In several posts, I happened to mention the prohibition for intermarriage for the Jewish people - and every time I did, someone inevitably charged me with both bigotry and racism. At first I simply laughed off such preposterous claims, but after it happened for the umpteenth time, I decided to go ahead and examine both accusations.
Before I begin, let's get the cards on the table: this isn't about my personal quirks. The prohibition of intermarriage is directed by the Lord (Deuteronomy 7:3), and has kept the Jewish people together and intact through many hard centuries. Since I'm not inventing anything new, but simply being frank about our beliefs, the accusations of racism and bigotry cannot be directed at me, but only at Judaism as a whole. However, is it justified?
Let's start with racism. This one is especially ridiculous, because there are Jews of all colors and cultures, and all live side by side and marry each other in Israel. Furthermore, conversion to Judaism, while difficult, is open equally to people of all races. While to my shame I have to admit there have been cases of discrimination towards Jews of different color, they go completely against everything our faith teaches.
As for bigotry, let's check the dictionary. A bigot is defined as someone who "is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles, or identities differing from his or her own". According to this, Jews should be the last people on earth accused of bigotry, as we never said everyone must be Jewish, and don't try to convert others. But there's a world of difference between respecting other people's beliefs, and seeing them as potential marriage partners!
Strangely enough, it's socially acceptable to say that you can't marry someone who isn't interested in snowboarding, doesn't support your political views, isn't vegetarian like you are, or doesn't match your taste in music. But try and say your beliefs require religious compatibility with the person you marry - and you are a bigot!!
I don't presume to give my own commentary or explanation to the words of the Lord. If He commanded us to do or not to do something, that should be more than enough. However, the prohibition of intermarriage is so strikingly logical, makes such perfect sense, that I wonder how anyone can be surprised by it. The way of life of a committed Jew, and specifically a Jewish marriage, is so unique that it obviously requires partnership from a Jewish spouse. Otherwise, the result is total incompatibility - or eventual alienation of the Jew from his faith, which is precisely what the Lord warns us against: "for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you."
Destruction doesn't have to come in the form of burning lightning. Just see what happens to most families after a couple of generations of intermarriage: loss of all traces of Jewish history. Unnoticeable, non-physical, but nevertheless most effective elimination. This is what has always happened throughout history.
Marrying within your faith isn't bigotry. It's often a crucial component of compatibility and success of married life; and for some of us, it's a matter of survival.