For Shavuot we will again read the Book of Ruth. The whole book is named for Ruth, who was not an Israelite but a Moabite. It is commonly discussed how Ruth essentially converts to Judaism by following her mother-in-law, declaring that “your God will be my God”. Ruth is held up rightly as an example of the value of converts to our community.
However, this moment of conversion comes long after she has married Naomi’s son. Both of Naomi’s sons marry Moabite women; many would describe them as having ‘married out’. Indeed, if you listen to some within our community, you would think there was hardly a worse crime that could be committed. Yet this story, which starts with two Jewish men marrying non-Jews, ends with the birth of a child and a succession line leading to the great King David.
It’s almost as if the decision of who to marry cannot be viewed in such a black and white way.
Some of what is said today about intermarriage is appalling. The most extreme version being those willing to claim that those who do not take a Jewish partner are “doing Hitler’s work”. This is unambiguously vile.
Jewish families come in all shapes and sizes – our tradition is here to teach us that just because a family doesn’t conform to what some may see as an ‘ideal’ does not mean they have nothing to offer. Indeed, interfaith families greatly enrich our communities. The only thing that ensures our community will suffer is ostracising those families.
One of the main differences between ‘marrying out’ and ‘marrying in’ is how we choose to welcome that family, or not. An ‘intermarriage’ led to King David. If we can be accepting of all Jewish families then we, too, will
see the benefits they can bring to
- Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner is Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism