This book was given to me as a present, and reading it was a real treat. Everyone knows choosing a lifelong mate is a complex, sometimes difficult process with grim testament to failure...a divorce rate of fifty percent. Further complicate things by narrowing the focus to Jews who choose to marry out of their faith in a time when the rate of intermarriage has cast panic into the Jewish community's elders. According to Glaser, The National Jewish Population Survey in 1990 found that 52 percent of Jews who married since 1985 had chosen a Gentile mate. Of these marriages, only 28 percent were raising their children as Jews. With the "Silent Holocaust" as background specter, intermarriage in the Jewish community is the subject of Strangers to the Tribe.
The author sensitively wades into this emotionally charged subject with compassion and great journalistic skill. The book opens with Glaser's personal story, discovering her Jewish roots while on assignment in Poland during the fall of communism and the eruption of nationalism. This experience set the process in motion of her own conversion to Judaism, a journey that took amongst other things, four years and the writing of this book to complete.
No matter what religion a person ascribes to, in marriage one looks to their parents for examples, what they did right, what they did wrong. When marrying a person radically different than their parents, there is usually trouble, either internally or externally. The ramifications of guilt, anger, ostracism, and loneliness are carefully explored with the eleven couples Glaser interviews. However, along with the negative aspects of intermarriage, this book provides an antidote. The reader learns how each couple blends their own personality and traditions in order to be comfortable with their lives. In the process we discover much about the nature of love, happiness, identity, tradition, and ultimately healthy separateness. All this before tackling the issue of what religion to raise the children!
It is this issue that is the most difficult. I can't help but feel Glaser's sentiment that two religions can be confusing for a child. However, with journalistic skill the author explores this problem and the reader is left to draw their own conclusions about what is best for the children: choosing one faith, raising one child Jewish and another child in a different religion, or giving the children instruction in both religions.
I felt that reading this book gave me a bit of relief. I found solace from Glaser's interviews. Knowing there are other people having the same struggles and discovering how they are coping is a welcome tonic. I encountered sadness, but also sage advise, humor and joy. Most of all, I found beauty in the complex weave of human relationship and thought-provoking insights into the meaning of the word "love."