Symbolic violence and interfaith families
I wrote about this before in this post. I find the concept of symbolic violence helpful for articulating the problem. In symbolic violence you use language to hide the real underlying power relationships and make the state of affairs appear to be natural and just. The socially dominated group internalise the identity imposed upon them. I think this explains why I have such a problem with pretty much any activity aimed at interfaith couples being termed "outreach". The term "outreach" paints a particular picture. As I argued before, it immediately implies that intermarried Jews only exist outside of the active Jewish community. It also gives the impression that the reason for their outsider position is due to their own unwillingness or at least passivity with engaging with Judaism. The term 'outreach' paints the normative Jewish community as reaching out to intermarried Jews and obscures that role of that same Jewish community in actively excluding intermarried Jews. To confirm disapproval of me by using a metaphor from Christianity, the term 'outreach' paints intermarried Jews as the prodigal son and Jewish organisations as the father ready with the fatted brisket if only we would return (and nice progressive organisations don't even require we get divorced to achieve that return). The term 'outreach' makes it clear to interfaith families that we are reason we're not engaged in the Jewish community. We're the block to our children's Jewish education. The Jewish community is reaching out to us if only we'd turn back.
This is not the reality I experience. Intermarried Jews aren't just raising their own children Jewish, they're teaching other people's children to be Jewish. I'm not the only cheder teacher at my shul who's married to a non-Jew. For that matter, over the coarse of chats with my cheder students I've discovered that almost all of them have at least one non-Jewish grandparent. In non-Orthodox regional congregations we are the Jewish community. Despite the number of Jewishly engaged intermarried Jews, activities and organisations targeted at intermarried Jews are run by intramarried Jews. There's one very good reason for this, almost no rabbis are intermarried. This is because only one very small rabbinic college of one small Jewish movement will accept intermarried students. Everyone else, all the way to Liberal Judaism, view intermarried rabbis as beyond the pale. I'm not sure what the situation is with lay Jewish professionals. I don't know whether Jewish organisation discriminate against intermarried Jews or intermarried Jews are put off applying for these kinds of jobs because they have internalised the idea that the best that can be hoped for of interfaith families is that they raise their children to have a bar mitzvah and avoid a relationship like that of their parents.
When I planned my wedding I knew not to even look for a rabbi because no British rabbi would be allowed to officiate at such a ceremony. There are some rabbis who would possibly perform some kind of ceremony as long as they could do everything within their power to emphasise that it wasn't a real wedding. As I wanted to marry my husband rather than sit through a thinly veiled indictment of the validity of our marriage in front of all our family and friends, I got a friend who was also in an interfaith relationship to officiate. I guess I think this is really the answer. Sometimes there are good reasons for why a group of people aren't in charge of the organisations for their interests. Young children do not have the knowledge or judgement to be able to control their own movements. Intermarried Jews are not children. As long as organisations 'for' intermarried Jews are controlled by intramarried Jews, they will continue to impose upon interfaith families a view of them which promotes their second best status and is discordant with their own experience.* The only way for us to stop being painted as passive recipients of the Jewish communities benevolence and be able to address our needs and how the Jewish community actively obstructs them, is to run our own organisations. That's why I'm so glad to have found Fifty Percenters Blog. It's the first thing I've found for intermarried Jews which doesn't explicitly state that our relationships are second best. Given that we make up such a big chunk of the Jewish community, that's pretty messed up.
*Yes, I am well aware that all interfaith families are different and therefore the views of interfaith families expressed by intermarried Jews will be discordant with some other intermarried Jews, but I think movements controlled by intermarried Jews would suffer less from this problem.