, ,

“Worse than Hitler,” the woman said. I was at a dinner party where the host and all the guests, including me, were Jewish. And one of my fellow guests described Jews who marry non-Jews as worse than Hitler.

“Hitler tried to wipe out the Jews,” she said, “but Jews who intermarry are really doing it.” She explained that Jews who marry non-Jews “don’t raise their kids Jewish.” As a result, she said, Jewishness was dying out.

“Excuse me,” I said, indignation rising, “but my brother and sister married Christians, and they’ve raised their kids Jewish.” The kids were in Hebrew school, they went to synagogue on the Jewish holidays, and so on.

“Well,” the woman responded, “their children won’t be raised Jewish.”

There was no winning a debate with a woman who had never met my niece and nephews but could predict how they would raise their unborn children.

As it happens, intermarriage is only incidental to the size of the Jewish population. The most important factor seems to be, well, Jewishness. People who receive a Jewish education and grow up in families involved in Jewish activities (particularly religious observance) tend to raise their own children Jewish. I know quite a few intermarried couples who have raised their children that way. They’re no threat to the future of the Jewish people.

One Jewish group that’s growing in numbers while staying very Jewish indeed are observant Orthodox Jews. If current growth trends continue (always a risky bet), the deeply observant will dominate the Jewish population in the United States and possibly worldwide. In other words, the world’s Jews will become more and more Jewish. Not exactly what Hitler had in mind.

Should we worry about having a big Jewish population at all? Jews have always been a minority. Not that a small populace is a good thing, but large numbers don’t guarantee survival. Osiris, Zeus, Thor, Jupiter, Wotan, Baal, Quetzlcoatl and endless other gods drew the worship of masses in numbers that dwarfed the Jews. They’re gone. We’re still here.

Of course, I’d like to see the Jewish population grow. But to accuse intermarriage of doing what Hitler wanted to do? Relax. Have a nosh. We survived the Pharaoh, Haman, Antiochus, Torquemada, and, yes, Hitler. I think we can survive my brother and sister.