Did I betray my religion by falling in love with a Gentile?

I've been called worse than Hitler for being with the man I'm in love with. But to me, my boyfriend's religion is even more arbitrary than his fashion sense.

Jewish women and men are often encouraged
to marry a fellow 'member of tribe'. Image: Getty

Since falling in love with a Gentile and betraying my religion, my heritage and thousands of years of Jewish tradition, I’ve compiled a rough list of the historical figures I have been told I am worse than: Hitler; the guy that started the blood libel; Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

While the nice Jewish girls I grew up with were busy trying to find nice Jewish boys, I found myself taking an altogether different path with an altogether different type of boy. Despite this act of incontrovertible depravity, I feel just as Jewish as ever. I baulk at the idea of living in Kent, I believe in the healing power of chicken soup, and I still think in terms of whether or not things are ‘good for the Jews’.

But girls like me are not supposed to fall in love with someone outside of the faith. I know all the arguments: it’s my responsibility as a Jewish woman to find, marry and have children with another Jew. It is imperative my partner is MOT (member of tribe) to ensure the survival of Jews around the world.  I’m just not convinced by them anymore. And witnessing the fuss, frustration, false starts and the full-on heartbreak that the overwhelming desire to ‘marry in’ can cause simply affirms this belief.

One only need to look at the stats: a heterosexual Jewish woman in the UK looking for love with a Jewish man has roughly 0.025 per cent of the population to choose from. Of that 0.025 per cent many will either be age inappropriate, a first-degree relative, secretly gay, a carbon copy of Alexander Portnoy or worse, already married.

The imperative -- in the face of such unfavourable odds -- for young Jews to cop off and one day have Jewish babies has given rise to ‘Booze 4 Jews’ at universities across the country, plus a mosaic of youth organisations with the promulgation of Jewish genes as a prime concern.

Then there’s the shaming of those who choose to marry outside the faith, like the tight-lipped matriarch who turned up to her daughter’s wedding an hour late and in a pair of jeans. From the moment she took her seat, she began to voice her disapproval. Then there are mothers who don’t show up at all.

It’s not my place to judge those who only want to date other Jewish people. But it terrifies me that I might not have gone out with my boyfriend on the basis of his religious background. To me, it seems an even more arbitrary thing to object to than the colour of his eyes or his fashion sense.

Yes, another Jew might have had a similar upbringing and thus have a similar perspective on life. Yes, they would want to bring up our children with full knowledge of our centuries-old tradition. Yes, that would bond us in a unique way. But I know that my Catholic boyfriend has the same values, morals and perspective on the world as me, despite the fact that he somehow thinks it is OK to eat shellfish.

And partially because of our love and understanding, he knows that the Jewish tradition is special and something I want to pass on to our children. I know that what bonds us in a unique way is something more than a similar upbringing -  it’s deep, head-over-heels, schmaltzy love.   

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Universal Credit takes £3,700 from single working parents - it's time to call a halt

The shadow work and pensions secretary on the latest analysis of a controversial benefit. 

Labour is calling for the roll out of Universal Credit (UC) to be halted as new data shows that while wages are failing to keep up with inflation, cuts to in-work social security support have meant most net incomes have flat-lined in real terms and in some cases worsened, with women and people from ethnic minority communities most likely to be worst affected.

Analysis I commissioned from the House of Commons Library shows that real wages are stagnating and in-work support is contracting for both private and public sector workers. 

Private sector workers like Kellie, a cleaner at Manchester airport, who is married and has a four year old daughter. She told me how by going back to work after the birth of her daughter resulted in her losing in-work tax credits, which made her day-to-day living costs even more difficult to handle. 

Her child tax credits fail to even cover food or pack lunches for her daughter and as a result she has to survive on a very tight weekly budget just to ensure her daughter can eat properly. 

This is the everyday reality for too many people in communities across the UK. People like Kellie who have to make difficult and stressful choices that are having lasting implications on the whole family. 

Eventually Kellie will be transferred onto UC. She told me how she is dreading the transition onto UC, as she is barely managing to get by on tax credits. The stories she hears about having to wait up to 10 weeks before you receive payment and the failure of payments to match tax credits are causing her real concern.

UC is meant to streamline social security support,  and bring together payments for several benefits including tax credits and housing benefit. But it has been plagued by problems in the areas it has been trialled, not least because of the fact claimants must wait six weeks before the first payment. An increased use of food banks has been observed, along with debt, rent arrears, and even homelessness.

The latest evidence came from Citizens Advice in July. The charity surveyed 800 people who sought help with universal credit in pilot areas, and found that 39 per cent were waiting more than six weeks to receive their first payment and 57 per cent were having to borrow money to get by during that time.

Our analysis confirms Universal Credit is just not fit for purpose. It looks at different types of households and income groups, all working full time. It shows single parents with dependent children are hit particularly hard, receiving up to £3,100 a year less than they received with tax credits - a massive hit on any family budget.

A single teacher with two children working full time, for example, who is a new claimant to UC will, in real terms, be around £3,700 a year worse off in 2018-19 compared to 2011-12.

Or take a single parent of two who is working in the NHS on full-time average earnings for the public sector, and is a new tax credit claimant. They will be more than £2,000 a year worse off in real-terms in 2018-19 compared to 2011-12. 

Equality analysis published in response to a Freedom of Information request also revealed that predicted cuts to Universal Credit work allowances introduced in 2016 would fall most heavily on women and ethnic minorities. And yet the government still went ahead with them.

It is shocking that most people on low and middle incomes are no better off than they were five years ago, and in some cases they are worse off. The government’s cuts to in-work support of both tax credits and Universal Credit are having a dramatic, long lasting effect on people’s lives, on top of stagnating wages and rising prices. 

It’s no wonder we are seeing record levels of in-work poverty. This now stands at a shocking 7.4 million people.

Our analyses make clear that the government’s abject failure on living standards will get dramatically worse if UC is rolled out in its current form.

This exactly why I am calling for the roll out to be stopped while urgent reform and redesign of UC is undertaken. In its current form UC is not fit for purpose. We need to ensure that work always pays and that hardworking families are properly supported. 

Labour will transform and redesign UC, ending six-week delays in payment, and creating a fair society for the many, not the few. 

Debbie Abrahams is shadow work and pensions secretary.