying. So, there is no way to really come to a clear-cut answer.

To me, I believe the decision to go to such a wedding (and I speak from personal experience) speaks to the mindset of the person invited. In today's world most people make certain compromises in their observance. Some more some less and everyone in a different area. Most people do things they know they probably shouldn't but do them anyway. So, not going to a mixed wedding is about saying there is a line which a person can not cross. We can be accepting of people who are not religious and we can make compromises in our own lives, but this we can not tolerate.

8:04 AM, August 24, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

Interesting thoughts, BOTS.

I believe, however, that your points in the first and second paragraph are a bit contradictory. In the first paragraph, you make it sound as though my not going there will be of little significance to him, after all, "he's going to get married whether you are or are not there."

However, in the second parahraph you make attendence sound of paramount importance, with him viewing it as a validation and something that would prevent him from regretting it. It can't be both - it's either of great significance to him, or of little. If it's of great significance, than your thoughts in paragraph two make sense, but you can't say in paragraph one that it's no big deal. If, as you say, it's no big deal, then you can't say in P2 that it is something he will view as a validation and prevent him from regretting it.

And I agree with what you say in P3. People make compromises. I listen to the radio, and don't feel bad about listening to a woman sing. This is a compromise, as there is sound halachic support in the opposite direction. However, this case is not as clear cut, as you have said. The line isn't set. In your mind, the line is firm - in mine, it's not as much so.

8:19 AM, August 24, 2006

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my dad's brothers, not friends or distant relatives but his brother, married a non jew. Not only did my dad not go to the wedding but he hasn't spoken to his brother ever since. The wedding was 8 years ago. My dad has 5 siblings but if you asked him how many he has he would say 4. Needless to say, my dad is very stubborn and very strict in his religous beliefs, sometimes for the better but in my opinion most of the time for the worse. This just causes alot of pain and fights throughout the family and obviously family get togethers are not the most pleasant of experiences.

9:45 AM, August 24, 2006

 
Anonymous BOTS member said...

Maybe I could have been clearer. I was just trying to give both sides of the decision whether to go. There are arguments for going and arguments for not going. You can find support for either argument, which is why I believe the ultimate decision is more a reflection on the friend than the person getting married.

11:10 AM, August 24, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

I think most decisions we make in life are relfections upon ourselves and not the object being decided about.

11:12 AM, August 24, 2006

 
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Do you know if your friend's future wife has any interest in Judaism?

12:55 PM, August 24, 2006

 
Blogger nyfunnyman said...

ALan:

while your post does explain your position, I must disagree with your decision. Alan, I was in a similar situation, and lost one of my best friends growing up.

There is no, and i repeat, no bigger travesty in Judaism than when a jewish guy marries a non jew. this is something that, R"L parents have to sit shivah for if, chas v'shalom, their children are to do. there are certain times in life when a relationship must change and you must show disapproval. if your friend talks during kadish, that is no reason to end the relationship with him/her. but this?

who will daven for his kids? the tefilos that a women says when she lights candles are for her children. and this person? you know the medrash says that Avraham Avinu guards the gates of gehenim. If someone has a bris milah, he doesn't let them in. You know the only exception? if he married a non jew. this is the ultimate sin against HKBH.

I don't believe it is your job to keep making sure he does observe little bits of tisha b'av etc. like you described. if he was non observant- 100%, but when someone chooses to marry a jew, hashem doesn't place the responsibility on us anymore.

i understand this is hard. the divorce theory is not-logical. i don't even want to get into anything halachik. this is judaism's biggest problem now- you must protest it, for HKBH's sake.

please please reconsider

11:14 AM, August 28, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

NYFM - thank you for your thoughts. While I do not think it will sway my decision, your thoughts do help put things in perspective.

My concern is that when he gets divorced, which is most likely going to happen, he'll need someone to convince him not to do it again. Sure, he didn't listen the first time, but divorce is a hellish process and I'm sure he will be more open to what I have to say after. Perhaps I'm rationalizing, though...

11:22 AM, August 28, 2006

 
Blogger LukeNosewalker said...

" I do believe that in every Jew is a Pintele Yid - that spark that wants to come closer to Yiddishkeit."

