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Suppose a friend or family member becomes engaged to a non-Jew. For the sake of this question, also assume that a trusted rabbi has been consulted and he has ruled (after considering any relevant personal details) that you should not attend the wedding.

What is an effective way of conveying to relevant people that you will not be attending the wedding, given it is a wedding that others would reasonably assume you would not miss (such as for a sibling or a close friend)? Has anybody ever been in this situation and found something that worked successfully while causing a minimum of ill-will?

  • Just say 'mi laHashem eilai!' It's almost Chanukah for goodness sake. – user6591 Dec 8 '14 at 0:27
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    The person should probably check with the trusted rabbi because the goal of not attending may actually be to cause ill-will in a sense. At some point it may be a Jewish value to tell someone with no fluff that you think they are doing something wrong. – Double AA Dec 8 '14 at 5:10
  • @Daniel I would actually recommend lying in this case (even to the point of becoming 'sick' at the last minute, if necessary). Once, I told someone the truth in a similar situation. I embarrassed a Jew and lost a friend. I regret it to this day. – SAH Sep 19 '17 at 22:40
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Like many things in life, this will obviously depend on the specific situation. For example, if the relevant people understand your lifestyle and why you would be sensitive to this issue before it came up would be a very different question than if they are militantly opposed to your zealous bigotry.

I had a close relative marry a non-Jew, and I actually had one party (the immediate family of the person getting married) who appreciated my lifestyle choices, understood I meant no offense, and needed very little explanation other than answering the question "you won't be able to come, will you?" and another party (other relatives) who were mortally offended that I wouldn't come.

I tried two things - the more effective point which I made was that as someone who many of my non-religious relatives looked to as a representatives of religious Judaism, and whether or not I would like to attend, I couldn't give off the impression of condoning something which is against my belief system. The less effective argument that I made (although I don't know if it was worthless) was that they can't appreciate what this issue means to me because they see it as a matter of personal preference, and why should my preferences mean offending someone else. I explained that to me, this is something objectively not okay, and just as they wouldn't ask me to attend a murder, they shouldn't ask me to attend this event. (In retrospect, the murder example was a bad one - despite the fact that it is logically a good point, people don't like what they are doing to be compared to murder.)

With one particularly vociferous relative, I pointed out that he was accusing me of being close minded while he was guilty of being close minded against my prerogative to my own beliefs - I wasn't trying to cancel the wedding, I was just choosing not to participate. If they have the right to make the wedding, I have the right to not join in. I was very surprised that this was well-taken.

Like I said, everyone's family and situation is different, and this is what (seemingly) worked for me.

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Recommendation: just send your regrets that you will not be able to attend. Explaining your issue will only cause hurt feelings, for no good reason.

More generally, I see only a few options.

  • Decline while challenging them directly and definitely hurt their feelings.
  • Or decline without challenging them and let them feel you're trying to be respectful about your disagreement -- which, as YeZ says, will probably be respected in turn. Sending a gift, as others have noted, could help emphasize that you don't object to the individuals, just the wedding itself.
  • Or suppress your objections and attend. Attending only the reception may be one possible compromise, if the ceremony itself is what you can't accept.

There is no answer that will make everyone maximally happy; pick the one that creates the least net unhappiness.

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    This is not really that feasible in most cases of very close relations – Double AA Dec 8 '14 at 5:09
  • Moved my responses to @DoubleAA's point into the answer. What is feasible may depend on who you want to argue with, or whether you'd rather avoid arguing at all. – keshlam Dec 8 '14 at 15:35
  • Sending a gift or even offering congratulations is unacceptable. I agree that you should try to give minimum offense, but you simply cannot in any way signal acceptance, encouragement or happiness with the act. Intermarriage is a profound rejection of Judaism, and while it is not done with any malice towards our G-d and religion it's simply not okay, and you cannot intimate that it is. After the fact, you should maintain relations with the couple as if you never noticed they got married, and similarly ignore anniversaries. – Michael Sandler Dec 10 '14 at 15:12
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Perhaps a personal gift or a letter would be nice. Depending on how close the relative is i feel as though bring up your reasons of no attendance my make them upset. Not only because they would want you there but because weddings are a very high pressured and stressful times for some.

Remember some roles are better played as a bystander. Meaning i think you have to acknowledge that this is there own lives and choices. Do like God and observe with love and care but also, like God don't feel as if you have to give the whole reason behind everything away ;)

Just as long as THEY know your positive feelings about them as a person let them be happy with that. If they are upset and ask then its only fair then you express you reason as they have expressed there feelings as well.

Hope that helps good luck.

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    I think that it is likely that a personal gift would not be considered appropriate to give to someone intermarrying. Obviously, this is something that a rabbi should be consulted about. If it is a sibling, not explaining why you're not going is not likely to go over well. – Daniel Dec 8 '14 at 14:48
  • "your positive feelings about them as a person" Their intermarrying may have severely damaged those feelings. You think they are sinning pretty badly, after all. – Double AA Dec 8 '14 at 15:41
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    So this guy popped in, gave one answer, and then deleted his account....??? – Shokhet Dec 8 '14 at 19:24
  • Sending a gift or even offering congratulations is unacceptable. I agree that you should try to give minimum offense, but you simply cannot in any way signal acceptance, encouragement or happiness with the act. Intermarriage is a profound rejection of Judaism, and while it is not done with any malice towards our G-d and religion it's simply not okay, and you cannot intimate that it is. After the fact, you should maintain relations with the couple as if you never noticed they got married, and similarly ignore anniversaries. – Michael Sandler Dec 10 '14 at 15:12
  • @keshlam Where did I chastise you for guessing? – Double AA Dec 10 '14 at 15:29

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