Hindu-Jewish Marriages

Hindu-Jewish Marriages December 21, 2022

Jews and Hindus do not proselytize and there is no historical conflict between them. In this regard, a Jewish-Hindu marriage may have fewer religious conflicts compared to the union of a Hindu with a Christian or a Muslim.

“What religion(s) will the children have” is the most critical question to ask in any interfaith marriage [Image credit: Flickr marcandrima]

There are many Jewish-Hindu weddings that are performed in the same wedding hall. A Hindu priest performs the routine Hindu ceremony, and a rabbi performs the Jewish wedding. Both participants wear wedding costumes that match their respectable wedding. The main issue, however, comes after childbirth, when it is time to circumcise the baby boy, name the child and declare the child’s faith.

Interfaith marriages in Hinduism and Judaism

Hindu scriptures do not mention “other faiths” because the Hindu is an all-inclusive faith. Another reason could be that there was no other religion at the time the Hindu scriptures were written. Historically, Hindus preferred marriages within the faith for the reason of harmony in the belief system. However, our survey shows that a third of Hindus in the United States marry Abrahamic partners (i.e., Christians, Muslims, and Jews).

In some cases, Jews are permitted to marry any adherent of a monotheistic religion (such as Christianity and Islam) as long as the children from the marriage are raised as Jews. Modern Conservative Judaism does not sanction intermarriage, but encourages acceptance of the non-Jewish spouse within the family in the hope that this acceptance will lead to the spouse’s conversion to Judaism. Some rabbis in the denominations of modern Judaism (Reform, Reconstructionist, and Renewal) are generally willing to officiate at interfaith marriages; however, they continue to try to persuade interfaith married couples to raise their children as Jews.

In the United States between 2005 and 2013, more than half (58%) of marriages by Jews were intermarriages with non-Jewish partners. The possibility that this could lead to a gradual dying out of Judaism is regarded by most Jewish leaders as precipitating a crisis; some religious conservatives now even speak metaphorically of intermarriage as a silent holocaust.

Unfortunately, many Jewish partners find that the above concerns are not present for them while dating, but parental or personal hopes for fully Jewish children often arise later in the relationship with a Hindu or other non-Jewish partner.

Pluralistic-Exclusivist thinking

Hindus and members of the other Dharmic faiths that originated from Hinduism (Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism) hold pluralistic beliefs and have no problem participating in certain Jewish rituals as long as their own beliefs are equally respected.

Raising children in two faiths will not be a concern for Hindus. However, most Jewish leaders challenge the notion of raising a child in more than one tradition. This is because it will confuse the children about their exclusivist teachings.

The pluralist-exclusivist dating couple will not realize that potential major conflicts will resurface later in their married life when it comes time to announce the faith of their children.

The most critical question a Hindu considering marrying a Jew should ask is: are Coming of Age bris/bar mitzvah/bat mitzvah ceremonies of children expected to declare them Jews?

Circumcision

Circumcision is not a practice in Dharmic traditions. While there is no proscription of circumcision in Hinduism, Hindu sages would probably have called it himsa (violence) against a newborn.

“This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised,” God commands Abraham (Genesis 17:11), the Jewish patriarch. “Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” Some traditional Jews believe that if a baby is not circumcised by the bris ceremony, something negative would happen to the boy.

Some Jewish leaders believe that if a baby boy is not circumcised, he will not feel part of the Jewish community and will not be accepted as such by some.

Is circumcision science or superstition? It is probably not the scientific merit, but the religious belief that plays a major role in the decision to cut or not to cut.

The Scriptures

In general, Hinduism is a pluralistic faith, and there is no practice of religious conversion of the non-Hindu party for Hindu vivaha. However, Abrahamic followers may find some Hindu practices and statements in Hindu scriptures (see Geeta) objectionable.

Two themes found throughout the Torah are religious exclusivity and intolerance of other religious practices. The second of the “Ten Commandments” states “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God punishing children for the inequity of parents, to the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.”

Both Jews and Hindus believe that there is only one Ultimate, Supreme Reality. Unlike Hindus, however, Jews are forbidden to express the same God in different forms. The fact that many Gods and Goddesses are worshipped by Hindus is erroneously considered to be polytheistic idol worship by many who do not understand the true nature of Hindu Dharma.

For an interfaith couple, what is important is not what is written in the scriptures of the individual, but what the individual has learned from them.

Find facts about the Hindu-Jew love relationship

Initial impressions of “tolerance” and “open-mindedness” are not concrete and change easily under pressure. Decisions must be made based on measurable promises.

