I MARRIED CHARLOTTE, my German wife, on a sunny day in the city of Haifa in front of more 200 family members, poets and friends. My wife didn’t convert to Judaism. I never asked her to do so. I consider the question of belief as private and sacred. Nevertheless, we decided to make the ceremony in a Jewish style. To the full article.
Marrying into another faith does not mean we lose our Jewish identity
November 8, 2018
I MARRIED CHARLOTTE, my German wife, on a sunny day in the city of Haifa in front of more 200 family members, poets and friends. My wife didn’t convert to Judaism. I never asked her to do so. I consider the question of belief as private and sacred. Nevertheless, we decided to make the ceremony in a Jewish style.
We did change the blessings of the ceremony. We didn’t say: “Behold, you are consecrated to me by this ring according to the ritual of Moses and Israel.” But we changed it to “Behold, you are consecrated to me by this ring according to our beliefs.” I broke the glass as Jews do to remind us of the broken temple and the exile.
Shuky, our friend from Tel Aviv, was our “rabbi”, although he didn’t have an official certificate from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel (Yes, he could have been arrested like Rabbi Dov Hayun who conducted a Jewish wedding outside the auspices of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate.)
As our rabbi declared us husband and wife, the crowd cheered. And yet I know there were a lot of conservative family members. Some of them vote for Likud, the right-wing party of the Knesset Member, Oren Hazan, who last month condemned the marriage of the Arab TV anchor between Lucy Aharish and Jewish actor Tzachi Halevy.
“I don’t blame Lucy Aharish for seducing a Jewish soul with the goal of harming our country,” Hazan wrote on Twitter. “I do blame Tzachi the ‘Islamicising’ Halevy. Bro, stop being delusional. Lucy, it’s not personal, but you should know Tzachi is my brother and the Jewish people are my people. Stop the assimilation!”
Although the debate that followed did not address me, it gave me deep creeps. According to Hazan’s logic, I Christianised, just as Tzachi “Islamicised”. Then the centrist politician Yair Lapid criticised the intermarriage because Lucy’s family was not involved in the Holocaust. Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett topped this, comparing the assimilation to a new “Holocaust” of the Jewish people.
My conservative family members never got so caught up in such arguments and accepted us by giving us lovely gifts. My Mizrahi relatives, in particular, remembered or unconsciously still knew that mixing with another culture does not mean we lose our Jewish identity.
These three Knesset members – Hazan, Lapid and Bennett – ignore the fact that neither Arab-Jews, nor many American, Australian, and South American Jews – lose their Jewishness once they marry outside of the tribe.
My conservative family members know that because they actually read the Torah: Moses assimilated into Egyptian culture. He married Tzipora, the daughter of Yitro, the Midianite king. Even though back then he could have chosen a Jewish woman, he married a non-Jewish woman, the love of his life with whom he had two sons who also became Jewish leaders. In addition, Tzipora did not convert. She learned the rituals of the Jews and saved Moses’ life in the desert [when the angel came to kill him because he did not circumcise his son].
So does my wife Charlotte, who knows Hebrew and shares Jewish events with me, not belong to Jewish culture, just because of her origins?
The 200 people who came to our wedding accepted my love to Charlotte. They didn’t object or reject it. They knew that it was my choice. I consider Judaism a strong culture, with language and values that cannot be lost through marriage. I will give my daughter all of my belief in God and all of the values and language I grow up with.
Judaism has always been a religion, a culture that relied on foreign elements around it to enrich it. Also the Hebrew language, the most national bind in the minds of those Knesset members, drew words from foreign languages such as Aramaic, Yiddish, Arabic, etc. For me, Judaism is a dialogue between cultures, religions and the creation of the Jewish values happening with the cultures around it.
Oren Hazan and his tasteless argument of seduction shows that he obviously believes in racial purity. He believes in ideas that we did not believe would enter Jewish political terminology. He and the other MKs believe that mixed marriage brings the destruction of my Jewish people.
When and where and by whom did we hear those words once before? So their answer to the Holocaust is its ideological reproduction of racial purity or marriages only within Jews?
At the end of the wedding, my poets’ friends read their poems for us. Then many of the wedding party people went down to the sea. We took off our clothes and entered the Mediterranean Sea, with all our diversity – including the conservative relatives.
Guess what? It didn’t turn us into water, just as the mix of different origins does not melt down our diversity. This is how I believe that Judaism can never vanish. It’s how I married my beloved wife. Even more, it’s how I believe we can expand its heart.