The high rate of Jews who marry non-Jews has created a spiritual holocaust that threatens the survival of Judaism
Esther Jungreis, an international lecturer who has been called "the Jewish Billy Graham," equates intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews with self-imposed annihilation on the scale of the Nazi extermination campaign.
Mrs. Jungreis' comments, in advance of a speech she is to give tonight in Ottawa, have thrown her into the centre of a sensitive debate within the city's Jewish community. Her use of the Holocaust as an analogy and her criticism of conversions have already received a sharp rebuke from Ottawa's most prominent Orthodox rabbi, Reuven Bulka.
Mrs. Jungreis says she is disturbed by the prospect of children who grow up in intermarried households without a strong connection to Jewish practices and faith.
"It's a question of understanding that Hitler's aim was to annihilate our people, and intermarriage is also a form of annihilation, which is sometimes even more deadly than the Holocaust," she said.
Her lecture at Carleton University is part of a series organized by an Ottawa Jewish-education group; in order to attract interest, the group is offering to pay students $50 if they attend all four talks.
Mrs. Jungreis, a Holocaust survivor and New York-based author, argues there is a moral imperative for Jews to marry within the faith.
"I was able to raise Jewish children, and they carry on the name and legacy and the heritage of my ancestors, who perished in the Holocaust," she said.
"But if they intermarry, there's no one to carry on. Entire families could be wiped out. There's no memory. That's what we call spiritual holocaust."
REBBETZIN ESTHER JUNGREIS TO SPEAK IN PASSAIC, NEW JERSEY