My heart sank when my aggregator netted me the headline A guide to dating Jews earns author 'Nazi' tag, and the first lines of the story didn't improve my mood any: "Kristina Grish has been described as a 'Nazi' and little better than a prostitute. Her crime: writing a light-hearted, non-Jewish women's guide to understanding Jewish men." Grish wrote Boy Vey!, "the shiksa's guide to dating Jewish men," and now she's getting slammed by Jews who are trotting out the tired old claim that interdating will finish the work that Hitler started. Again, from the Observer article:
Pamala Moteles, also from Jerusalem, sees the book as part of a 'terrible trend' that forced her to leave America for Israel. This 'will spell the doom of the American Jewish community: the aggressive hunting of Jewish men by gentile women and the lack of interest expressed by Jewish men in Jewish women,' she wrote.
She accuses the author of encouraging the breakdown of 'Jewish heritage by cultivating a situation in which 'Jewish' children will be raised by mothers of different religions' and of being hostile to Jewish women.
Look, I haven't read Grish's book, and I doubt that I will; it looks like the kind of single-girls'-guide that just doesn't interest me. But for crying out loud, people: this is humor. Laugh a little. And -- more importantly -- boy, howdy, am I sick and tired of hearing people claim that the American Jewish community is doomed because so many Jews today marry non-Jews. This is hurtful, it is alarmist, and it is nonsense.
I've argued before that
we spend way too much energy on the so-called
Big Three issues (of which intermarriage is one), and that
Judaism's historical insularity no longer serves us well (and we
need to change the way we think about intercultural connections,
relationships, and families) but apparently
these points bear repeating. If American Judaism is suffering a crisis
of attrition -- which I am not convinced that it is! --
that crisis is a result of inadequate Jewish education (too many
of us don't learn the good stuff that our tradition has to offer)
and unthinking insularity (too many of us on the fringes feel
excluded and unwelcome, so we make ourselves scarce.) Intermarriage is not the problem, and demonizing those who interdate and intermarry is not a good solution.
The religious and cultural insularity shown in some of the response to Boy Vey! paints a troubling picture of Judaism's attitudes toward other religions, and I think we can do better than that. (Plus, the naysayers' arguments are spurious. Jeri Zeder's recent article "Still Jewish! Jewish Women in Interfaith Marriages" -- alas, not in the online version of Lilith, so go buy the magazine -- shows that intermarriage doesn't necessarily equal assimilation or loss of Jewishness.)
Fortunately, not everyone is responding to Boy Vey! with histrionics. The review in Jewish Week at least noticed that the book was meant to be humor. And Saul Singer's essay Boy, What A Catch! (published in The Jerusalem Post) makes several excellent points, and does a good job of untangling why so many Jewish women respond to this book defensively, as though Grish were advocating that Christian women the world over start "poaching" from the limited pool of single Jewish men.
The argument that Grish's book is tantamount to Nazism embarrasses me on behalf of the Jewish community. I usually make an effort to blog positive things (in part because I spend a lot of time working on VR and I want that time to be enjoyable; in part because I like to use VR to showcase some of what I love about Judaism), but every now and then I feel compelled to call my tradition on something stupid or offensive or wrong, and now is one of those times.