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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
Marriage between persons of different races or tribes. A prohibition to intermarry with the Canaanites is found in Deuteronomy 7:3, where it is said: "Neither shalt thou make marriages with them [any of the seven nations of the land of Canaan]; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son." The reason stated for this prohibition is: "For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods" (ib. 7:4); and, inasmuch as this reason holds good as regards intermarriage with any idolatrous nation, all Gentiles are included in the prohibition (R. Simeon, in 'Ab. Zarah 36b; comp. Ḳid. 68b; the other rabbisregard the prohibition as rabbinic only). At any rate, from Ezra onward this prohibition was extended to all Gentiles (Ezra 9:1-2, 10:10-11; Nehemiah 10:31), and accordingly the Law was thus interpreted and codified by Maimonides ("Yad," Issure Biah, 12:1; comp. Shulḥan 'Aruk, Eben ha-'Ezer, 16, 1; Aaron ha Levi, "Sefer ha-Ḥinnuk," ). Older, however, than the Deuteronomic law is the patriarchal law forbidding the descendants of Abraham to intermarry with the Canaanites (Genesis 24:3, 26:34, 27:46, 28:8, 34:14). Nevertheless the Israelites during the pre-exilic period did intermarry with the Gentiles, and the consequence was that they were led to adopt idolatrous practises (Judges 3:6; comp. 1 Kings 11:1 et seq.). It is singular that Moses was the first to be censured, and that by his own sister and brother, for having married an Ethiopian woman (Numbers 12:1), though this expression is referred to Zipporah by the commentaries ad loc. Intermarriage with Ammonites and Moabites was especially forbidden, whereas the offspring of intermarriages with the Idumeans and Egyptians were to be admitted to the congregation of the Lord in their third generation (Deuteronomy 23:4-7,8-9). An exception to the prohibition against intermarriage was the case of a captive woman during time of war (Deuteronomy 21:10-13); but this seems to have referred to warfare with nations other than the Canaanites (see the commentaries of Dillmann and Driver ad loc.).
But, however strong was the tendency to intermarry in pre-exilic Israel, during the Babylonian captivity the Jews realized that they were to be "a holy people unto the Lord their God" and were therefore forbidden to intermarry with the Gentiles, wherefore the princes of the new Judean colony came to Ezra saying: "The people of Israel and the priests and Levites have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Idumeans [LXX. and I Esd. 8:68; Masoretic text incorrectly "Amorites"]; for they have taken of their daughters for themselves and for their sons so that the holy seed have mingled with the people of those lands" (Ezra 9:1-2). The prophet Malachi also complains (Malachi 2:11): "Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god." It was the fear of seduction to idolatry which induced Ezra and the other leaders of the new colony to exclude from the commonwealth foreign wives and such as insisted upon keeping them (Ezra 9-; Nehemiah 10:31, 13:23).
Influence of Conversion.
One important factor, however, was introduced afterward which essentially modified the prohibition of intermarriage, and that was the conversion of Gentiles to Judaism. This was believed to be typified in Ruth when she says to Naomi, "Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God" (Ruth 1:16; comp. Isaiah 14:1; and see see PROSELYTE). All the Biblical passages referring to permitted intermarriages, as that of a captive woman in war-time (Sifre, Deut. 213: "She shall bewail her father and mother" being explained by R. Akiba to mean "She shall bewail her ancestral religion"; Yeb. 48b), or of the Ammonites and Moabites (Sifre, Deut. 249, 253), or of Joseph (ASENATH (2)), were therefore interpreted by the Rabbis as having been concluded after due conversion to Judaism; whereas Esau's intermarriage was found blame-worthy on account of the idolatrous practises of his wives (Gen. R.; comp. Jubilees, 25:1). In regard to King Solomon see Yeb. 76a and Maimonides, "Yad," Issure Biah, 13:14-16.
In the Book of Jubilees intermarriage with all Gentiles is prohibited, no allowance being made for proselytes (Jubilees, 20:4, 22:20, 30:11; comp. Targ. Yer. to Leviticus 18:21, "Thou shalt not give any of thy seed to make them pass through the fire of Moloch," which is translated: "Thou shalt not give a child in marriage to a Gentile by which the offspring is turned over to idolatry"—a translation refuted in Meg. 4:9, but comp. Sanh. 9:6,82a). This hostility to all pagan nations seems to have been the fruit of the reaction against the Hellenistic excesses (comp. I Macc. i, 15: "they joined themselves to the heathen"; that is, "they intermarried"; 'Ab. Zarah 36b; Sanh. 82b). Hence also the Rabbis would not allow intermarriage with the Canaạnites even after conversion ('Ab. Zarah 34b; Yeb. 76a; comp. "Yad," Issure Biah, 12:22). In regard to the Ammonites and Moabites, the Rabbis discriminated between the men descended from them, who were forbidden to marry Jewesses, and the women, whom—at least from the third generation onward—Jews were permitted to marry (Yeb. 8:3; "Yad," c. 12:18). Altogether, however, the view prevailed that the nations of Palestine not having remained in the ancient state, the exclusion of Gentiles after they had once embraced Judaism ought no longer to be insisted upon (Yad. 4:4; Tosef., Ḳid. 5:4; Ber. 28a; "Yad," c. 12:25). Hence, marriage with converted Gentiles was no longer regarded as intermarriage (see Shulḥan 'Aruk, c. 4:10, where slight differences of opinion are stated).
Between Jews and Christians.
