Intermarriage in History

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Ezra and the return from exileHellenism 330 BCEChannuka - The Jewish response to Hellenism 167 BCERoman Empire - 100 BCE to 400 CESpanish Inquisition 1492Enlightment and Reform - 1780American Assimilation (Jewish America)

























Ezra and the return from exile 350 BCE  

The story of Purim which occurred in 368 BCE, saw the narrow aversion of the genocide of Persian Jewry at the hands of Haman. The story happened just after the Jews' attempted return to Jerusalem from Persian exile at the behest of Cyrus the Great, who encouraged the Jews to return to rebuild their Temple. The Samaritans, converts to Judaism,and living in Israel, foiled the returning Jews' attempt at rebuilding their national homeland and Temple.These two events left a traumatic scar on the Jewish psyche. Many Jews despaired of their national and religious future. Increasing numbers, both in the Land of Israel and in Babylonia and Persia, assimilated and intermarried. 

In 353 BCE Jews restarted work on the stalled Temple project and in 350 BCE the Temple was completed and dedicated. Ezra the Prophet, had official permission from the Persian authorities to return to Israel and to take charge of the social and governmental affairs of the Jewish community. Ezra found Jewish social and religious life in Jerusalem in shambles. The markets of Jerusalem, open and operating on the Sabbath, weakened the Sabbath spirit of the holy city. The walls of the city were in ruins and the Jewish inhabitants were fair game for constant marauding raids by the hostile tribes that surrounded them. The knowledge and study of Torah was largely ignored;not all Jewish males were circumcised;and intermarriage with non-Jewish women had become socially acceptable, apparently reaching into the famlies of some of the religious leaders of the people. See Book of Ezra 10:18. 
 
The Jewish community in Jerusalem, in spite of the new Temple in its midst was on the verge of assimilation and self destruction. The Jews did not feel pride in their heritage-they hardly learned, studied or lived it. Ezra, a charismatic and powerful communal leader changed all that. He rallied the people to the Torah cause and enhanced the supremacy of Torah in their public and private lives. His achievement of revitalizing Jewish life ranks as one of the greatest accomplishments in Jewish history.