Should Rabbis Marry Outside the Faith?

The Great Debates of 2013

thinkstock

By Dana Evan Kaplan and Ellen Lippmann

Published December 23, 2013, issue of December 27, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College, the Reform movement’s central rabbinical school, set off a revealing internal spat when he wrote an op-ed questioning the school’s policy on rabbis and intermarriage. Officially no student at the school is allowed to date or marry a non-Jewish partner. The debate illuminated the Reform movement’s tricky balance: embracing modernity more than any other denomination yet not wanting to break all connection to Jewish tradition.

Dana Evan Kaplan
At first glance, the question of whether intermarried Jews could apply to rabbinical school appears to be ridiculous, like wondering whether a Catholic priest would intend to remain celibate. Standing as a role model of Jewish continuity would seem to be part of the job requirement for any rabbi, an expectation so obvious that it should not have to be mentioned.

But it is not obvious, because the movement passively and even actively accepts almost any belief system as long as it rejects Jesus. This makes common sense, because everyone knows that you cannot believe in Judaism if you believe in Jesus, but even this is problematic because it is not so clear historically that believing in Jesus is worse than, for example, rejecting the divinity of the Torah or the authority of the Oral Law.

—“Is Reform Judaism Losing Its Religion?,” April 26

Ellen Lippmann
A rabbi is a role model, and there are many kinds of role models. Intermarriage is a fact of American Jewish life. We can do a better job of connecting intermarried Jews to synagogues, rabbis and Jewish life. One way is to knowingly ordain intermarried rabbis.

It is important to remember that a rabbi is a human being. Yeshayahu Leibowitz wrote in commentary on Emor that since there is no more ancient Temple, the function of the service of God is the study and teaching of Torah. Therefore, those leaders who serve as teachers of Torah are otherwise just like any other human being — not intrinsically holy, as some may wish to see themselves or their leaders. The ancient priest removed his special clothing and was just an ordinary human being. Today’s rabbis may demonstrate special knowledge, but once the teaching is over, the rabbi is just a human being, not elevated above any other. If a rabbi is a Jew like all others, we should welcome rabbis who are married to non-Jews just as we welcome Jews who are married to non-Jews into our congregations.

—“A Reform Rabbi’s Plea for Openness,” May 24


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!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • 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.