Intermarriages between Jews and Christians—who are not identified with Gentiles, but regarded as "proselytes of the gates" (Isaac b. Sheshet, Responsa, No. 119)—were first prohibited by the Christian emperor Constantius in 339, under penalty of death ("Codex Theodosianus," 16:8,6; comp. "Codex Justinianus," 1:9,7), then by the councils of Agdes in 506, of Rheims in Gaul in 630, of Elvira (Grätz, "Gesch." 4:363), of Toledo (c. 5:359); and in Hungary by King Ladislaus I. 1077, and Andrew in 1233 (Grätz, c. 3d ed., 4:363; 5:45,52,59; 7:27; L. Löw, "Gesammelte Werke," 2:176).
The removal of the disabilities of the Jews did away with these state interdictions. Moses of Coucy in 1236 induced those Jews who had contracted marriages with Christian or Mohammedan women to dissolve them ("Sefer Mizwot ha-Gadol," ). The Great Sanhedrin, convened by Napoleon in 1807, declared that "marriages between Israelites and Christians when concluded in accordance with the civil code are valid, and though they can not besolemnized by the religious rites of Judaism, they should not be subject to the ḥerem" (rabbinical anathema). With reference to this declaration of the Sanhedrin, which was, however, incorrectly presented, the Rabbinical Conference of Brunswick, in 1844, declared: "The marriage of a Jew with a Christian woman or with any adherent of a monotheistic religion is not prohibited if the children of such issue are permitted by the state to be brought up in the Israelitish religion." Holdheim, in his "Autonomie der Rabbinen," 1843, tries to prove that the Biblical prohibition of intermarriage does not include monotheists; but his statements are not always correct (see Frankel, "Zeitschrift," 1844, p. 287). Both Geiger and Aub, as members of the committee appointed by the first Jewish Synod, held at Leipsic in 1869, declared themselves against intermarriage as being injurious to the peace of the home and to the preservation of the Jewish faith, the faith of the minority ("Referate über die der Ersten Synode Gestellten Anträge," p. 193). Ludwig Philippson, a member of the Brunswick Conference, changed his view afterward and in his "Israelitische Religionslehre," 1865, 3:350, declared himself against intermarriage. D.Einhorn, in "The Jewish Times," 1870, No. 45, p. 11, declares marriages between Jews and non-Jews to be prohibited from the standpoint of Reform Judaism. On the other hand, in contradiction to Einhorn's view, Samuel Hirsch, emphasizing the monotheistic faith of the Christians and the monotheistic mission of Judaism, in Nos. 26-37 of "The Jewish Times" and ib. No. 47, defended his opinion as former member of the Brunswick Conference, that intermarriages are permitted by Reform Judaism.
Regarding intermarriages with Karaites, see KARAITES; With Shabbethaians, see SHABBETHAI ẒEBI.
- Löw, Gesammelte Schriften, 1893, 3:108-163;
- Mielziner, The Jewish Law of Marriage and Divorce, pp. 45-52, Cincinnati, 1884.
It is very difficult to obtain any statistical information as to the number of Jews who marry outside their faith; but some of the Continental governments have made inquiries on this point with a view to lesting the tendency to assimilation in this regard. During 1900 in Prussia there were 4,799 Jews who married Jewesses, and 474 Jews and Jewesses who married outside their faith ("Zeitschrift für Preussische Statistik," 1902, p. 216). In Bavaria during the year 1899, while 416 Jews married Jewesses, 31 Jews and Jewesses married outside the faith ("Zeitschrift des Königl. Bayer. Statistischen Bureaus," 1900, p. 259). Information of the same kind is obtainable for some of the chief towns, as for Berlin, where in 1899 there were 621 Jewish marriages as against 229 intermarriages ("Statistisches Jahrbuch," 1902, p. 61). Similarly in Budapest for 1898 there were 1,238 Jewish marriages as against 146 intermarriages ("Statistikai Evkönyve," 1901, p. 82). In Vienna in 1898 there were 110 mixed marriages as against 847 purely Jewish marriages; while in Prague there were only 6 as against 354 ("Oesterreichisches Städtebuch," 8:283, Vienna, 1900). Perhaps the most remarkable case of all is that of New South Wales, which, according to the latest census, gives the number of persons living in the married state, and not merely of marriages in a year. Of these there were 781 who had married Jews or Jewesses, as against 686 who had married outside the faith ("Census of New South Wales 1901, Bulletin No. 14").
In all of these cases it is necessary to double the number of purely Jewish marriages in order to determine the proportion of persons married within or without the faith; for it is obvious that if any of those who married outside had married another who also married outside, this would form only one Jewish marriage, whereas, under the present circumstances, they constitute two mixed marriages. With this taken into consideration, all the figures given above will work out as 9.3 per cent of mixed marriages. But this would be very misleading if applied to all Jews, as those mentioned above are the chief communities in which intermarriages occur. In Russia and Austria mixed marriages are still very rare, as, for instance, in Prague (see above).
In countries still under medieval conditions, intermarriages are still rarer. In Algeria between 1830 and 1837, in an average population of 25,000, there were only 30 such marriages in all (Ricoux, "Demographie de l'Algérie," p. 71, Paris, 1860).
Statistical inquiry has proved that the number of children resulting from intermarriages is considerably smaller than that from purely Jewish marriages, averaging only about one child to a marriage compared with an average of three or four from purely Jewish marriages. Reasons have been given by Rüppin, in Conrad's "Jahrbücher" for 1902, to show that the comparison is somewhat deceptive, as the birth-rate is determined by dividing marriages by births; and as mixed marriages are on the increase there are fewer earlier marriages to raise the quotient. This, however, does not explain the very great contrast, which is probably due to the fact that persons marry without the faith at more advanced ages than they marry within, and are of a somewhat higher social standing, among which classes children are generally fewer. See BIRTHS.
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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Intermarriage'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/i/intermarriage.html. 1901.
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