Saturday, October 20, 2012

The pros and cons of an OTDer dating / marrying a non jewish person

Wow it's been a while since I updated here.  A few things have happened since then...for one I found out I'm insulin resistant / pre-diabetic, and some skin "spots" I had on my hand/leg turned out to be related to a build up of insulin, scary stuff.  So I had to go on a low carb diet to try to avoid full on type 2 diabetes and lost 22 pounds in 3 months, which is pretty cool- I've never had a diet be so successful, probably cause of the whole insulin resistance thing.  My dad very helpfully suggested I find a local place to daven (pray) on yom kippur to help my health problems. Instead I taught for 5 hours and went to about 4 hours of meetings that day which was probably not all that much better than sitting through yom kippur services, sucking-wise.  I went on two trips to conferences since my last post, including one to Denver which I decided I do not like- that place sucked all the moisture out of my eyeballs and I felt too dry and dizzy the entire time I was there.

I'm also collecting my own survey data for the first time this semester, and this semester have 5-6 other research projects I'm actively working on writing/trying to get out for publication, along with a book proposal, so that's been sucking up all my time, and I've been working most weekends to try to squeeze in some extra research time.  Not because I have to even...I already have enough published and under review to get tenure if everything gets accepted for publication, which means I'm years ahead of schedule. But I love doing research, and I'm excited to get these results out there..I just have way more research projects and ideas than I have time to do them in. In a few weeks I submit a huge binder of paperwork for my third year / pre-tenure review which is to renew my job contract for 3 more years, at which point I will go up for tenure.

This week I went to a conference in the North, and while I was there I met up with some other OTD people who lived in the area, including the blogger Fence Sitter.  Over dinner one fairly new OTDer asked me what I thought the pro's and cons of marrying / dating a non Jewish person was.  This later turned into a facebook conservation, and I thought I'd compile some of the pro's and cons I came up with.

-You stop getting invited to shabbas/ yontiff at your family's house
-Your spouse doesn't know what it's like to grow up jewish so may not relate
-Your family will try their hardest to talk you out of marrying them and may go so far as to stop talking to you or disown you or even sit shiva for you
-A lot of your old friends and family might stop talking to you
-Random people who are jewish will think they have a right to criticize your marriage partner, you'll get called a nazi, told that you are finishing hitler's job, etc.  
-They may not be interested in or fully understand your background (although personally my husband loves talking about religion and finds my background fascinating and is always asking me questions when he comes across new things he doesn't understand re: judaism)
-Your spouse might not love it if you do anything jewish, and might sometimes get jealous/weird about you doing jewish things, cause it makes them threatened and worried you will become religious again and leave them

-You stop getting invited to shabbas / yontiff at your family's house, so no more making excuses or suffering through them
-Your spouse doesn't know what it's like to grow up jewish, so has a whole other set of not-jewish cultural norms to draw upon when you raise your own kids
-when you're married you have a spouse to hang out with, so you don't depend on a jewish community for social contact the way you might when single. 
 -You find out who your true hardcore friends who will always be there for you are, and you find out which of your family members you can't trust to act like family
-You have a lot of stuff to talk about when it comes to comparing your backgrounds, and talking about your life.
-You sometimes get to learn a lot about different cultures/religions  
-You can have the egalitarian wedding you want instead of a sham religious wedding which many OTDers married to OTDers get 
-It keeps you from falling back into the jewish community out of force of habit, which is what I totally did when I first moved to grad school
-After you get married and your family/old jewish community gives up on you, they give up a lot of general kiruv too cause they assume you've gone too far to come back 
-In-laws who celebrate christmas and the whole family christmas experience!  A non-jewish family to go to for non-jewish holidays
-Non jewish guys are probably on average less socially conservative/traditional than frum and ex frum guys, at least in my experience (major pro for me, and major issue for me when dating jews)
-Your kids are probably less likely to have weird genetic diseases
-If you don't want to circumcise your sons, your spouse is more likely to be ok with it
-You have a much wider pool of people to draw from so statistically are more likely to meet a compatible match

What are some other pros and cons y'all can think of?


  1. Pro: they know how to make bacon

    Con: they never shut up about eating bacon

  2. That is quite the comprehensive risk!
    BTW, in case they haven't checked yet, you might want to see if you have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). It is one of those pesky genetic disorder that a whole bunch of us Ashkenazi women have that come with insulin resistance, weight gain, risk for type 2 diabetes and some other stuff related to the reproductive system like cysts, too much and too little of all sorts of hormones etc.

  3. Pro:
    Non-Jews tend not to be socially and sexually immature.
    Non-Jews do not embrace the culture of entitlement that Jews of all stripes (Orthodox through Reform)

    None that I can think of-we did it differently. At first we were all about the kids in Jewish schools, then we changed to a Conservative Egalitarian shul, suddenly we're pariahs. My kids took the brunt of it. My eldest graduated and moved to a secular high school. My youngest bore the heaviest reprisals. He eventually went to a Catholic High School for the performing arts.

    The frummies-said a brief Kaddish for them. Dead as a door-nail to me.

  4. I think one of the saddest things about contemporary Orthodox Jewish education is that it is all Orthodox, not much Jewish. My in-laws Conservative synagogue is filled with Orthodox "drop outs," people that weren't interested in remaining observant, but still wanted to be Jewish and involved in Jewish communal life. The non-Orthodox movements have failed to produce an educated laity through poor education systems, and their communal leaders were ex-Orthodox Jews.

    Observant Jewish life is a huge commitment, and in many ways dominates your life. If you don't want the life of a frummie, you find yourself in a weird place.

    The Orthodox education model is heavily based on superstition and extreme positions, the more modern approaches are on the way out, which results in a weird dichotomy where Modern Orthodox Jews aren't really Modern Orthodox, they are just less practicing Chareidi Jews. So those that want out have no where to go.

    So if you don't find anything to like in Judaism, and you aren't interested in being observant, there really is no reason to stay within the fold.

    Survey after survey shows that "religious" people (defined as regular Church-goers, i.e. regularly attend services at a church, synagogue, or mosque) are happier, healthier, than their secular counterparts.

    So I would say that the pros definitely include other family rituals that may hold meaning and provide your children with a sense of community. As someone that is proud of his Jewish heritage, it would be nice if there was a path for people like yourself and other Orthodox "drop outs" to find something they like in American Jewish life, and remain proud of their heritage.

    The Orthodox world is so heavily revisionist that it's lost sight of the past two hundred years which has so much for American Jews to be proud of.

  5. I think you can give the best of both worlds to your kid if you intermarry... You can expose them to some of the more beautiful aspects of Judaism and/or Jewish culture... but without the baggage. They can take it or leave it as they see fit.


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