Is It Racist to Want a Jewish Spouse?

by Aaron Moss

Question: I was explaining to a non-Jewish work colleague that I only date Jewish men, because I would not marry a non-Jew. He accused me of being racist. I was caught on the spot and had nothing to say. How would you respond to this accusation?

Answer: If insisting that you will only date Jews makes you racist, does insisting that you will only date men make you sexist? You are certainly discriminating, but is this discrimination bad?

You are not talking about what type of person you want to work with, or whom you would prefer to sit next to on a train. You are talking about whom you want to marry. Are you expected not to discriminate about whom you marry, the same way you are expected not to discriminate when reading a job application?

There are plenty of wonderful women out there, but they can’t father your children. And there are plenty of wonderful non-Jewish men out there, but they can’t give you a Jewish family. You want a family, so you seek a man; you want a Jewish family, so you seek a Jewish man. There is nothing offensive about that.

And there is no racial issue here. Jewishness is neither a race nor a religion. It is a soul identity. The man you marry can be a European Jew or an Oriental Jew, a black Jew or a white Jew. He can be a Jew by birth or a Jew by choice. But if you want a Jewish family, he’s got to be a he, and he’s got to be a Hebrew.

This article has been reprinted with permission from The Judaism Website – chabad.org.

PA Marriage Amendment: the Exclusive Country Club of 2011

— by Adrian Shanker

It is difficult to comprehend the motivation of a person who would make a priority out of a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as an exclusive heterosexual privilege. If Pennsylvania State Representative Daryl Metcalfe (R-Cranberry Township) has his way, Pennsylvania will become the latest state to remind their LGBT citizens that they are still second-class to their straight neighbors. Metcalfe has recently announced his intent to introduce an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. For purposes of clarity, same-sex marriage is not currently legal in Pennsylvania, nor is there a chance that it will become legal in the near future, but for Daryl Metcalfe, he needs the satisfaction of telling people like me that not only can we not have equality, but that the denial of equality must be written in Constitutional stone. Metcalfe needs to remind me that I am still a second-class citizen in Pennsylvania.

Even a cursory review of Jewish American history will demonstrate the exclusivity that kept Jews second-class citizens. The routine exclusion of Jews to many private country clubs beginning in the 1920’s/30’s is perhaps the most widely understood of the many American antisemetic practices in which people with power held Jews back from full equality and participation in society. Diane Elizabeth Kendall, from her book, Members Only: Elite Clubs and the Process of Exclusion, states,

“In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the Baltimore Country Club had signs posted that said ‘No Dogs, No Coloreds, No Jews.'”

(page 59) The pervasive exclusion of our group of people served only to benefit those with the power to exclude, in a word, to give them status as more elite than Jews.

More after the jump.
There are many similarities between the institution of marriage and the exclusivity of the country club. They both serve to enhance the economic interests of the participants, entrance into either comes with tangible benefits, and most importantly, both the institution of marriage and the country club have a history of exclusivity. A review of changes in marriage policy will remind us that the legal rights within the institution have been ever-changing, especially insofar as gender roles and property ownership are concerned. Anti-miscegenation laws were not declared unconstitutional until the 1967 Loving v Virginia case. The trial judge, Leon Bazile, defending the so-called Racial Integrity Act states,

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

But fortunately, the Supreme Court unanimously disagreed with the Commonwealth of Virginia and removed unnecessary and offensive racial restrictions from the institution of marriage. And let us not be so naïve to suggest that there is a difference between the Daryl Metcalfes of today from the Leon Baziles of the past. There is no difference. The interest in the so-called protection of the institution of marriage will always find new classes to exclude from the proverbial country club of the day.

As Jews, we know all too well the exclusionary tactics of the country club. We know what it means to be told we are second-class citizens. And we know what it felt like when our friends entered the country clubs we couldn’t attend, or when they benefited from the exclusivity that was their cultural privilege. We cannot simply learn about our cultural history in a textbook without taking action to ensure the end of the exclusive country-club mentality of today’s marriage institution. We need to ensure that the Jewish voice is collectively loud and clear regarding our opposition to a hateful, unnecessary constitutional amendment further denying rights to same-sex couples. But that still is not enough. We need to actively work for the legalization of civil same-sex marriage, and even better, perhaps some heterosexual Jews will offer to deny their own privilege of entering the country club of legal marriage while the rest of us wait at the sidelines.

