A piece by Emma Green at the Atlantic on the intermarriage crisis inside the Jewish community suggests that the whole purpose of Birthright is evidently to create Jewish couples.
Those who actually went on Birthright were 45 percent more likely [than the young people who were waitlisted for the program] to marry someone Jewish. This “is some kind of reflection of the experience in Israel, although there is no preaching during the ten days,” said Gidi Mark, the International CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel.
In relating the comments of Jews who deplore intermarriage, Green says that the language is offensive in a wider American context:
“Would you ever marry a non-Jew?” Sharon asked [a group of friends in D.C.] from the backseat. Answers varied; one person said she wasn’t sure, while another said she might consider marrying someone who was willing to convert. Debates about intermarriage, or marriage outside of the faith, are common in the Jewish community, but her question still struck me as remarkable. Here were four twentysomething women who hardly knew each other, already talking about the eventuality of marriage and apparently radical possibility that we would ever commit our lives to someone unlike us. This conversation seemed very “un-Millennial”–as a whole, our generation is marrying later, becoming more secular, and embracing different cultures more than any of our predecessors. If the same question had been asked about any other aspect of our shared identities–being white, being educated, coming from middle or upper-middle class backgrounds—it would have seemed impolite, if not offensive.
And here’s Green’s reporting on JDate, which she also suggests is offensive.
JDate sees itself as more than a dating service. “The mission is to strengthen the Jewish community and ensure that Jewish traditions are sustained for generations to come,” said Greg Liberman, the CEO. “The way that we do that is by making more Jews.”
Indeed, pictures of so-called “JBabies” featured prominently in promotional materials sent over by the JDate team. In JDate’s view, these new Jews will be the future of the people, but they’re also good for business. “If we’re at this long enough, if Jews who marry other Jews create Jewish kids, then creating more Jews ultimately repopulates our ecosystem over time,” said Liberman.
It’s hard to imagine this kind of language being used in other communities without provoking outrage, particularly if it was used in a racial context. But perhaps because they are so assimilated or because of their long history of persecution, Jews are given a collective pass in American culture—this casual reference to racial preservation seems almost wry and ironic
It appears that Spark Networks, which owns JDate, also runs Christian Mingle, Catholic Mingle, and services aimed at getting black people to date black people, Latinos to date Latinos, and LDS to stick to LDS dates. Sparks has Jewish leadership. And this is regarded as a worthy Jewish enterprise, to keep folks marrying other folks like themselves? This is a story for the Forward. I don’t think that Jews can be given a collective pass on language of a racist character, notwithstanding persecution. And assimilation/empowerment only increases the obligation to represent a broad society.