The University of Rhode Island’s Hillel Center held a seminar last night that allowed students to discuss issues and solutions surrounding interfaith dating for the Jewish community.

The seminar, titled “Dating Outside the Tribe: Interfaith Dating in Judaism,” was led by Rabbinic Intern Jessica Lowenthal. Lowenthal met with approximately 15 members of the URI Hillel community to discuss the stigmas surrounding Jewish people dating outside of their religion: mainly that many American Jewish people have been told dating outside their faith was unacceptable. Within this talk, Lowenthal explained how untrue this idea is and provided solutions for starting the conversation of interfaith dating with family and friends.

“Interfaith Dating” was the last of three talks on taboo in Judaism that Lowenthal had held with the Hillel Center, the first of which wasn’t text based but instead experience and discussion focused. The event centered both on open questions regarding students’ experiences with interfaith dating and growing up Jewish, as well as the history of Judaism’s response to dating outside their faith. Lowenthal spoke of older generation’s view that interfaith dating and marriage leads to “the downfall of the Jewish community,” and how to open the conversation with parents and grandparents about maintaining a Jewish faith while in an interfaith relationship.

Students talked about what they felt made them identify as Jewish. Many agreed that they felt connected to Judaism because it was how they were raised and all they’ve ever known from their upbringing. One student, who grew up in an interfaith marriage with the choice to identify with either faith, said that “what makes me Jewish is that I chose to be. I feel a connection to Judaism.”   Students talked about how their surroundings are what made them identify with Judaism – some because of their living in a Jewish community and being a “product of their environment”, and some due to their determination to remain Jewish while growing up in a Christian community.

“Interfaith dating doesn’t take anything from the Jewish identity,” Lowenthal said, concluding the event. She specified that it’s a person’s commitment to their faith that determines the amount of Judaism in a relationship and household, even if the relationship is interfaith.

This event followed a Matzah Brei Dinner, also held at the Hillel Center. Matzah Brei is a traditional Hillel dish consisting of matzah bread fried with eggs. “Think of it as Passover French toast,” the Hillel Center website explained.

Amy Olsen, executive director of Hillel, and Yaniv Havusha, the Jewish Student Life Associate, may be contacted for students interested in future events. For more information on the Hillel community, visit www.urihillel.org