I often think about this. Here is my Jewish family history:

My paternal grandfather (Jewish) emigrated from the Ukraine (Elizabethgrad, which no longer exists, apparently renamed)

Family legend has it that upon arrival on Ellis Island he was asked his name, he could neither read nor speak English, so he motioned to the name tag worn by the immigration officer.

My father (b. 1929) was raised in the Jewish faith, though he gave up practicing soon after he came to the conclusion that discrimination would stand in the way of his dream of a comfortable life and would hamstring his Federal Government career. Comfort was paramount for him, after having lived in the Lower East Side all his life, no money, scrapping for everything, while dealing with an unhappy father with a gambling problem. I have two uncles, both are practicing Jews.

My father married a Jewish woman and the marriage lasted a very short time. I don't know why it ended. He is not much of a talker on these subjects. Eventually he married my mother, who was raised Catholic. When she approached the Catholic church about the marriage plan, they dropped her, so to speak. She dropped them as well, we were raised Episcopalian.

I married a Catholic girl. My kids are being raised Catholic. My wife comes from a familiar Catholic background, private schools, always church on Sunday, stern taskmaster of a father, very rigid in his beliefs etc. She is a practicing Catholic.

My wife's older sister married a Jew. This did not go over too well with her father. They were married in an art gallery. They have two boys, 14 and 16. My wife's sister converted to Judaism.

My father is an educated man, but he has a bad attitude toward religion in general, espec. the Catholic church. He simply does not have much use for religion. If the spark is in him, he's hiding it rather well. Strangely, he does sometimes celebrate key Jewish holidays in his own "customized" fashion. Perhaps this is the spark.

There is hope for me, I think. I do a lot of reflecting on these issues, have been doing so for many years. What I have is a feeling for my past, I can't really describe the feeling, it has always been with me. My youngest brother, an amateur filmmaker, is the driving force behind a rough plan to document the family history. He, more than anyone else, is responsible for re-erecting bridges that were burned long ago by my father's insensitive behavior toward his youngest brother, who is the ONLY link to the past (i.e the only one who cares to remember the true family history).

12:49 PM, August 28, 2006

 
Blogger nyfunnyman said...

Alan- i'm sorry but your whole theory of being friends with him in case he divorces so he shouldn't do it again- is a big rationalization. Bottom line is This is not for us to worry about. How many of our anscestors have died in their refusal to stray from the path that Hashem has told us. And this guy does the ultimate stray, and you're going to give him credence by attending? Once he makes the decision to marry her-your responsibility towards him is off. IT is out of your hands. You have a lot of time to reconsider.

It doesn't sound like your refusal to go will ultimately affect his decision. This shouldn't matter. He needs to know the SERIOUSNESS of his actions. I'm sure he knows its wrong, but does he realize how bad Judaism views his actions. This discussion brings back a lot
of unfortunate memories for myself.

Please reconsider- if not for yourself- what about for the millions of Jews who died al kiddush hashem merely two generations ago.

1:06 PM, August 28, 2006

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan- I know that with your background and upbringing, you are very appreciative and sensitive to those who fanned your "pintele yid" into the bonfire it is today. Nevertheless, as every major posek (including the Rosh Yeshiva, R' Weinberg, zt"l, I believe) has said publicly, one may not compromise any aspect of halacha for the purpose of kiruv, as you cannot use a "false" Torah to bring people closer to it. As difficult as it will be for you not to go, what about the effects if you do go? If he chooses to terminate your friendship and never return to Torah-true Judaism, that is his choice, and I doubt that you will be held responsible in shomayim for that outcome.

I prefer to remain anonymous, but I will continue to follow the comments. If you so desire, I can forward you a copy of a teshuva written (in the past 10 years) to Kiruv professionals halachically forbidding their presence at a wedding performed by a non-Orthodox rabbi. Kal v'chomer ben bno shel kal v'chomer an interfaith marriage, rachmono litzlon.

Asayem b'tfilo sheyachzeru kol yisroel betshuva shelayma. Kesiva V'chasima tova.

1:28 PM, September 05, 2006

 
Blogger AlanLaz said...

Anon,

Thanks for the respectful comments. I definitely agree with the fact that Halacha cannot be comprimised for Kiruv. I, however, don't think this case is comparable to doing kiruv in a strip club, which we would certainly say is forbidden.

The kal v'chomer case does sound logical, and I would need to see the Teshuva (AlanLaz at gmail dot com) to see what is said.

1:47 PM, September 05, 2006

 

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