Adrian Shanker, a Lehigh Valley-based LGBT community leader, serves on the Board of Directors of Equality Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Diversity Network, and the JRF Congregation Am Haskalah.

Reaching Out Across the Aisle


Steve Hofstetter

For a group of people that constantly complain how often we’re excluded, Jews should really get better at including other people.

I’ve seen it happen at seders. I’ve seen it happen at Shabbat dinners. And now I’ve seen it happen at my own wedding. Yes, I am married now – thank you JDate.

For thousands of years, there’s been a focus on education in Jewish families. We send our children to the best schools, and encourage them to get the jobs that require very little menial labor. While other cultures might be proud of any honest living, you’ll rarely hear a Jewish mother bragging about her son, the factory foreman.

Which leads to the unfortunate side effect: thinking that everyone should be as educated as we are. A common attitude among Jews is, “if you can’t keep up, it’s your fault for not knowing how.”

More after the jump.
A Jewish wedding is fairly different from a Christian wedding, in the way that a fish is fairly different from a ham sandwich. Both appealing to different people, but they don’t easily go together (unless you’re watching Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee). But it’s not just the food – the main difference between the ways Jews and Christians get hitched is the use of foreign language.

Jews at Christian weddings might get spooked at the whole Jesus aspect of things, but there’s very little done outside the native language of the bride and groom. But a Christian and a Jewish wedding could be lost in Hebrew for several minutes at a time. It’s no 40 years of wandering in the desert, but several minutes is a long time to leave one of your own guests confused.

We were careful to explain the traditions in our wedding program, and our rabbi was good enough to describe what he was doing in an inclusive way, without being overly preachy or obnoxious. And yes, that happens – I once saw a rabbi at a bat mitzvah call for the destruction of all Arab nations. If you were at that bat mitzvah, you would have agreed that the real enemy is Miley Cyrus. Which sounds eerily like wily Cyprus. But, I digress.

Our wedding ceremony was great – it was actually during our wedding reception that we accidentally got exclusionary. We’d put benchers on each table, figuring that those who wanted to bench would, and those who didn’t would keep chatting. What we didn’t figure on was those of us benching being loud enough to confuse and interrupt those who were not.

After realizing this about three minutes in, I stood up and said “Quick explanation. This is the Jewish version of grace, we just say it after the meal. Thank you non-Jews for your patience – we’ll be done in a few minutes.” That would have been extremely rude to do at someone else’s wedding, but the groom is allowed a bit of leeway.

You might say, “But Steve, I will never have that problem. I live in a Jewish neighborhood, and I only associate with other Jews.” First, you’re lying – there are non-Jews everywhere, so unless you’re racist, you are friends with some of them. Second, unless your Jewish friends grew up in the same Hebrew school, Yeshiva, camp, synagogue, and family, your knowledge base is different from them, too.  Third, stop talking, I can’t actually hear you.

We’ve all been to a seder where one person insists on reading more than everyone else, or just more in Hebrew. We’ve all be to a Shabbat dinner where someone insists on singing more than everyone else, or just more loudly. And we’ve all been to a Jewish wedding where we see something that makes perfect sense to the bride and groom confused us based on our own knowledge.

The pride we take in our education often manifests itself as showing off, and while done with noble intention, can exclude non-Jews, or Jews without the same level of education. Remember, they came to celebrate with us, not watch us celebrate without them.


There is a fine line between keeping tradition and keeping those who are not in the know at arms length. There was a moment at my wedding during the horah where I impulsively grabbed two of my Jewish friends from college to form a circle. One of our non-Jewish friends ran over as well, and we all danced together. Instead of at arms length, we were suddenly arm in arm.

I’m glad he had the presence of mind to include himself. I only wish that I had thought of it first.

Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has been on VH1, ESPN, and Comedy Central. To find out how to book him at your next event, visit SteveHofstetter.com. This column was originally published on JDate.com.