As a follow-up to some observations I made last week about the Mezvinsky-Clinton wedding, I want to offer so positive, real ways for all of us to help encourage Jews to marry Jews. Across the board, from Reform to Orthodox to Ultra-Orthodox, I think we can all agree that Jews marrying Jews is what we want. However, instead of a negative approach, which many people expressed, I think a positive, affirmative approach is much more productive. However, the positive approach might take a lot more effort - but worthwhile things usually do take more effort. Here are a few things you can do:
1) Encourage all the single men and women you know to join Saw You At Sinai or other online dating services. My wife, Rachel, volunteers for Saw You At Sinai, and she puts in hours and hours each week trying to make shiduchin (matches). But there is a dearth of men: many eligible man, who are looking to get married, are simply not signed up and therefore the choices for women, and the chance of getting that elusive match - made in heaven! - is greatly reduced. Ask any single man, or woman, that you know: Are on Saw You At Sinai or Frumster or another Jewish dating service? If not, why not?
2)If you are married, invite singles over to your home for Shabbat dinner or lunch. Many homes are just not used to inviting people they don’t know, but this is an critical way for Jews to meet other Jews, and especially to meet their bashert, their intended. We know of several people who have met at dinners we have had in our home, where we just had people over and they did the rest of the work themselves, and I just heard of another couple that met because someone else invited them. Yes, it might be uncomfortable to invited strangers over; but if you really want to get Jews to marry Jews, it’s worth the effort. I would encourage rabbis to encourage this. If you are single, instead of waiting to get invited, make a simple Shabbat lunch or dinner on your own, and tell the rabbi or clergy in your shul that you are happy to have some people - or just invite some singles that you know casually who may be looking for a place for lunch. It’s not the food, it’s Jews getting together with Jews.
3) At kiddush, take a moment to look for someone who is on their own, not talking to anyone, and introduce yourself to that person. The conversation at a minimum will boost that person’s confidence that they are not invisible, but it may lead to a connection that will lead to a shidduch. This stuff happens, but only when we make it happen.
4)Finally, and this is hard, but it’s the truth, the only way to really get a handle on Jews marrying Jews is by making aliya. We need to encourage all our young people to get to Israel, for a summer, for a year, and preferably as a permanent decision. True, there are issues of intermarriage in Israel as well, but at least you have a society where everyone is doing Chanuka, Pesach, Yom Kippur, even 85% observing Tisha B’av in some way. In Israel the civic culture is Jewish, so it is totally different than American where the civic culture is Christmas, Halloween - Christian. Long term, I am worried that Judaism cannot survive as a minority culture in a society where we are welcome to marry the Clintons and the Gores. But in Israel, we have a majority culture of Judaism, and a vast majority of Jews - in the cities and towns where our children will live - so that the intermarriage problem is vastly diminished. No, not everyone can move to Israel, but we are deluding ourselves if we think we can create a safe place for Jews to marry only Jews in America. It’s too friendly and alluring a culture for us.
So please continue to be passionate about Jews marrying Jews, but please all of use should walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Kvetching about things makes us feel better, but there are concrete, positive steps we can all take to actually make things better. Moreover, by helping Jews marry Jews we will make our community in general a more caring and nurturing place for all of us.