Conservative Rabbis Set To Debate Opening the Door to Intermarrieds

Proposal Is Part of Larger Movement To Welcome Non-Jews Into Shul Life

thinkstock

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published December 02, 2013, issue of December 06, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

A top Conservative movement official thinks that Conservative rabbis should be allowed to participate in interfaith weddings.

Now explicitly barred by the movement, the proposal — put forward by Rabbi Charles Simon of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs — is one of a handful of new efforts by Conservative rabbis to loosen restrictions on participation by non-Jews in synagogue life.

Conservative Judaism’s top rabbinical body on matters of Jewish law voted in October to allow non-Jews to open the ark containing the Torah during a prayer service. Meanwhile, the movement’s day school arm is considering changing its policies to allow children with a Jewish father but no Jewish mother to attend its schools. And at the movement’s rabbinical conference last year, participants discussed lifting a ban on rabbis attending intermarriages.

“If a synagogue wants to continue to attract and provide meaningful services to a changing population, all of these points are things they have to think about,” said Simon, whose recommendations will be presented at a December 2 meeting of Conservative rabbis to discuss the intermarriage issue.

The new wave of efforts by Conservative rabbis to accommodate the intermarried comes months after the Pew Research Center’s study of American Jews found identification with the Conservative movement to be dropping fast. While 24% of Jews aged 65 and up identify as Conservative, just 11% of Jews aged 18-29 do the same.

The Reform movement, meanwhile, has higher affiliation rates across age groups. Some analysts have suggested that the high rates of intermarriage among non-Orthodox Jews are driving Conservative Jews to Reform congregations, which offer fewer religious barriers to participation by intermarried families.

Though Conservative doctrine is opposed to intermarriage, intermarriage is rampant in the Conservative pews. Conservative rabbinic leaders hope that if they draw in intermarried families, their children will receive Jewish upbringings.

“It’s not that people aren’t in favor of conversion [of the non-Jewish spouse], but they recognize that conversion is not the ultimate goal — that raising a Jewish family is the ultimate goal,” Simon said. “And conversion is more complicated than it was thought to be 20 years ago.”

The proposal to allow rabbis to participate in intermarriages is one of 14 recommendations that Simon has co-written with Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, a Reform rabbi who heads the Jewish Outreach Institute, to advance acceptance of intermarried families in Jewish congregational life. The proposals by Simon and Olitzky run from the seemingly anodyne, like urging teachers to be respectful of children with intermarried parents, to the potentially controversial, like allowing children with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers to have bar and bat mitzvahs without undergoing a formal conversion ceremony.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.