How does a nice Jewish girl end up with a name like McGinity? I am the biological child of New York Jews. Their twenty plus year marriage ended when I was 10. If nothing else, my parents’ divorce illustrated to me that two Jews marrying each other was not a guarantee of marital happiness, family stability, or shalom bayit (peace in the home). The fact that they both remarried non-Jews and remain married to their second spouses today indicates that intermarriage can succeed.
I still thought I would end up marrying a good Jewish boy. Maybe it was the many years of Hebrew school, the bat mitzvah pilgrimage to Israel, and being named for someone who did not survive the Holocaust. For the record, I dated Jewish men, went to the Matzoh Ball Jewish singles parties, and tried to meet an eligible Jewish bachelor—all before the days of JDate!—but when a cute Irish Catholic unexpectedly popped the question, I said “yes.” How could I do such a thing? Was I throwing away my heritage? Had I forgotten the umpteen years of Jewish suffering? Did I have no responsibility for the Jewish future? Would I be like the rest of intermarried Jews that commentators had long claimed became “lost” to the Jewish community?
I am guilty...of falling in love. I married young, probably too young, but mature enough to make one critically important deal: we agreed before we wed that I would take his last name and we would raise any children as Jews. During my fourteen years of intermarriage, I was constantly defining myself in contrast to my Christian spouse. Being intermarried actually forced me to figure out what it means to be Jewish. Becoming a parent made me realize that I needed to learn how to transmit Jewishness to my daughter. In the course of this process, I experienced a strengthening of my Jewish identity and became more involved in the Jewish community.
I am not unusual. There are many women and men who, like me, fall in love with a non-Jew, get married (or stay partnered), create or adopt children and not only remain Jewish themselves but raise Jewish children. And there are many people of other faith or cultural backgrounds who fall in love with us and, whether or not they become Jews, they are actively raising Jewish children. Our personal stories collectively dismantle the outdated assumption that Jews who marry “out” cease to be Jewish, engaged in communal activities, or contribute to Jewish continuity.
In an open and pluralistic American society, intermarried Jews and our children are essential parts of the Jewish present and future!
Books about Jewish intermarriage