Not Jewish, No Way?

Yo, Yenta! AdviceYo, Yenta!
I’m going through a dilemma right now. I broke up with a man who wasn’t Jewish and thought was my soul mate. The reason we broke up was the differences in religion. Although I am not religious I feel it is necessary that both parents be Jewish in order for the children to fully experience Jewish culture in the home. As much as I want this, I’m beginning to think that it will never happen. I’m beginning to feel that by passing up the man I thought was my soul mate that no one else will ever be able to come into my life who I can feel this way about again.
Is it your opinion that I can fall in love again?
Do you think that the differences in religion are a reason for us not to be together or that it is only an excuse?
Denise R.

Yo, Denise! You wouldn’t be the first Jew to call off a relationship with a gentile person for the same reasons. So many of us with “relaxed religious lifestyles” (I prefer that term to “secular,” which implies if you’re not davening every morning and keeping a perfect kosher kitchen that you have no spirituality whatsoever) want to find a Jewish mate so we can have Jewish children. Even though we go about our assimilated, non-religious lives, sending Christmas cards and taking Good Friday off, the pull we feel to find another Jew remains strong. Perhaps it’s some hidden quirk in our DNA that lets us fall in love with those who aren’t Jewish, but when it comes to sealing the deal, we want what our parents want for us, and we want it under a chuppah.

However, you have free will. As a “non-religious” Jew, you likely choose the parts of our faith that fit and leave the rest to the Lubavitchers. The law that all Jews agree on is that the mother is the parent who defines a child’s Jewish lineage; you can get knocked up by O.J. Simpson and your kids will be Jewish. But whether they know what that means is up to you. It is your own commitment to Judaism that determines the faith, education and cultural identity of your children (for the first few years, anyway.)

Certainly, it’s easier to create a “full experience of Jewish culture” if you’re raising the chit’lins with a Jewish mate. But it’s not necessary. Yes, I know some readers’ index fingers are itching for the comments about now, but whether you “believe in it” or not, intermarriage is a reality. Over half of the young families in our congregation only have one Jewish parent, but the children are there at services and at Sunday school, growing up Jewish. There are bound to be conflicts and comprimises particular to these families (one mother told me last week that she conceded to have a Christmas tree last year because she felt she owed her Baptist-raised husband something after he had driven carpool to Hebrew lessons for months) but ultimately, this is what it means to be an unorthodox Jew in America these days—you make your own way.

Yes, you will probably fall in love again, and if you stick to dating only Jewish men, you won’t have to go through this again. But you need to be sure that you’re not tossing out a good man with his dogma. Consider your reasons for dumping this guy: Is it about religion and cultural differences or is it a clash of deep-down beliefs? If a man is your beshert—your destiny—the differences in your religions can be overcome as long as you share the same core convictions. It’ll be tricky, but it can be done.

8 thoughts on “Not Jewish, No Way?

  1. you dont have to give in to a religious debate between someone you love. Im a jewish male who is single, living in nj. I try to date jewish women, but sometimes you fall in love with someone who isnt jewish, and it all about compromising and learning to love the one your with no matter their religion. I was almost engaged, and she wouldnt convert, but she stated that are kids would be raised Jewish and we would celebrate christmas. That was hard for me to compromise to, but I did, but then the relationship ended. Not due to religious beliefs, but for other reasons. inter-religoius relationships work, but its always nice no to have that conversation. If yo can find a jewish patner great, but i agree, dont let religion keep you from the one youshould be with.

  2. And that’s why I only date Jewish guys. Even with some Jewish guys, there can be a religious difference, but at least you have a common heritage to build on.

    I believe that each person has more than one soul mate. One of mine wasn’t Jewish, I didn’t date him, he married someone else (on Rosh Hashanah, in case I was looking for another sign that he wasn’t for me), and today he’s one of the people who understands me best in the world. So you see, a soul mate of a different stripe.

    Romantically, I’m still looking myself, but it helps to know that I’m looking for one of a few, rather than just one out of all humanity.

  3. Yo, Esther! I’m still learning the WordPress way, but I have a training coming up and will look into it. They appear fine on my screen; I couldn’t even begin to figure it out on my own…

  4. When G-d created man and woman and so to speak “Took a rib from Adam” and formed Eve–it says that they were 2 parts of one whole.
    It says in Gen. that whenever G-d brings a person into the world (the 3rd partner in creation) he does so with a specific person in mind for that person to marry.That means that when a man is created—there’s a second half to that person in mind already and so too when a woman is created–it is with a specific man in mind to form a whole entity—of 2 halves which make a whole.
    Of course our destiny is in our hands and we can make the wrong decision of who to marry.
    We are created as Jews with a strong passion which is driven by the Neshama.Every person has a physical part to himself/herself which craves physical enjoyment as well as a spiritual part called the Neshama which always wants more spiritual “food”.
    That is something that is in general a very strong component in a Jewish person.That is why there is an Allen Greenspan, Elliot Spitzer, and so many others who rise to the top when we are less than 1% of the population—-bec our Neshama says that as much as I have—I’ll truly be happy in life if I get one more raise, make 10,000 dollars (or 100,000) more. And then we get there and we’re still not happy because the Neshama wants more “Soul Food” which is learning more about our Jewish Heritage and knowing what it is all about to be Jewish beyond the High Holidays—staring at the ceiling for 3 hours and not knowing what it’s all about.Or putting up a Mezuzah and thinking that it’s a good luck charm on my doorpost.
    In conclusion,when we date non-Jews we are setting ourselves up for falling in Love with and then marrying non-Jews. Noone is so cruel as to just date—then as we start to fall in love to say “Honey I really am falling in love with you so we can’t see each other anymore….
    I have a lot more to say if you are interested.Please email me back if you are at the email provided above.

  5. Steve,

    I would love to continue emailing you. You can contact me at

    To whom this may concern:

    Please forward this response to Steve’s mailbox (I don’t know which is his). I’m also asking that you not publish my email address in full view for other members to view.


    Denise Rosenzweig

  6. …I went through the same thing 11 years ago &
    it left me with a few lessons I’ve kept with
    me ever since & I’ll share them with you:

    (1) You can’t help who you fall in love with

    (2) It’s better to have loved and lost than
    never have loved before

    (3) If you don’t take a chance you don’t have
    chance of finding your soul mate. S/he
    might not be Jewish.

  7. Well, this is 6 years after I wrote that comment, and I still agree with all that I said in it. I’ve also come to realize one big lesson that got me to realize the need for having someone of yuor kind or not: our society thrives on couples. Life is not meant to be lived alone and you’ll have a fuller life as you involve more people in it. Don’t limit yourself to experiencing a minimal life when you can be in pursuit of a fun one instead. Don’t limit yourself to a life alone when you always have the capability to be among crowds, among new friends and possible loves of your life.

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