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.   

Photo: Getty
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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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