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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Donald Trump wants to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency - can he?

"Epa, Epa, Eeeepaaaaa" – Grampa Simpson.

 

There have been countless jokes about US President Donald Trump’s aversion to academic work, with many comparing him to an infant. The Daily Show created a browser extension aptly named “Make Trump Tweets Eight Again” that converts the font of Potus’ tweets to crayon scrawlings. Indeed, it is absurd that – even without the childish font – one particular bill that was introduced within the first month of Trump taking office looked just as puerile. Proposed by Matt Gaetz, a Republican who had been in Congress for barely a month, “H.R. 861” was only one sentence long:

“The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018”.

If this seems like a stunt, that is because Gaetz is unlikely to actually achieve his stated aim. Drafting such a short bill without any co-sponsors – and leaving it to a novice Congressman to present – is hardly the best strategy to ensure a bill will pass. 

Still, Republicans' distrust for environmental protections is well-known - long-running cartoon show The Simpsons even did a send up of the Epa where the agency had its own private army. So what else makes H.R. 861 implausible?

Well, the 10-word-long statement neglects to address the fact that many federal environmental laws assume the existence of or defer to the Epa. In the event that the Epa was abolished, all of these laws – from the 1946 Atomic Energy Act to the 2016 Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act – would need to be amended. Preferably, a way of doing this would be included in the bill itself.

Additionally, for the bill to be accepted in the Senate there would have to be eight Democratic senators who agreed with its premise. This is an awkward demand when not even all Republicans back Trump. The man Trum appointed to the helm of the Epa, Scott Pruitt, is particularly divisive because of his long opposition to the agency. Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said that she was hostile to the appointment of a man who was “so manifestly opposed to the mission of the agency” that he had sued the Epa 14 times. Polls from 2016 and 2017 suggests that most Americans would be also be opposed to the agency’s termination.

But if Trump is incapable of entirely eliminating the Epa, he has other ways of rendering it futile. In January, Potus banned the Epa and National Park Services from “providing updates on social media or to reporters”, and this Friday, Trump plans to “switch off” the government’s largest citizen-linked data site – the Epa’s Open Data Web Service. This is vital not just for storing and displaying information on climate change, but also as an accessible way of civilians viewing details of local environmental changes – such as chemical spills. Given the administration’s recent announcement of his intention to repeal existing safeguards, such as those to stabilise the climate and protect the environment, defunding this public data tool is possibly an attempt to decrease awareness of Trump’s forthcoming actions.

There was also a recent update to the webpage of the Epa's Office of Science and Technology, which saw all references to “science-based” work removed, in favour of an emphasis on “national economically and technologically achievable standards”. 

Trump’s reshuffle of the Epa's priorities puts the onus on economic activity at the expense of public health and environmental safety. Pruitt, who is also eager to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, spoke in an interview of his desire to “exit” the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. He was led to this conclusion because of his belief that the agreement means “contracting our economy to serve and really satisfy Europe, and China, and India”.

 

Rather than outright closure of the Epa, its influence and funding are being leached away. H.R. 861 might be a subtle version of one of Potus’ Twitter taunts – empty and outrageous – but it is by no means the only way to drastically alter the Epa’s landscape. With Pruitt as Epa Administrator, the organisation may become a caricature of itself – as in The Simpsons Movie. Let us hope that the #resistance movements started by “Rogue” Epa and National Parks social media accounts are able to stave off the vultures until there is “Hope” once more.

 

Anjuli R. K. Shere is a 2016/17 Wellcome Scholar and science intern at the New Statesman

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