Intermarriage Makes a Better Jew and Jewish Professional
My name is Rachel Jurisz-Singh. Some of you know me by the name I use professionally – Jurisz – which is actually my maiden name. Yes, I am intermarried and my family is interracial too.
Growing up I never thought I would choose to marry outside of my faith. I was always involved in my synagogue and youth group. I went to Jewish summer camp and attended Hebrew school through my senior year of high school. I even chose my career path in the Jewish field, working at four major Jewish organizations in the last 14 years.
As you know, “life happens,” and I met my non-Jewish besheret (soul mate) and wonderful life partner, Bruce. We became friends, fell in love, and got married. I often joke that Bruce is a “Jew by osmosis” since he’s learned so much about Judaism from me over the past 10 years we’ve been together.
I believe by marrying Bruce in many ways I’ve become a better Jew and Jewish professional. I have made Judaism a big priority for my family and have not taken it for granted in any way. It’s heightened my awareness and sensitivity as I interact with other intermarried individuals both professionally and personally. Finally, it’s opened up my eyes to the fact that intermarriage is a reality and is becoming more common each day.
Just last week I sat around a table at my synagogue (Temple Beth Shalom in Mahopac, NY) with a group of rising leaders. Suddenly we noticed that everyone sitting at the table had either become a Jew by choice or had a non-Jewish spouse. What does that say about the reality of our Jewish community and our future?
I’m very fortunate that I grew up with a solid Jewish foundation. I have found a place in the community which welcomes and accepts me and my family. I belong to a wonderful congregation which has many young families like mine and a rabbi who sees the value in welcoming and engaging individuals from all backgrounds. I am also very lucky to work at a place like WRJ/URJ, which has a rich history of outreach and inclusivity.
However, I realize that not all intermarried individuals are as lucky as me. Many don’t feel comfortable going to Jewish events or they have had comments made to them by other Jews that were less than appropriate. I believe that many of these individuals are hungry for Judaism and want to find their place within the Jewish community. It is our job, as progressive Jews, to provide safe, engaging, Judaism-rich outlets for them.
We need to continue to “widen the tent” and accept people wherever they are at regardless of the life decisions they make. If they express an interest in Judaism, terrific! Let’s go out and engage them! I don’t think this will dilute or threaten Judaism in any way. Rather, it will only enrich and grow our Jewish community.
What have we got to lose NOT by doing this? In my opinion…everything!
Finally, on a personal note, I would like to give a huge thank you to several individuals who have enriched and supported my interfaith family and has made us truly feel at home within the Jewish community.
- Rabbi Joshua Goldstein of Temple Sha’arey Shalom in Springfield, NJ (who officiated at our Jewish wedding)
- Rabbi Robin Nafshi (who taught a wonderful URJ Intro to Judaism class which Bruce and I took together)
- Rabbi Eytan Hammerman of Temple Beth Shalom in Mahopac, NY (who warmly welcomed our family into his synagogue)