sex, dating, & relationships

Interfaith Dating: Taboo or Not Taboo?

I often reflect on all the reasons I’m really lucky to have the parents that I have. These reasons include the values that my parents have communicated to me around dating. Specifically, I’ve thought of my parents recently as I grapple with messages I receive about interfaith dating.

My parents were very clear about what they expected of the people my brother and I chose to date: these people should be warm, loving, intelligent, and respectful… nothing in the requirements referred their being of the same religion. And although I mostly dated people of my own faith, my brother and I both did date people of other faiths, and without comment from our parents on that particular issue.

Even during periods when I identified very strongly with my faith, I felt open to dating anyone. For me, it was and is a question of with whom I could best connect and share of myself.

I also believe that others should make decisions about dating based on their own feelings and values. But I’ve noticed that not all of my peers feel the same. Some have various strong opinions about their own faith-based dating practices. Others, to my surprise and sadness, have expressed judgment of our friends’ interfaith dating practices. I want to ask how this plays out in your experience — as young adults, do we judge each other for inter-dating? Is there pressure to date only people of our own faith? Why? How does that feel for you, and how do you think it feels for others?

Published by Mimi Arbeit

applied developmental scientist, antifascist community organizer, sexuality educator

6 thoughts on “Interfaith Dating: Taboo or Not Taboo?”

  1. Wholly Foolish says:

    While I agree with "Anonymous" that intermarriage certainly can and does threaten the membership rolls at synagogues, and very likely plays a part in decreased Jewish identity for subsequent generations… the Hitler analogy is tired and offensive. The Hitler reference evokes violence and genocide. Intermarriage is not gonna force you out of your house and shoot your kids. Intermarriage might cause a segment of the population to drift away from Judaism… but it's not genocide. Put down the Hitler reference, back slowly away.

  2. Tabitha says:

    As someone who was raised Christian (now I am more Buddhist) and has been in a committed relationship to a Jewish man for three years now, I struggle with this a lot. Neither one of us is particularly religious, but my boyfriend identifies very strongly culturally as being a Jew. I am completely fine with that, and in time would convert to Judaism to raise our children Jewish.

    I really find the above Hitler comment off putting and offensive. That I am killing Judaism by loving a Jewish man is a hurtful sentiment and comment for someone to have. Generally, I find people accepting of our relationship. Neither of our parents has any issue with our relationship and I'm going to their passover seder soon, but in the little bit of investigating into converting that I have done, friends have said that Rabbis and some Jews disapprove and try to dissuade people from converting to Judaism. I don't really know where that leaves me.

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  4. samanthajess says:

    I got a slightly different message from my parents than Mim did. My parents also expected us to date warm, loving, intelligent and respectful people. However, the message didn’t stop there. It continued, if you date someone who is not Jewish, remember that being Jewish is an important part of your identity and to make sure that person understands, respects and supports that… and it would be easier if that person were Jewish too.

    I fully agree that first and foremost, that it is a question of with whom I (and anyone) can best connect with a person and be able to share myself with another person. One of the things I love most about Judaism is that, unlike many other religions, Judaism is also a culture. I feel that, especially in a cultural sense, it is important for me to share that piece with my significant other.

    Judaism is not the same now as it was 50 or even 10 years ago. It is constantly changing and adapting and evolving. Yes, there are people who choose not to change and evolve and would prefer that everyone do the same, but the fact of the matter is, they are few and far between. There are more Jews who identify with Judaism and do not practice, who are spiritual, who are partially observant, who know they love being Jewish but struggle with the best way for them.

    Most importantly, there ARE Jewish individuals, who identify as Jewish and see Judaism as an important part of their lives who will date/marry/be in long term committed relationships with/have (get) children with other individuals who are not Jewish.

    Abstinence only education doesn’t work because regardless of what and how we tell these young adults not to, they will do it anyways. Instead we teach that IF this is something you choose to do, use these tools to do it the “right way”. I think the issue of inter-marriage is the same. It’s not about telling people not to. If they want to, they will. Instead, it’s about showing them that if this is the choice they are making, this is how they can practice their own Judaism in a meaningful and spiritual and inclusive way with the person they choose as their significant other.

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  6. Ruth Abrams says:

    If you are looking for more resources about interfaith dating, we have section devoted to it on our site,

    Since this is a really personal decision, we feature a lot of personal narrative pieces, from Jews in interfaith relationships, from non-Jews in interfaith relationships with Jews, from children of interfaith marriage who may have decided not to date non-Jews. There are lots of models.

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