A Hindu may be a pluralist or atheist and may fake-convert or ignorantly promise to raise children in the Jewish faith. However, it is possible, he/she may change his/her attitude completely after the birth of a child. If the Jewish party holds an exclusivist ideology, you can expect major problems in married life years later. Please read 10-points dating a Hindu.

If a Hindu is considering a lifelong relationship with a Jew, it would be wise to know what kind of interpretation of the scriptures the intended Jewish spouse has learned believes in during his or her lifetime. Ask first:

  • What does “God” mean to him or her?
  • Is the LORD your God who spoke to Abraham, Israel and Moses the same one who later gave messages through Jesus and spoke to Mohammad? Are the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Krishna incarnations of the same LORD God of Israel?
  • During a Hindu wedding ceremony, the Hindu priest invokes many Gods of heaven and earth. Jewish men or women planning to marry a Hindu must consider: Are they willing to participate in such a wedding, and do they feel comfortable entering Hindu, Jain, Sikh or Buddhist temples, receiving prasad (offerings from God) or participating in other Hindu rituals?

For many of the situations listed below in the FAQs, there is only one possible way. If the explanation is given that it is a matter of faith, an interfaith couple will have to decide whose faith will govern married life.

If a young Hindu really wants to know the exclusive religious belief of the intended Jewish spouse, decline the bris circumcision and bar/bat mitzvah for a child and observe the reactions.

No BBS is the mantra

The best insurance for a Dharmic-Abrahamic marriage is no BBS. The Abrahamic side will fully understand that you want to enjoy Equality for Happiness. In case you decide to BBS, consult your attorney about the possible repercussions in a fierce child custody battle after a divorce.

BBS
Bris, baptism, shahadah and namasamskara are sacred rituals for religious people. However, do Hindus have to BBS? Alternatively, must Abrahamic accept namasanskara as a ritual for their children? Photo: InterfaithShaadi

Recommendations

It is hoped that today’s new adults considering interfaith relationships will understand that some of the religious commandments are not to be taken literally. Every human being is God’s “chosen” person. One should be free to express their belief in God in any form and way one desires.

It is time to end the exclusivist ideologies in interfaith marriages. Share and Respect with equality (50-50%) is the only way for couples considering ever lasting happy married life.

Interfaith marriage book
Read the book — Interfaith Marriage: Share and Respect with Equality

FAQ: Jew-Hindu Marriage

  • Do you have to sign a Ketubah prenuptial and endorse the Second of the Ten Commandments?
  • Are both parties ready to sign a simple contract stating that this marriage will be of equality of two faiths where children will be raised in two faiths?
  • Do you have to participate in Hindu vivaha where multiple Gods and Goddesses will be invoked? Does the Jewish intended-spouse have any reservations about coming to a Hindu temple, bowing to Hindu Gods and taking offerings (prasad) from the Gods?
  • Do your sons have to have religious bris circumcision, an irreversible procedure done without the child’s consent and without compelling scientific merit?
  • Do your children have to have a bar- or bat mitzvah to announce them as Jewish adults? Do you have to have Hindu namasanskara for children?
  • A name is significant as it reflects the tradition and culture the parents are proud of and would like the child to follow. Are your children going to have Dharmic or Jewish first names?
  • Do you have to live within a driving distance from a synagogue so your children can attend a Jewish day care and your family can have the benefit of Jewish education?
  • Are you planning to celebrate all Jewish holidays? Are you planning to spend equal time and effort to celebrate Hindu festivals and visit Hindu temples too?
  • Lisa Miller of Newsweek has stated the cost of being a Jewish could be high; in certain conditions it is estimated to be up to $110,000 per year. Are you planning to spend the same sum of money for Jewish and Hindu causes?
  • In case of a child’s death in your family will he/she get a Jewish burial or the Hindu cremation final rites?
About Dr. Dilip Amin
Dr. Dilip Amin is a Director of the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition of the San Francisco Bay area and a certified speaker at Islamic Networks Group. He is a Dharma Ambassador and on the Advisory Committee at the Hindu American Foundation. He is a jail chaplain. Dr. Amin has co-authored the book Hindu Vivaha Samskara. He founded the web forum InterfaithShaadi.org and guided 1200 youths and summarized his experiences in the book--Interfaith Marriage: Share & Respect with Equality. He is also the founder of HinduSpeakers.org. You can read more about the author here.

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