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September 26, 2003

Survey Affects People

Lost in the criticism of the fraudulent intermarriage number is a fuller understanding of its impact on people’s lives (“The 52% Fraud,” September 12). The 1990 population survey affected the emotional lives of individuals and families. Having declared a crisis, many in the organized Jewish community accused those Jews who fell in love with non-Jews of abandoning Judaism and thus leading to the inevitable death of American Jewish life. Their parents were told that they were failures.

Because of the supposed crisis and the false extrapolation about the grandchildren, many community organizations and synagogues condemned people within their midst. The Conservative movement declared that any Jew who was intermarried could not be employed by their synagogues or schools, and no intermarried Jew could be a lay leader. Who will now apologize to those who were ostracized and excluded? Who will heal the families with alienated children and their spouses?

Rabbi Samuel Gordon

Wilmette, Ill.

Disagree, but Gently

I think it’s a shame that the Forward characterizes the United Jewish Communities’ 1990 52% intermarriage rate finding as “a fraud.” It compounds the felony that the editorialist then lambastes UJC for publishing its 1990 and 2000 total Jewish population figures “side by side” because the press — of which the Forward is a part — will wrongly write that there’s been a decline in our total. If the press distorts, and it surely does, the responsibility does not lie with those who search for the facts and report them honestly.

The Forward has every right to disagree with the methodology of the study, to draw different conclusions from the numbers and to decry methodological errors. But our tradition forbids lashon hara, or defamatory speech, and to accuse other Jews of “fraud” and base motives in these circumstances clearly violates the prohibition. We Jews are few in number and much maligned. It would be better if we disputed with one another more gently.

Rabbi George Driesen

Via e-mail

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