Convincing Millennials to 'Marry a Nice Jewish Boy'

Across the spectrum of observance, youth group rabbis want to welcome these kinds of students. They certainly don’t want to alienate them with oppressive lectures about the importance of dating other Jews.

But they do kind of want them to get the hint.

This is why the question of intermarriage among Jews is so fraught, especially given the recent discussion stirred by the Pew study. Every commentator has an opinion on the alleged assimilation of the Jewish people, but few are willing to argue outright that the future of American Judaism largely hinges on who today’s twenty- and thirtysomethings choose to marry and have children with. Millennials will determine how the next generation of Jews feels about heritage and faith, but leaders and journalists are shy about engaging them in explicit conversations about race. Perhaps this is for good reason, given how those conversations look to non-Jews and Jews who don’t share this ethnic view of Judaism.

The idea of “marrying to preserve one’s race” seems thoroughly at odds with the ethnically accepting, globally aware values of the Millennial generation. But rabbis will keep pitching them on why their marriage choices matter.

“It certainly is one of our 613 commandments, is to marry somebody Jewish,” said Greenland. “But on a much deeper level, it’s about engagement in Jewish life.”

“Look, I’m a rabbi,” said David Levy, who works with the Conservative USY. “But I believe the Jewish community has a unique, special, and powerful message for the world, and it’s one that deserves continuance for the world.”

“But I’m a little biased,” he added. “I’ve bet my life’s career on this.”

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Emma Green is the assistant managing editor of TheAtlantic.com, where she also oversees the National Channel and writes about religion and culture.

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