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!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • 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.