Thursday, December 03, 2009

Pay It Forward

Finally some good news from Iraq. News we can use. By “we” I mean Jews, and by “use” I mean apply to our own situation. What is this news? Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi is paying couples to intermarry as a way of stemming sectarian violence in Iraq. Intermarrying couples are wed in a group ceremony. The government provides dresses for the brides, and suits for the grooms. Each couple receives a free night in an Iraqi hotel (something superior to the Iraqi version of Motel Six where the motto is, “We’ll keep the fuse lit for you”) plus a check for $2000 US. The Vice President’s hope is that these married couples will make love not war, and bring their extended families along with them. Personally I think this is a brilliant idea, and one we Jews can learn from.

Why not pay Israelis to marry Palestinians? Yes, I realize they are from different faiths, but most Israelis are secularists as are many Palestinians. We could pay for intermarriage between Israeli and Palestinian humanists. Sure it might cost a bit more than it does in Iraq, but what doesn’t? And, if the idea catches on, it will prove far cheaper to birth hybrid babies than it is to enforce ethnic purity.

Of course we could use Tariq al-Hashemi’s idea in reverse. We could pay Jews and Gentiles in the United States not to marry one another. This might be a bit more difficult to pull off. But we could offer a sign-up bonus for every Jew who marries another Jew. And then we could pay the couple to have or adopt babies. We could set a base level for birth and adoption, and then add a bonus for bar and bat mitzvah. And if these kids grow up to marry other Jews, not only will they receive the sign-up money, but their parents will get another cash gift for raising Jewish children who marry other Jews. To incentivize the system a bit more, parents whose children marry out will have to return their baby bonus money plus accrued interest. And to help prevent divorce we might also demand a similar repayment in the case of divorce.

How much cash, you might be wondering? I don’t know. The cost of the average suburban bar or bat mitzvah runs around $75,000, and that’s without Madonna singing about Kabbalah, so maybe we need to use that as our base. I imagine the total would be about $250,000 per child over the course of a lifetime. But I don’t really know, and will leave the specifics to the experts. All I’m saying is that you get what you pay for, so lets pay for what we want.

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