EMBRACING THE STRANGER: Intermarriage and the Future of the American Jewish Community by Ellen Jaffe McClain

EMBRACING THE STRANGER: Intermarriage and the Future of the American Jewish Community

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Easily the most eloquent, impactive, and therapeutic treatment ever written about Jewry's sacred bogeyman. McClain (yes, she intermarried, though her husband converted while she was working on this book), a successful YA novelist and educator, writes with panache and sincerity that intermarriage is no big deal--or, at least, that the outmarriers are the symptoms, not the disease. Rabbis and leaders wave faulty stats about the high levels of intermarriage and scapegoat the intermarried--but they only do so because they can't blame the assimilation and acculturation that they themselves espouse, reducing Jewishness to the Holocaust and a vague set of ethical precepts. According to McClain, this focus on the Holocaust only reinforces the negative idea that being Jewish is dangerous. And, continues this deeply committed Reform Jew, it's easy to find gentile partners who share current Judaism's generalized set of values. In fact, many of the liberal gentiles who marry in have more devotion to Jewish rituals and less anti-Jewish emotional baggage than their spouses. McClain notes that with the ritual curtains of separation between the sexes down, familiarity between Jewish boys and girls often breeds contempt. With quotes from works ranging from Portnoy's Complaint to The Heartbreak Kid, McClain examines the Jewish male's dismissal of the demanding JAP. The equal disdain shown by a generation of Jewish women is echoed in interviews with quotes like: ""You're exactly what my mom wants me to marry; therefore I can't go out with you."" And given the dismal record of Jewish-Jewish households in turning out committed Jews, the author suggests that many children of exogamous marriages are more likely to have a Jewish future. She ends with suggestions on how to improve Jewish institutions and Jewish practice in the home. McClain's warm, wise, funny, and provocative book is must reading for all who work for a Jewish future.

Pub Date: Dec. 6th, 1995
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Basic