Jews, Mormons and Intermarriage

I’ll never forget the first Orthodox rabbi I met in the LA Jewish community. I approached him at a reception and started making small talk with him in Hebrew. When he discovered I was Mormon, he immediately switched to English and became much more animated. It seems that the daughter of a non-Orthodox Jewish friend was contemplating marriage to a Mormon, and this was definitely not kosher with the rabbi. “I don’t get it,” he exclaimed. “Isn’t marriage outside the faith forbidden to Mormons too? Why don’t we work together to prevent this from happening?” We spent the next 30 minutes comparing notes on our faiths’ embrace of endogamy, a distinguishing feature of covenant peoples throughout history. I’m glad that I had my first conversation about this sensitive topic with an Orthodox Jew; although intermarriage is strongly discouraged in both the LDS and Jewish communities, the theological implications of a Mormon marrying outside the faith can only be understood when compared to those surrounding the marriage of an observant Orthodox Jew to a Gentile.

An Orthodox Jew who selects a non-Jew as a life partner almost always has to abandon the Orthodox community, at least on a spiritual level, since it is difficult if not impossible to keep many of the mitzvoth (commandments) that are required of observant Jews (e.g., maintaining a kosher home). The Jewish spouse is rendered unable to live a full Jewish life. While I know many Jewish couples with differing levels of observance, I have yet to meet an observant Orthodox Jew with a non-Jewish spouse (though I am not denying that such couples exist).

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